Blogging the Fringe

Friday, 31 August 2007

Travel Notes: Homecoming


In a brave effort to not inconvenience anyone except for myself (self-martyrdom: what’s the point unless you tell people about it?), I decided to sleepover at New York’s JFK airport and catch my flight westward ho! the following morning. Misery loves company, and I found comfort in other travelers, similarly arranged like castaways, orphans, and post-traumatic victims in every corner of terminal 4. The devil’s playthings, kids if you insist, spent the entire night alternating between shrieking and yelling; a morning investigation of the premises uncovered a regrettably convenient gaming area, ironically designated as the “Fun Zone.”

I drifted in and out of consciousness, quite literally between a rock and a hard place. It was the most uncomfortable night of my life, at least since the time I accidentally dragged my friend to an Evangelist Haunted House (have you ever seen the Holy Spirit?). Still, sleeping on a slab of concrete can be an elucidating experience. For one, cramping pain made me aware of muscle groups I never even knew I had. The following morning I decided to self-medicate with the world’s most expensive banana ($1.07) because I figured that perhaps this most recent extraction will override my other, more corporeal, senses. After all, it’s mind over body…and I’m convinced that the fruit was O-R-G-A-N-I-C (so totally worth it!).


In line with me was an ordinary 20-something girl with an ordinary black purse that housed an eye-catching pin. In red, bold letters, it brightly read: “I suck cock.”

Needless to say, it launched me into the most thoughtful reverie…What motivates someone to get a pin like that?

Is it a proud declaration of what she likes to do? A sardonic comment on what women are expected to do? An advertisement of what she will do, in place of the popular (but so 1950’s) “Am fertile and ready” tees?

Her boyfriend was with her, and I marked the affectionate placement of his left hand. Maybe the pin was a gift from him? Was he attempting to encourage her to expand her bedroom repertoire? A reward for having done exactly that (like those buttons you get for having finished a Vermonster)? Could it have been intended as a bragging message to other boyfriends (“don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?”)?

I couldn’t help myself (no surprise there) and actually ended up tapping the girl on her (ordinary) shoulder and inquiring about the nature of the pin’s obviously cryptic message. Unfortunately, she did not seem to understand the question and merely giggled whimsically in its direction. I would have (for the sake of the truth!) been tempted to ask again, but at that very moment the line advanced, and we were forever separated to different ticketing agents.

There are some things we were never meant to know.

There should be a Twilight Zone episode about this.


If you find yourself in an airport and a line that says “check-in” you might see a sign at the front of that line instructing you that “check-in” for domestic flights is only 30 minutes prior to the flight. One would think that the two signs were related, that the instructions are clear...


This sign is apparently a mirage cleverly designed to make you miss your flight while you leisurely eat your croissant, only to realize at the next to last minute that your flight has just been called for final boarding. You race to get through security without your panicked sweaty face arousing suspicion and force the airplane to wait while security gives you an extra forceful pat-down. Dodging critical glances from the clever skeptics that have already boarded, and sharing sympathetic “hurry!” exclamations with your fellow duped sprinters, you will spend the majority part of your layover on hold waiting to argue with dark-side-of-the-force Northwest agents about the idiocy of putting up misleading signs.
"It was perfectly clear that we meant that you should be at the GATE 30 minutes prior to your flight."

Learn from my mistakes, trust no one


Thursday, 30 August 2007

America for Me

I'm leaving, leaving, gone from Edinburgh. It would have been a tearful parting if it were not for the fact that my eyes were too bloodshot tired to bother to cry at 6 am. I spent the morning frantically rushing around trying to find my passport instead of reminiscing (I was very sly in hiding it in the last place I looked). In the movie version of my life, the departure would have been marked by a montage scene of all of the “good times”, and after kissing my wayward lover adieu, I would have said a more Gaelic goodbye to proud Scotland (whose somber grey stone likewise did not shed a tear for me). All this would have been set to a beautifully sorrowful Lord-of-the-Rings soudntrack (as the camera zoomed over and through the landscape).

After almost a month away, I am feeling particularly patriotic and miss the comfort of saying “fries” and having people know what I mean.

America for Me
by Henry Van Dyke

’Tis fine to see the Old World, and travel up and down Among the famous places and cities of renown, To admire the crumbly castles and the statues of their kings — But now I think I’ve had enough of antiquated things.

So it’s home again, and home again, America for me! My heart is turning home again, and there I long to be, In the land of youth and freedom beyond the ocean bars Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars.

Oh, London is a man’s town, there’s power in the air; And Paris is a woman’s town, with flowers in the hair; And it’s sweet to dream in Venice, and it’s great to study Rome; But when it comes to living... there is no place like home.

