Sunday, 2 August 2015

Post-referendum, but not post-political!

Here is my piece in the Morning Star on the things I am looking forward to in this year's Edinburgh Festivals. This year the Star will have four of us providing reviews of various events, and my other colleagues (Gordon Parsons, Mike Quille, and Jody Porter) have also their highlights here. I've also added some events in the Book Festival and this and word limitations of the print media mean that the piece below is not a comprehensive survey. I've tried to add additional planned shows at the end (par 8 ff).

AFTER last year’s referendum-related material, this year’s festivals look much lighter politically on the surface. A closer look though reveals that there is plenty to tempt the radical political animal.
Last year’s successes used referendum fever to look deeper into “Scottishness” and this year’s most intriguing material ploughs the same furrow.

Confessions - what levels do we read it?
Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner is a complex treatment of James Hogg’s 18th-century novel, an early focus on Scotland’s “split personalities.” The novel ranges between family feud and psychological fable and this production by Untitled Projects and the National Theatre of Scotland adds a further layer by telling it as a “metafiction” in which the failed performance never took place — or did it?

This year’s fringe has some political topics, mainly in theatre productions which deal with themes as disparate as the miners’ strike (Undermined); the cold war (The Communist Threat); and Joan Littlewood (Joan, Babs and Shelagh Too).

Mark Steel
This year’s Assembly Rooms (AR) shows concentrate more on the spoken word, with well-known stand ups Jo Brand, Alexei Sayle and Mark Thomas discussing their work in the Talking Comedy series. Both Brand and Thomas also have their own shows elsewhere as does Mark Steel, who makes a welcome return to the fringe after 19 years away. I’m looking forward particularly to Countrybile, the new show from Elvis McGonagall.

Fair Pley’s innovative Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, also returns to the Stand in the Square with some more controversial proposals from academics — ban students from Edinburgh, anyone? This The Periodic Fable, a scientific panto for young and old.
The Periodic Fable
year the producers also target the younger element with

After last year’s Israeli company controversy, this year features at least two Palestinian events. Playwright David Greig has crowdfunded 12 Palestinian artists to visit the festival and perform in an all-day programme. And at the AR Mark Thomas and Mark Steel, along with Daniel Kitson and Ivor Dembina, get together for a Free Gaza fundraiser to provide front-line medical support for people in Gaza.

At the Book festival too, Ghada Karmi (How Does it Feel When You Can’t Go Home?) and Avi Shlaim (Why Israel's Problems Remain Real) deal with aspects of the Palestinian tragedy. It is heartening that these two are already sold out. My other favourite Spurs fan, John Crace is speaking on his parliamentary sketchwriting in Coalition Confidential. Marcus O'Dair discusses his biography of music legend, Robert Wyatt in From Soft Machine to Shipbuilding. A series of talks on the future of libraries promises some interesting speculations and Elvis McGonagall reappears in the Comic Verse session.

Elsewhere on the Fringe one of the most unlikely tribute bands of all time line up to rekindle the Captain! Orange Claw Hammer present - Beefheart and Cheeze!

Programmes with booking links are; Fringe -
International - and Book -

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