Sunday, 30 August 2009

So, Edinburgh reviews

Having refrained from posting any reviews at all, now I think I can dare to look back at the few shows I've seen at Edinburgh, without upsetting anybody. (Lessons from past years include Don't post 2 star reviews of your friends shows. I know, but it wasn't obvious to me because I'm an idiot).

I've hardly seen anything this year, being lazy, busy, and unprecedentedly chilled all month. Not having filmed any Socks videos or seen many shows, I'm beginning to wonder just how I have spent the month. (The answer is I spent 9 days teaching comic art in schools and libraries, and our flat back home got flooded on day one, with all that entails).

So, to begin with the Best Show. It was Susurrus by David Leddy, a site-specific radio play that you listen to on an ipod while walking round the Botanical Gardens. Had Heather in tears by the last chapter and, post-Edinburgh, will be playing in Oxford's Botanical Gardens in September.

Susurrus contrasted with another site-specific piece, Hotel devised by Mark Watson and featuring various comedians. It was an interesting idea to have a variety of scenes and improvisations happening in rooms throughout a building, culminating in a climactic scene, clues to which had been scattered through the Hotel, but ultimately none of the individual skits amounted to much, being occasionally witty but mostly indulgent and silly, and the climax very "was that it?".

Enjoyed a number of one-person shows: Bec Hill was fun in her quest to be a superhero, Helen Keen was very witty about explorers, Dan March was charming on his appearance on Blockbusters as a child, Maggie Service showed a brilliant range of voices, and Mackenzie Taylor was intense and informative on his mental illness. Katy Manning's Me & Jezebel was a very good story with good characterisations, rattled through at perhaps too great a rate, and Hardeep Singh Kohli is a lovely bloke and skillful broadcaster whose show really needed more funny material to be truly successful.

The best of these solo shows was Nun The Wiser by Triona Adams, a sparklingly written and exquisitely performed true story of her time as a nun which stood head and shoulders above the rest, despite being half drowned out by the show next door.

Teak Show and Facebook Fables were both well performed and quirky sketch shows, and Sweeny Todd was visually adventurous if a little anticlimactic. But the outstanding sketch show was Princess Cabaret, which made me genuinely jealous of the sketch and song writing on display.

The art on show in Edinburgh was more disappointing than in any previous year, with the City Art Centre and Portrait Gallery closed for refurbishment. That said, the temporary installation by graffitti artists in the Portrait Gallery (Rough Cut Nation) was probably the best show in town. Another quirky one was a tiny room in the basement of an architects (Roger Ackling, Sleeper Gallery). But so many shows were non-plussing, from Eva Hesse in the Fruitmarket, through the Wilsons in the Talbot Rice, to some dreadful Artists Rooms at the Modern Art Gallery (Alex Katz is quite the worst artist whose work I've seen in a respected gallery), that it's hard to muster the effort to list the rest. Some nice celeb photos with Burns poems were on at the mound, Paul Martin was quite impressive at Hendersons Gallery, and surrealist photos from the 1920s at the Institut Francais were intriguing if sophomoric. The sculptors working live in the courtyard of the Art College would have been nice to keep visiting, but we only went once. Overall, art in Edinburgh this year gets 5 out of 10.

The best art was undoubtedly my own dear Heather Tweed's Abscission, whereby she secreted works across the city, with instructions on what to do for whoever found them. Four or five have been stumbled upon and reported back, and news will follow on her website and Twitter.

So, there are my thoughts on what I saw. No stinkers, some pleasures, and I really should have tried to see more. Maybe next year, eh?

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