I like the German fir-woods, in green battalions drilled; I like the gardens of Versailles with flashing fountains filled; But, oh, to take your hand, my dear, and ramble for a day In the friendly western woodland where Nature has her way!

I know that Europe’s wonderful, yet something seems to lack: The Past is too much with her, and the people looking back. But the glory of the Present is to make our Future free — We love our land for what she is and what she is to be.

Oh, it’s home again, and home again, America for me! I want a ship that’s westward bound to plough the rolling sea To the blessed Land of Room Enough beyond the ocean bars Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars.


Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Ths is the way the world ends

Yesterday was the last day of the Fringe Festival, and though some of the shows are running longer in hopes of squeezing out an overlooked pound, most are packing up and leaving town. Unguarded drum sets and stage equipment is sprinkled on the streets and watching some packing efforts is akin to that gag with too many clowns in too small a car. Churches, bathrooms and student drill halls are emerging out of this shanty town of theater venues and the Fringe Shop hangs a "sale" sign in the window. Banners are being collapsed down, posters stripped, and High Street has opened again to its regularly scheduled traffic.

Tourists are also leaving in waves, and slowly from around the corners, emerge the locals who have been patiently waiting to prove their loving consistency to Edinburgh.

I know it’s a belated realization, but the city is a wealth of amusement without the tacky tartan tourist traps and, dare I say it? Even without the festival.

From Edinburgh Castle (the focal point of the city around which everything else merely sprawls like so much volcanic ash…Scotland’s answer to the Acropolis), Holyrood Palace, Arthur’s Seat, hide-and-seek in Ikea, the Zoo, Sheep’s Heid, graveyard tours, pub crawls, coffee shops that sing their connection to Harry Potter, University Fresher’s week around the corner, and “so much more” being the only cliché capable of freeing me from a seemingly endless list.

For me however, with only another day of wonderfully aimless wandering, my summer seems to end here.

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

University of Edinburgh Residence Hall


Monday, 27 August 2007

THEATER REVIEW- WitTank: A Different Kettle of Fish

This 5-person Durham University sketch comedy troupe is brimming with talent, originality, and a “best of” show that has already separated the wheat from the shaft (umm...chaff).

The skits resembled live-action comic strips, with the last frame joke delivering fantastic one-line punches right on the funny bone. The show operates on a machine-gun delivery: rapid fire with the few dud scenes quickly forgotten in the transition to a new set-up. The sketches were absurd, contrived, burlesque, and easily some of the freshest material I have ever seen. Some of the highlights involved talking beers, pain medication, death row inmates, and a song about the dangers of haircutting.

There were, admittedly, a handful of dour looking members in the audience after the show, “Was that supposed to be funny?” one peevishly asked. WitTank, despite the raves of its most rampant fans, is not a “one size fits all” prescription for humour. It does not necessarily cater to those looking for incisive social commentary, political jokes, and routines on dating, terrorism, or anything that would be described as “challenging.” But if you’re looking for some sharp unadulterated silliness, this definitely beats waiting for your friends to get funny.

And that’s my bottom line: see WitTank. They’re funnier than your friends.


My favourite headline calls the incident a “Wee Problem”

Dan Blackner, known to his friends and co-workers as “The Demon Dwarf” in the Circus of Horrors here at the Fringe Festival, was recently hospitalized for gluing a vacuum cleaner to his most private of privates.

The main part of his performance involved dragging the vacuum cleaner across the stage with his member, but when the prop broke before the show, silly Dan attempted to quickly repair the problem without waiting for the glue to properly dry.

More information can be found here.

I foresee a national speaking tour in high schools across the country warning teens about the dangers of interchangeable parts, damn you Eli Whitney!


Sunday, 26 August 2007

Number Games

Five shows I just made-up, but now want to see performed at the Fringe:

  1. A lonely hooker gets a pet crab who turns out to be the reincarnation Shakespeare. He does not approve of her night job and they fight bitterly until she gets tired of debating her morals and cooks him.

  2. A scowling kid doesn’t believe his mother when she tells him that his face is bound to stay that way. When he gets sick, she feels badly for lying. At some point, there is a picnic, a bear, and a horribly contorted permanent freeze-frame of a scream.

  3. A condensed version of the Trojan War in which everyone is a gay, tap dancing chicken.

  4. Scientists find out that copious amounts of alcohol actually do make you smarter and everyone is forced to apologize for having doubted me.

  5. A theatrical cross between Ten Things I Hate About You and Snakes on a Plane.

Four common ways in which people try to get you to part with money:


“Tippers make better lovers”


“Homeless with two hungry kids”


“Out-of-work Ninja”


“I’m just like you…except that you have money”

Three things that clearly deserve their very own festival:

Ice Cream

Is Dipping Dots really the Ice Cream of the future? Do they survey fish when they make Phish Food? Do they know that the word is spelled wrong? Is it supposed to be an acronym? What’s up with astronaut ice cream?


