Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2010
Animations previews puppetry at the Fringe
From the gradually lengthening round-ups in this publication alone you can judge the growth of puppetry at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in recent years. This August the artform consolidates its expansion with productions at George Street Assembly (the giant on the hill), the ecclesiastical surroundings of churches Augustine's and Bedlam, unostentatious Venue 13, the many places and spaces of the Pleasance, the various Zoos, the dreadful beer-sodden turf of Udderbelly's Pasture and the rather more pleasant stony darknesses of the Underbelly Cowgate, a bus (named: The Red Bus), the Scottish Storytelling Centre (a long-time friend), and the sprawling complexes of the C venues.
In approaching the mass of puppetry on offer, you can always just pull the genre category on the Fringe's own website, pick something and hope – but better to give yourself an edge in what will otherwise be a wretchedly unfair and punitive system of theatrical lucky dip by checking Animations' own judgements on several of the presenting companies/shows: first book- then TV-spinoff Charlie and Lola's Best Bestest Play, a narrative woven from one little girl's flight into the world of imagination when faced with horrid bedtime, is at Pleasance Courtyard and is reviewed by Peter Charlton in this issue; Gomito Productions' Flor de Muerto, a show taking its inspiration from Mexico's inspiration-rich Day of the Dead festival, is at Bedlam Theatre and you can read Beccy Smith's assessment of an older Gomito production, The Sun Dragon, a little past the midpoint of this article, plus an old From the Frontline feature written by company member Amelia Bird; Theatre of Widdershins have appeared (favourably!) in AO Edinburgh round-ups from 2006 and 2008, and for Ed 2010 are at the Scottish Storytelling Centre with Arabian Nights; and over in the reviews section of this edition Emma Leishman appreciates Nina Conti's Talk to the Hand, a solo vent show starring a monkey, a granny, a lonely owl and members of the captive audience, at Pleasance Dome.
Of particular note also are The River People, who under the banner title of The Terrible Tales of the Midnight Choruswill be presenting a kind of showcase or dark cabaret consisting of The Vanishing Boy, The Ordinaries, and Old Man Willow at Bedlam. (The Ordinaries was shortlisted in 2007 for the Total Theatre Award for an Emerging Artist/Company, an accolade the company won two years later with Lilly Through the Dark.) The River People will also be showing a work-in-progress as part of Edinburgh International Festival's slightly underpublicised Behind the Scenes strand: Little Matter, which combines mythology, quantum mechanics and the work of William Blake in an attempt to triangulate the meaning of life.
After searching through the Fringe programme, at the top of the column for the intriguing but untested are Swedish company Kellerman Performing Arts, who have taken Jacques Offenbach's 1875 operetta Le voyage dans la luneand transcribed it for a combination set that both represents the figures of the narrative (in puppet form) and doubles as a giant multi-purpose instrument on which the cast perform the music live. At Augustine's; give it a chance maybe, or watch the notices. Also coming in from overseas, Naxos Theatre & Les Tréteaux de la Pleine Lune present Hamlet, The End of Childhood, an adaptation of the Shakespeare play that relocates to the bedroom of a child moving into a difficult adolescence, and CalArts Festival Theater visit Venue 13 with Silken Veils, an original work that combines Rumi poetry, live actors, marionettes, shadow puppetry and bunraku-inspired puppet manipulation and animation, moving through the turbulent memories of an Iranian-born American citizen.
If none of that suits, you could try the story of a sad lovelorn clown in 1900s Paris (Backhand Theatre, The Love of a Clown), a solo show from a man described ominously as the 'Dark Master' of ventriloquism (David Strassman, Duality), a 1940s wartime Britain rework of Ovid's Metamorphoses (Pants on Fire, Ovid's Metamorphoses), or a weird-sounding SFish tale set in a future London destroyed by a new strain of smallpox (University of the Arts London Drama Society, The Changeling).
And if you can't make it to Edinburgh you can always return to this publication for edition 31 and its Edinburgh round-up, which if current trends are anything to go by will be written by at least five people and in no fewer than three colours. Have a good festival.