Edinburgh is still celebratory in essence, an exhilarating place to be, though to enjoy it at its best, it’s important to be responsive to the environment, adept at rune-reading (well, Twitter in this case). Some of the best moments of my festival did not blossom from my closely-plotted, colour-coded schedule, but were more organic in origin: catching poets Ross Sutherland and Joe Dunthorne cameoing on Tim Clare’s feminist rap in the bowels of the Banshee Labyrinth during Aisle 16’s latest show; standing in a cascade of bubbles during Little Bulb’s glorious Goose Party at Summerhall, itself one of the most exciting additions to the Fringe landscape.
Personal high points of the Fringe include sipping whisky while the cast of David Greig’s Prudencia Hart performed a unique rendition of a Kylie Minogue song; the soaring choral ending of Ten Plagues (though not necessarily the rest of it); the elegance of Analogue’s 2401 Objects; the visual wit of Blind Summit’s The Table; the delicacy and evocation of Dan Canham’s 30 Cecil Street; the energy and uplift of Banana Bag and Bodice’s Beowulf, performed in a circus tent on a soggy Edinburgh afternoon; being brought to the point of tears by Theatre Ad Infintum’s Translunar Paradise and then, finally, tipped over by Chris Goode’s The Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley. Though for me, nothing quite topped the thematic density and invention of the TEAM’s Mission Drift.
I will also take away with me the memory of sitting in more than one performance where the audience consisted of just me, another reviewer, and perhaps a handful of people who worked for the venue; moments where the marketplace taint of the festival was all too overt and an insistent inner voice kept asking if this really was the best way of operating, for both festival-goers and performers? The Forest Fringe has shown that there are alternatives when it comes to presenting work in Edinburgh, but theirs is, by necessity and choice, a model with certain limitations in terms of artist involvement and audience appeal – much as I love the Forest and all it’s achieved, there is a cliquish quality to the place – though it remains a model worth learning from.
There also remains a sense, I find, in many places within the festival of circles within circles, of coded conversations taking place between small group of individuals; this year perhaps more keenly than ever it felt important to find ways of opening up and connecting those conversations, to draw in more people, welcome more voices, and ensure they get heard.