If it’s all business in the front and party in the back, what happens when mullets turn sideways? Is the illusion ruined? How does the community feel about their commonly mocked position in pop-culture reference?



I want to know who the bearded woman is dating

Two Scottish proverbs I plan to insert into future conversations:

A hungry man smells meat far.

Ye'll sleep yer brains inta train oil.

One fabulous perk to seeing theater by yourself:

You will always get a great seat, even if you’re late. This is because many couples are uncomfortable sitting directly next to other couples and they usually leave a seat in between. To them, casual shoulder-to-shoulder closeness feels dangerously like swinging. But don’t worry--- since everybody loves a threesome, that third row center seat is all yours.

While some people count sheep, I prefer to get a little bit more creative with my number games. Does anyone else have ideas for lists?


Mo Money Mo Problems

A long, long time ago, in the days when all marriages were happy, kids respected their elders, and students walked to school uphill both ways, Fringe tickets were dirt cheap. One could see any show for less than 3 quid; even with a schedule of 6 shows in one day, festival goers would still have enough money left over for some color-me-bland fish ’n’ chips. But with women’s rights, the advent of hip-hop, and decreasing family values… things have changed (and not for the better, please reference the failed back-to-the-kitchen movement).

Ticket prices have been climbing steadily for the past couple of years, and average prices now hover around £8-£10 pounds, with many shows even soaring to the £15 pound range. The days of reasonable affordability, theater “sampling,” and fringe overdose, seems to have been replaced with conservative penny pinching selectivity. Couple that with the decreasing value of the American dollar (currently at 2.183 dollars/pound), and many theater lovers have been forced to sell their kidneys and/or children on E-bay (the latter being a nicer way of saying “mini-kidneys”).

There are some rebels who operate on the outdated flower-child notion of “free.” Peter Buckley Hill’s Free Fringe and the competing Laughing Horse Free Festival, both offer tens of dozens of shows at no charge (the very definition of “free”) in 10 different venues across the city. Last year the two promoters had joined forces, but this year split due to highly controversial (and well publicized) acrimony. See? Divorce, everyone’s doing it.

The problem is a complex multilayered little onion which is the only ingredient used to cook up shows like “Che Guevara on the Fringe” (out of oppression comes art) and their routine of reminiscing, forecasting and enthusiastically offering a very modest proposal like, say, a violent revolution?

The problems, debated vigorously in pubs across the city, are as follows:

Too big

The festival offers an absurd amount of shows (2,050) and has now outgrown its capacity to fill seats. The theatergoing population is thinned out to below breaking-even numbers by the sheer amount of options.

Too expensive

Tickets are dear enough to be “out-of-reach” for many theatergoers, but often times, it’s not the performers who are pocketing the money. Venues, with their own profit margin agenda, are charging up front booking fees which desperate companies are trying to recoup in ticket prices. No one is sure who is duping whom, and every bushy tailed amateur is told the fabled fairytale of how Edinburgh is paved with five-star reviews made out of gold…Scotland’s “capital” is the place to make it.

Too commercial

The Smirnoff sponsored Underbelly is one example of the Evil Empire (note how they try to legitimize their street-cred by insisting that their walls are "dilapidated" and "crumbling") . It has expanded from 2000 to three venues, 140 shows, and their ‘McFringe’ approach to making money (::gasp::) is problematic for smaller venues that are, in the cliché story of corner mom ‘n’ pop shops, slowly pushed out of business. The other type of commercialization involves the types of show that the Fringe is hosting. With big-name draws like Ricky Gervais charging £37.50 for his show at the thousand-seat Castle, first-time theater companies and performers are marginalized out of the very festival that had promised to give them a chance.


THEATER REVIEW- Che Guevara on the Fringe - Evonne Keron Strikes Back

“Che Guevera on the Fringe: Evonne Keron strikes back” is a strange brew offering and one of the 320 or so odd shows part of the Free Festival/Fringe movement. Though 90% of the free program is typically composed of start-up-stand-ups, this particular three-man (and one was a woman) variety show is a staple of the fringe. Already in its third year incarnation, it combines adapted musical numbers from Evita, video footage, and sci-fi absurdity to mock the rising costs and commercialization of the Fringe. We, the audience were proudly thrifty (or rather, not so proudly poor, comrade), and most crowded onto the stained bar-room floor with an insider’s glee (Look, look, we’re part of the movement!). What was at best a delivery on the program’s promise of a “half-arsed” plotline, the jokes were enthusiastically flat, though played to people who were already in the mood to laugh at the insane shtick and by those who themselves couldn’t stop cracking up. Wigs, dresses, Darth Vader mask, fake beards, traveling through space by twirling, death by flyering, liberally sprinkled in with Marxist commentary and Ricky Gervais jabs.

