Monday, August 20, 2007

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

I think that Edinburgh is perhaps the most captivating city in Britain and the reasons are not just architectural. Every year, usually in August, thousands of people descend into the Scottish capital for the most important cultural activities of the year, namely the Edinburgh fringe, the theatre and International film festival, the book festival, music, jazz and other literary and performing arts.

The weekend gone by, I was in Edinburgh to try and witness this phenomenon and partake of as many delights as I could. This was my second Fringe. For those unfamiliar with the city, Edinburgh has a more central European feel than other British cities. The castle nestles on the hill, and the famous buildings including the old assembly look like pictures from a wizard's painting. Down the hill, on the other side, runs the main artery in the city and adjacent is the Scott monument, my favourite Edinburgh monument. It is however the mile or so of cobble stoned street, called the Royal Mile, in the old city, that is the major haunt of tourists and festival buffs. It looks unreal, surreal, out of fiction even when you walk its famous walk and during festival times, it is besieged by artists doing free shows, revellers, rude performers, teenagers, lovers, musicians, beggars, and some serious art students looking for a deal or two in the numerous theatres staging known and not so known plays and dramas.

The main problem during the fringe can be what to watch and see. The major shows can be
prebooked, some are usually sold out and some not so. One has to solve the logistic problem followed by the problem of torpor that can settle easily at times. It rained while I was there, making me and my choices sluggish but I did actually enjoy a couple of things I watched, including a play called Escape Routes, at Usher House. The lone actress forgot her lines once but I thought the play was well written and the references were topical. I watched a musical volcano played by the Lady boys of Bangkok, men dressed as women, very attractive women indeed. I did not feel squeamish when I thought some 'women' looked very attractive indeed. The next day I was at The Zoo, watching The belly dancer diaries, which was disappointing, as it included the usual cliches about Egyptian heat, culture, dust, flies and stereotypes. My worst choice was the circus of horrors, which I watched to relieve my self after I had seen a different take on Macbeth.

Edinburgh fringe is a cultural activity the likes of which is seldom doable in other parts of Britain. It has something for everyone, from raunchy, risque shows to arty plays and movies, a festival of music, stand up comedy, the famous and not so famous musicians, popular and underground culture, writers and academics, writers on the fringes of celebrity, not to speak of the real shows on the streets, corners and closes of Edinburgh. The town wears a festive look, notwithstanding ominous clouds, the usual rain and grey skies. The mist comes down from cal ton hill and seems to touch the rooftops. You look at the skies, the rain, and somewhere you see a piper playing his mourful dirge. There is an Ionesco play nearby, A Rosencratz and Guildernstern. You decide, throw the soggy cigarette down and rush to the nearest theatre. You are in time.

could not attend The Book Festival, which this year included unknown and famous writers, including workshops about writers from Asia, a group of Bengali writers, including Joy Goswami from India and Selina Hossain from Bangladesh. there is ongoing focus on Indian and Chinese fiction, writers from around the world including John Pilger, Ian Rankin, Margaret Atwood and so on. The major themes are Slavery, War and Media, East and West, Genes and Society. The atmosphere at rain soaked Charlotte Square Gardens is quite bookish. The movie festival has its share of good movies too, featuring Bela Tarr, Judd Apatow to Gus van Sant. There are novel adaptations, controversial memoirs and so on. The retrospective has been dedicated to Anita Loos, a famous Hollywood screenwriter. Also showing this year was the whole of Berlin Alexanderplatz in its 15 and more hours of beauty.

This time around, by putting my palm on the outline of a hand on the Love test machine, I took the Love test. I was expecting a cool, clammy 2 out of 10, but scored a Hot 8! However, this is one test that I advise to be skipped.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

simply dropping by to say hey