• Travel

The Cultural Fringe: Ten Unmissable Shows at 2013’s Edinburgh Festival

The largest international festival in the world, the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe hosted a staggering 2,871 productions from the end of July through to August. Only a month long, competition for audiences can be fierce during festival time, and the challenge for visitors to find the ‘right’ show is equally as difficult. We look back at Scotland’s most dominant event, at ten exciting shows whose global focus made them stand out.

Ballad of the Burning Star

Am I a victim or a persecutor?’ A semi-autobiographical work, Ballad of the Burning Star was a cabaret show that investigated modern Israeli identity. This production by the multi-award winning Theatre Ad Infinitum is directed, written and co-performed by Israel-born Nir Paldi. Although exploring some often provocative subject matter, Paldi described the show as approaching these issues playfully, combining different theatrical styles, cabaret, drag and music to ‘weave together an intricate account of an extremely complex reality.’

Details: Pleasance Queen Dome, 17:15, 31 July – 26 August (except Tuesdays 13th and 20th).



Canary Gold

Performing in three languages (English, Spanish and French, and with surtitles), TSF and Teatro Tamaska explored political and financial relationships in this production as they scrutinised international wine trade, bankers and pirates. Taking place in modern day London, we saw investment banker Bob Drake submerged in debt until he discovered a potential new investment: an extremely rare Canarian wine. Using live music, multimedia and absurd comedy, Canary Gold created the perfect balance between comment and comedy.

Details: C (+2), 12:10, 14 – 26 August.



Head Over Heels in Saudi Arabia

A one-woman play by Saudi academic, playwright and performer Dr Maisah Sobaihi, Head Over Heels in Saudi Arabia presented a comical yet enlightening insight into the modern lives of women in Saudi Arabia. In the play Sobaihi brought two fascinating characters to the stage: Layla, who is ready for marriage but tired of waiting for true love, and Maryam, whose husband wants to take a second wife. Head Over Heels in Saudi Arabia served as a cultural exploration of the challenges faced both in this Middle Eastern nation and around the world.

Details: Spotlites @ The Merchant’s Hall, 17.50, 11 – 26 August.



Tango Theatre: Woman of Shadow, Woman of Light

Focusing on the internal tensions between her Catholic upbringing and the guilt felt from the years she spent working as a prostitute, Tango Theatre: Woman of Shadow, Woman of Light told the story of a woman born at the dawn of the 20th century, just as the art of tango was being created. Developed by Colombian company Alma de Tango, the show set itself in 1920s Buenos Aires and used a fusion of narrative, song and audience participation to create a unique theatrical performance. Exploring ‘social mores and destitution, ideals and harsh realities’, Tango Theatre: Woman of Shadow, Woman of Light was a moving experience.

Details: C Aquila (Studio), 16:35, 18 – 26 August.



Anna

An exploration of individuals who are witness to human nature at its worst, Anna was a new production that followed the life, work and eventual assassination of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Created by the renowned political theatre company Badac, this play focused on Politkovskaya’s reportage of the Second Chechnya War and its aftereffects. A human rights activist, Politkovskaya was known for her opposition to the Chechen war and Russian President Vadimir Putin, and her assassination still remains unsolved. A polemical play with real contemporary resonance, Politkovskaya’s family helped writer and director Steve Lambert in the creation of the show.

Details: Summerhall, 20:30, 2 – 25 August (not 12th).



Bad Boy Eddie

An intriguing cultural crossover, Bad Boy Eddie is an award-winning Finnish production that was transposed to the lands of Glasgow. Shining a light on family issues, loneliness and alcoholism from a child’s perspective, Bad Boy Eddie was described as ‘an encouraging story, flecked with black humour’. With both the cultures of Scotland and Finland facing similar issues of violence, drug and alcohol use, and suicide, this play presented a fascinating exploration of the universality of isolation.

Details: C Aquila (Temple), 14:05, 1 – 26 August.



Nehru: His Inner Story

Created by Pramila Le Hunte, Nehru: His Inner Story explored the heart and soul of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister. Traversing through the key moments of his life, and the political and religious struggles that the country faced in the 20th century, this play revealed Nehru’s enduring pursuit of peace and unity. After being praised during its previous Indian tour, Nehru: His Inner Story offered an illuminating insight into India’s history, and ended up being as educational as it was entertaining.

Details: Paradise in The Vault, 19:15, 5, 7, 9, 11, 14, 16, 18, 21, 23, 25 August.



Pudasi

Bringing the ancient rituals of Korea to the city of Edinburgh, Pudasi was a fusion of dance, theatre and music that transported its audiences to the Korean peninsula. Created through the collaboration of award-winning director and choreographer Haein Song and the founder of Norian Maro, Yang Ho Sung, Pudasi was a full on sensory experience as free Korean tea and rice cakes were served during the visceral performance. ‘Revealing wisdom, life, and the culture of the Jeju ancients, with their deep respect for nature’, the morning performance was a great way to start a cultural day at the Fringe.

Details: C (–1), 10:00, 12 – 25 August.

Human and Other Things

Subtitled ‘an unlikely Egyptian love story’, Human and Other Things told the tale of a fugitive and a paralysed man who meet against a backdrop of violence and oppression. Created by Namat Theatre Company, the play has been inspired by the work of Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz, and incorporated many other rich Egyptian literary influences. An exploration of the power of the human spirit, Human and Other Things has been labelled the first Egyptian production to be brought to the Fringe.

Details: C Nova (Studio 2), 17:30, 31 July – 10 August.



There We Have Been

Inspired by Haruki Murakami’s best-selling book Norwegian Wood, There We Have Been was an unmissable example of literature meets dance. The show by the James Cousins Company was to be presented as part of the 2013 British Council’s Edinburgh Showcase and focused on the first half of the Japanese novelist’s work. Presenting a duet where the female character never once touches the floor, this visceral performance explored the developing relationship between the novel’s protagonist and his late best friend’s girlfriend.

Details: Zoo Southside, 10.30, 19 – 26 August.



By Andrew Kingsford-Smith