Sunday, August 16, 2009


An 'Edinburgh Festival' top ten.

Traveling up to Edinburgh I grew hugely enthusiastic about the whole thing and knocked our a back of envelope Top 10 Edinburgh show experiences. I enthusiastically emailed the rest of this year's Stan – Edinburgh crew saying "send me your Top 10 and I'll post them on the blog". Unfortunately the general response has been that they'd struggle to get 10, for various reasons, but for what it's worth here are mine and maybe other people's Top 3 will follow.

1) Johann Kresnick and the Bremen Dance Theatre’s Ballet version of Macbeth. It terrified and inspired me aged 20. Seminal.

2) Some Polish show at the Assembly Rooms (possibly also 20 years ago) with people running around in circles pretending to be horses for an hour or so. I didn’t really like it that much at the time but I’ve never been able to forget it and think I now like it more than I ever have. Unfathomable.

3) Watching the Sowetto Gospel Choir with Sarah and Eve two years ago. At the time Eve had zero tolerance for street performers, anyone in a costume or anyone engaged in ‘make believe’ more richly encoded than “you be the Doggy, I’ll be the Mummy”. This was the only thing we could persuade her to see, early one rainy morning. Joyous.

4) Pina Bausch, Nelken: Powerful in all the predictable ways. It made me wish I had seen everything she had ever done. Obviously.

5) Robert Wilson’s version of Gertrude Stein’s Doctor Faustus Lights The Lights. He became a hero of mine via photos, text and video now finally, with this show, he delivered for me live. Cool.

6) The Tuvan Throat Singers doing their throat singing thing. Saved going to Tuva. Extraordinary.

7) Hamfisted! Bound to Fly in some scummy venue 2001. I’d met them once in Birmingham for a chat and struck out on my own to find them on a rainswept Edinburgh night. I was rewarded with a show I had no idea how to take, which I loved. Proper.

8) The Joseph Beuys retrospective at the Modern Art Gallery. Waxy (and Felty)

9) Ray Lee Siren two years ago, partly for the piece, but also for the atmosphere, the company and the reunion. Comforting.

10) The Death of Klinghoffer, by Scottish Opera: no nonsense powerful staging. The performance that confirmed practically what I knew intellectually had to be true, that opera isn’t always an utter waste of time, effort and expense. Simple.


My Edinburgh highlight also involves the Robert Wilson, but in the auditorium before the show, when my future sister-in-law spotted Steven Berkoff in the audience, and excitedly grabbed hold of the person standing behind her and gasped "that's Steven Berkoff!", and then turned round to discover that she was holding on to Jonathan Miller, and shouting "Ah, and you're Jonathan Miller!".

I also messed my pants laughing at the Walker/North/Lamb vehicle "The Arthur Dung Show".
Didn't we go to see a Robert Wilson in 96? Miranda Richardson in a one woman show. Perhaps we were expecting stand up. The same year we also took in an offering from the Nederlands Dance Theatre where some of the lady dancers came gyrating up the aisle. I'm sure that would get into a top ten of some sort.
The Robert Wilson piece was Orlando. I remember trying to like it but ultimately thinking it was dull. The Nederlands Dance Theatre thing I barely recall despite aisle dancing. Am I the only one who feels short changed that we only ever seem to get NDT2 on these shores, why don't we ever get the NDT1?

I also have a memory of some inexplicable and deeply misogynistic Spanish opera thing in 2003. It's not win win win up here.

I'm looking forward to more friends arriving. It feels lonely despite the crowds.
I've been struggling with this challenge. I want to say the much celebrated Derevo show, but I don't actually think it was up to expectations. The thing with Edinburgh is that it's often-most the surprises that end up being most remembered. Steve Coogan ('87 or '88 in a small bar near the Playhouse) was fantastic; a dance piece Tango Passionale at the Festival Theatre, memorable not for the impressive dancers but the rotund but incredibly dynamic accordian players. But the wildcard that sent me into raptures - Hugh Lennon and Hypnodog, in which a line of volunteers crumpled one by one when dolefully stared at by an aging black labrador. Utterly priceless.
My pick of this Fringe so far- Accidental Nostalgia by Cynthia Hopkins.
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