Saturday, 26 September 2009

Festival (Edinburgh)

Brief, synoptic rundown of things i saw, did, enjoyed, hated.

Art:
Jane & Louise Wilson "Unfolding the Aryan Papers" (Talbot Rice Gallery):
Stunning, visually overwhelming meditation on Stanley Kubrick's abortive "Aryan Papers" film, abandoned after months of pre-production and characteristically meticulous research by Kubrick. Repetitions and revisitations of history, archive and memory. Cinematic without being vacuuous. Images, both from Kubrick's archive and orchestrated by the artists that live long in the memory.

Eva Hesse "Studiowork" (Fruitmarket):
Lots been written about this, endless coverage and 5 star reviews. Fragile and enigmatic sculptures. Really interesting in terms of how these small experiments constitute "work"; masterclass in how process and practice rather than finished artifacts are the elements that artists themselves find most interesting/worthwhile. Or something.

Theatre:
The sound of my voice. Citizens Theatre adaptation of Ron Butlin's superb meditation on alcoholism. Intense stuff which possibly hewed a little too close to the text to let the production really come alive theatrically. The cramped setting heightened the tension as the narrator descends into a white knuckled, mud soaked alcoholic white out. Billy Mack's performance elevated things. I definitely preferred the book which permits sufficient shades of grey to allow you to begin to like the profoundly disfunctional protagonist.

Up. First play by a good friend of mine. About a man committed to an NHS psychiatric institution, replaying the circumstances of his commital to an unseen ward-mate. Funny as fuck and dark as pitch, a really successful meditation on mental illness, depression, sexuality and alienation. Really well written, thrilled (if a little jealous) of James for his success! Laurie Brown's performance was nothing short of astonishing, he got nominated for a Stage Award for it and well deserved it.

Books:

Tons of stuff as I was working as part of the childrens festival. For fun I saw...

The Moth: Baffling New York based storytelling night relocated to the Spiegeltent for one night only. I hated it while it was happening but was thinking about it for days afterwards. 4 storytellers got onstage and had to tell a 10 minute true story. Some were good. Some were awful. There was a definite disconnect between the american performers expectations and a characteristically sceptical Edinbugh audience with many pregnant pauses for applause lengthening into chasms of silence. Also, not entirely sure the atmosphere was helped by the setting, a large, billowing tent with every emergency vehicle in the city (and a military plane fly by for the tattoo) disrupting the vibe on a number of occasions, more suited to a darker, more atmospheric situation. Definite highlight was George Dawes Green's breathless Georgian saga.

Alasdair Gray: True to form Alasdair Gray departed from his brief to read from "Fleck" his adaptation of Faust to read from "Voices in the Dark". Magic, anarchic and occasionally infuriatingly digressive it was vintage Gravian fare. I got my copy of "The Book of Prefaces", Gray's amazing anthological history of introductions to a thousand years of literature inscribed to me by the man himself which was a massive, massive thrill!

Colm Toibin & Patrick McCabe: Two of my favourite writers on the same stage. Probably the most enjoyable hour I spent at the festival this year. Real knockabout fun, both authors have clearly done this before and managed to provided insight and entertainment despite disappointing chairing and an unavoidable "What does it mean to be Irish" line of questioning.
Audience seemed to be more interested in Toibin than McCabe but both writers engaged in a meaningful, if meandering discussion with one other. You can get the audio from the EIBF website. It's well worth a listen.

That's it for the time being...