The best part of the show was far and away the walking tour that followed the indoor performance, when everyone rowdily piled out of the Green Room, and onto the streets around Cowgate. Led by comedian Kieran Butler on megaphone and Austin Low flanking the back with a red Che flag, the tour included colourful fringe-politics commentary and a series of dance exercise which you can see in the above video; we are practicing sting-like-a-butterfly footwork while expressing the cynical eye-opening disappointment that the Fringe is for some poor tourists and even poorer tourists, “this-is-not-what-I-thought-it-would-be!” Judging by our ragged crew of hippies, it was preaching to the choir.

We actually took the gag to a ticket line in which we united in a chorus of “What do we want? Free tickets! When do we want them? Now” only to be met with unsympathetic blinking and blank expressions (perhaps the clone army stories are true?).

More "undercover" pictures from both the show and the revolution are here.


Saturday, 25 August 2007


Parking violations are taken pretty seriously during the festival.

If you study the following pictures carefully, you can probably use your imagination for the accompanying swearing, yelling, and hair-tearing.

On the bright side, it's a great way to encourage the use of public transportation and walking.


Singing for your Supper

If Napoleon Dynamite and that kid from Superbad decided to start a two man ukulele band that both practiced, and rocked out, on the streets of Edinburgh, it would look a little something like the above video.

Among the performers and flyers of the Royal Mile, this little bit of homegrown fun is irresistibly campy. I pass them almost every day, but this time decided to stop and realized that the little button on the side of my camera is for “record.”

Enthusiastically singing Dr. Hook’s classic “On the Cover of Rolling Stone,” these two ne’er-do-wells prove that not all musicians are getting laid…

…sometimes, it’s just about the music, man.

On a side note, I was so impressed with myself for "discovering" the ability to create moving pictures that I started jumping and giggling in what could have been misinterpreted as girlish enthusiasm and hot-to-trot fever.

The truth is out: I’m a sucker for the ukulele.


Friday, 24 August 2007

Tina Turner and Turnips

I was at the Big Value Comedy I was at the Big Value Comedy Show last night and during the intermission, the audience was asked to write down their impromptu answers to the question:

“What is the difference between Tina Turner and a Turnip?”

The funniest answer would win the coveted prize: a free beer.

Here were the ones that were read out loud:

“Tina Turner has breasts.” (Submitted by the 12 year old in the front row)

“One looks like they’ve just been dug up from the ground, and the other is a turnip.”

“I don’t know, but I wiped my cock on this paper.”

“I would pay more money for a turnip.”

Mine was hilarious, but like many other misunderstood jokes that were made a little “too soon”, this one was also loudly booed:

“A turnip never refuses a good ‘beet’ing.”

eh? eh? ::nudge, nudge::

Maybe they just didn’t get it?

Here was the champion answer:

“The turnip is a tuber grown in temperate climates, 1-6 cm in length, and is often mistaken for a vegetable. And by the way, Tina Turner is a singer.”

How very droll.

After returning home bitter and 3 pounds poorer (having paid for my own beer), I spent more time than I would care to admit online researching tubers, turnips and generally trying to invalidate the winning joke.

My every day is a learning experience.

How is your internship?


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I don't claim to have captured the "essence" of Edinburgh, but I did take a bunch of low-quality digital photographs.

I will keep adding more albums to this site regularly, so if you’re interested (why wouldn't you be?), definitely check back.

Let me know if you have any requests for seeing specific pictures (cobbled streets, Scottish dogs, dark beers, broken bikes) while I'm here!


Local Lingo

Some colorful useful phrases I am trying to pick up on....

Suspenders: women’s pantyhose garters
Garters: men’s sock garters
Braces: suspenders
Nobs: twats, idiots
Total Tip: Utter mess
Chatting up: Flirting (I figured out this one all by myself)
Chuffed: Pleasantly surprised, pleased
Major Session: Drinking...a lot
Pissed: Drunk
Pulling: Hooking up

Pulling (being pulled, having pulled) can range the spectrum from a simple kiss to the kind of poetry they make explicit movies about. The word itself, pulled, implies a pre-existing resistance, which of course the young Don Juan or Siren must overcome through the sheer force of their sexual magnetism. It is a deliciously ambiguous notion, which connotes either triumphant conquest or false modesty.

The American version, hooking-up, is culturally speaking a more neutral concept. It is an activity people do together (hook-up), without the necessary designation of one of the individuals having been “hooked”. Nobody loses the struggle and still, everybody wins.

Sometimes I have nothing more to write, but want to get you into the habbit of checking by actually clicking "Continue Reading"

Pretty sneaky, huh?



