|The Angus set at the Scottish Storytelling Centre|
I'm just back from an eventful, if highly concentrated, visit to Edinburgh this weekend.
The main reason was to see how 'Angus - Weaver of Grass' had settled into its current home - a 4pm show for 10 days at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. In particular to see how the two main concerns we had (the things I wrote about two blogs ago) were being dealt with, and if they affected the performance.
The first - the short get in and preparation time allowed us for each show - had already been resolved. The cast, helped by Christina, had easily dealt with this and, given that all of our set could be stored away in close proximity to the stage, it simply wasn't now a problem.
The second - the effect of the shallow stage on our filmed projections - was having an impact. The central section of the performance, which relied heavily on the films, was noticeably weaker compared to how it had been during the Highlands/Islands leg and the storytelling had lost its tautness as a result. Although Christina's carefully planned back-up mitigates the worst affects of this it doesn't totally solve all the issues. So I spent time Sunday morning looking at how we can deal with those small issues. Theatre is extraordinary in this way - tot up the duration of the on-stage 'problems' and they add up to no more than 15 seconds in total. But those 15 seconds of slight hiatus and uncertain focus can really make a show sag, like a taut elastic suddenly giving way.
Anyway the effort worked - yesterdays show was superb; a standing ovation and rave feedback from the audience. A reporter from a Chicago based classical music radio station was there and took the opportunity to interview me. 'This sums it all up', she said excitedly, 'it epitomises what the Edinburgh Festival is all about'.
Edinburgh Festival is a weird phenomenon. Arriving in the city and immediately hitting the crowds and the market-place atmosphere, my first reaction was to run away and get back on the train. But gradually you find yourself relaxing into it and soon it becomes totally exhilarating. But sometimes judgements seem odd, even upside down. The Assembly is hosting a Russian season, including Akhe - one of the most interesting and unique theatre companies around. I went to see their show 'Mr Carmen' - amazing, but with an audience of less than 20! Yet go to one of the Comedy tents and its like a summer weekend at Blackpool - thousands of people having a total ball.
We're lucky. On a visit to set up the shows earlier on in the year we were told that even our central and well-know venue and location may only get audiences of 6 or 7 people and that 20 is a good number for the fringe festival. We're getting audiences of somewhere between 55 and 90, which is excellent. Reviews too - rave reviews from the audiences; slightly mixed from the reviewers. But among them, this - "Horse + Bamboo deserves proper recognition for their remarkable achievement".