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Edinburgh Festivals Diary – Day 1

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world and takes place every August for three weeks in Scotland’s capital city: this year 3,841 shows feature in 323 venues.

It is one of the the most important events in the theatre calendar.

I arrived in town and headed for Fringe Central and bumped into West End Producer flyering near Pleasance Dome.

‘Did you miss me, dear?’ I asked.

‘Yes, dear! I’ve been looking for my Willy.’ he laughed.

WEP, as he is known in theatrical circles, is making his Edinburgh Fringe debut with West End Producer (and Guests) – Free Willy! 

‘How has it been?’ I asked.

‘Well, numbers are low and the competition is huge. But, finally, I’m beginning to enjoy myself, dear.’ WEP explained.

I arrive at Fringe Central: a resource developed for Fringe participants. During the festive they offer well over 100 free events designed to help participants and performers  make the most out of their Fringe experience.

Roots by 1927 Theatre Company at the Church Hill theatre, Edinburgh.Photograph: Murdo MacLeod

Roots by 1927 Theatre Company at the Church Hill theatre, Edinburgh.Photograph: Murdo MacLeod

Anyway, having collected my media pass, I dash across the meadows to Church Hill Theatre to see Roots. An International Festival show blending early cinema techniques, animation and live performance by 1927, the theatre company behind Golem.

This is a fresh take on 13 folk tales, or “folk jokes” as the company calls them. This is a charming, challenging and very memorable show, thanks to a combination of offbeat humour, stunning music and emotion.

Kitchen brawls don’t tend to end well for women. Crocodile Fever – presented in association with the Lyric Theatre – at Traverse, wipes the floor with the patriarchy, though.

Dwyer Hogg with Lucianne McEvoy as Alannah.Photograph: Lara Cappelli

Dwyer Hogg with Lucianne McEvoy as Alannah.Photograph: Lara Cappelli

Meghan Tyler’s gruesome play is set during the 1980’s in rural Northern Ireland and focuses on a reunion of two sisters. The snapping, crackling script whizzes by and the whole thing is kind of absurd, but also, truly unmissable.

One of the lovelier things about returning to the festival is catching up with old friends, bumping into former acquaintances and saluting the hardworking people that keep the city firing on all cylinders; bar staff, taxi drivers, cafe owners, and more.

I head for coffee and read newspapers at my favourite hotel.

I spot the manager

‘Welcome back’ he said.

‘It’s good to be back,’ I said, ‘you having fun?’

‘Thanks, Mr Woodward! I’m absolutely loving it!’ he replied. He catches me reading The Daily Mirror.

‘Oh dear…’ he said.

‘Don’t judge, I read them all.’ I replied.

‘Do you know what, I often see many, many people walk in here for breakfast with a Financial Times…. and a Daily Mirror inside!’ He laughed.

Brilliant.

The rest of the day was spent with Stephen Fry. Fry brings the nine-hour epic cut into three stage shows of his Greek legends book Mythos to the EIF as the opening dates of a UK tour – his first since hitting the road with Hugh Laurie forty years ago.

Basically, Men focuses on the Trojan War and Odysseus’s journey home. Heroes explores the legends of Hercules, Theseus and Perseus and, finally, Gods takes us back to the origins of the Greek pantheon.

I’m not saying Mr Fry’s decision to perform three shows about the same topic go on a bit – but good grief. There are 20 minute intervals, thankfully. And light relief in this well  structured lecture-slash-performance-slash-seminar come when things get interactive when the audience play ‘Mythical Pursuits’ and pose questions to his ‘oracle’. Absolutely ideal.

Stephen Fry in Mythos: A Trilogy – Gods. Heroes. Men at Edinburgh International Festival (Photo: David Cooper)

Stephen Fry in Mythos: A Trilogy – Gods. Heroes. Men at Edinburgh International Festival (Photo: David Cooper)

To be fair, the man is a walking encyclopaedia and a national treasure,  (Fun fact: the Milky Way is derived from when Hera woke and realised that she was breastfeeding an infant that wasn’t her own, she shoved him off and the spurting milk became the Milky Way.)