While out of the country, try to avoid:

Self-righteous ex-patriots:

These are typically University students who think that they’ve somehow managed to solve all of the world’s ills by studying abroad, shopping at thrift stores, and figuring out how many generations they have to trace their family lineage back to count themselves European.

Self-loathing Americans:

American tourists with maple leaf luggage patches.

(I think they're afraid of what the BBC calls anti-American racism)

People who have actually bought the “Bush is Wanker” t-shirts:

Proceeds go straight toward Al-Qaeda training camps.

Anyone who has ever seen “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader?”

Despite its completely representative sample size population and scientifically valid testing, it is not an undercover exposé on American retardation. These “jokesters” will mock you with brain-twister questions like, “Do you even know where Mexico is?” The only defense is to grin and bear it, “No idea, but the giant turd I left in your bathroom looks a little bit like Chile.”

Bathroom Humor is soooooo international.

Football Fans

No, you stupid ugly American! NOT the kind where boys throw an oddly shaped pig and hide their homoerotic tendencies, but REAL football. It is the great, elegant, all-consuming ballet of spirit, passion, and testosterone-induced head butting. While you only figure out how to pat ass, we give head! And now you have adopted washed-out pretty-boy David Beckham. Bah and good riddance. We needed him almost as a spice rack needs Posh.


Politics: War by other means

Discussing politics in the United States is dangerous enough. Exchanges are often peppered with the equivalents of conversation landmines like:

“Yes, but what about the rights of the fetus?” or
“Everything will be better once Obama is elected” or
“I always say: ‘give unto Caesar.’”

You’re either dealing with:

a one-issue-voter,
the man Obama brought back from the dead or
a Jehovah’s Witness.

I don't actually know which one of these is worst.

Mine dodging depends on early detection of the warning signs, look for:

pieces of debris or blood stains (not exactly the ‘red badge of courage’)
a clammy color with residues of dirt (dead giveaway),
or showing up at your door with a Bible (why is never a pizza?).

It’s difficult, but there are at least techniques, methods of quick extraction, and those sporadic moments of intelligent insights that make the effort of engagement worthwhile. Ironically clarity usually comes at 3 am, with your new best friends, half-a-wine-bottle-in, day of exams; however you prove too radical for your obtuse Physics professor who does not appreciate the slightly slurred perspective on the inevitable tragedy of the two-party system (“They respond with an equal but opposite reaction!”)

I had to go abroad to discover my appreciation for red-blooded-blue-collared-white-America political discourse, because being reasonable about politics in the UK has thus far been mission impossible.

People hear the American accent and they immediately assume that you want to play devil’s advocate to their good-guy appeals to stop the Iraq war (two words: cheap gas), torturing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay (everyone needs a hobby), and eating all those hamburgers (I can taste the cow’s soul). They wonder out loud if everyone you know is obese, afraid of gay marriage, and the proud owner of an SUV with a Jesus-fish label. When will they realize that those particular groups of individuals don’t own passports? They’re smart enough to know that Europe is too thin, gay, and secular to warrant a visit.

All of a sudden complete moderates find themselves getting defensive and despite my best attempts at self-control, I assume a thick-skinned fourth-of-July patriotism. Being American is like having a little brother that is, admittedly, an occasional screw-up, but one that nevertheless only the immediate family should have the right to abuse.


All Downhill From Here--- Overheard in Edinburgh, Part 3

Taking Precautions

Two teenage friends are crossing the pedestrian crosswalk on a red light.

Guy 1: Hey mate, let’s hurry it up…

Guy 2: Relax, don’t worry.

He gestures to the woman in front of them, also crossing the street in a wheelchair.

Guy 2: They won’t run us over if we’re with a chair!

Guy 1: I guess that makes sense.

Woman in Wheelchair: (under her breath) Really? How do you think I got the chair in the first place?

The two guys jog the rest of the way across.

There’s no place like home

Performer male: Three weeks of non-stop mania…I’m so fucking tired.

Performer female: I know what you mean.

Performer male: I just want…well, I want to go home and wank-off in my own bed again.

Performer female: Excuse me?

Performer male: Or your bed. I mean, I don’t care.


Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Sinking It

The British people are only deceptively middle-of-the-road rationalists; underneath that veil of modernity lays the soul of archaic passion, of aggressive extremes.

“How do you know that?” You ask.

“Show us your evidence!” You demand.

I admire your skepticism.

The answer, dear Watson, is in the common yet underhand sink.

Though the world has long since invented combination faucets, miraculously able to streamline water and adjust its temperature even to the most whimsical of preferences, the British know better. They routinely scoff the idea as if it were another customary attempt to undermine the metric system.

The traditional UK contraption runs with only temperatures G-d fearing citizens need: cold and burn.

