Category Archives: Edinburgh Fringe

My Week In Writing (21/08/17)

20170807_220847Obligatory reminder that Shoreline of Infinity 8 1/2 is on sale right now, for the low low price of £10!

That shameless shill aside: this week I went to the launch event for, you guessed it, Shoreline of Infinity 8 1/2. Listened to some strange and fascinating music, heard some great sci-fi and fantasy from authors in the book, heard some bad jokes, the usual.

I also had the very strange experience of hearing my own work performed – apparently it was a last minute addition to the closing musical performance, so I found out as the performance was in progress.

My thought process was something along the lines of: 1) which story is this? 2) this isn’t very good. 3) Wait a minute. 4) Is this my story?

It was performed by Atzi and the Reverse Engineer, who do, respectively, sensational cello and ambient techno. A very strange, very atmospheric bit of music and ambient sound. They made my story sound way better than I wrote it. Go see them perform, if you were have the opportunity, because they were fantastic and also super friendly!

In other news: I have a job interview coming up this week, which I am most definitely not prepared for.

I’m now editing chapter eleven of thirteen of my novel, so this round of edits should be done fairly soon. I feel like this section probably drags a bit, but cuts are in the next round so I shan’t worry about that just yet!

While I’m talking (very regularly) about Shoreline of Infinity, they also have an upcoming flash fiction contest, which I’m hoping to enter, if I can come up with an ide.a Details here.

I finished reading The Thirteen Guests, which I found a little exposition-y, but it had a solid final twist (and ultimately, surprisingly little murder). I’m now reading The Dark Side of the Sun, largely out of interest in Terry Pratchett’s early work, but I’m actually enjoying it far more than I expected.

Other that that, if I’m going to be brutally honest, I’ve not been doing much at all. Here’s to a more productive week ahead.



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Fringe 2017 Reviews: Julius Caesar (With Pirates)

fde992_527ef8796fe0460f800cb789ce6bd666~mv2There’s mutiny afoot on the pirate ship, Rome.  Fresh from his victory over former captain Pompey, Caesar’s tyrannical command causes unrest amongst the crew. A mutiny supported by first mate Brutus might help restore democracy to the ship, if greed and in-fighting don’t get the better of the mutineers’ good intentions.

This is the second production I’ve seen by Some Kind of Theatre. Last year’s Steampunk Tempest was a little rough around the edges, but inventive, funny, and ultimately true to the source material.

I’m surprised they chose Julius Caesar as a follow-up – if I had to guess, I’d have expected them to stick with the comedies, not tackle one of Shakespeare’s heaviest plays. The other productions of Julius Caesar at the fringe this year include an all-female production described as ‘relevant and gritty’ and a production set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.

Some Kind of Theatre takes a totally different route, presenting Julius Caesar – with PIRATES! And you know what? I’m all for it. It’s fun, it’s irreverent, and the soothsayer is a talking parrot.

Aesthetically, for the scale of the production it looks great. It’s part of Some Kind of Theatre’s Shakespeare on the Sofa project, portable productions designed to fit into any venue, intended to make Shakespeare accessible to a wider audience.

The storybook backdrop is ingenious, simple but very effective, and the piratical aesthetic is very slick. If you’re smart enough you don’t need a whole lot to make a real impression. It’s a nicely choreographed, visually appealing, concise little production.

The concept of Julius Caesar as a pirate captain is an interesting one – sailing the ship of state, perhaps? Ha. There is some cognitive dissonance from the fact that the characters are now ostensibly outlaws rather than the state government, but given what a light-hearted production it is, I’m willing to let that slide.

I was pleased to see that, silly as the premise is, they didn’t shy away from the play’s darker moments – despite the talking parrot and the swashbuckling swordfights, it’s still a story about politics and murder, and the bloody heart of it comes through.

Julius Caesar has (I gather) a complicated plot and a lot of characters and for the most part they’ve done a good job of condensing it down into an hour and the minimum of players. However, I was a bit uncomfortable the resulting handling of Mark Antony.

In this production, Mark Antony is a woman – and Caesar’s wife, combined with the character of Calpurnia. On one level, the gender flip is a bit of a masterstroke.

When Mark Antony is a woman, you get a story in which Caesar’s murderers don’t expect any retribution because they’d never expect Mark Antony to declare war on them. They let her speak at Caesar’s funeral because they assume they can control her. The line Your voice shall be as strong as any man’s /In the disposing of new dignities takes on a whole new meaning.

But did she really have to be Caesar’s wife? I recognise that someone had to have the portentous dream (that Caesar ignores) but that role could have gone to Antony without their being married.

I’m of the opinion that, as a general rule, you can either have two Shakespearean characters who are, in the original text, close platonic friends be lovers or have one of them be a woman. When you do both, the implications get a little unfortunate.

