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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Edinburgh Fringe: Surrealist Dutch mime set in a wooden box, stilt-walking Polish astronauts, and a man in a gorilla suit.

Previously: The Edinburgh Fringe.

When I first arrived in Edinburgh at the beginning of the month, my friend Hector told me about the Gorilla Show, a one-off event that he'd heard happens at the tail end of Festival season every year. It's unlisted and unadvertised, and the audience is mostly made up of comedians. And the entire show consists of a man sitting in a rocking chair, wearing a gorilla suit and doing nothing while the audience claps and cheers for an hour. To me, this sounded like the ultimate hipster bait. An untitled show about nothing that people only hear about via backstage word-of-mouth? Excellent! And entirely unprovable. The ultimate in Fringe cliche, really -- ridiculous, fascinating, and based entirely on rumour.
With one exception, I did manage to fulfill my goal of seeing at least one Fringe show per day after work, and amazingly enough only two of the thirty to forty I saw turned out to be truly dreadful. Most of my experiences were either unphotographable or indescribable, but managing to get pictures of the Polish astronaut stilt-walking play was enough for me. Oh, and regarding the photo above? It's not the asinine inspirational slogan it looks like -- in fact, it's a prop from a brilliant show I saw a few weeks ago, a surrealist Dutch mime comedy that took place inside a large plywood packing crate and began with the performers sawing off bits of plywood and handing them out to audience members. NOTHING IS REALLY DIFFICULT, said the side of the box -- written upside down.

The other box show I went to (entirely by coincidence -- I wasn't seeking out shows set in wooden boxes, or anything), was "(remor)", an 11-minute-long dance performance, the narrative of which traveled both backwards and forwards in time over a couple's relationship. This was probably my favourite setpiece out of all the shows I saw this year, as the entire "stage" was a single bunkbed. The audience watched from stools about 18 inches away, lighting the two performers with torches in the darkness of the wooden cube.
Based on the works of Polish sci-fi author Stanislaw Lem, Planet Lem was an outdoor production by the same company that created the explosive and mostly dialogue-free Macbeth I saw at the beginning of the Fringe. This show incorporated some stiltwalking and had fantastic sets, but I'd class it as pretty different from the Macbeth adaptation. It was a lot easier to follow (which is saying something, since I know absolutely nothing about Stanislaw Lem) and was generally both weirder and more simple in terms of storytelling.
I tend not to care very much about the quality of costumes or sets when I go to the theatre, particularly at the Fringe where its expensive enough just to be there. Planet Lem, though, had such fantastic visuals that I kind of have to give them extra points. The astronaut/robot suits were movie quality, and were designed with sprung knees so the actors could safely fall from their suits when they were "killed". And the main setpiece was a giant spaceship, slap bang in the middle of the courtyard. Oh, and then there were the creepy dancing foetus-creatures.
The Edinburgh Fringe is probably the one place this show could be put on and not have an audience populated by excited children rather than a handful of baffled adults. Maybe because its marketing was mostly set along the lines of, "come see this Polish experimental theatre's adaptation of some sci-fi author you've never heard of!" when it should've been, "WE HAVE 12-FOOT-TALL ASTRONAUTS DUELLING A ROLLERBLADING ANDROID".
 Oh, and in the end? The Gorilla Show did turn out to exist. And it was brilliant.


  1. This ticket is a thing of beauty. and, really, thi whole post is amazing.

  2. I really have nothing more to say, other than the fact that the gorilla show sounds brilliant.

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