Edinburgh Round Up Edinburgh Festival Fringe August & September 1994

Feature in Issue 6-4 | Winter 1994

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year was besieged by mime and physical theatre companies notching up rave reviews and filling makeshift theatres. This year saw a venue dedicating itself to that work we hold so dear, with the St Bride's Centre hosting a packed physical theatre line-up. The Gandini Juggling Project played there with Caught “Still”/Hanging, a mesmeric combination of movement and object manipulation.

With a stage space vast enough to hold a Corde Lisse and cope with the high diabolo spins, this venue certainly brought out the most of the companies that appeared there. Trestle were among these, with their new show Window Dressing, a visual mask piece depicting the story of estranged twins. Here the space was turned into a television studio with the audience clapping gaily at idiot boards but the show had an underlying tale of exploitation which came through as perceptively as usual.

Further afield, Theatre YBY played at the Theatre Workshop with their loose adaptation of Othello called The Pool. Beautiful timing and comic interpretations of the characters offered a highly entertaining view on this well-known story. The set included a life-size pool (complete with water) which Desdemona ascended into at one point, gaily taunting all and sundry from her vantage point. Also playing at the Theatre Workshop were Volcano with How To Live which dissected classic Ibsen texts and wove them into an absurd amalgamation of quotes, matched with forceful character interpretations. This piece radiated energy. My final piece at the Theatre Workshop was Wierszalin Theatre from Poland in Merlin, a moving rendition, using carved wooden characters and ancient ritual to portray the stories of the knights of the round table. Spellbinding!

Mimus Mundanus, an English and Brazilian company, appeared at Marco's with Odete – Made in Brazil, a moving tale depicting the life of a Brazilian woman. Direct contrasts between soap opera rhetoric and real life scenarios were made by a cast that interchanged roles in the three scenes. Convincing performances all round. Equally compelling was a Snarling Beasties production entitled One Shot playing at the Assembly Rooms which brought us face to face with the twisted life of an obsessed Robert de Niro fan. This solo production starring Mark Kilmurry was hugely physical and very powerful, drawing the last emotion out of the audience.

Upstairs in the Ballroom at Assembly was the Natural Theatre's Henry VIII – Diary of a Serial Killer, which charted the history, albeit a comic interpretation, of the six famous wives. At one stage volunteers from the audience were lined up as prospective spouses! The whole play was extremely funny and aptly portrayed. Keeping with laughter, two productions to mention here – Rejects Revenge with Crumble at The Bedlam, which proved to be a huge hit with their witty parody of all things English with slapstick, music hall humour and a wonderfully tight script reminiscent of Noel Coward. And a late night stumble to The Pleasance where The Right Size played Stop Calling Me Vernon and a packed audience watched closely as the smallest movement of the two characters brought tears to their eyes and the simplest of mannerisms became the object of ridicule. All too soon it was time to go home...

But one last stop off at the beautiful Botanic Gardens to see Linneaus Prince of Flowers, a treat for all plant lovers who have a bent for open-air performance. The company took the very large assembled crowd around the gardens, into the dark of night, drawing on Shakespeare, Commedia dell'Arte, Street Theatre and Spectacle.

A cold night by the end but a real experience.

P.S. Bumped into David Glass and Peta Lily showing their film of Beg!. A bizarre world of fantasies, murder and gore awaited the audience at The Edinburgh Film Festival with the premiere of this production, taking the company into another dimension.