Reviews from Edinburgh: Your Bard, Hysterical, (even) HOTTER

by Lynn on August 27, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

The Edinburgh Fringe and International Theatre Festival.

Edinburgh in August is packed with festivals: the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Edinburgh International Theatre Festival, the Edinburgh Book Festival, the Edinburgh Music/Jazz Festival. People who go to the Fringe Festival look like ‘glazed-eyed zombies. There are about hundreds theatre events alone that one can choose from during the run of the festival. Each show is about an hour or so.  People have their lists of plays etc. I heard one woman on the phone brag to a friend that she beat her record of shows seen in a day. She saw seven. She was tempted to go for an eighth but thought better of it. Who is one trying to impress?  After all that theatre, can you actually remember what you saw and how it was without looking at the list? I wonder.

In any case, after seeing some Fringe shows in Toronto and SummerWorks, I thought I should see some Edinburgh Fringe shows during its last week just to ween myself from a complete crash.

I sat next to theatre royalty on the flight over: Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory.  She was going to Edinburgh to meet Evalyn Parry to pitch their show, Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools, to a group of presenters including Michael Rubenfeld who is the artistic director of CanadaHub at the festival.  Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools is the wonderful show that Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, in association with Theatre Passe Muraille did last year, and which won the Toronto Theatre Critics Award for Best Canadian play,

She lives in Iqaluit with her husband and three children. She showed me a video she did of a recent whale kill ceremony. It was the first time in 100 years that that ceremony took place. The ritual of catching, killing and butchering the whale is fascinating. A man was cutting up the meat as a fine butcher would. It’s almost art. It IS art. The whale had been left for 24 hours to cool, but even then the blood was so hot it steamed when it was exposed to the air. The water around the whale was red with the blood. The blood vessels are large holes. Stunning. Nothing is left to waste. You can even drink the blood—it’s pure iron.  The skin is stripped and cooked and eaten with soya sauce. A delicacy! Who knew?

She would land at 6:30 am, have a rehearsal at 10 am and then do the pitch to the presenters. She would stay until Wednesday and then fly home. Talk about whirlwind.

The Fringe catalogue is 450 pages big. The theatre section on its own is 103 pages big with about 11 theatre events on each page. Do the math. This festival is huge. I ticked 57 events that interested me but of course could not see them all—really…..never mind those who go from morning to night. You can’t walk down any street in the Fringe area without people thrusting flyers into your hand begging you to see their magic show, their mystery show, their show done entirely by a sock puppet, a show called  Politics for Bitches, drama shows, comedy shows, etc.  I missed a lot I wanted to see. I saw some that were wonderful, some that were good and a few that were so awful they were life shortening, in other words, par for the course with theatre-going.

On the day I landed (Monday, Aug. 20)  I hit the road running.

Your Bard (an informal audience with Will Shakespeare in the pub.)

Written and performed by Nicholas Collett

Directed by Gavin Robertson

Additional material by Will Shakespeare

Smart, informative, funny. Nicholas Collett is a charming Will Shakespeare, with the small goatee, green velvet doublet and hose and funny shoes, is informative about who wrote the plays—he did of course! He told his life story, his marriage, his kids, the death of Hamnet his son, the plays, the performances and the theatres. He involved the audience but not in an intrusive way. A nice way to begin the Fringe.


Created by the young company, LUND

From the press info:

“Feminism is a tricky word. Misunderstood, misused and missing out men. Or is it? How is gender understood by the general public and what does it mean in the age of Trump, #metoo and BiC Pens For Her? We have had awkwardly frank conversations with everyone from a suffragette grandmother to pornstar Ben Dover. Fusing the frank language of interview testimony with beautiful movement inspired by Gecko, Frantic Assembly and DV8, ‘Hysterical’ promises to be a fresh, varied and often outrageous take on what gender means today. It might get weird but it definitely won’t be boring.”

Loved this. It was recommended by a friend whose son was in it. We support the work of our friends’ children.

The company is composed of young actors in their late teens and early 20s. The work is smart (not weird at all), intelligent, perceptive and beautifully presented. I thought the direction of this group of 11 (? Sorry don’t know as there was no program) was exceptional. It was movement based and so precise in its presentation that you knew how much work was put into it.

They dealt with the question of feminism: what is it? Who is a feminist? Who is not even though they say they are. They explored ‘consent.’ A couple is affectionate and want to take it further. The man is not aggressive but obviously wants to go to bed with the woman. The woman is not so eager. She says ‘no’. They are still affectionate but she wonders why they can’t be close, cuddle but not have sex. I wonder that too, as they are in bed. Such tricky questions. Again, the movement is not aggressive or dangerous but is tender, gentle but the possibility of escalating is always there.

I loved how seriously they dealt with the issues; how compelling the performance and production were. I am not familiar with the movement group GECKO, but you can’t do better than Frantic Assembly and DV8 as groups to emulate.

Such a wonderful surprise on my first day.

(even) HOTTER

Again, this was recommended by the daughter of the woman who told me about Hysterical. The daughter is studying/training to be a director. I have a lot of respect for these talented young people.

Created and performed by Mary Higgins and Ell Potter.

This dynamic duo is called Hotter. According to the flyer they have a crusade against embarrassment. They collected interviews with women and trans people aged 11 to 97 about body image, blushing, sweating, pinkness and pleasure. “The moments when our bodies give us away. About being embarrassed and embarrassing. About your body and being able to love it and laugh at it. “

As we file into this sold-out performance the two women are on stage, posed. They are decked out in sunglasses, garish coloured clothes with puffy bits to it, tops, pants/dresses, boas, wild hats dressed over the top and confident in that pose. Wonderful.

When the show started the two performers were vibrant, energetic, lively and enthusiastic. One was also concerned with her body image. She was not happy with it. Her breasts were too big, her nipples were not right. The other tried to give her solace. As the show progressed we heard the recorded interviews of women of all ages taking about embarrassing moments. The woman who was 97 (the grandmother of one of the women???) had the spark and confidence of a woman who was comfortable about herself. She lived a long time and coped with lots of ups and downs and was now serene in her life and skin. Younger interviewees were making their rocky journey to confident but you could hear how hard the journey was sometimes.

Interspersed with this was terrific music and dance. The two women gradually peeled that clothing and covering and bits and bobs away until they were in a halter top and harem pants, dancing with joy. Then the top came off revealing a fitted top and the pants gave way to slinky shorts. They ended with both in a bikini top and bottom on the bum of each was printed “even Hotter” dancing as if they were the two most confident people in the world. Fitting.

I loved the confidence and verge of the two women, their message and their appeal for almost the whole show. But then something happened. The two women hopped from the stage into the audience and invited/brought people on stage to dance with them. Eventually many more people (a really young crowd) joined them on stage leaving a few of us (about 15 people or so including me) in the audience. The stage was now packed with people bopping to the music. Mary Higgins and Ell Potter got on the armrests of two of the seats in the front row, faced the stage and thanked all of them for coming, bringing the show to an end where they bowed deeply. They never turned to include those few of us who chose not to dance on stage, instead favouring us with their butts ‘in our faces.’ Now that’s embarrassing–rather ironic, isn’t it. What an unfortunate ending.

More reviews to come from Edinburgh.

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