Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Edinburgh and everything after

Oh wow. Did I really just reference a Counting Crows album that I mostly try to either pretend I didn't like or forget I did like in the title to this blog posting? Why yes, I certainly did, ladies and germs! There's a little bit of music shame in all of us, and sometimes we're not even sure why.

(Guilty pleasures were pleasing, after all. Hence, the name.)

Sooooo, as the post suggests, every festival I seem to pretty much post quite a lot about Edinburgh in the lead up, then not post at all during the festival itself, then try to sum it up in this kind of a post - usually by saying something like, "It was amazing and impossible to write about all in one go, so no doubt I'll blog about it again in the future." And then I don't really blog about it again in the future and everyone feels a little bit disappointed with my lack of follow through. So this time Kids, I am just going to be straight and say that this post will most likely be my only direct post about Forest Fringe in Edinburgh in 2010. And because I am loathe to summarize wonderful and complicated and tiring things, it will not do anything much justice, but a future promise to blog about it won't do much justice either, so there.

So while we're starting and ending things all in one post, I suppose I should start and end with my personal favourites of the festival. Somehow, amidst all the running around and work and even doing my own show, I managed to have some moments that really inspired me and stuck out to me as a spectator, and those are really the thing that make the whole fringey enterprise worthwhile in the first place. So here's a little run down, in no particular order.

James Baker/Bootworks piece - 30 Days to Space. Also known to locals as "The Spaceman on the Ladder." What was the spaceman doing? Well, James, having reached 24, had to deal with the fact that he would never reach his lifelong goal of being an astronaut. And so he calculated that the distance to Space was approximately 43,700 climbs up one particular ladder, and so he was going to climb this ladder every day for eight hours a day for 30 days over the course of the festival, chalking a star on the wall at the top of every climb. By the end of the festival the foyer of Forest Fringe was covered in thousands of stars, and to think that each of those twinkly scribbles was a climb was nearly as inconceivable as the real space. He reached the summit yesterday, to a resounding applause, a smoke machine, two bottles of champagne, and about 30 people cheering him for the last ten climbs. I've never seen anything like it. It was an event. It started as cute and somewhere in the middle it became heartbreaking then climbed its way to triumphant and beautiful. This is definitely the highlight of my and I think many other people's festivals. Not for the actual performance or spectacle of it, but for the beauty of seeing a modern human try for something important and futile. Nobody spends a lifetime on one corner of a cathedral anymore. But somebody climbs to space on a ladder.

Daniel Kitson's show - It's Always Now Until It's Later. Of course I liked this. It was like the War and Peace of theatre, which is an amusing was to describe anything, but heck, that's how it made me feel. The story was beautiful and the writing was poignant and small and considered as always, but the piece's relationship to its set is what has stayed with me. If you find a way to go see it, I recommend that you do. I like the fact that two of my most vivid Fringe memories involve looking at a man standing in a sea of stars. Of course they bloody do.

And I guess the other two pieces I saw that really knocked my socks off were Littlebulb's show Operation Greenfield, and 2B Theatre's one man monologue (Yes, I said it, a frickin' awesome One Man Monologue) Invisible Atom. For different reasons, I suppose, although it seems that everything I loved this festival dealt in some way with the infinite - with how we can conceive of ourselves on the planet - you know, kind of with faith? It was a good year for big ideas. My favourite kind.

On a personal level, I should probably mention that my show won a Herald Angel and was shortlisted for the Arches Brick Award and a Total Theatre Award for Innovation. But in a lovely turn of fate, I lost both of those awards to Forest Fringe contenders - an incredibly beautiful show called Me and the Machine in which you dance with a woman while wearing virtual reality glasses won the Brick Award, (It was the kind of show that sent you beaming back into the world), and our very own Spaceman won the Total Theatre Award for Innovation, along with some guy named Tim Crouch and a show called Roadkill at some venue named the Traverse. I heard they were both pretty good. (I saw the Author. It is awesome.) So for once in my life I can actually say "It's an honour just being nominated" and mean it! Alone. In my room. Where I sleep with my Herald Angel. It leaves a dent in my cheek when I wake up. Oh how I love that dent.

So all in all a really inspiring and manic and unique and meaningful festival. Impossible to do justice to in one blog post or many. So thank goodness for both of us that I'm sticking to one.

But in all seriousness, if you are reading and you were involved in any way with Forest Fringe as an artist, a volunteer, a supporter, a punter, somebody cheering James up and down the ladder, Thank You. The thing that always inspires me the most about Edinburgh is the boundless generosity of spirit I encounter in one building. That's what makes it my favourite time of year - it's the one time that I know we will all come together and do our best to build something valuable. We work very hard, and then the two weeks are over, and then it's almost as though it never happened. But of course, it did. Just look at all those chalky stars...