Monday, 20 August 2012

The Edinburgh Pestival 2012:

I'm usually a bit cynical about the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe, although I've never figured out exactly why.  It might stem from working in a shop in the centre of Edinburgh over the last few summers.  The anger that rose up inside me when my two minute walk from the train station became a fifteen minute assault course because of all the tourist traffic on Princes Street is indescribable.  Every year I say I'll spend at least a whole day seeing what I can see at the Festival, and every year I fail miserably.  Even this year I haven't dedicated a whole day to Festival madness, but I have caught a few special shows that I very much enjoyed, and I thought I could share with you.

To kick off the Festival season, Craig, our friend Ruaridh and I saw
Withered Hand play at the Queen's Hall on Saturday the 4th of August.  Although the three of us have seen Withered Hand (also known as Dan Willson) play several times before, both on his own and with a full band, this was probably his biggest gig yet that I've attended, and it made me happy that so many people showed up to support him.  If you've never heard Withered Hand before, I would highly recommend it.  I'm struggling to compare his music to anything else, but if you like clever lyrics, acoustic guitars and folky leanings (like me) then you should give his music a listen.  It's all good, but I'd always recommend you to start with No Cigarettes, Cornflake and Religious Songs, and then see where the mood takes you from there.  On this occasion, Withered Hand was supported by Darren Hayman and Ballboy (Gordon McIntyre), and the whole show was compered by Josie Long, who you may remember as the ditzy guidance counsellor in Skins.  It turns out she is also a rather funny stand up comedian, and she made the 'waiting around between bands with your feet starting to hurt' bit far more enjoyable.  Needless to say, Withered Hand (an his fantastic band) were incredible, and we all sang along to our heart's content.

On a very rainy Monday night (the 6th of August) a group of us went along the Pleasance Baby Grand to see Rhys Darby's one man stand up show.  He's most famous for his role as Murray in comedy TV show Flight of the Conchords, and there are nods to that throughout his show, but it turns out that Rhys isn't much like Murray at all.  I was surprised by how animated and physical his performance was, and he was extremely funny, laidback and likeable on stage.  There was no picking on the audience - something that makes me very uncomfortable at comedy shows.  He actually accepted a gift (a tinfoil robot) from one member of the audience at the beginning of the performance and posted a photo of it on Twitter later, which I thought was very sweet.  I won't spoil any of the jokes for you, but Rhys Darby's dancing is a wonder to behold, and worth the ticket money alone.  His show is called This Way to Spaceship, and it runs until the 27th of August, so go and see it for yourself if you get the chance!  I highly recommend it.

Smile-N Productions

The final show that Craig and I attended is quite close to my heart.  On Friday the 10th, we went down to Stockbridge Parish Church to see 'I Got It: An Actor's Tale', a musical written by 18 year old Marc MacKinnon, who was in 2nd year at my old high school when I was in my final year there.  I was so impressed when I heard that Marc had not only written an entire musical by himself, but was also going to direct and appear in performances of it on the Fringe.  I was excited to go along and support him, and I really enjoyed 'I Got It'.  Unfortunately, the show only had a short three performance run, but all three shows were very well attended and Marc has received some excellent feedback.  I'll include a link to a detailed review of the show here, in case you're curious about the plot.  Personally, I was blown away by how great the whole cast were, and still can't believe that an 18 year old wrote the entire script and score himself!  I would definitely say that Marc was one to watch!  You can like his production company's Facebook page and get updates about any shows that they might be putting on in the future here: Smile-N Productions.

Although I've nothing else planned or booked for the Fringe, I'm still oddly proud of myself for seeing a small but varied selection of shows this year.  Have you visited Edinburgh for the Festival this year?  If so, what did you see, and do you have any recommendations for shows that are still running?  I'd love some suggestions!  I would advise you all to definitely go and see Rhys Darby if you can, he was excellent!

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