2005 Edinburgh Fringe Opens This Weekend, 7 AugDate: 5 August 2005
The 2005 Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, gets under way in the Scottish capital this weekend (See News, 9 Jun 2005). The 59th annual event - featuring myriad productions inspired by the ongoing ‘War on Terror’ and other provocative subjects - opens this Sunday 7 August 2005 and continues until 29 August, during which time some 26,995 performances of 1,799 different shows (more than a third of which are world premieres) will be presented by an estimated 16,191 performers.
Theatre once again proves the festival’s most popular art form, comprising 37% of the programme (653 shows). Amongst the War on Terror productions are: Guardians, Mahwaff Theatre’s imagining of the truth behind the shocking images of at Abu Ghraib and Volcano’s My Pyramids, the story of Private Lynndie England, court-martialled for her involvement in abuse at the prison. In Our Diaries, from Stars of Bethlehem, Palestinian girls recall life during the Second Intifada, while Arches Theatre Company’s Snuff brings the War on Terror to Scotland. Solo shows tackling similar subject matter include War, Terror and Other Fun Stuff by European Muslim Omar Marzouk, American Andrew J Lederer’s examination of the Bush administration Me and Hitler and Briton David Benson’s Conspiracy Cabaret.
Elsewhere in the theatre programme, other notable productions include: the New York hit about innocent prisoners on Death Row, The Exonerated; Guy Masterson’s revival of The Odd Couple, starring comedians Alan Davies and Bill Bailey; Shopping and Fucking author Mark Ravenhill making his professional acting debut playing a screenwriter in a Paines Plough production of his own new play, Product; Martha Loves Michael, The Day They Shot John Lennon, Billy Holiday (sic) and We Love You Arthur, about fan obsessions with, respectively, Michael Jackson, the former Beatle, Billie Holiday and Arthur Scargill; domestic violence play Cage, in which a carcass is cut up in front of the audience; and Lorelei, recounting a mother’s campaign to save her daughter’s murderer from execution.
As usual, the Fringe also features no end of unusual venues and shows. Amongst the quirkier site-specific productions: Chamber Made is performed in Room 206 of the Caledonian Hilton Hotel where a maximum of six audience members can check in at once; Charity Begins at Home takes place in a Barnardo’s shop; an adaptation of Jim Crace’s novel The Devil’s Larder is staged at Debenham’s; and in the promenade street production of Edinburgh’s Love Tour, Rosemary and Steven’s romance sours on a walking tour of the city where they first fell in love.
Interestingly, many of this year’s most controversial shows are in the musical genre, which comprises 5% of the overall schedule, equating to 90 musicals, 15 of them original works tackling topical subjects. They include: the tongue-in-cheek tale Terrorist the Musical from Bad Penny Theatre; Daniel X Opera’s Manifest Destiny following an Al-Qaeda love story which ends in Camp X-Ray; New Yorker Napua Davoy’s The Brighter Side of Alzheimer’s about her own mother’s battle with the disease; the high-camp theological comedy Apocalypse: The Musical; the Evil Twins’ LHO: Lee Harvey Oswald, giving a view of John F Kennedy’s assassin through the eyes of his mother; Murder in the Heart, a retelling of the Yorkshire Ripper killings; and Mikey the Pikey and Asbo’s, defences of Chavs and those receiving Anti-social behaviour orders.
Commenting on this year’s programme, Fringe director Paul Gudgin said: “The widespread use of current, political and war-related themes demonstrates that while spectacular, fun and energetic, the Fringe never ignores the real world but tackles it head on, in many diverse and creative ways.”
More than half a million people plan their August holidays each year around a trip to Edinburgh. Though commonly seen as one single festival, the event is in reality several different festivals - the main ones being the original Edinburgh International Festival (running this year from 14 August to 4 September 2005), the Edinburgh Fringe, the Military Tattoo, the Jazz Festival, the Film Festival and the Book Festival - of which the Fringe is, by far, the largest.
- by Terri Paddock