Sunday, 19 August 2018

EdFringe Adventure Part 2: Poets

EdFringe Adventure Part 2:  Poets

My last blog was about the theatre I saw at the EdFringe, and this one will mainly be about the poets.  Not necessarily the ‘poetry’ I saw, because 1.  You can’t see words and 2.  I want to talk about the community up there.

On the 13th August I turned 30 years old, and there’s nowhere I’d rather have been than EdFringe.  Well, the whole 5 days was a kaleidoscope of people and friends and spoken word shows.

I did the BBC Fringe Slam on Tuesday and found myself in a very heart-warming place surrounded by poets from Newcastle, Manchester, Hull, Birmingham, Nottingham and Reading.  I felt truly part of a community, chatting about scenes, touring, gigging, writing and setting the world to rights.  Everyone was so warm, receptive, supportive.

People say that slam culture puts too much emphasis on winning rather than the art, but a by-product of that competitive culture is a community of people willing on someone to win.  But it becomes irrelevant who wins, as long as that energy swells up in the room (or indeed the open gardeny bit of the BBC Hub) it nourishes rather than saps.

I think the London bubble somewhat pops when the crowds go see a poet from Peterborough, one from Leicester and one from Newcastle do shows in Bourbon Bar.  I am jealous that in the last week, a bunch of showcases start kicking off featuring a diverse range of voices.  Loud Poets’ Fantastical Gameshow was genuinely one of my favourite and funnest gigs ever

If you want to examine a scene, visit EdFringe and don’t go to comedy or theatre, but hang around in Bar-Bados, Bourbon Bar and the Banshee Labyrinth.   In manky rooms and caves and corners and above cafes and in dimly-lit back rooms poets are poetrying.

2015-2017 I took shows up for 7-10 days, each one Nerd Punk themed.  2018 I did a special ‘Best Of’ Nerd Punk show featuring a wide variety of poetry from across this ramshackle career.  I had strangers and old and new friends in the audience who really clicked with it, gave generously to the room’s vibe and hugely cemented my faith in the Fringe.

May the God of Flyerers bless your shows, may your Pay-What-You-Decide buckets be bountiful and your late nights worth the mornings.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

EdFringe Adventure Part 1: Theatre

I have returned from another EdFringe adventure.  I can honestly say it’s been one of my favourite years.  And, like a swarm of flyerers buzzing around the Mile, it should be elbowing it’s way to the top.

Always a mainstay of my Edinburgh Fringe visits, I saw Mark Thomas’ NHS Check Up at 70. Mark leaps around the stage with a punk energy and master of controlling an audience.  Mark’s unashamedly One Of The Good Ones, taking his detailed research on the NHS and turning those stories into engaging and powerful theatrical moments.  His shows always make me want to Change The World. With a smile on my face. Unflinching and honest dissection of the fading NHS. People not profit.

There were a plethora of ‘Gig Theatre’ shows this year.  I think Gig Theatre is meant to combine the energy of being at a gig with the story-telling of being at the theatre.  The show that came closest for me to this model was What Girls Are Made Of, a riotous and joyous full band affair documenting the teenage years of musician Cora Bissett.  I couldn’t help but be envious, the show my theatre company made would have boasted a full band had we the time/resources/funding (blah blah blah poor us).  But with the might of the Traverse this show is immensely powerful.  I saw people wiping away the tears, and the final call-to-arms left me buzzing!

Other theatre using guitars were Status by Chris Thorpe/China Plate, Jim Harbourne’s The Myth of the Singular Moment and One Life Stand by Middle Child.  Status was one of my highlights, acerbic and bitter and ultimately a punch-in-the-gut exploration of guilt, colonialism, ghosts and borders.  Chris’ ability to pin the audience down with words ace, but his Simpsons’ reference that pins down the play is masterful.  I’m still chewing over One Life Stand, I suppose it’s a good thing.  Somewhat disorientating, the three-way narrative is erratic, jarring like a wild Saturday night.  Jim’s show wielded acoustic rather than electric instruments, and told a simple-yet-effective story.

A show about music I saw called Loop had some nice ensemble moments and good humour, but it’s lasting message was essentially a simplified value that music is a good thing, even if different generations clash over their love for it.  I kinda fancied dancing to the music rather than patiently watching the characters enjoy alone.

I am a bit gutted that my company’s show, Whatever Happened To Vandal Raptor? couldn’t come up but…well…you don’t need a long ramble about the costs of this endeavour,
But these shows were all inspiring, engaging and fuel to go and begin work on my next show!  The perfect response to an EdFringe.