Saturday, 26 August 2017

The Edinburgh Takeover: Day 4

Apparently, sprinting down the royal mile worrying that I am going to be late for my first show, is how my Edinburgh Fringe days must start. Every day. Without fail. It's the law.

But there was no way I was going to miss The Testament of Mary. It was a very intense way to start the morning but my goodness what a hidden gem. The number of people in the audience was not a reflection of how brilliant this production was and it deserved so much more.

I read this little novella a few years ago and it really stuck with me as such a powerful story. A story of pain and love and loss and conflict. And all of this came across in the play. It has never been the religious element which has attracted me to The Testament of Mary although being based around Mary's view of Jesus' crucifixion, this could be considered odd. But I think the religion aspect isn't what it is about. It's about the people. In the process of watching the story unfold you forget how famous Mary is, and what she is famous for. Instead you are drawn into her head and you simply think of her as a mother. A mother who both loves and loathes her son. A mother who is hugely conflicted and living with a guilt that just spills out of her. Jean Wilde did an incredible job on pushing us along this journey.

It was inclusive and intimate. With audience members on all four sides, we became a part of the play itself. She sat next to individuals, speaking to us so personally and in such a way you never felt you could take your eyes from hers. The harsh blue lighting was an unusual choice but it fit so so well for this production. Not only did it reflect the blue that is always associated with the Virgin Mary but it also was extremely stark. It made you feel vulnerable and slightly on edge. Exactly what you should feel during the show. Spot on and a beautiful thing to experience.

In a contrast that couldn't have been any stronger if it tried, I then headed over to Voodoo Rooms for a fun little adaptation of HG Wells' The Time Machine. Co-written and performed by hilarious duo Laurence Owen and Lindsay Sharman, it was set in the 1950s with Owen retelling the famous classic for a brand new radio production. Complete with adverts and a theremin, (if you don't know what that is, don't worry; I didn't either. Go to the show to find out) they injected a tonne of humour which was exactly what I needed.

Owen was truly excellent. His humour came across endearingly throughout the production and he was extremely skilled switching between characters and voices with apparent ease. The wordy songs were incredibly catchy and they are still stuck in my head now, hours later. He and Sharman bounced off each other perfectly and the effect of the entire thing was very very entertaining. Not one single person left the room without a smile on their face. Another little gem that should not be missed.

As I walked the Royal Mile following the conclusion of The Time Machine (an essential part of my Fringe day to catch up with the buskers and see a whole range of tasters for other shows that I may not realise are going on!!) I got chatting to the lovely boys at Semi-Toned who then invited me along to their show Stay Tuned, that evening. I had heard their mini sets on the Mile a few times but that didn't prepare me for just how talented this acapella group is. Especially because I had missed them when they won The Choir: Gareth's Best in Britain which aired on the BBC last year.

And this is what their hour long set is based around. The plot and the acting which interspersed the singing was a touch on the cheesy side but it gave the performance a structure that was definitely necessary. However, without that it would have still been so entertaining in its own right. These guys are seriously talented. The venue does not allow for any mistakes, as you can hear every single note from every single person and they were all perfect, moving together like a well oiled machine. You can tell that they know each other well and are good friends as there is an unforced camaraderie on stage that was vital for the intimate songs they are singing.

The songs were well picked too including a wide variety that catered for the entire range of ages within the audience. From beatboxing to their very own version of the Pokémon theme tune to Candle in the Wind and everything in between, it was an enjoyable mixture of modern hits and older classics. Similarly they got the balance right between the dancier numbers and the more staid songs. Both had their charm. While the slick dancing was very entertaining to watch, it was the vulnerable, slower pieces which showed off their true unarguable talent.

Stay Tuned was ultimately just pure fun and they showered me with their infectious high energy that kept me going through the rest of the evening. It was the perfect way to end the day.

If you would like to see the shows I have seen today you can see:
The Testament of Mary at C Cubed from 26-28 August at 11am.
The Time Machine at the Voodoo Rooms from 26 - 27 August at 1.45pm
Semi-Toned: Stay Tuned at Space Triplex on 26 August at 5.05pm.

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