I approached Andy via email before I arrived in Edinburgh for Fringe show recommendations and to give him warning that I fully hoped to meet up for coffee and drinks while I was in town. Before he would send over a list of his recommendations he asks me:
“Fringe can be pretty experimental and risqué, are you ok with nudity and profanity in the name of art or do you take offense easily?”
Well, after watching his favorites – it’s probably a good thing I was warned!
Edinburgh Fringe is unjuried and entirely experimental for a lot of the Fringe performers, and while I certainly don’t offend easily, the more than a dozen shows I saw ranged from campy but skilled musicals to raw and gritty physical theatre…and everything that lies between the two.
It’s the creativity that just kills me, I love that no two shows at Fringe are even remotely alike – there’s nothing formulaic about it.
Zeitgeist was one of the most compelling shows at Fringe this year. The Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre Company out of Australia put on a provocative physical performance that mixed Burlesque, Japanese, and Cabaret styles in a contemporary dance piece that had my jaw dropping at times and laughing at others. Andy wisely suggested I avoid the front-row…and since I try to minimize the number of times I absolutely must wash my clothes, I was glad not to have saliva and chocolate hurled in my direction.
And then in an entirely opposite direction from the intensity of Zeitgeist was Bloodbath the Musical. This fell a lot more into the “campy” category and was a guilty pleasure. The show centers on some pretty clichéd highschool murder storyline and the main quartet of cheerleaders prance around the stage in various stages of undress. But it was SO thoroughly entertaining and the singing was fantastic. I deeply wish they had sold CDs of the show instead of t-shirts because Andy and I both agreed: we couldn’t have resisted. If you have a special place in your heart for showtunes (I admit, I do) then take a listen to the “Serve and Protect” song at the Bloodbath site, it makes me smile now just as it did then. :-)
I feel like I could just gush about the majority of the shows that I saw but most notable was Baba Brinkman in the Rap Guide to Evolution. Brinkman is a self-proclaimed rap troubadour and I was blown away that he managed to make an hour of listening to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution interesting…and not just interesting, compelling and riveting. He drew parallels between the rap world and evolution comparing a rap artist’s “bling” to the extravagant fan of a peacock’s plumage. Call me a nerd, but I thought is was pretty rad that he covered such a high-brow topic in an entirely palatable and thoroughly enjoyable performance! Brinkman is currently touring in the UK and soon to be in the US; I think it’s worth checking out an event if he’s near you :-)
The dance and musicals shows were just so much fun, but other notable’s included Ernest and the Pale Moon, a dark show infusing Hitchcock and Poe. I tagged along with Andy for this one and we both thoroughly enjoyed the amazingly simplistic and functional set-design to accompany the eerie live accordion music and engrossingly macabre story.
I’ll leave you all with that! Those were the favorites and some of the best that I saw at Fringe 2009. There is a very real chance that I will come back to Fringe again in the next year or two because I was so thoroughly in my element; Edinburgh beats with the pulse of thousands of performers and artists for an entire month, that’s a temptation I may have to indulge in again!