Edinburgh Fringe 2013: Our top picks
Here are our top five most interesting, arresting, and inciting incidents at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. All of the acts listed rate at four or five stars and are definitely worth checking out at future performances.
A Conversation (Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari from SHUNT)
In this one-man show sponsored by the Forest Fringe, Barrett and Mari present lessons from The Ethel Cotton Course in Conversation, an instructional manual in the art of conversation dating from the 50s. At times dark and brooding, Barrett’s lighthearted manner nevertheless puts the audience at ease and invites us to look into dusty corners of Britain’s dated imperial values, reminding us that genteel pleasantries are rarely all-inclusive and uncovering the continued role such outmoded ways of thinking still play in our lives. The use of sound and light is especially effective in this piece, as are Mari’s unsettling offstage voiceovers. Comically tragic, Barrett’s presence is reassuring and commanding, and makes A Conversation an example of how the Festival Fringe, despite an increasing tendency towards the commercially-driven, can still triumph.
Künt and the Gang (Künt and the Gang)
One-man musical comedy tour de force Künt (of Künt and the Gang) presents an hour of potty-mouthed, utterly wrong songs dealing with topics ranging from unflushed toilets to self-gratification. A lopsided combination of standup and 80s popstar, Künt tickles ribs as he capers around the stage, enlisting the help of puppets and props to illustrate the deliciously naughty humor he spews to the accompaniment of Cassio synth sounds. This one is definitely not for the prudish, and you wouldn’t want to bring your Mum along, but if you’ve got a sturdy stomach and a thick skin, Künt and the Gang is absolutely certain to delight you with an hour of guilty pleasures and wonderfully empty comedy.
Squally Showers (Little Bulb)
Somewhat reminiscent of The TEAM’s Mission Drift, this is an epic work of ultimately uplifting exploration into the pressures facing young people in a demanding and dehumanising corporate job market. At times obscure and abstract, the piece is joyful and energetic, featuring dance, multimedia, music and fantastic design. The movement is all very stylized and character-driven, and the aesthetic of the show is Ron Burgundy-meets-British daytime television from the 80s. The pace is non-stop as we whirl through the narrative, slipping in and out of surreal dream sequences and meeting larger-than-life characters brimming with enthusiasm and ready to conquer the world. If one or two people get chewed up by the machine along the way, we just have to remember the proverbial omelet and put a smile on it: things will get better. Absolutely fantastic, surreal, and high energy, this is one you shouldn’t miss.
Gym Party (Made in China)
Part game show, part introspective look at our culture of competition and winning, Gym Party is the work of one of the more exciting companies in London at the moment, Hackney-based Made in China. Three people vie on stage for our approval, competing with one another in a series of challenges, audience arbitrated valuations, and contests of will. We are invited in gently and given the power to choose winner and loser, made complicit in the actions, and subject to the underlying indictment of a society (and perhaps a nature) that pits us against one another like rats in a barrel, clawing each other down in our own efforts to end up on top. Not your typical theatre-going experience, Gym Party will have you questioning your values and reconsidering your place in the big race.
Beeston Rifles (Horizon Arts with Richard Jordan Productions Ltd)
Absolutely stunning theatre, Beeston Rifles is scripted drama that takes us to the very edge of the medium and pushes us over the edge. Political, violent, and highly dramatic, this is a piece of straight theatre that sets the bar for work of its type. Dealing with the plight of a working class Yorkshire family in the aftermath of a series of tragic events, Beeston Rifles takes no prisoners, pulls no punches, and leaves us gasping for breath as we are swept along the violent tide of consequences. Exceptionally well written, acted, and designed, Beeston Rifles is a must see from this young West Yorkshire company.
With almost 3000 shows on offer across hundreds of venues, the Edinburgh Festival gets bigger every year, and it’s impossible to scratch the surface, let alone offer comprehensive coverage of such an event. Nonetheless, this list is, in our humble opinion, the best of what was on offer at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival ran from 1st – 25th August 2013. For further information and next year’s dates visit the festival’s website here.