Your hands must navigate very quickly between the two and school kids everywhere learn some very important lessons:

Math: proportions of this much cold + that much burn = I might be able to wash my face

History: compromises are never painless procedures

Negotiation: on one hand cold, on the other hand burn

Persistence: two hands will serve one master

Humility: Who really needs to wash up anyway?


Monday, 20 August 2007

THEATER REVIEW- Xenu is Loose!!

“Xenu is Loose! Cower puny Humans as the Dark Prince of the Galactic Federation rains Atomic Death once more upon your Pitiful Planet - The Musical!”

The best part of this show is a straight toss-up between its title, and the moments in which I anticipated the lights dimming…a joyful interval in which I imagined all of the wonderful jokes and songs a show with such a great title might include. Unfortunately, even cheeseball humour and mockery can be botched, a skill only comparable to that of my high school cafeteria--- which was the first to discover a way to ruin even cartons of pre-packaged milk (maybe I should turn this into a play?). The entire show lacked the energy, dialogue, humour, musical talent (huge loss, considering it was a musical) and all-out enthusiasm of classic B-movie favourites. I laughed regularly out of self-pity and at the two plain-clothes guitarists on either end of the stage; they were ridiculous bookends for the elaborate laser-tag game that unfolded.

This show is ridiculously fun to be indignant about and has created a sort of bond among all of its victims. Check out hilarious audience reviews here even describes the experience as‘out of time, out of place, out of tune mind rape’!



Four characters in various stages of nervous desperation and breakdown speak past each other in emotional spurts for 45 minutes, which felt like walking in on somebody else's two-hour therapy session (how much are we paying for this again?). I might have been tired going in, but I was utterly exhausted on the way out. The staging was Spartan and consisted of primarily shuffling chairs and crossing from one side of the floor to the other, in what was a grateful attempt at variety from misery. Sarah Kane’s script has been largely praised for its depth and resonance (it is with this play that she lost faith in love), but though the performances were heartfelt, the script may deserve a different adaptation or perhaps just a level of maturity and appreciation for the expressionist modern-theatre that I have yet to attain. Other reviews point out that if you were bored, then you have missed the point of the lyrical rhythm of the interwoven dialogues…in my defence, this was exactly the kind of rhythm that lulled me into sedation.

This is a sad moment in my life; I now know that I will never be truly high-brow.

Still, my personal takeaway high was the monologue on love in the middle of the piece, it was stand-alone beautiful (actor Edward Rice was killer). The show was received by a mixed audience, this is one you’ll either love, hate, or learn to grudgingly appreciate … with time, perspective, and a shot of espresso, I did exactly that.


Sunday, 19 August 2007

denied "Denied"

The controversial show "Denied" exploring Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, and the nature of fear, has been recently cancelled for the rest of its Fringe run.

I was the only one who came in today with an issued ticket and was the last to be informed of the mysterious “falling-out” between two of the cast members.

This only serves to reinforce a long held belief: some of the biggest dramas are off the stage, not on.

If anyone has any details, I am curious....

(the better part of me of course regrets having missed the show and hopes that all is well).


A French Soul

"Do you know what happens last night?"

My adorably French flatmate looks at me with a conspirator’s whisper.

“The new American girl, she has many DVD and we decide to watch, and then…”

A dramatic pause and a theatrical hand flourish.

“In the middle of the film….she gets on floor and starts to do…THE ABDOMINALS!”

I must look confused.

“Yes the abdominals! You know… up and down and up, her knees to her elbows…and you know, then when she finish, she sits there for 30 minutes, breathing like this: Whooo! Whooo! Whooo!”

There is a very serious exhibit of loud mock panting, while I discreetly suppress an urge to laugh.

“How we watch anything but her? Is just so rude…. This is American way?”

I guessed that for some it was common practice.

“But why you never do this?”

I shrug.

“I will tell you why exactly: Is because you are not so rude. You may have American eating habits,"

Now triumphant...

"But still a French soul!”


A Nuerotic Late-Night Ode to Love (in a less poetic form than the title unfairly implies)

I fall in love on a regular basis, sometimes as much as twice in one hour, and often more, when the occasion justly calls for it. I fall in romantic love, platonic love, puppy love, and unrequited love---which, damn Cowley, is the actually the least vain. There is also let’s-poke-each-other-on-facebook love, carry-your-photo-in-my-wallet love, and all the 1,283 types of love the French claim to have invented.

I don’t consider it fickle so much as excessively passionate; the tendency stems not from a foolish inconsistency, but a penchant for turning people into blank canvasses for my overactive imagination.

I am a love-artist!

Some might claim that this is all anorexic love---that I am stretching the concept so thin, that it loses all meaning, all potency, the exclusion on which the foundation is based….