I’d be more charitable here were it not for the fact that last year’s Steampunk Tempest also contained some… strange cross-gender casting (I’ve never seen a woman play Caliban before, and frankly it’s not an experience I’d like to repeat). I’d suggest that they think through the possible implications in future!

Otherwise, though, I had a good time! It’s not the smoothest Shakespearean production you’ll see at the Fringe this year – some of the cast do struggle at times with the dialogue, making the plot hard to follow for those of us who haven’t read the play – but it’s certainly one of the cheapest, and the only one with pirates. And a talking parrot (puppet).

Julius Caesar (With Pirates) is on until August 18th 7PM @ Black Market. Entry is free, suggested donation £5. Take your friends, get some culture, enjoy some pirate antics.

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Edinburgh Fringe 2012

I was working two journalism-ish jobs at the Festival this year, one as a Volunteer Media Intern for the Festival of Spirituality and Peace and the other as a reviewer for The Flaneur. So what I was mostly attending was a mixture of music, poetry and politics events on one side and free theatre (The Flaneur doesn’t provide tickets except very occasionally) on the other.

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A Pint of Poetry and a Dash of Drama

This ‘review’ was originally intended to be submitted to The Flaneur, the website where the bulk of my Fringe reviews from this year are going to be posted (eventually), but I decided it was a little too personal, plus, well, barely a review. A Pint of Poetry and a Dash of Drama is a spoken word and performance poetry group based out of Peterborough.

As it happens, I grew up just down the road from Peterborough, and yet I was still surprised by some of the facts I recently learned; that Peterborough is, apparently, the birthplace of Pizza Express, which I’m not sure whether or not to believe since for most of the time I lived there Peterborough did not actually have a Pizza Express; that Warwick Davis runs an acting agency from Peterborough; and that Peterborough has a performance poetry scene.

In retrospect I’m not all that surprised that this passed me by, since I wasn’t exactly a social butterfly in my teens, but the fact remains: Peterborough not only has a spoken word scene but apparently a big enough scene for it to be possible to showcase the highlights of it.

A Pint of Poetry and a Dash of Drama – or A Pint of Poetry and a Dram of Drama, as they prefer to go by in Edinburgh – runs monthly open mic nights and, very occasionally, performs at the Edinburgh Fringe. This year they put on two shows, of which I saw only one, on Monday 13th August.

So what did I make of the poetic highlights of my home city? Well, for those not familiar, I should probably give some context: Peterborough is not the most cultured city. It’s home to some of England’s most spectacular sixties architecture, created by bulldozing much of its historic city centre. It has an extremely dilapidated arts centre. It has two theatres, but I don’t remember either ever putting on anything interesting. My memories of Peterborough mostly consist of chain stores, pound shops, motorways, and an endless, monotonous beigeness. I’ve always thought of it as a somewhat soul-less city. (And before anyone takes offence, I must remind you again that I’m a local.)

So what are its artistic outpourings like? I’m not sure if ‘better than I expected’ is quite the right way to put it, because I’m honestly not sure exactly what I expected. Patchy quality? Most definitely. Clever wordplay? Not really. Tinkerbell, robots, and fabulous waistcoats? Almost certainly not.

As with any group that grows out of open mic nights, the quality was variable. Many of the poems rested more on wordplay than on ‘deep’ meanings and not all of the poets had the necessary stage presence to make their poetry exciting and interesting to listen to.

But the highlights of Pint of Poetry were actually some of the most memorable poems I’ve seen so far this month – and I’ve been to see two sets of published poets perform their work. I saw some poets I’d happily watch for a full hour-long show. My favourites were Tim Goodings and his poem ‘Massive Beard’ about the most beardy of beards he one day plans to grow; a poet in a fabulous waistcoat whose name I didn’t catch who invited the audience to share his love of Tinkerbell; J.S. Watts, the group’s only published poet, with her surreal and funny poems about the ‘mechanoid female’ scrapyard Sue; and Mark Grist, Peterborough’s poet laureate (another surprise for me) and his ‘love poem’ to Peterborough, warts and all.

I suppose the final question is: do I have a new appreciation for Peterborough and its artistic merits?  If I’m going to be honest, not really. Do I have a new appreciation for A Pint of Poetry and a Dash of Drama? Quite definitely.

As a final note, the point about it being the most memorable poetry I’ve seen so far this month still stands – the other day I went to a poetry reading I shall not name that almost bored me to sleep – and though the Festival of Spirituality and Peace’s five-day poetry event is about to start so my feelings may change, there’s something to be said for the uninhibited, amateur poetry of groups like Pint of Poetry and its total lack of pretension. Because if there’s one thing we all hate it’s pretension.

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