Don’t believe what you may read about the Festival being taken over by comedy — there were over 1,200 dramatic works on offer this year! I was obviously only able to see a small fraction but can attest to the quality of many being better than in previous years.
It was an arduous task, making a short list from my long list — and then choosing just one show. My Award went to “The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk” by the brilliant director, Emma Rice, written by Daniel Jamieson, from the Cornwall company, Kneehigh. It’s about Marc Chagall and his beloved Bella’s relationship and his art, their love, the background of the war in Belarus and Paris — all explored in Emma’s inimitable visual style accompanied by Ian Ross’s magical melodies — the piece is pure heaven!
Then, since Kneehigh’s schedule is tight, and NY theatres are generally programming ahead a couple of years, I wanted to bring a show this year and had an excuse to give a second Award. The show which will be coming to New York in June is “Borders” by Henry Naylor, a brilliant British playwright. Henry was just profiled in a two-page spread in The London Times. In this, his most recent work, he parallels two lives: a pregnant artist trying to flee Syria, and a successful London photographer trying to flee his shallow existence. “Borders” will hold you from the very first elegantly written line.
The other bright piece of news about the 2017 Fringe — there were well-crafted productions from 62 different countries — a sign that governments believe in, and will subsidize, Edinburgh showcases for their artists.
There were fine pieces from China, Canada, Belgium, and South Africa, to name but a few. The Chinese Minister of Culture said their artists were impressed by the style of physical theatre not seen in China, so several came to Edinburgh to learn. This year, “The Dreamer” proved they learned very well, indeed — it’s a gorgeous work.
I sat next to the Argentine Minister of Culture at a play, by chance, who was proud to be presenting two pieces at the Festival. He was also looking for work to bring back — the one he fell for was “The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk,” which he’ll be translating for a Buenos Aires production! What a coincidence!
The Canadian selections were terrific – “Mouthpiece,” a work about a woman, played by two, attempting to write a eulogy for her mother. The conflicting views play out with text, movement, and a versatile bathtub! Also, the astounding “Cirkopolis,” a beautiful circus/theatre piece based on the film “Metropolis,” again shows that our Northern neighbor is evidently nurturing excellent work.
Belgium has produced interesting, avantgarde work in Edinburgh for the last ten years. One standout this year was “Lies,” which recreated a blackjack casino where we played and discovered how the world’s assets could be gambled away — an indelible lesson in international finance!
South Africa brought six well-received productions, one a reprise — “Mies Julie,” which has been touring the world since winning my Award and running at St. Ann’s in 2009. The same cast was back, in one of the largest Fringe venues, again selling out!
If all this is enticing, please join me next August for the Fringe’s 72nd celebration! Now however, I must return to New York to report on its Fall’s season.
I’m certain to have missed a lot while away, so please email with any information to help me catch up — see you soon, at the theatre!
Carol Tambor publishes a monthly newsletter, which announces worthy shows coming to New York, along with occasional information about London theatre and, of course, the Edinburgh Fringe.