The Fringe and the International Festival both run until 26 August.

 

Hollywood A- Listers lend support to campaign for statue of iconic playwright Joe Orton in his hometown of Leicester

A host of celebrities including Sir Ian McKellen, Stephen Fry, Alec Baldwin, Kenneth Cranham and Sheila Hancock are lending their support to a fundraising campaign to have a statue of the iconic British playwright Joe Orton erected in his hometown of Leicester.

The fundraising campaign, Joe Orton Statue Appeal (www.spacehive.com/joe-orton-statue-appeal) has been organised by a committee of Orton fans in Leicester and is headed by his sister, Leonie Orton (pictured with Sir Ian McKellen) and Dr Emma Parker, a leading Orton expert at the University of Leicester, home of the Orton archive, which includes manuscripts, letters and other original material written, compiled or collected by the playwright.

Acting legend Sir Ian Mckellen is an active supporter of the fundraising campaign saying:

“’The idea that in Orton Square there should be a statue, a memorial to Joe Orton, is terrific”.

Upon hearing of the fundraising campaign, Hollywood A Lister Alec Baldwin said about the writer:

“I have craved Orton’s writing for a long time, whether I’m sitting in the audience or performing in the cast. There are no comparisons. He’s a true original. Half poet, half devil’s apprentice. I never tire of his wit, soul and anarchy.”

Actor, writer and national treasure Stephen Fry added:

“’Joe Orton has always been a hero to me, both in his work and in the authenticity, wit and wonder of his life. A statue is a wonderful idea”

Born in Leicester and raised on the Saffron Lane council estate, Orton shocked, outraged, and amused audiences with his scandalous black comedies such as Loot, Entertaining Mr Sloane and What the Butler Saw.  His career, although short lived, was incredibly significant, influencing future generations of writers, so much so that his unique style has given rise to the adjective ‘Ortonesque’ to describe work that blends the comic and the macabre. His life, as revealed in his diaries, was as scandalous as his plays, and he died tragically at the age of 34, murdered by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell, in 1967.

One of only a handful of memorials to LGBT icons in the UK, a fundraising platform has been set up to meet the projected cost of £100,000 to design, create and site the statue within a prominent position in the city of Leicester. The design of the statue will be subject to a competition where artists will be asked to represent a likeness of Orton in a suitably ‘Ortonesque’ way. It is hoped that the statue, the favoured location of which is Orton Square by Curve, at the heart of the Cultural Quarter, will become a symbol of Leicester’s significant literary heritage and passionate commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

Leonie Orton, who administers the estate of Joe Orton with her sister Marilyn, said:

“A statue of Joe will ensure that a great writer is not forgotten, raise awareness of Leicester’s rich literary heritage and serve as an inspirational reminder that talent is everywhere and art is for everyone, regardless of social background or circumstance.”

The launch of the Joe Orton Statue Appeal will take place at Curve at 5.30pm on 25th July where invited guests and Orton fans will be presented with a short fundraising film from Sir Ian McKellen and Leonie Orton, as well as being given the first opportunity to pledge their support to the statue’s funding. Those wishing to pledge their support can do so at www.spacehive.com/joe-orton-statue-appeal

Guests will also be able to take part in a silent auction to bid for rare items from the Orton Archive, exclusive theatre experiences and Orton artwork and there are some once in a lifetime  rewards for donating on offer including the chance to have your photo taken wearing Orton’s coat, that inspired his famous statement: ‘Cheap clothes suit me. I’m from the gutter. And don’t you ever forget it because I won’t.’ and the chance to have his favourite actor Kenneth Cranham come to their house and read from the Orton Diaries.

The fundraising campaign is supported by the University of Leicester, Leicester City Council, Curve, Fraser Urquhart Media and Big Difference Company. Donations can be made at www.spacehive.com/joe-orton-statue-appeal

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Here’s Your Definitive Guide to Edinburgh Fringe 2019 (you’re welcome)

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 guide by Mr Carl Woodward
Bryony Kimmings

Bryony Kimmings

I loved Bryony Kimming’s I’m A Phoenix, Bitch at Battersea Arts Centre – don’t miss it at The Pleasance. You really are in safe hands with ThisEgg; a gorgeous four-women show called dressed returnsRhum and Clay’s clever The War of the Worlds will be sure to make its mark, too. 

