It’s a strong year. It’s a terrible year. All the shows are about death/#MeToo/American politics/Brexit/migration. It’s drizzled every day/been a localised Edinburgh heatwave. Audiences are terrible/teeming. [delete as appropriate]. Basically, this is my way of saying: the fringe is just beginning, and everything’s still loose and up for editorialising. Still, for your reading convenience, I’ve had a go at grouping some of the shows Exeunt writers recommend by theme, even as they try to wriggle loose and float free in the Edinburgh ether.
Gender and trauma
The first real controversy of the fringe has been over David Ireland’s Ulster American – Natasha Tripney (The Stage) and Andrzej Lukowski (Time Out) found the way it talked about rape uncomfortable and unjustifiable, while Lyn Gardner (in a blog for The Stage) defended it: as a work that “makes the audience complicit: we are the fourth character and what we do or do not laugh at becomes part of the drama”. Some of the same issues ripple through Samira Elagoz’s solo show Cock Cock, Who’s There – Rosemary Waugh’s review explores the discomfort and strangeness of a show that “goes places most people are afraid to go”: its creator’s experiences of rape and her unwillingness to inhabit stereotypes of female victimhood. Another recommended show, dressed., is one that Ava Davies describes as “deep and rich and jagged”. It’s an exploration of bodies and recovery from trauma that uses movement in a more abstract exploration of an issue where sometimes, words just don’t work.
All-female folk group TRILLS have crafted Songlines, a story of a fumbled teenage romance. Hailey Bachrach’s review draws comparisons between the duo’s music and the play’s own narrative: “their harmonies aren’t always perfectly harmonious. They move through clashes and dissonance as they rise and fall, and that makes the ultimate resolution all the more satisfying.” Another new musical, Thor + Loki, takes a more conventional approach, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a bit of radicalism buried behind the loving homages to classic showtunes. Hailey Bachrach writes that “I don’t mean to read too much into a show that features a symbolic recorder duet and a bit with a dog slipper, but Thor and Loki is basically about how stereotypical hetero-masculinity is a toxic trap that will destroy the world.”
Undertold stories of women’s lives
Early reports of Breach Theatre’s It’s True, It’s True, It’s True, which resurrects forgotten, embattled female artist Artemisia Gentileschi, are wholly positive – Exeunt’s review is coming soon. But it’s definitely not the only show that’s unveiling underexplored areas of female experience. Eve Allin writes that F**k You Pay Me, a solo show based on Joana Nastari’s experiences of sex work, is “a massive middle finger pointed high into the air, reaching above and over the rooftops of Edinburgh, casting a shadow over every person who’s ever looked another human in the eye and shamed them for what they decide to do with their bodies.” Games follows two little-known female German-Jewish athletes in the run-up to the 1936 Olympics, resisting straightforward interpretations: in her review, Crystal Bennes calls it “thought-provoking, beautifully-written and utterly mesmerising”.
Work by young companies
Here it is, what the fringe is all about (by one definition) – groups of frighteningly youthful performers making work in brand new ways. (This writer can vouch for the fact that like the proverbial policemen, they seem to get younger every year). Lights over Tesco Carpark is at the Edinburgh fringe after a striking run of early success (NSDF and Incoming Fest included) – Eve Allin’s three-column review can be read acrossways or downwards. And Come to Daddy is an exploration of art history that’s full of moody, doomy atmosphere: Ava Davies writes that it presents “All of its beauty and all of its horror, condensed and recreated for our consumption.”
Shows with dogs
Regrettably, this fringe micro-trend only involves one show so far. And that’s Katie and Pip, which Eve Allin’s dog’s eye response describes as “jagged around the edges a lot of the time, balancing between fun and fear” – it evokes the relationship between a girl with diabetes, and the border collie that’s trained to save her life. But Exeunt reviewer Hailey Bachrach would like it to be known, for consideration for future fringes, that she will come to all shows involving dogs, whether that dog is integral (as in the case of Katie and Pip) to a sensitive exploration of real-life animal-human bonds, or cynically tacked on late in the creative process, their participation ensured with a cannily placed trail of Bonios. With so little dog theatre being made, she can’t afford to be fussy.
Each show mentioned above comes recommended by Exeunt’s team of Edinburgh fringe reviewers. Click here for all our reviews of 2018’s festival so far.