Edinburgh winds down this weekend (or at least the fringe part does; the official festival still has a week to go). I did it early this year — I was there for the first week of the fringe — so there’s a lot of stuff that buzz has got attached to since I left, or hadn’t opened before I did, but have I really missed anything? The truth is that Edinburgh is very much a testing ground, and most good work that gets noticed there will re-surface elsewhere, sometimes sooner rather than later.
Three shows seen at the Traverse also have an immediate afterlife: Simon Stephens’s Morning, which comes to the Lyric Hammersmith from September 5; Mark Thomas’s Bravo Figaro!, a play about his father rather than a straight stand-up, coming to the Tricycle from September 10-22; and Chris Goode’s Monkey Bars (which comes to the Unicorn as part of a national tour from September 25-30).
The good news in Edinburgh is that you can, of course, tick them off far faster than in London — you’d need for nights to see that lot. In Edinburgh, you could have seen them all in a single day. As it happens, I saw the first two in Scotland, so I’m ahead of myself a bit for a change.
And for producers, it’s an opportunity to try out these shows — and gain good critical attention — before taking them on to a further life. It will surely be helpful for Anthony Rapp’s short London run, for instance, that he arrives in town already with Libby Purves’s rapturous five-star review behind him.
Lyn Gardner has been filing brilliant daily Guardian blog from the fringe — I wonder just when she has time to write it, let alone cover so much ground that gives her the material for it, not to mention the planning that it all takes to cover that ground, too. But that’s why she’s so utterly brilliant at what she does; I’ve called her the queen of the Edinburgh Fringe before, and she truly comes into her own at this time of year.
It’s the eagerness of her pursuit of new discoveries, her wide frame of reference from having come to the fringe for so many years, and her still undiminished enthusiasm that make her stand out. She confessed earlier this week, “At this stage in the festival I feel as though I’m done on my knees. But the fringe is like childbirth. Often agony at the time, but it doesn’t stop you from doing it again the following year.”
Lyn also speaks to people — plenty of them. Sitting in front of her at one show in Edinburgh the week before last, I heard her quizzing the person next to her about shows she’d seen. But actually the only person you need to speak to, or at least listen to, is Lyn herself. And here’s exactly why: as she also wrote this week, “For me, and for producers and artistic directors, the fringe is as much about potential as it is about finished work. So it’s a chance to see artists such as Jenna Watt (whose Flâneurs is small but tempting at Summerhall), and companies such as Sleepwalk Collective (Amusements is well worth seeing), RashDash and the Flanagan Collective, that make it well worthwhile. As a producer said to me the other day, coming to the fringe is like filling the larder; if you don’t come, later in the year you realise the cupboard is bare.” I’ve not heard of any of companies till Lyn brought them to my attention, and now they’re on my radar. My own critical larder clearly needs restocking.
It is at this stage of the fringe myself that, as well as clocking the companies like the ones above that I missed, I also chalk up the list of shows I missed that I wish I’d seen, if only I’d had another week (or three) in town. No doubt some of these will find their way to London (or elsewhere) in due course; I’m already keen to catch Monkey Bars and Mark Thomas’s Bravo Figaro!, though I think I can give Simon Stephens’ Morning a pass. (I had a ticket to see it at the Traverse early one morning, too, but passed then; partly from exhaustion and the need to spend the time writing instead. But as always, if miss one Simon Stephens play, there’s bound to be another three along any minute).
But I’m particularly sorry I missed:
Mies Julie, the South African version of Strindberg’s Miss Julie which sounded revelatory and the Australian circus show Knee Deep (though I’d just seen the amazing Empire at the Spiegelworld tent in New York, so felt a bit circus Spiegel-ed out), both at the original Assembly Rooms on George Street, and both of which had been recommended by Lyn Gardner and everyone else I read, too. (Here are The Stage’s must-see reviews for Mies Julie; and Knee Deep
Mess, a theatrical exploration of anorexia at the Traverse, which seems to have divided opinion: Lyn Gardner objected that it “succeeds in making anorexia all pink and fluffy”, but a few days later also wrote, “Love it or hate it, it’s undoubtedly generated some of the most interesting and perceptive writing on theatre from Daniel B Yates for Exeunt here and from Andrew Haydon here. Agree with them or not, both pieces of writing are a reminder that long-form criticism beats star-rated reviews every time.”
Dirty Great Love Story, which sounds like this year’s Midsummer (the David Greig musical from the 2009 fringe), at the Pleasance, and Some Small Love Story, enthusiastically reviewed by The Stage’s Nick Awde, at C Nova.
Beulah, another new musical at C Nova; Lyn Gardner tweeted that it was “a little too sweet for me but confirms this young company as one to watch.”
Cabaret star Lady Rizo at Assembly George Square, which I heard good word-of-mouth about, supported by The Stage review by Honour Bayes. Yesterday she also won the inaugural Edinburgh Fringe Cabaret Award, presented jointly by Time Out and Soho Theatre.
Review of the week: And here’s one I’m (almost) sorry to have missed, but reading the review makes me feel like I was there — Brian Logan, reviewing David Hasselhoff’s solo show at the Pleasance Grand this week, wrote: “All would seem a straightforward ego trip, were the Hoff not giving his audience what they want - and who could resist his transparent eagerness to make us happy? In a shambolic hour, he ushers scores of audience members onstage to limbo dance, then punts beach balls into the crowd to summon the spirit of Baywatch. The best - or most bizarre - is saved until last, when Hasselhoff undertakes the Proclaimers’ local favourite 500 Miles. Just one hitch: his costume change was rushed, his kilt isn’t fastened properly. It keeps threatening to fall down; his dancers try to help, but can’t; the Hoff, distracted, forgets his lyrics. No one present will forget the sight.”