But, I do not starve my love...

The truth is that I don’t want to be limited and caged by the one-life-to-live dictum.

And I have found a loophole: I choose to love all of the possibilities of all of the lives I will never live and all of the people who that me, might love.

How utterly juicy is that?!


Saturday, 18 August 2007


‘Play on Words’ is often funny, occasionally frustratingly reductive, and always clever. This well-paced piece (a compliment that deserves its own sentence) follows playwright Fred and his goofball partner Eddie, as they recreate the episodic fragments of his relationship with a now missing Jen. The actors excel in a dramatic and professional performance, punctuated by the script’s ability to draw humor from the mundane in verbal tangents reminiscent of Abbott and Costello's “Who’s on first?” routine.

I really enjoyed the concept behind the flashback storytelling (literally unpacking memories like so many cardboard boxes), but wished that the resolution had been more of an expansion of Fred’s tunnel-vision, instead of just an unexpected twist (the classic “6th Sense” revelation). The momentum of every scene is deftly transitioned into the next; it is a commendably well-paced narrative.

Fred’s manic-depressive behavior drives away his two most important relationships, until he is alone, untethered in the spotlight on the expanse of the dark stage. It seems that at the center of the play is just a flawed, stressed, neurotic man apologizing for his variable behavior (mainly nervous breakdowns), vowing that things will be different, and hoping that they will actually go back to the way they were. Though this final imagery is indeed emotionally striking, it fails to deliver any resounding message or truth (perhaps this is where words, images, and script fail)? It is in this way that the play does not transmit the tenderness of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” which in contrast draws its strength from the relationship at its core and uses the dialogue as window dressing, not buttresses. Additionally, Fred’s ultimate regret is discredited by his need for a psychiatric intervention; I was unsure of whom to fault with his unraveling, but the lesson could not have been simply “chill out man and keep your girlfriend,” could it?

Thought it bears the connotation of a patronizing high-five (slugger), I mean it most sincerely when I call this young company both a recorded success and an overflow of potential. I am so impressed (read: jealous) by their drive, talent….and you should check them out yourselves here.


Halfway Mark

Edinburgh seems out-of-sorts today. The people handing out flyers have a grim sense of desperation in their eyes, while we, the viewing public, have made a game out of artful dodging and hanging permanently snide expression that says “Don’t you dare give me another one of those frikken flyers…I DO NOT RECYCLE.” Most people here are now red-eyed from a state of constant exhaustion and they only perk up long enough to trade hard guy stories on who is getting less sleep.

It might have been the steady sheets of grey rain (there is nothing sadder than a wet clown), or the universal effects of a Friday night hangover (what doesn’t kill you…), or perhaps this is the inevitable Fringe Burnout that accompanies the halfway point between start and finish.

I am trying to come up with a diagnostic list of qualifications for the official "Fringe Burnout" condition. So far, my checklist includes the following:

  • Your feet have developed calluses that a professional fire-walker would envy

  • There is a mountain of paper on your bed of all the Fringe shows you will never seen

  • You have forgotten what sleeping feels like, but you think it must be nice and are vaguely sure that it has something to do with all of those flyers on your…what do you call that thing again?

  • Nothing comes to mind when people ask for recommendations since all of the shows have now bled into one long, never-ending production entitled “The Red Rampant Rabbit Who Craved Lord Xenu in his Awkward Jihad against Fathers, Daughters and Purple Players: the Musical Cabaret”

  • You seem to run into the same 6 people over and over again, unfortunately you cannot remember their names and the nature of your relationship…You are also wearing somebody else’s socks and wonder if these things are related

  • Your dreams are in Scottish


Friday, 17 August 2007

Busy as a Bee

When your new acquaintance tells you that they’re easily offended, it’s best to not to allow yourself to slip into a conversation in which you describe their work (astronomy) as glorified navel gazing. It would also be prudent to not continue the rant by calling space exploration a waste of your taxes, which should instead be going into something practical like affordable housing and getting the American currency back on top of world market exchange rates.

In my defense, it is because I have read “War of the Worlds” and am genuinely afraid that the aliens don’t like us.

Later, we went to a place called “The Hive” in which the dress code was strictly oversized black concert tees, ripped jeans, and high tops. The waggle bee dance was replaced by aggressive head banging in which the trick was to bend over far enough at the waist to swing your long hair without cleaning the beer-stained floor but still maintaining appropriately communicative angst. It was gloriously ritualistic and I was caught up by the anthropological gold I had discovered. Unfortunately, I was dragged away before finding out whether or not I could do as the Romans; good thing too, otherwise I would have probably ended up with a migraine and my own recreation of Amy Wineouse’s beehive.

