Thursday, August 30, 2018

Edinburgh Festivals 2018

30 August 2018

We had a wonderful time at the Edinburgh Festivals last week, seeing 26 shows including theatre, music, comedy and poetry. We enjoyed catching up with some old favourites such as the comedians Simon Munnery (recounting his experience of working as a cleaner in a Bedfordshire chicken factory) and Owen O’Neill (with ‘Ten Songs to Die For’ - another beautifully constructed and brilliantly performed piece of theatrical storytelling). It was also good to see another play by the impressive young duo Roxy Dunn and Alys Metcalf, whose previous work ‘In Tents and Purposes’ we really enjoyed at the Edinburgh Fringe two years ago. Their new show, ‘You Only Live Forever’, featured the same comic meta-dissection of the writing process and squabbling between the performers, bearing some resemblance to the marvellous National Theatre of Brent. Our musical highlight was an incredibly exciting Edinburgh International Festival debut by the Colbourn Orchestra – a youth orchestra from the Colbourn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles. Conductor Stéphane Denève drew a thrilling performance from the young musicians, starting with Esa-Pekka Salonen’s highly entertaining ‘Nyx’. The orchestra were joined by fellow Colbourn student Simone Porter for the gorgeous ‘Violin Concerto’ by Samuel Barber, galloping through the seemingly impossible final movement with ease. Rachmaninov’s ‘Symphonic Dances’ had audience and orchestra on the edge of their seats and an encore of Leonard Bernstein’s ‘Overture to Candide’ provided a stunning finish to a wonderful concert. Our theatrical highlights included Lily Bevan’s new two-hander ‘Zoo’ - a funny and poignant story of a cross-Atlantic friendship, natural disaster and bats. We really enjoyed Alison Skilbeck’s one-woman play 'Are There More of You' – only realising afterwards that we had seen her perform it before at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008 (reviewed here in August 2008)! We also liked Mark O’Rowe’s triptych cycle of friendship and estrangement in contemporary Dublin, ‘The Approach’, and the descent into farce in Brian Parks’ play ‘The House’ had us laughing uncontrollably. But our best discovery was the young actor Kizzy Dunn who was performing two Shakespearean adaptations by Nick Hennegan. At the end of ‘Hamlet’ the dying prince says “Oh God, Horatio, what a damaged reputation I’m leaving behind me, as no one knows the truth. If you ever loved me, then please postpone the sweet relief of death awhile, and stay in this harsh world long enough to tell my story.” In ‘Hamlet: Horatio’s Tale’ Kizzy Dunn played Horatio recounting the tragedy of his friend, in effect giving us a one-woman rendition of ‘Hamlet’ in an hour. It was a stunning performance which made us immediately book tickets for her other show, ‘Henry V: Lion of England’. Kizzy Dunn’s performance of ‘Henry V’ (again in one hour) was even more impressive: it’s the first time the St Crispin’s Day speech has actually made me cry. She is definitely a name to watch and these solo shows in a small venue where everyone is close to the action demonstrated the very best of fringe theatre.

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