Elsewhere, YESYESNONO return with The Accident Did Not Take Place, featuring a new guest performer every night. Could be good. Dark Lady Co are staging Drowning at Pleasance Courtyard as well – it sets out to confront all we deem evil, horrible, and hideous. Curious eh.

Over at Summerhall, double act Ridiculusmus bring a smart show: Die! Die! Die! Old People Die! This is funny and fragile farce about mortality and mourning. The highly brilliant Cardboard Citizens return with Bystanders, shining a light on the life and death of homeless people. National Theatre Wales will chart the story of a woman travelling from Ireland to Wales to have an abortion in Cotton FingersKieran Hurley and Gary McNair’s Square Go return as well and that will be worth seeing. 

Paines Plough are kind of amazing aren’t they. They always put on outstanding new plays from around the UK; this year it is no different: there are three world premieres in The Roundabout @ Summerhall in co-production with Theatr Clwyd by Daf JamesNathan Bryon and Charles Miles

Among other highlights, Steph Martin stars in I’m Non Typical,Typical by Cambridge’s Bedazzle Inclusive Theatre; this new play aims to change people’s perceptions of disability. Worth a look. 

(BalletBoyz) Dancers in cube

(BalletBoyz) Dancers in cube

Edinburgh Fringe demigod Henry Naylor brings The Nights – the fifth stand-alone play in Naylor’s Arabian Nightmares series, that tackles the uncomfortable relationship between the East and West, post 9/11/ (his wife is Sarah Kendall, you know). I’m rather excited about all-male company BalletyBoyz making their dreamy fringe debut, with THEM/US one piece choreographed by the company and the other by Christopher Wheeldon at Bristo Square, Underbelly. Unmissable talent.  

Traverse Theatre features a host of world premieres including Crocodile Fever by Meghan Tyler – a blackly comic drama set in Northern Ireland. Javaad Alipoor will direct his piece created with the excellent Kirsty HouselyRich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran – inspired by stories of the expanding global wealth division. 

I’m also curious to see what the Edinburgh International Festival has on offer. Stephen Fry will present a trilogy of plays adapted from his book Mythos, about the Greek pantheon of gods and their various inceptions. Disability-led Birds of Paradise present Robert Softley Gale’s Purposeless Movements, exploring the perception of masculinity and disability. 

Sometimes you can find a hidden gem at theSpaceUK. I must emphasise the choice word ‘sometimes’ here. (I once sat in a basement with a pipe leaking on my head for 50 minutes, while a woman shaved her legs to the songs of Thin Lizzy – it was not good. It was, in fact, shit). 

Noir Hamlet

Noir Hamlet

Anyway, if you like comedy I reckon Noir Hamlet, which has already picked up the Boston Globe Critic’s Pick earlier this year – is worth a look; it updates Hamlet to a wise-cracking 1940s detective up to his neck in a comedic case with more twists that a gallows tie. 

While you are there, Level Up might be worth a look. It explores a near-future utopia where real love is impossible to measure.

National Theatre of Scotland are staging two world premieres at the festival – Jackie Kay’s Red Dust Road, about growing up as a mixed-race adopted Scot, as well as Tim Crouch’s Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation, in a co-production with the Royal Court.

Ian McKellen

Ian McKellen

Stop the clocks: Ian McKellen stops off as part of his 80 date UK tour: this is sold out, which is a shame. I should mention that Robert Icke brings his political reimagining of Oedipus to the international festival, I don’t think I have the energy for this, though.
So, there you have it, that’s the end of my definitive Edinburgh Fringe 2019 guide.

I hope you have found some use in this guide to what the fringe world has on offer. 

If you have tips, tweet me: @mrcarlwoodward*thumbs up emoji*.