festival highs

26Aug09

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It’s impossible to do any justice to the enormity of this festival – which keeps moving relentlessly forward, whilst shifting in character. This week The British Council Showcase is in town, upping the stakes. I joined the schmooze this morning, catching up with old friends and making a heap of new ones.

I’ve been wanting to log the work that I’ve seen, but keep tripping myself up in the attempt to make sense of it.

I’ve seen shows that moved me (Beachy Head); shows that left me reeling with their scale and audacity (Kursk, The Overcoat) or reeling with their over-ambition (Anomie). Shows that dazzled me with their skill (Circa); shows that made me feel a bit sick (The Dark Party); that made me laugh (Monsieur Montpellier, The Tiger Lillies) and that troubled me with their brilliance (Orphans). Shows that made me feel like an old friend (360 degrees) and shows that left me feeling like a unwelcome alien (Showstopper!); shows that will launch glittering theatre careers (The Odyssey) and shows that I see as mere launch-pads to TV or radio (The Boom Jennies). Shows that successfully borrow their format from TV (Stand by your Van)

Storytellers (Rachel Rose Reid, Laura Solon) and chanteuses (Camille O’Sullivan) – on the elevator to higher things.

But my favourites so far are those shows which have transcended the intellectual toward something utterly sublime. Shows which have me repeatedly pressing the imaginary ‘YES’ button on the edge of my seat; shows which possess that elusive quality to truly transport in the moment.

Accidental Nostalgia – Cynthia Hopkins (Traverse theatre)

Intriguing, mysterious, sexy, captivating. A faux-casual slickness that belies an immaculately technical construction. She is brilliant.

My Name is Sue – Dafydd James / Ben Lewis (Pleasance 2)

Pitched perfectly, past the pitch of some terrible grief that Sue still carries with her, this warmed me thoroughly with it’s charmingly sardonic Welsh-Methodist heart. A rousing, crowd-pleasing singalong finale “We’re all going to die!” to the tune of  “I will survive” – Ok, a lot better than I’m making it sound.

PowerPlant – Mark Anderson, Anne Bean, Jony Easterby, Kirtsen Reynolds et al.

An inspirational walk through a dreamscape of the botanic gardens, with light and sound installations animating the night-time foliage. The meeting of electro-acoustics, led’s and pyros with the natural forms in the glasshouses and gardens was at times breathtaking. It left me unexpectedly and blissfully happy. I felt proud to be able to number them amongst friends. Check this out…

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