Packing 'em in today. I got to see the show at the filmhouse where I was volunteering earlier because not everyone who booked showed up (this is depressingly common for the free shows - it's still courtesy to cancel guys). It's the first show I've seen before midday. Like I said, mornings are not the one.
It's called "Blind Cinema". Donning a blindfold, you experience the show through audio description by children. The children sit behind you and whisper a description of the unfolding events through a device not too far removed from the old plastic cup and string telephones; Similar, but a little more inventive, allowing one child to talk to two audience members at once. The children have never seen the movie before, there is no dialogue and from their descriptions, it sounds like a very arty, surreal film. Actually, I'd quite like to have seen it after to compare with the movie in my mind (points for getting the reference).
I thought this deprivation of sight was a fairly unique idea when I saw "Fiction" at the Pleasance Dome (where I am now charging my phone, incidentally) way back at the beginning of the festival, but it turns out... not so much. I've spoken to a few people who've been to similar shows and "Blind Cinema" was definitely in the same vein - sense deprivation, the whispered voice, the disjointed, dream-like narrative. This was a bit more personal, though, given the children were actually present, sitting right behind you and in the moment.
The children rotate to other audience members throughout the film. My favourite was the first one though and had to laugh at "he takes out a small white ball from his pocket..... It may be an egg. ........... it's an egg." Still laughing now.
Next was "Cleansed" at C Nova. I knew this was a Sarah Kane show when I booked it, so was steeled for some heavy, depressing, weird stuff.
It was all those things but what I wasn't prepared for is how well this company grabs your attention and keeps it locked in their grip. The space is little more than a black box, adorned with just 2 chairs and it doesn't matter. Your focus is on these damaged characters the entire time.
I can't pretend to completely understand the complexities of this show. I feel like there's a lot to unpack and the nature of the fringe is there is little time for reflection.
There is an audio clip played toward the end of Kane herself giving an interview in which she states there is nothing depraved about her imagination - It's all stuff that's in the news but "with the boring bits taken out". There is violence and gore aplenty in this show. Fake blood washes the stage by the end. There is a scene where a boy is made to eat chocolate till he is sick. One audience member couldn't quite stomach this and had to leave looking quite panic stricken as she clambered over other audience members like a ticking vomit bomb... she returned sheepishly later with a glass of water and stayed near the door!
Next - "I Am Beast" at Pleasance Courtyard, in the same venue where I saw the play "Molly" exactly a week ago. This show attracted me as it offered many elements that I look for - fantasy lands, puppets, new writing, super heroes and villains. It was on the list AND it was half price.
I really enjoyed the general story and rich script. I just wish the puppet hadn't had a voice - a speaking voice that is. "Cell" showed beautifully how voice can be given to a puppet, wordlessly. I understand why it was needed as it was a vehicle for the central characters personal revelation but I think it could have been thought out more creatively for better impact. Also the puppets appearances didn't feel organic. I like the puppetry for the purpose, I just think it needs more work.
Next - "Man to Man" at Underbelly Potterrow. I so wanted to love it. It's Welsh (Wales Millennium Centre/ Frantic Assembly) and had rave reviews. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling it. The set, the lighting, the projection are beautiful and all get top marks. The solo actress is incredible as the woman living as a man for necessity and has an admirable army of accents up her sleeve. She gets top marks too. Where this failed for me was at the scripting level. So, so many words. I drifted away in my head at one point to what I was going to see next and what I was going to eat. For me to be thinking about food, it has to be really quite boring. This script could do with a 'kill your darlings' attitude from the script writer and a ruthless edit.
Finally - "Joanna Neary: Faceful of Issues". This was a whimsical choice. On walking past the Assembly Rooms yesterday, I decided I needed to see more shows at this venue. After so many serious plays today, I needed some light relief - which I'm happy to say I found in this quirky little show. Neary's character, Celia, is taking her "Toxborough Village Hall Chat Show" out on the road to raise money for a kitten who needs an iron lung. It really does have the vibe of being at a friendly, church hall gathering - yes, there is interaction but everyone is so laid back in that space, its not threatening at all. Nor is it an attack of character, as with so many comedians...It's simply a pleasant chat. There's something a bit Vicar of Dibley meets Miranda about this character comedy, which is a mix that very much appeals to me. It takes place in a cosy studio space, ideal for the show, and she even thanked us at the end for "taking a chance on someone you've never heard of".
Tomorrow, I've taken on an extra volunteer shift to cover Volcano's show between 1.30 - 3.30, smack bang in the middle of the day, but I will get some more shows in, ready for tomorrows 'what's hot wednesday'. So far, this week, I can't see a clear forerunner, so who knows who'll place where.... dun dun DUN. The excitement is too much, isn't it? ;)