Edinburgh Theatre

The year 2015-2016 was a big year for me, coming to Edinburgh after working in the Middle East for several years. One of the first things I did was visit the Festival Theatre, where I fell in love with modern dance (I hate dancing, so don’t switch off if you are also not a dancer). Although I intend to continue visiting the Festival, I will also be trying out other venues, for modern dance, drama, ballet and opera.

The Festival’s Last Hours

The Festival’s Last Hours

They call it the gloaming, as something more than just a synonym for dusk. That special light, at once melancholy and life-affirming, it's a mood where people sit outside and watch the last of the light disappearing, and know that when they go back indoors, it's over. You close the curtains, and the last breath for doing something is gone for another day.

I attended bits of the Edinburgh Festival, not as much as I could or should have (12 acts altogether, out of . . . but who knows?). It was my first time here, starting some three weeks ago at midnight, with a likeable one-woman cabaret. Then progressing to Teatro Delusio and the modern dance of Grace, the Festival's two highlights for me. People said it was over on Sunday, and for the most part it was. I pored through that massive catalogue with the S&M owl on its cover and found some acts that lingered into Monday, like the last of the daylight. Credit card out, a series of bookings: Terra Incognita (theatrical modern dance), Gobsmacked! (singing), Cut (dark, unsettling one-woman show), and Wild Thing (one-man show about the actor Oliver Reed). All of them delivered, glad I went out on a splurge.

I loved this day, from afternoon to late night when it ended. The streets suddenly much emptier, the Pleasance Courtyard with more staff than tourists, and George Square basking in its first sunny silence for several weeks. Bar staff bantering with each other. Three of the shows ended with a warm thank-you from the performers to their sound-and-light team, and an audience applauding on behalf of everyone who'd attended these acts. On the faces of the performers, exhausted smiles, shining exhilarated eyes, a knowledge that the stress and hard work had come to fruition and they could finally fall on their knees and enjoy a primal scream. Or a drink. I wonder if the performances differed, looser this time? A 'let's get this over with, one last time' kind of effort, with the pressure off?

I could never do what they do, the closest for me is teaching a long day of classes, when you're about to go into the last one, thinking, 'let's get this over with, one last time.' Of course it doesn't compare, the pressure these people are under, the way they expose their inner-most talent and art and accompanying vision. Performers of the Festival, I salute you all.

I enjoyed the last act most, the Oliver Reed portrayal. It was ten o'clock at night by then, as I made my way under the lights of George Square, those food stalls still open, but barely any customers. For those who don't know of the actor Oliver Reed, he's probably most famous now for being in the movie Gladiator that made Russell Crowe so famous, Reed playing the manager of the slaves. He died during the filming of it, famously so, in a bar, drinking. He'd become a drunkard, from the late seventies more famous for his chat-show embarrassments than his films. But I remember him too in the definitive Musketeer films of Dick Lester in the 70s, Athos or Porthos, still those brooding, smouldering looks. Yes, he might have made a good James Bond. A talented, handsome English Brando, perhaps. It was the perfect show to end the Festival, the actor was marvellous, spraying us with beer and obscenities.

The following morning, I continued the moving of stuff from student halls to my new apartment. On my way back, I took the route along the Meadows, maybe my favourite walk in all of Edinburgh, along those fabulous apartments of Quarter Mile on the left, and the Meadows park on the right. The sun was shining, and where Festival buildings had been, patches of yellow grass remained. I entered George Square, no tourists anymore, but lots of people with helmets disassembling inflated tents and stands and fences. The sun was shining, a new day, and whatever melancholy I'd felt as I walked away the previous night alone had gone.

Richard Alston Dance Company
Teatro Delusio (Pleasance, Grand)


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Sunday, 25 August 2019

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