Edinburgh Festivals 2013

In short, of the shows listed below which are on until Monday 26.August I very highly recommmend:

* 16:05 for 50 minutes – “A Romance” at C Venue 34

* 16:45 for 60 minutes – “Company Man” at C Venue 34

If you think you’d like to see both “A Romance” and “Company Man” (And I very much recommend you do see both), but they clash in your only window of opportunity, you have three options:

* Decide which one looks like best fitting your interests: “A Romance” is subtle with parts that are very exuberant, whereas “Company Man” is exuberant with parts that are very subtle.

* If you will be in London at 19:00 on Friday 30 August then you could see “A Romance” at the Korean Cultural Centre” just off Trafalgar Square, and see “Company Man” in Edinburgh.

* Or you could do what I did on Saturday when I saw both shows for the second time: check at the C Venue enquiries desk that it will be OK to enter the basement theatre for “Company Man” a few minutes late (they told me it would be OK when I explained I wanted to see both shows again, but that meant entering “Company Man” late), and if they say yes, buy tickets for both, and when “A Romance” (for which you will have been sitting near the front on the right hand side to get a good view of the stage and the surtitles) finishes run downstairs to the “Company Man” Theatre. If you’re lucky (as I was on Saturday) you only miss the first two minutes of “Company Man”!

***** ***** ***** ***** *****
A brief note (for now – I hope to add more detailed comments later) on what has especially appealed to me at the Edinburgh Festivals 2013:

First the absolute stand-outs:

* “Madame Freedom” in the Edinburgh International Festival – anyone who saw this (its two day run is over) will have seen some very very very good contemporary dance from Korea.

* The Japanese violinst Midori playing Bach’s solo violin music – I was especially impressed by her performance of the last movement of the solo violin sonata in G minor – as played by her I was thinking this is one of the best pieces Bach (or anyone else) wrote, and if you think that about a piece it’s jolly likely that it’s being given a very good performance. Midori played this last movement as if it was a combination of logic and imagination and improvisation. It’s certainly the first and second, and another sign of a good performance is that what’s being played is good and sounds as if it is being improvised, even if it isn’t. (To what extent one can improvise playing only the written notes in a piece that is fully written out is a topic for another day: the short answer is you can.) I very strongly suggest listening to it on the BBC Radio3 website using the BBC iPlayer.

* “A Romance” – Modl Theatre at C Venue 34 – another Korean company

I have posted separately about this here – a summary is that it is a very good piece with very high production values achieved by simple and very effective means – one might say that it is subtle, and in parts very exuberant. And although it isn’t a dance piece, I think it is correct to speak of the show’s good choreography.

* “Company Man” – Cheeky*Park at C Venue 34 – a Japanese company.

In some ways this is complementary to “A Romance” – it’s very exuberant, but also subtle in places. (I’m tempted to say very subtle in places.) I emphasise that because the reviews seem mixed, from the decidedly lukewarm to rather enthusiastic. (One of the enthusiastic reviews then gives this show a three stars rating, which seems rather at odds with the actual review, and reinforces my distaste for stars ratings.) The Fourth Wall Magazine review has a good understanding of what this show is about – some of the lukewarm reviews may be criticising it for what it is not, instead of appreciating it for what it is, which is a physical theatre comment on life, not just on office life. And I do mean physical theatre – for once that term is really justified: circus skills are used (for example juggling, simple acrobatics and aerial work), but these are at the service of the performance, not an end in themselves: there is humour, but also some pathos. (If that makes you think of Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin, then I don’t think the comparisons are wildly absurd.) And each time you (well, at least me) thought you knew where the performance was going, it would go in a surprisingly different direction. I had a short discussion afterwards with two other members of the audience, and their views on the show were very similar to my thoughts at the time, and if anything the more I think about this piece, the more impressed I am with it. As with “A Romance”, although it isn’t a dance piece, I think it is correct to speak of the show’s good choreography. In fact, in one section, which is simultaneously a tango parody and rather touching, “good choreography” is literally the correct phrase.