I also had the pleasure of seeing Chris McCausland’s free standup routine at the Laughing Horse. He is the UK’s only blind comic and is quite comfortable joking about it, without making it a central theme of the show. He is likable, directs most of his humor at himself, and breaks the ice with a mock-serious warning about how much he hates smilers. Chris’s humor is quiet,sometimes slower than preferable, but well-woven into a routine that actually manages to keep its self-referential wit relevant.


From the Mouths of Babes

Consumer Economics

Little Girl: Mommy, why are people drawing on the street?
Mother: Because they can’t afford paper.
Little Girl: But mommy, why are they collecting the money?
Mother: To buy more chalk.

A Fringe Performer in the Making

Little Boy: Biddy Biddy Bummmmm….Boo!
Father: What are you doing?
Little Boy: Practicing.

Science of Sleep

Little Girl: Can we go see that ugly monster’s show?
Father: I’m afraid you won’t be able to sleep afterward.
Little Girl: But I had no trouble sleeping yesterday during the show you and Mommy picked out!


Thursday, 16 August 2007


The Rover, first produced in 1677, was rediscovered by the modern theater in the 1980’s. Since then, its author, Aphra Behn, has enjoyed (as much as one can enjoy things from over 300 years of top-soil) the modest notoriety that comes with being one of England’s first female writers. Her admirers include hip feminists with degrees in English literature, and she has apparently earned her place as the queen of amatory fiction, a predecessor to Romance novels (the sparse criterion for the genre being that they deal with love and are written for women by women). I believe that evolution has been kind to the amour; at least now stories chronicling the task of “shackling-the-notorious-playboy-to-your marriage-bed-through-nothing-but-the-use-of-your-womanly-good-looks-and-wit” does not involve several callously dismissible attempts at rape in the plot. My aversion to such “charming” scenes of the wild-child rover’s manly aggression, is clearly more modern than would have been advisable for the ideal reception of the script.

“The Rover” himself is a bawdy sailor named Willmore (played with a goodly amount of devil-may-care by Tom Hunter), out on the town cavorting with his friends. Among the party is the steadfast (a notable rarity) and unlucky Captain Belivile; his lady love, Florinda, is bound by the will of her forceful brother to marry another. Willmore is no slacker and in the short matter of two nights manages to seduce both Florinda’s sister, Hellena, and Angelica, a high priced courtesan. Mistaken identities cavort with broken vows in this fast-paced 90 minutes condensation of the original, which has lost nothing but its crippling dependency on patience in the adaptation. The dialogue is witty ("How the devil came you so drunk?” “How the devil came you so sober?"), but it is scarcely Shakespearian verse. A lighthearted comedy with a starkly gendered dichotomy that personally makes me resent the playful “all’s well that ends well” of which the entire time period reeks. At the same time, I am well aware at how the play could have been read in a very different light; at some point the unlucky fool Blunt vows to take his anger at one woman on all their wretched kind, and perhaps (after several more drinks and lessons in revisionist history) I can be taught to see that this is where Behn meant to suggest that stereotypes are wrong. All in all, amusing but underwhelming, perhaps I just can’t appreciate the good ol’ days as much as I should?


Reservoir Dogs by The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

These lovable Scottish socks are performing at the Edinburgh Festival, check them out at the Gilded Balloon.

There is something so timelessly irresistible about sock puppets. Maybe it's because we've all made them? Personally mine never sounded this good and quite honestly, spent a lot of time shaking hands with my feet (which betray my puppetry ambitions by going very cold, very quickly...especially when deprived of their cotton warmers).



Attempt 3.4 is one of those shows more accurately termed an experience; critic Tom Powell at Broadway Baby aptly describes it as more of a “live art installation rather than theatre.” The cast lays out the ambitious and mystifying intent of constructing “the city” in 60 minutes. The posters describe the four as the “architects of the apocalypse” and I’m waiting for something mildly religious and the poster of a fireman makes me think that it will have a feel-good message about the nobility of the human spirit….not quite.

From the first step of demarcating the square outlines of their performance space, the cast extends an invitation to the audience to participate in the commencing abstraction. The rest of the show is an emotional drive-by through the chaotic, personal, emotional, sensitive, lovable, laughable, and pathetic. Imagine if you took a box of magnetic poetry, scattered the words on the ground, and spent the rest of the day picking up the pieces out-loud; every strand and loose thought is either the beginning of a Nicole Krauss novel, or just a stand-alone quirky statement of how a poodle’s diet gets their hair so curly (spaghetti). Particularly potent are the themes of needing another’s attention (a voyeuristic window crush is abandoned), to being invisible in our trembling secrets.

In the square there is form, rules, and in this, a meaningful freedom of creativity and raw expression that Raz-mataz failed in achieving through their contrastingly shapeless production.