I love the Fringe. I love the bustle, the excitement, the intoxicating chaos of it all. I even sort of love the thrill of writing frantically to deadline. But there are moments when it's also blissful to escape for a few moments, to take a pause in the midst of all the madness.
If it's possible to do so while also experiencing a show, even better. Amongst the many different theatrical experiences that Edinburgh offers for the length of August, there are usually a few that briefly extract theatregoers from the relentless rush of the festival and create a calm, intimate space apart. Last year – for me at least – it was Unfinished Business' piece Only Wolves and Lions, which gathered a group of strangers to cook and eat together. Simple, you might think, but surprisingly restorative.
This year, that respite comes in the form of Greg Wohead's Hurtling. Playing offsite as part of Forest Fringe's Edinburgh offering, the headphone performance for one at a time takes place on the side of Carlton Hill, overlooking Leith. Within an aptly fleeting structure, Wohead asks us to reconsider our experiences of time, demonstrating the impossibility of ever truly being in the present. Hurtling also offers one of the most heart-pumping moments of connection you're likely to find in a piece of performance, but experienced over a poignantly unbridgeable gulf. I walk back down the hill seeing the city and my movement through it with different eyes.
"I find it's emotion that's really getting me this year"
Hurtling is not the only piece of theatre getting audiences to take a bit of time out. Earlier in the week, I'm charmed by Somebody I Used to Know, which invites a single audience member to eat sweets, swig rum and think about friendships past while hidden away in a cosy den opposite Assembly Roxy. It's a slight slip of a show, but I find it remarkably calming.
I regret, meanwhile, that I had to miss Brian Lobel's Forest Fringe piece, in which audience members are invited, one by one, to snuggle up in bed with Lobel, watch Sex and the City and reflect on their own relationships. Then there's Verity Standen's Hug (Forest Fringe again), which intriguingly promises an "immersive choral bath". I can't wait to experience it for myself later this week.
Elsewhere, I find it's emotion that's really getting me this year. Chris Goode's extraordinary Men in the Cities leaves me feeling shaken and hollowed out, its anger and tenderness making a potent cocktail. I cry during Clara Brennan's upsetting yet galvanising Spine, while the sheer beauty of Return to the Voice at St Giles Cathedral almost moves me to tears again. And during an early showing of Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburn's new show, a piece looking at mental health, my eyes prickle once more. Maybe I need another break already.
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- Edinburgh Fringe
- Edinburgh Festival
- Forest Fringe
- Assembly Roxy
- Catherine Love
- Bryony Kimmings
- Chris Goode
- Verity Standen
- Clara Brennan
- Brian Lobel
- Greg Wohead
- Somebody I Used to Know
- Return to the Voice