ED FRINGE 2023 REVIEWS: AN OAK TREE, ANYTHING THAT WE WANTED TO BE, GUSH, HOW TO FLIRT: THE TED XXX TALK, POLKO, YOU ARE GOING TO DIE
LYCEUM STUDIO, ROYAL LYCEUM THEATRE
A theatre experience unlike any other, Tim Crouch’s An Oak Tree first premiered at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe back in 2005; every performance is a unique experience, with a chosen participant, decided way before we enter the theatre, and told that they will be in safe hands with Tim; he’ll feed them lines, they'll read from sections of a script they've never seen before, but their movements, thoughts, and feelings will be organic to the performer; Outgoing Chief Exec and Artistic Director of The National Theatre, Rufus Norris, was that participant for our performance. Being told he would be portraying a 6ft tall man was not too dissimilar to his own structure, and the way he was at ease with Tim Crouch on stage made for a relaxing experience for us too, as the idea of the show isn’t to embarrass the unknowing individual, but to nurture their experience. No comments here about the story itself, as going in blind allows you to feel exactly how Rufus Norris felt in this performance, but its tale of hypnotism and family trauma will surely bring raw emotions to those witnessing the production for the first time.
ANYTHING THAT WE WANTED TO BE ★★★★
CAIRNS LECTURE THEATRE, SUMMERHALL
Adam wasn’t always on track to be a theatre director, in fact, he was once studying to be a doctor, and if that pathway had move forward and he found himself becoming one, the diagnosis back in 2019 surrounding his Melanoma cancer might have been caught much earlier, but in the height of Adam’s success in the arts at the time, he shrugged off the patch on his back following a similar case earlier in his childhood, that turned out to be nothing too serious. Anything That We Wanted to Be charts the story thousands of days before, and a few weeks following the Melanoma diagnosis, with Lenson at times playing us songs that emphasise the emotions that he was feeling at the time, with heartfelt responses from the audience. More informative than most plays this Edinburgh Fringe that tracks back to real-life experiences, there’s humour to Adam’s writing and performance, which has a littered backdrop of cables and wires from Libby Todd's set design that comes to life at moments of the show, and old black boxed TV monitors that paint us an image of 2019, the circumstances surrounding Adam’s cancer, and looking into the idea of the multiverse.
THE CRATE, ASSEMBLY GEORGE SQUARE
There’s a pin drop silence that comes over the audience of Gush nearing the end of the performance, that stays until the final moments, and it’s a strange shift when minutes earlier we’re chucking away at Neil, the plumber who has come to fix the leak in our venue. Neil, taking the opportunity of a lifetime, tries out some of the most questionable comedy skits of this year’s fringe, to some great results, but it always feels like a ruse for a much deeper conversation, one that does come to light, and leaves you genuinely breathless of thoughts. Performed entirely by Abby Vicky-Russell, Gush is the underdog of this year’s fringe, and packs an emotional punch.
HOW TO FLIRT: THE TED XXX TALK ★★★★
UPSTAIRS, ASSEMBLY ROXY
It's been a long since I was in education, or have felt the need to date, but I was more than happy to sit in on a TED X style talk on the subject, however, what I did not expect to experience was larger than life Steve Porters giving us the mainstream, Gen-Z dating advice in such spectacular fashion. Whether you are familiar with the online persona brought together by Daisy Doris May or not, you needn’t to worry, as whilst there are moments of audience participation, you are allowed to say no, ‘and that’s okay’ as the audience will respond if the case. Whilst Steve Porters might be man flexing for the ladies in the room, their personality comes across charming and likeable rather than crude, making you at ease, but also laughing with embarrassment at the actions Porter actions as he educates us about the acronym, BIRDS. A small crowd in for this performance, but with more online presence, I can see Daisy Dois May’s becoming the next Catherine Tate.
There’s a feeling of numbness in Angus Harrison’s Polko, set in a second-hand car, with reclined seats that leave a remnant of Mcdonalds fries wedged in the creases, that holds the show in this late morning slot at Roundabout. Whilst the three characters we meet have feelings of loneliness and desperation to be liked, the tension doesn't seem to budge any further than a tantrum; it teases us with some roadblocks, but the script never wants to change the gear. As the three main cast, Rosie Dwyer, John Macneill and Elliot Norman give us the most naturalistic caricatures, with Macneill in particular pulling us in with a gut-wrenching monologue regarding an online romance, but with the main story beats being fed to us through exposition, rather than us finding it through the silences, it’s Luca Panetta’s lighting which fills the domed auditorium the most with emotive movement, and lets us loose into the outside world, leaving us with a mellowed heart.
YOU ARE GOING TO DIE ★★
OLD LAB, SUMMERHALL
The second show of this year’s fringe to see a microphone being retrieved from a toilet, there’s moments of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads that seep through Adam Scott-Rowley’s YOU ARE GOING TO DIE, as we cycle through a handful of characters who all seem to be cut off from one another, in this absurdist, unfearful production. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what brings all the characters we are presented with together, and whilst there is some humour in the man who is stuck in a well, or the gentleman who is about to sing about life, you can’t help but feel disturbed by the full frontal nudity of the person we first meet, the joker on the pack, which sets the tone at the start of the play. We must say that the nudity is not the issue here, as the way Scott-Rowley expresses themselves, with body paint draped over them, leaves a lasting effect, but with such a high standard of work being presented at Summerhall this year, you can’t help but feel a little dumbfounded and short changed for the hour spent in the presence of the man.