One of the joys of returning to the Fringe year on year is checking in again with the same companies and artists. As well as being an opportunity to encounter new theatre-makers, the festival is a chance to revisit those whose work has become familiar, to see where they are now and how their shows mutate in the weird, wonderful context of the Fringe.
In my first year coming up to Edinburgh I stumbled almost by accident upon Fat Git Theatre, a company of Warwick graduates who had created a surreal, unsettling adaptation of the Peter Mortimer novella Uninvited. They had a style that immediately stuck out amongst the other emerging work I was seeing, and I've been making a point of coming back to see what they're up to at the Fringe in the two years since.
This year's show, Winky, is another adaptation. The short story by George Saunders that provides the company's material is typically quirky, combining a sharp satire of self-help and consumerism with a strange, fractious and yet somehow endearing relationship between two siblings. It's not quite the step up for the company that I was hoping for, but it's worth going to for the opening motivational speech piss-take alone.
One company who are unafraid of reinventing themselves on the Fringe are Theatre ad Infinitum. I first saw them with Translunar Paradise, a wordless and heartbreaking meditation on grief, which they followed up with a daring drag cabaret about Israeli identity. Light, a sci-fi dystopia set in a world where thoughts are regularly policed, is equally bold in its aesthetic, but for me it's quite a way from the company's best.
"One of my favourite experiences is to follow work through from early scratch to final performance"
Secret Theatre's A Series of Increasingly Impossible Acts, which I've already mentioned on here, is a show that begs to be returned to, as is Barrel Organ's excellent Nothing (a title that's causing no small amount of confusion at the Summerhall box office). I first caught this bleak but brilliant series of eight intercut monologues by Lulu Raczka at this year's National Student Drama Festival and took loads more from it on a second viewing here in Edinburgh, as different thoughts and moments tugged on my mind.
It's also been a treat to go back to Forest Fringe, the artist-run fringe of the Fringe, and see how they are settling into their second year in the Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Leith. It's a shame that the festival within (or without) a festival is such a trek from the rest of the action, but its new home is an oasis of calm amid the chaos of everything else, briefly and gently holding audiences – sometimes literally, in the case of Verity Standen's gorgeous, intimate Hug.
Finally, and as I've noted in the past, one of my favourite experiences as both critic and audience member is to follow work through from early scratch to final performance. Ellie Stamp's Are You Lonesome Tonight? and Sh!t Theatre's (decidedly not shit) Guinea Pigs on Trial, sharing an afternoon slot on alternate days at Summerhall, are both shows that I saw very early versions of at The Yard in London. They have developed into a pair of fun, inventive and knotty pieces of theatre, more than repaying the return visit.
FOR MORE ON EDINBURGH 2014 VISIT WHATSONSTAGE.COM/EDINBURGH-FESTIVAL
- Edinburgh Fringe
- Edinburgh Festival
- Secret Theatre
- Forest Fringe
- Catherine Love
- Translunar Paradise
- Theatre Ad Infinitum
- Verity Standen
- Barrel Organ
- Ellie Stamp
- Lulu Raczka
- Sh !t Theatre