Sunday, August 30, 2009

E-burgh, baby. E-burgh.

"I know, I've been neglecting you. I'm sorry. I don't mean to do it. Things just get out of hand sometimes, you know? I know I've said before that I would change, and that I haven't. Well, that's to be expected: people don't change. I won't ask for your forgiveness, because I don't want it. All I really want is your understanding. And your acceptance. This is just me, baby. Take me for the good and the bad. But when I'm not around, you gotta believe that I'm thinking about you. For reals."

If my blog and I were in a relationship, I'd do that little song and dance just above, and would hope it would hold us together till we got back from that mutual friend's destination wedding. After that though, all bets are off.

I know I haven't been around. The week in Scotland was a nice change of pace, caught some good theatre, caught some bad theatre, caught some things that I wouldn't necessarily label "theatre" ever, Ever, EVER. Here's a drive-by of what I did/saw on the trip:

Thursday, 13 August: Fly from Luton Airport (the silliest airport to ever have its own TV show), and land in Edinburgh with Amy, Max, and their friend from the states, Ashley (who was my awesome roomie during this trip). We took a bus into the city proper, then walked to our digs and headed out, looking for dinner. We ended up at probably the worst Indian restaurant I've ever been to, where the food was LONG in coming and then had no taste when it finally arrived. The only redeeming part of the evening was the terribly pornographic mural we ended up sitting under. Here it is:

(Those are Max and Amy's heads, cut off down there. They were feigning a pose so I could take this picture in a less obvious way.)

Friday, 14 August:
Walked up Royal Mile to the Hub, where the Edinburgh International Festival Centre is located to meet our friend Mauro, who was able to wrangle us some tickets for a couple shows. That evening we caught part of the Gate's Friel trilogy, his play Faith Healer. I love Brien Friel (Translations may in fact be my most favourite play), and was sad to have missed Faith Healer during its run on Broadway a couple seasons back, starring Ralph Fiennes as Frank Hardy, a traveling faith healer--part con man, part miracle worker. The acting in this current production was great, and of course the Friel dialogue was both real and poetic. The set design was a little disorienting, though. The play is delivered in four monologues, the first and the last from Frank, the second from his wife Grace, the third from his manager Teddy. As the play progresses, you realize two of the three speakers are dead. Each of the characters sits in a space that resembles a meeting hall (presumably where Frank would have performed a show), but is then given certain props and set pieces that places them in another, specific place. It was off putting to see such specific and detailed set dressing in an environment that appeared to otherwise act as a non-space, perhaps even a kind of limbo. It wasn't terrible--just curious, and little distracting somehow. Still, a nice opportunity to catch a traditional piece of theatre, something I haven't taken in too much of since I got here and began exploring the avant garde, the inventive, and the devised.

The Hub--home of the International Festival

After the show, we met Mauro for a drink at the bar of the Traverse Theatre, marking mine and Max's first foray into the world of good, Scottish whisky. Then Mauro took me off to the Assembly's Supper Club, a late night cabaret, where we took in a couple of acts. It was late by the time we got out, and I was hit with my traditional "late-night-drunken-hankering-for-fried-food." I told Mauro this, and he said, "Let's go to the Techno Chippy."

I present to you: "The Techno Chippy."

Above is the establishment we visited. Mauro's nickname for the chippy was due to the fact that there was a man DJing our eating a experience, on two turn tables, with hot techno music. You can see the sound system in the windows on the left. A very strange and wonderful place, Cafe Piccante has several locations (New Yorkers: go find yours) and offers a number of fried delights. Scotland is famous for its chippys, where you can take any number of food items in and request that they be submerged to crisp, greasy perfection. The most famous of these novelty normal-to-fried foods is of course the deep friend Mars Bar. Oh but yes. After devouring some pizza (not fried, alas!), I delved into my Mars Bar (which Max would later liken to, perhaps not completely inaccurately, a deep fried turd).

Oh, the disgusting goodness.

It really wasn't bad, I promise. It was a very satisfying way to end the first night of our adventure.

Saturday, 15 August:
Today we caught our first Fringe show, The Tale of Lady Stardust, another straight play, apparently written by a fellow Centralite on the MA writing course. It was a fun little show about a couple guys who thought David Bowie was a prophet. A nice afternoon. That evening we caught our second International production, Diaspora, a really lovely show that combined live music, projection, movement, short film, and acting in a discussion about personal identity and national heritage.

The ceiling of the Playhouse Theatre, where Diaspora was presented.

After the show, the group of us went back home to watch my very first zombie movie ever. I had bought a few at a nearby HMV to do research. That evening we watched the original Night of the Living Dead. The trailer reads kind of hilariously kitsch nowadays, and we laughed at the movie more than gasped I think it's fair to say. Still, I got into bed as quickly as possible that night, and made peace with the idea that if I was bitten, I hoped Max would have the decency to kill me quickly. I should mention that Max is pretty much a zombie expert. He helped me select all of the zombie films in my research arsenal, and discussed with me different kinds of zombies and their movement. He also taught me how to create an effective zombie escape plan--apparently he creates one of these for every home he lives in. Yes, my friends are pretty much brilliant (albeit occasionally strange).

