So after a week at the worlds largest arts festival here are a few of my highlights, in the order I experienced them:

Blind Summit, The Table

A masterclass in puppetry. A deceptively simple show and a demonstration of the company’s mastery of their craft. Whilst I have some reservations about the show’s structure – particularly the 2nd part – it’s still a glorious piece of work.

Fish n Game, Alma Mater

An augmented reality vignette. You enter a small white room holding an iPad, though which the room is populated with children playing, and other images & sounds. Perhaps a little slight dramaturgically but a very enjoyable 20 mins.

The Team, Mission Drift

I haven’t seen The Team before, but they’re one of those companies that lots of people I trust love, so I went. To be honest the thought of a two-hour show with no interval during the festival is my idea of hell – but this show was well worth it. Funny, intelligent, sassy – this show took us from the Dutch settlers arriving in America to the present & back again in style. For me it was fifteen mins too long and I was a bit disappointed by the wimpled ending, but these are minor complaints. Well worth it’s fringe first.

Analogue, 2401 Objects

Analogue are a company I’ve known for a long time – so I’ll declare an interest. This show feels quite different from their previous Edinburgh pieces - a slightly quieter, less busy piece, but not lacking any of the usual visual flourishes. It felt slightly compressed – squeezed for time and space in a festival context – as it mined the massive subject of a man's memory. Personally I didn’t go for it in the same way as their first show Mile End (or their show for one audience member Lecture notes on a death scene) but it feels like a more grown-up and considered piece with much more consistent writing, and a scenography that takes it’s cue from the subject matter. You can see Amelia & Brent’s thoughts about the piece on their #TEAM_ed blogs, as well as their interview with Co-artistic Director Hannah Barker.

National Theatre Wales/ Told by an idiot, The Dark Philosophers

It’s probably a bit to nepotistic for me to praise this show so all I'll say is that it’s no surprise that it’s been nominated for a Total Theatre Award.

Paper Birds, Thirsty

For me this is the company’s best work to date. It’s recognisable as part of the same territory as their previous works, but seems more assured and the relationship between the performers real and performed identities is a better fit. I’d be surprised if this didn’t tour through 2012.

Bryony Kimmings, 7 Day Drunk

I missed Bryony’s Sex Idiot last year and have regretted it ever since. This show sets out to examine her difficult relationship to alcohol. Over the course of 7 days she gradually increased the level of her blood alcohol (under medical supervision) and the material in the show was made during this period. It’s a hugely enjoyable piece, helped by the sheer force of Kimmings’ personality, her openness and willingness to take risks.

Chris Thorpe & Hannah Walker, The Oh Fuck Moment

This show, set up as if we’re participants in an HR workshop, is about those moments in life where we say Oh Fuck! From the son missing the last breaths of his father by going to sleep, to the woman who accidentally sends an irritating colleague her thoughts by email. We’ve all had them. We’re encouraged to share ours and understand their evolutionary function. This is a great little show, which thoroughly deserved its Fringe First.

Non Zero One, The Time Out

We enter a locker room where our coach is getting us ready for an important water polo match. We don’t know each other, but we do know that we all look equally stupid in our water polo hats (with built in headphones). Over the course of an hour we reveal our frailties, thumb wrestle and finally pose for a team photo (will post once scanned) before being sent into the foyer to meet the bemused gazes of the people hanging out. It’s an amusing sometimes-insightful hour, but my only problem is whether it’s interactive enough. Our actions shape some of the piece but I just felt the structure didn’t allow us as much freedom as promised.

Ira Brand, Keine Angst

Again I should declare an interest as the initial development of this piece was done at CPT, while I was AD there. It’s a fragile piece, still in development, exploring fear. Some beautiful moments, and at one point we all thought the performer was going to be sick, but there’s something that’s being explored here which really captivates. Watch out for this piece in the future.

Idle Motion, The Seagull Effect

This young company have gradually been building a reputation over the last three festivals for their visual style, which has seen them have two shows at this years festival including last years hit The Vanishing Horizon as part of the British Council Showcase. This show deals with the storm that struck Southeast England in the 80s, and is a step up in scale and ambition from their previous work. There are some beautiful moments and the piece feels accomplished, I’d still like to see them tackling something meatier. You can see #TEAM_ed interview with one of the company here.

Curious Directive, Your Last Breath

This show was one of those that suddenly everyone was talking about. It’s a beautiful show, which is a calling card for this young company. Interweaving narratives, accomplished video work and some stylish staging make this one of my favourite shows of the fringe. This company look like they could go far.

Action Hero, Art Massage

Action Hero’s previous pieces have included A Western, and Watch Me Fall (which can be caught as part of the British Council Showcase later this week). This piece is much smaller and involves you having a ten minute massage whilst listening to an artist talking about their inspirations or practice on a MP3 player. After a week of pounding the Edinburgh streets, late nights, uncomfortable seat and no fruit, this was the perfect antidote to the rest of the fest. Simple but exquisite. I felt so much better coming out than when I went in.


So that was my top picks; what were yours? 

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