28 August 2014
By Dieneke Ferguson and Barbara Orton
Expect the Unexpected
Last weekend I travelled to Glasgow to see my friend Barbara and I didn’t realise that the Edinburgh Festival was still on. So Barbara, who has lived in Edinburgh as well and has visited the Festival many times asked me what I wanted to see.
I quickly gave up to find what would be worthwhile to visit in one day and left it up to Barbara to choose. There were too many events to even start thinking about it.
The Edinburgh Festival is the oldest festival and started after World War 2, with the aim to ‘heal the wounds of conflict’ through art. Initially it was only the International Festival at established venues, but soon the Fringe Festival started with others taking spaces in Edinburgh. The last time I visited the Festival it was only theatre and comedy, but now it has expanded into a huge variety of art forms, including exhibitions and the latest addition the Spoken Word. The Film Festival, which was included recently moved to June.
The theme for this year was UNBORING, and the Foreward to the festival guide states: Expect the unexpected! In total there were 430 venues, programmes for each art form and for each venue. Too much! The Milan Design Week definitely is a dwarf compared with it.
Barbara told me that often it is hit and miss and you never know whether you see a great work or a badly performed show. And as we had not prebooked and had not planned anything it was wait and see.
So we set off on the Sunday morning and went to Summerhall, which was a former Royal Veterinary College with the main buildings dating from World War 1, and is now one of the biggest arts centres attracting annually 400,000 visitors.
The first show we saw was Chalk About by Curious Seed, which featured dance and chat and which was made for children but is also very entertaining for adults. The dance looked at how we see ourselves and others and was very entertaining. When we sat down for a drink after the event we talked to both dancers Christine and Hendrik. Particularly Hendrik was a global citizen of the world, with his base in Belgium, Ghent, and as a freelance choreographer and dancer he would work with an Estonia Dance company as well as Curious Seed. He explained that being seen at the Edinburgh Festival is brilliant to get commissions and more contracts. So similar to Milan!
There were so many shows in Summerhall that day as well as the exhibitions. It would have been very easy to just stay here for the whole day. We saw some of the exhibitions as well.
The Faile and Bast featured interactive games designed for Art Basel Miami Beach 2013. It included specially programmed video games and pinball machines and one of the rooms was very colourful and attractive on its own.
In one of the corridors there was a photographic exhibition by Ezz, the People of Gaza by a young Palestinian photographer who lives and works in Gaza. His comment on one of the photos was that he didn’t know whether all those featured were still alive.
The installation outside of Summerhall VIRUS by the Mexican installation artist and architect Antonio O’Connell used recycled materials and items from the building’s past.
After lunch at Summerhall we went to the Underbelly, another well known venue to see How to Achieve Redemption as a Scot Through the Medium of Braveheart by Rachael Clerke.
Stunning comedy focusing on the Yes No vote ending up with Rachael re-enacting the Braveheart scene from Mel Gibson addressing his army and encouraging to take courage to fight.
Brilliant performance which ended with Rachael on horse bike outside addressing the audience (and bemused passers-by).
From there we went to the Grass Market where buskers were performing, including a brilliant very young guitar player.
Barbara then took me to the High Street which is always a central part of the Festival and where performers play and give a preview of what one can expect of their show.
The final show on our list was our wild card, 3000 Trees by George Gunn at Gryphon Venues and we weren’t even sure whether we would be able to see this as it was fully booked and we had to wait to see whether there were any returns. It seemed to have had good reviews.
Luckily there were some tickets and we got in. The publicity stated that this was ‘ A Play that the State doesn’t want you to see’. It stated that it was inspired by the lawyer and SNP activist Willie Macrae and the question was posed: Did his passions lead him to destruction? Or were the shadows conspiring against him? What happens to Willie is what happens to our freedom. It was a strong plea for a YES vote
The actual play itself was rather disappointing at least for me. Three characters, the girl, Willie Macrae and the Establishment. The Scottish was hard to understand, for me being Dutch, and not knowing the story of Willie Macrae I got lost and didn’t really follow it. It was also rather symbolic. We were told that the play was crowdfunded and some crowdfunders actually attended. Crowdfunders had the option of 8 packages from £10 to £1500.
As this was the final performance, we were all invited to the After Party in the penthouse. The view was stunning, but unfortunately we had to buy our own drinks, which were not cheap.
That was quite a surprise to me as I am used to the free drinks in the Milan private views and parties. A photographer was also busy taking pictures of people with Yes Balloons.
After that we ended up in an amazing Indian curry place that Barbara knew from when she lived in Edinburgh. Brilliant food and very cheap, attracting the locals, but we did have to queue for a table for about half an hour but it was worth it.
It was a great day, the weather was brilliant and the historic buildings from the centre of Edinburgh looked great.
On Monday it was back to London and unfortunately I got the East Coast train that didn’t get any further than Peterborough because of the damaged overhead powerlines. It was completely full and all had to get off and run to another train going to London that was already completely full and was the last one going. The many that didn’t make it had to wait for other transport. Buses were promised but that would have been very difficult to organise on a bank holiday getting drivers and buses. I was lucky and managed to get on the train and find a place in the café area, where the pursers where handing out free drinks and free sandwiches. Luckily I was only 2.5 hours late.
Others were less lucky and in true Edinburgh style the description by Natasha Tripney in Exeunt http://exeuntmagazine.com/features/the-east-coast-trains-show/ reflects very clearly what definitely was a Beckettian scene of absurdity. The next day paper reorted 5 hour delays.
I definitely found the unexpected even in my trip home.
Thank you Barbara for a lovely day.