Sunday, 16 August:
Got up early to go for a jog through the city, and attempt to get tickets to Barfly, a site-specific theatre piece that used a bunch of Bukowski short stories as its source material. A pretty perfect theatrical event for me (and yes: it was performed in a bar), but alas it was sold out. So I ended up wandering around the city before heading back to the flat, and stumbled upon Greyfriars cemetery. My mother and I used to go for drives, pull over at cemeteries and walk through them, reading the gravestones and making up stories about how the people died if a cause wasn't cited on the stone. It's something I still do today. Gravestones are such interesting things: the fact that a whole human life is meant to be represented by a piece of rock, that that is what's left for us to remember them by. But those things don't last, of course--many of the older cemeteries contain gravestones that have been totally eroded. It is such an effort spent in vain, like so many human acts. Very fascinating. I could go on about this forever, but I won't.

I've truly come home.

Anyway, spent some time there before walking back in the rain (it rained everyday we were there), and headed out later to the Scottish Whisky Experience with Max and Ashley. It was basically a tour (with a ride!) that taught you about the distillation process, the flavour difference between the four main regional sources for whisky (there was a tasting), and the Guiness World Record's Largest Whisky Collection. Seriously: there was a crap ton of whisky in this place.

Sampling some delights...

Ashley and Max offer a toast.

We left the SWE and met Amy at the Baked Potato Shop, where you can get a baked potato slathered in nearly any topping of your choice. It was a nice follow up to the afternoon spent drinking various whiskies. Then the three of us trekked up to the top of Arthur's Seat, and got a beautiful view over the whole of the city. It was wicked windy, but the rain held off while we were there, so it turned out to be a great hike.

("Such great heights...")

We climbed down the peak, grabbed dinner, and caught the Little Angel's Puppet Grinder Cabaret, which had been directed and featured an act by my puppetry course teacher.

Monday, 17 August:
Today we encountered the perils of festival going, when you have several shows grouped under one venue name, while that solitary name has in reality several locations. We ended up at the wrong spot and had to dash several blocks to make it just in time for Earnest and the Pale Moon. I really enjoyed this show. There were a lot of live action sound effects, the acting was really good, and it was just a fun time. There were a couple questions I had about a couple plot points, but generally it was just nice to see such effective story telling done so simply. It was a fine example that you can still succeed in making a piece of theatre with energetic actors and very little props, costumes, and sets. I would have found them a new lighting designer though. But I left the theatre feeling better than I had before I got there, and sometimes when a piece of theatre helps you enjoy an afternoon, it's gift enough.

That evening we caught Suckerville, a transplant from my own MA's Turbulence Festival back in June. It was interesting to see this piece simply because of how much it had changed. The play presented in Scotland was unrecognizable as the piece I had seen a couple months earlier, which just goes to show: you never really know at what point in a piece's development you're catching something. It's weird to think about that. Rowan Atkinson's great sketch, "A Small Rewrite" comes to mind.

Finally, to finish off the evening, I caught the fabulous Camille O'Sullivan. I must start by saying, I have the hugest lesbian crush on this woman, I would absolutely go gay for her, no question. She's an amazingly talented singer, has phenomenal presence, and a pretty killer wardrobe. I first heard her sing the first time I caught Absinthe at the Spiegeltent in New York. I had no idea who she was, but she sang a version of Jaques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas" that ripped my soul apart and has stayed with me for the past few years. A friend of mine recommended her show to me and I realized that she was the same singer I had heard oh so long ago, and I was determined to catch her. She had such an inviting and personable stage persona (this was probably aided by the fact that I also believe she was very drunk during her performance), and gave every song its due. In short (like her skirt), she was pretty much perfect. Thanks to the concert I now also have a recording of her "Ne Me Quitte Pas"--she didn't perform it, but I bought a CD afterwards. If they ever make a movie of her life, I would like to play her. That is all.

Tuesday, 18 August:
Because of the very random nature of the Fringe Festival, with shows coming from all over the world and at all different levels of skill and composition (and again, to use Suckerville as an example, at different stages of development), your experience doesn't seem truly complete until you see an awful, soul wrenching, maddeningly bad piece of theatre. Our last Fringe show filled this slot nicely, and how. It was called The Grind Show, and I won't even get into it. The good thing about seeing significantly bad theatre (truly) is that you remember what good theatre is, and what makes it good. It is absolutely a learning situation. The bond amongst the people you see it with also strengthens, too, by having jointly experienced such a huge amount of trauma. Still, that solace won't get me back the hour of my life stolen from me--that I paid to have stolen from me. My new rule for theatre festival going: No more student productions.*

*(And touching on that, briefly--I won't go see a revival at a festival either {And most revivals/Shakespeare plays done at festivals ARE student productions, FYI}. What is the point in seeing a revival of something in a FESTIVAL, that is usually meant to be about new, original work? It just seems silly.)

Spent the afternoon and evening with Mauro (who also accompanied us to The Grind Show--our bond is stronger than ever!), hopping from various Mexican restaurants (yes, they have those here), and then went home and watched another zombie movie. For the record, I watched all four zombie films over the course of that week, and they were as follows: Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, and 28 Days Later. I can now say I really like zombie movies, and am sad that I've missed them for this long. However, I still don't think I'm brave enough to watch something like Dead Snow, a movie about Nazi zombies--at least not brave enough to watch it by myself. Any volunteers?

Wednesday, 19 August:
Our last day in Edinburgh, we took it pretty easy. I did a little more zombie research (this was less research, and more me watching every DVD extra on Shaun of the Dead), Amy, Max and I grabbed dinner, caught our flight, and landed that evening back in Lon-don-towne, ready to ease our way back into our normal, sadly less theatre filled lives.

That was a rather large nutshell, and you should be commended for getting through this entry. I'd commend myself for writing it, but considering how long it took me to post it, I won't. Happy?

1 comment:

The Kid In The Front Row said...

that picture of food does really not look good at all.