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Edinburgh Festivals Diary: Day 4

Meek

Meek

It has been a heady few days – and of course – nearly the end of the festival.

Saturday brought new levels of misery at Traverse Theatre as I settled down for Meek –Penelope Skinner’s dystopian new play for Headlong in association with the Birmingham Repertory.

Everything is directed by Amy Hodge with an overly-serious tone. It has the potential to be an interesting story, and one that deserves to be told and retold, albeit in rather more adventurous fashion. But the performances are strictly daytime soap. A play that should be a challenge feels relentless. And bleakness is the opposite of what makes theatre interesting.

Meek is, for the most part, a toolkit for stage-haters.

Paines Plough’s vibrant Roundabout programme in the Summerhall Courtyard includes new plays from Tom WellsMiddle Child, and more.

Sticks and Stones is a really, really fun hour. Vinay Patel’s play thrusts virtue-signalling and offence taking centre stage and unpacks how comically disarming vivacity can be. This is a tightly written story about workplace politics that widens into an exploration of free speech. In an exceptionally strong cast, Katherine Pearce is a knockout as the misguided B, who uses a word as part of a misfiring joke fuelled by regret and fury.

Sticks and Stones is one of this year’s coolest shows.

Build a Rocket has been awarded the Holden Street Theatres’ Edinburgh Fringe Award 2018, which gives winning shows the chance to take part in the Adelaide Fringe, which is absolutely idea.

Stephen Joseph Theatre’s production is a showcase for Serena Manteghi’s theatrical dynamism: the way she attacks Christopher York’s monologue.

This charming show follows a disillusioned young mum punching hard against a miserable world. York’s writing manages to strike a clever balance between humour and pathos as they recount a young person’s experiences in austerity Britain. Bold, minimal and surging. The story is wonderfully told, full of deep compassion, scalding rage and surprising humour. It’s not to be missed.

If you aren’t careful, the Fringe can feel like one never-ending theatrical treadmill. It is important to remember this is a marathon not a race; pacing yourself is essential.

I pop to a café by Pleasance Dome for a panini and a cup of coffee.

“Surviving the Fringe?”, I ask the owner.

“Just about,” begins the man I speak to. “There seem to be more people than ever in the city; not very many of them are spending money”, he adds.

“Interesting, why do you think that is?”, I ask.

“Ticket prices. They seem to go up and up and up every year. Most of them are £12-15.00 now. If you are taking a punt on an unknown company or work in progress and it is shit then that is a lot of money,” he says, sighing.

He has a point. Many individuals that I talk to keep telling me 2018 has been more challenging than ever to get full-price paying audiences, particularly for shows beyond the city centre.

I retire to the apartment where I am staying in just off George Square and get ready for Alan Cumming’s triumphant return to the International Festival with his Club Cumming at Leith Theatre.

Cumming delivers a raucous night of songs, guest stars and anecdotes. Anyway, the first guest was bearded baritone Le Gateau Chocolat in a gold lamé dress. Swish-swish.

The centrepiece – to these ears, anyway – is ‘I Who Have Nothing’. Desolate and jarring. At its heart it was a shrewd way of Le Gateau recognising – then owning – the space he occupies. The truth is, nobody else is delivering musical theatre quite like this.

The end time is 2.45am but Edinburgh peaked, for me and it’s 1.30am.

Way past my bedtime.