AUGUST 4 – 13:10 – Scandimania: Gods of Ice and Fire
A hearteningly good student performance, this potted history of Norse myth felt neither bookish nor amateurish.
In what was thankfully a more straightforward homage to Norse mythology than Jethro Compton’s Loki, Sundial Theatre, the young troupe behind Scandimania succeeded in not only bringing the Norse sagas to life – impressively speeding through Creation to Ragnarok in nary an hour – but in delivering a finely polished performance using little more than their bodies and minimal props (read: a single, creatively applied ladder).
Dressed from head to toe in white, the team relied on traditional storytelling and crisply choreographed physical performances to present their take on the ever-popular epics. The minimal sets and equally sparse ‘costumes’ were a wise choice, as it allowed the story to unfold without any distractions.
It was also a good trick to keep any tackiness at bay and play into what we can assume was a modestly budgeted affair.
The company also deserve kudos for allowing their show to come to life despite the uninspiring venue – a hotel conference room is hardly an adequate arena for epic battles and cataclysmic events, but like the best storytellers, Sundial Theatre sucked you in.
This kind of event is precisely the sort of thing you hope to find at the Fringe – up-and-coming, but highly promising stuff.
AUGUST 5 – 23:50 – Comedy Sans Frontieres
Eddie Izzard and Dylan Moran bring a quartet of international comedians to a sold-out crowd, for a mixed-bag night of entertainment whose good intentions, however, are undeniably heartwarming.
Eddie Izzard. Dylan Moran. Names that doubtlessly enjoy top billing in the minds of many stand-up comedy fans… particularly those of us who like our comedy a little bit absurd and a little bit surreal (and a lot of bits British).
So when I heard that this particular duo was headlining a one-off show in the very city that I was planning on visiting, I booked my tickets immediately. Who cares what the event will be about, exactly, if that pair will be leading it, I thought?
But it turns out that this was exactly the kind of reaction Izzard – the erstwhile mastermind and compere of the event – was hoping for. Essentially, with this event Izzard and Moran were using their fame for a higher purpose: namely, to bring comedians from non-English-speaking countries to a mainstream English-speaking audience.
Though it was disappointingly male-centric for an event that placed much stock in promoting diversity (“You are the future,” Izzard told us as he thanked us for indulging his cosmopolitan comedy experiment), the gig was consistently entertaining.
Taking into account the fact that stand-up in a secondary language is bound to be a notoriously difficult thing to pull off, some acts ran more smoothly than others. Germany’s Michael Mittermeier emerged the strongest of the international bunch. Not only was he entirely at ease with the English language, his set had a polished pace and tempo that a couple of the others couldn’t exactly boast of.
Despite his otherwise diminutive height, he certainly stood head and shoulders above Russia’s Igor Meerson and Italy’s Francesco De Carlo, whose material was decent but whose delivery was less of a stand-up comedy show and more of a storytelling session down at the pub.
Meerson, however, offered up some interesting cross-cultural insights. Stand-up comedy would never work in Russia, he told us, because upon hearing someone complain about their life, Russians would likely just scramble up on stage and try to help with whatever problem the comedian may be struggling with.
Like the rest of his travelling comedy comrades, France’s Yacine Belhousse placed a lot of stock in cultural stereotypes, even basing one of his gags around a hypothetical Hollywood blockbuster – a superhero film that would embody every stereotype imaginable (“It would be the only way the French could get leading roles”), while also doing his bit to demystify the idea of Paris as an eternally romantic city.
Izzard and Moran (the latter an Edinburgh resident) were on relaxed and confident form, with Izzard in particular clearly proud of the cadre of international comics he had managed to round up for our delectation. Perhaps a more sinister underbelly to all this is Izzard’s previously declared interest in running for politics; “you are the future,” smacks of exactly the kind of feel-good-factor rhetoric you’d expect a politician to peddle in (in the context of Edinburgh, this has an added bitter edge: Izzard had previously done fundraising gigs for the ‘No’ camp ahead of the Scottish Independence referendum).
Moran shuffled on stage thankfully free of any such baggage, delivering a three-part monologue with his trademark brand of inventive, meandering wit. (During the preamble, Izzard said, “I tend to be surreal and bonkers. Dylan is surreal and poetic”).
By now a consummate professional – if not something of a stand-up comedy legend – the Irish actor-comedian assumed the role of a crazed Fringe participant (bemoaning the fact that nobody has yet some to see his broomstick-installation version of Macbeth), confessed his frustration with Edinburgh machismo (I like the festival, he said, at least it brings in smiling people) and as a side-splitting coup, regaled the audience with a few paragraphs from his Fifty Shades of Grey pastiche.
And so ends my round-up of Edinburgh Fringe highlights. Expect the blog to return to its regularly scheduled programme soon. Now that doesn’t mean I in fact know what this programme consists of, but there we are.