Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011


Laura and I hit the Edinburgh Fringe Festival a few weekends ago. This was our third time and it was the best yet: we're getting pretty good at picking the diamonds in the rough.

For those who don't know, the Edinburgh Fringe festival started in 1947 as a low-budget, amateur alternative to the International Edinburgh Festival. And now, 64 years later, the Fringe has become the largest performing arts festival in the world.

In recent years, the Fringe boasted 2098 shows across 265 venues with a whopping 1,300 performances each day. And this is a completely unjuried festival, which means anything goes: Shakespearian drama, stand-up comedy, exotic cabarets, art installations, physical theatre, stuntmen, dance troupes, celebrity comebacks and even such outrageous highlights such as the Lady Boys of Bangkok and Penis Puppetry... in 3D, no less.

But anyway, here are my reviews (previously seen on my Twitter page) of all 23 shows that we saw...

Penny Dreadfuls Etherdome: stealing their name from the usual Fringe Dreadfuls, this troupe is more sinister & a lot less funny. **

Humphrey Ker: one third of the Penny Dreadfuls, Humphrey goes solo for a Nazi-era, one-man show. A natural storyteller & very funny. ****

Axis of Awesome: the comedy rock trio return in their biggest venue to date. Hits include Birdplane, KFC & the 4-chord song. Pure joy. *****

Tim & Light: original Burton-esque storytelling from the Tucked In team. Inventive use of puppets, props & light. Wonderful for kids. *****

Harold Pinter with Julian Sands: not for everyone but a rare chance to see a worldclass actor reading worldclass poetry. Captivating. ****

Matthew Crosby's Adventureland: an energetic, autobiographical PowerPoint from 1/3 of Pappys. A loose bag of ideas but a likeable host. ***

Free Run: surprisingly slow & (at times) dull. But when the parkour does kick in, you will marvel at these human panthers. ***

Showstoppers!: improvised musicals. A deservedly popular stalwart of the Fringe with an exceptionally charismatic & talented cast. *****

Belt Up's Outland: an interactive fantasy-hopping look at Lewis Carroll's psyche with three versatile actors. Truly immersive theatre. ****

Mirazozo (pictured): an inflatable labyrinth of light & geometry. The perfect chillout sanctuary at the Fringe. Utterly enchanting. A ***** experience.

Bring Me The Head Of Adam Riches: five character-based sketches & LOTS of audience participation. Highly-recommended for good reason. *****

Michael Winslow: the sound effects guy from Police Academy (!) recreates Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Star Wars & more. Unmissable. *****

Secret Window: poor Stephen King adaptation with weak performances. Lacked the humour, suspense & drama of the source material. *

The Infant: a couple are interrogated about their child's doodle. Kafta-esque black comedy & a masterclass in suspense. A triumph. *****

Clockheart Boy: a personal 2008 Fringe favourite. An eccentric professor & his colourful inventions find a boy on a beach. Magical. *****

Flawless: as seen on BGT. Truly impressive moves (Matrix dancing!) but they needed microphones to banter with the audience a lot more. ****

Dave Gorman: the comedian delivers new rants targeted at Twitter, his lookalikes, not being Jewish & iPhone marketing. Very funny. *****

Mr Benn: Chefs! The deep sea! A dragon! Singing/dancing fun for the little kids & easy-watching nostalgia for the big kids. Pleasant. ***

Revolting Rhymes: two blokes perform Roald Dahl's poems without props, puppets or wit. Crude, unorganised but (oddly) the kids loved it. *

The Man Who Planted Trees: a true story. Sophisticated children's theatre which never patronises the kids. Superb puppet gags. A treat. *****

Shutterland: dystopian physical theatre from this Lecoq-trained troupe. Not enough story to hold interest but clever & experimental. ***


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