Edinburgh Festival: Love, Lies and Volcanoes

The first weekend of the Edinburgh Festival threw up heartbreak, betrayal and a lot of geological history

Don’t come to Edinburgh this year during August if you’re a new singleton. Heartbreak seems to be a theme running through the Fringe. The number of shows I’ve seen so far with either a rocky new relationship or an unhappy old one is increasing day by day. At the Traverse, Rob Drummond’s In Fidelity explores whether we are programmed to be faithful whilst also setting up audience members on a first date. Daffodils, a piece with songs from New Zealand, tells the story of a marriage, from start to finish. Travesty – a new play by Liam Williams which I've heard good things about – also does a similar thing. Even Growth, Luke Norris’ new comedy, seems to be about testicular cancer but is really a story about a guy being dumped and trying to put his life back together.

Let’s not forget the brilliant Love, Lies and Taxidermy, a hilarious piece from Alan Harris on at the Roundabout stage at Summerhall. In fact, that piece – a co-production between Sherman Theatre, Clwyd Theatr and Paines Plough – has tapped into another subject that has popped up repeatedly, for me at least, over the first weekend of the Fringe: lies.

Political debate is always pretty healthy in Edinburgh over the month of August, but in theatre offerings this year it is the feeling of betrayal – of having been monumentally lied to – which characterises much of the political commentary. Mark Thomas calls the referendum a ‘campaign of lies’ in The Red Shed, while Katie Bonna in All The Things I’ve Lied About is prompted by the political deception of recent months to look at just how truthful a person she is. Where Bonna focuses more on her personal relationship with lies, muso-theatre-comedy duo Johnny and the Baptists aim for the jugular and mercilessly rip it out of politicians up and down the country while they perform their raucous, melodious show Eat The Poor about the poorest people in society.

Honestly though, even if you are heartbroken, the fringe is so vast that you would be able to find a play on pretty much anything (Dolphins? Gorillas? Babies?). And on Sunday heartbroken, angry, betrayed, and soggy festivalgoers came together – 27,000 of us, to be exact – to watch the opening event of the Edinburgh International Festival. We gathered in our kagools, our rucksacks on our backs, to look up at Edinburgh Castle and Castle Rock as brightly lit projections and lasers were blasted all over them to a soundtrack by Mogwai.

Deep Time was a monumental, awe-inspiring work created by 59 Productions. The piece was a carefully curated series of images and animations relating to time, to history, to Edinburgh's volcanic past. The rocks that tower over this remarkable city came alive with movement. We saw dinosaurs, David Hume and the city's current residents, we saw rivers of lava, fossils, faces and shapes towering over us. It reminded us that the biggest shifts in this land were not really made by man, but by rocks. By the earth itself. Though there is something quite scary about that, there is something quite hopeful about it too. A magical start to the festival.

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