This year the common theme that threads together my Fringe faves has been some fiercely fantastic females. I’ll be honest this has been a year where I wasn’t drawn in to seeing as many shows as normal but what I did see was, for the most part, cracking. The following is my list of absolute favourites from this year’s Fringe.
Josephine – Theatre
One woman cabaret that takes us along the journey of a significant woman in history’s life. Josephine Baker has always fascinated me. Partly because of the allure of the 1920’s, partly because she was a dancer and partly because she pushed boundaries in a very restrictive time for both woman and POC. Tymisha Harris is a tour de force in this one woman show serving us a magnetic and charismatic portrayal that is just mesmerising. She acts the heck out of this role, which was obviously very well researched, and smashes it with gorgeous vocals and great dance. I loved the writing, the performance, the choreography and the costumes – an absolute gem in a Gilded Balloon black box. So glad caught this one and it prompted me to buy some books about Josephine so I can find out more. They have a wee teaser video here if you want a better idea of what it was like…
Unfortunate – Musical Theatre
This was the very first show I saw this Festival and although it was the very first night of previews, this cast were so on it. It is a well written parody that throws the perspective onto Ursula’s in The Little Mermaid, and they very much give her the Elphaba in Wicked treatment whilst throwing shade at Disney’s lack of representation. It is a tight show with gorgeous voices, costumes and puppets and some clever writing. I died laughing a couple of times and really got into it. It is the perfect show for grown ups who grew up with the Disney film classic but are ready to get real. What a cracker of a show – so much fun! I think I’ve spent the entire month encouraging pals to get their tickets.
Tokyo Rose – Musical Theatre
When it comes to the Fringe there are two sort of levels for shows – the first shows new works where people are trying out new material, testing it on audiences and may well be full of incredible potential that can be really exciting but that still has some ways to go. Then there are the pieces of work that are so far developed they feel truly like they’re already professional productions that just happen to be performing in a damp cave in Edinburgh. In this case, Tokyo Rose is the latter. It is a really strong piece of new writing that is so slick it feels like you’ve hit the Fringe jackpot. I can really see how a piece like this could be developped into a fully-fledged West End show given the right support. It tells the story of an American woman who gets stuck in Japan during the war and, in her attempts to survive, is accused of treason against the US. Tokyo Rose has a Hamilton-esque vibe about it, telling history in layers, truncated timelines, smooth transitions between settings and characters on a simple stage and a quick script. The cast are incredible, they are so goddamn energetic in every single way. It’s balls to the wall from start to finish and, my god, do they have some powerhouse voices. So glad I got to see this gem.
Myra Dubois – Comedy
I am not usually one for comedy, especially at the Fringe (it feels like too much of a risk), but last year I got a taste of Dubois in The Little Death Club variety show. She brought a whole lot of joy, especially to my friend Bruno and so I knew we should go to see the whole thing this year. I have never laughed so much in one hour in my life. It was on a much needed day off from festival working so maybe I was delirious with exhaustion, maybe it was because she kept picking on Bruno, maybe I’m just trying to justify it, but holy hell Myra Dubois is quite the entertainer. This woman takes us through her own funeral from eulogy to sermon, prayers and song. Utterly self indulgent and often taken off route by audience distractions but it was incredible. We will definitely keep coming back for more.
Another festival draws to an end, as always it’s been a great time but now we’re all tired and ready for Edinburgh to be in its hungover September phase. I’ve put a lot of this year’s time into the International Festival (obviously) and so Fringe took a bit of a back seat but it’s still been a great time. I’ll definitely be carrying this experience forward and trying to look outside of just the Fringe in future years. There are 4 other festivals to enjoy too!
If you’d like to read about my experience working with EIF or what my favourite International Festival productions were then click here.
Baby Reindeer by Richard Gadd – Theatre
Okay, so this one isn’t actually about a fierce lady but it is about a bravely honest man and definitely one of the best things I saw this year. I had to think about this one a lot before I could figure out how I wanted to explain it. It left me really unsettled and disturbed, which means it did its job really. Richard Gadd is a comedian and in this show, sure he tells some jokes, but it’s more about his brutal honest storytelling of a very damaging personal time. He tells the story of his being stalked by a woman and how mental it got and how much the police were useless because it was a man being abused by a woman, rather than the other way around. It was such a tense time, I hardly breathed because I was so in it. It refreshing to see someone be so honest, talking frankly about their thoughts and feelings. That transparency had me on his side throughout and I felt a little sick for him as everything unfolded. Besides the content, the production was put together in such a smart way, using three way projection in the circular space, a tiny revolving plate so he could speak and be seen by the audience, beyond slight sound and lighting cues to enhance the drama and excitement of the piece. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I’m so glad to have got a ticket. If you, in any way, get a chance to see this, do it.