So fringe has been over for a few weeks now, and I’m finally far enough out of my Edinburgh/ Summer comedown (winter is coming) to actually pen my thoughts. Though I was only there for a few days the amount you feel forced to pack in makes it feel like the whole month! Having been away from it so long there was definitely culture shock. Flyers in your face from every direction, having your first pint at 10am, that weird smell around Grassmarket (seriously is it a yeast infection or something)?
But I did have a great time. Not really having much time or money myself to see theatre and meet artists based regionally (let alone internationally) it was so refreshing to see theatre that not only reflected some of my experiences and those around me but also those far removed from me. There’s an energy you get from people keen to make art that really means something in the world we live in today, whether it’s for entertainment sake or politics that’s driving them. And sure not all of it is good but the fact that there is space for it is incredible. I always believe in theatre’s ability to reflect our humanity in ways other artistic forms can’t match and this year was no exception. From Summerhall’s Canada Hub to the pits of Underbelly I was able to see the beginnings of a much diverse (gag) line-up regarding the stories told.
In spite all of these good vibes however I still felt uncomfortable at the Fringe. A lot of the concerns I had raised in my last post felt no closer to being addressed (i.e. Staff exploitation, racist bullshit, the fact unless you’re wealthy or involved in it somehow fringe is pretty much the most inaccessible space ever). A lot of my issues are further illustrated in what happened to artists Layton Williams and Emma Edwards, and on a bittersweet note the brilliant shade Fair Fringe threw at venues during their campaign, as well the fact a Sikh temple was literally fucking petrol bombed during the last week. Obviously that probably wasn’t orchestrated by a group of Far Right Fringe producers but it is evidence that this idea that Edinburgh is this massive artistic utopia for everyone is a bit of a myth. One time I was in a taxi and the driver asked what I did and I kind of felt embarrassed to mention I was here for Fringe, grossly aware of all the mess that came with that statement. There’s a lot of work to do.
But I did have a great time. Not really having much time or money myself to see theatre and meet artists based regionally (let alone internationally) it was so refreshing to see theatre that not only reflected some of my experiences and those around me but also those far removed from me.
But I won’t let that discount some of the brilliant work I saw. Big shout outs go to a some of my favourite shows this year, such as Electrolyte at Pleasance. I’ve always loved music in my theatre but this was the first time I’d seen gig theatre achieved in a way that truly lives up to its name. The talent of the cast, the songs all woven into a narrative that tells a story that a lot of people my age could benefit from. Trust me I’ll buy the album if they release one.
Queens of Sheba were also another heavy hitter for me. In an artistic environment where the voices of black women are incredibly stifled, witnessing how the team from Nouveau Riche owned their stage and spelt out actually what it was like to be them was both powerful and affirming. There’s a reason why they sold out all their performances as well as their New Diorama shows earlier this month. I’m still hoping for a day where the majority of the black work we see isn’t predominantly about the major and casual racism and colourism we constantly face but whilst we still constantly face it we ain’t gonna stop talking about it!
Last but not least (and not even my full list cause I’ve got a word count!) was The End of Eddy from Untitled Projects, based on the life of Edouard Louis. With the amount of work the format and design do to alienate the audience the truth of the story was an incredibly emotional experience for me. It can be highly triggering but it helps remembering that it was something he got through. It’s currently at the Unicorn now. Go see it.
That sums up my Edinburgh shenanigans for this year. For the first time I actually ate properly, only drank till midnight and slept in a decent bed so there isn’t too much more mess to tell. But who knows what will happen next year!