* “Pudasi” – Norian Maro at C Venue 34 – a Korean company (no, it’s not an accident that I have seen several Korean shows!)

1. As with “A Romance” and “Company Man”, I very very highly recommend “Pudasi”.

2. Once you know that I haven’t seen it yet, that may seem a very suprising comment. (I’m seeing the show on Saturday.)

But I have seen a preview of the show, and on the basis of that preview I know that the show has a very very very good female drummer: anyone who has listened to jazz (or rock) drum solos will know how difficult it is to prevent a drum performance from becoming repetitive. In what she did at the preview she wasn’t being repetitive. And she was moving/dancing round the stage as she played her double-headed drum. About ten (or more) years ago I saw the great jazz drummer Max Roach perform at London’s Royal Festival Hall. After the main performance (with his Beijing Trio) he performed an encore, based (he said) on something a Kansas City drummer used to do. Which was to perform a solo improvisation using just a high-hat cymbal and two drumsticks, hitting the cymbal and also the cymbal stand. Max Roach improvised with this very limited equipment for maybe five or so minutes, and it was music making of the highest order. Ever since, I’ve used my memory of that encore to judge how good a solo drum performance is. Several Korean drummers I’ve heard are worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as that encore by Max Roach. Including this female drummer.

In short, I believe this show will be worth seeing just for the performance of this drummer.

And if you read the audience reviews on the EdFringe website you’ll discover this isn’t just a one-person show.

Update: I saw “Pudasi” on Sunday (its last performance), and it absolutely lived up to its preview.

Second the performances that I believe are very definitely worth seeing:

“Thpethial” – Ria Lina

This is listed in the Comedy section of the Fringe brochure, and it is indeed funny and entertaining. But it’s much more than that. Anyone who’s seen Ria Lina before will know that she has witty and thoughtful and focussed observations on life: in each of her shows that I’ve seen she makes pertinent observations on an important problem. You may not agree with her, but you should take what she says seriously. (And I hope she will take it as a compliment – it is meant as such – if I quote Tom Lehrer: “I know it’s very bad form to quote one’s own reviews, but there is something the New York Times said about me [in 1958], that I have always treasured: ‘Mr. Lehrer’s muse [is] not fettered by such inhibiting factors as taste.”)

If it wasn’t for a distinct likelihood of my being misinterpreted, I’m very tempted to describe this as a lecture rather than a comedy performance, a lecture which is much more entertaining and funnier than your average (or even rather better than average) comedy performance. But since I might well be misinterpreted, I won’t.

(But there is a serious point in that: I studied maths at university, and one of the best lecturers was the mathematician Professor Christopher Zeeman. It wasn’t until some time after university that I realised how good he was as a lecturer. He treated each lecture as a performance – it is not a coincidence that lectures are given in lecture theatres – and that helped to get across what he was saying. I think any good lecturer must be at least aware of some aspects of performance.)

“Othello – Two Men” – MJ Company

The title says it all – a version of Othello in which one man plays Othello, the other plays both Iago and in some places Desdemona. It’s in Korean but there are surtitles.

I’m somewhat hesitant about including this as something worth seeing, but the two actors are clearly very good, and if my response to the piece was not very enthusiastic, I think that my tiredness is likely to be a major factor in my reaction.


About Colin Bartlett

I'm interested in arts, mathematics, science. Suliram is a partial conflation of the names of three good actors: Ira Aldridge, Anna May Wong, and another. My intention is to use a personal experience of arts to make some points, but without being too "me me me" about it. And to follow Strunk's Elements of Style. Except that I won't always "be definite": I prefer Niels Bohr's precept that you shouldn't write clearer than you think.
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One Response to Edinburgh Festivals 2013

  1. Pingback: NORIANMARO | Review

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