We’re midway through the Festival, give or take a day or two, and so far something was missing.
I’ve seen some very good shows, and a few very bad ones, and lots that fall somewhere in between. But I hadn’t had that glorious experience that I come to Edinburgh for, the very very special show that leaves you on a contact high and makes all the drudgery worth it.
Yesterday I saw my usual quota of four shows. One was terrible, a lifeless performance of a dreary text. One was a flawed work that showed considerable evidence of talent, suggesting that perhaps the next thing from these people will be worth looking for.
And two were wonderful.
The first was Caroline Horton’s modest but enchanting little solo show You’re Not Like Other Girls Chrissy. Horton, whose performance as a ten-year-old child won our hearts last year, plays a young French woman who becomes engaged to an Englishman in 1940 or so, only to be separated from him for the duration of the war.
You can read Nick Awde’s review elsewhere on this site; for me, the minute Horton walked on, looking like a cross between a spinster librarian and a gallic Betty Boop, I was hooked, and she smoothly drew me into her half-cartoon world so that I believed everything and felt everything and wished the character nothing but happiness forever.
And then Horton played her trump card, with an ending I won’t give away, that sent me and the rest of the audience floating out on a little pink cloud of happiness that the bustle of the Pleasance Courtyard couldn’t disturb.
And then the same evening I finally caught up with Grid Iron’s Decky Does A Bronco, which I managed to miss ten years ago.
I’ve been critical of Grid Iron, and of site-specific theatre in general, in the past, never really convinced that any of the shows I’ve seen couldn’t have been done just as effectively on a proscenium stage.
But Decky, which is about nine-year-old boys in a playground, really has to be seen in a playground, not just because that’s easier than putting a set of swings on a stage, but because watching the characters in their native habitat helps tremendously in letting us see past the fact that these are adult actors and fully enter the world of the kids.
For me, however much I was touched by the plot, which is about the moment the boys lose their Edenic innocence, the real joys of the evening came from being transported back to a world in which fluid attention spans mean fighting one moment can instantly morph into playing the next, or twelve-year-olds are Big Kids to be idolised.
I came away knowing not just that I had seen an excellent play excellently performed, but that I had had a unique experience I couldn’t have had in a conventional theatre.
Two in one day. O.K. Bring on the lifeless plays and unfunny comics. I can handle anything.