The Big One. The Behemoth. The Arts Juggernaut. Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the biggest arts festival in the world and also the world’s longest running Fringe Festival, having been running since 1947. For 25 days in the month of August, both city and festival become one as Edinburgh hosts an unimaginable amount of shows across every possible discipline held within 317 venues across the city. So basically every theatre, playhouse, pub, street, nook and cranny the city has within its long fallen walls.
August 24, 25, 26
Heroes @ Boteco basement
In an unlikely but allegedly seamless melding of tech and comedy, Robot Chef is the brainchild of two IT consultants by day/comedians by night Lloyd Henning and Peter Henning whose name for both stage and business is FoxDog. Originally aspiring to be a Tenacious D-style musical outfit, only to realise that their calling was in combining comedy with tech, the pair have created something that defies classification. The stage for each show takes at least four hours to set up and is a writhing snakepit of wires sockets and circuits.
Audience participation is the foundation of the show, but it’s not the toe-curling incarnation of getting brought up by yourself by hypnotist that you’re used to. FoxDog bring a much more incognito version whereby audience members are asked to connect their phones to a micro-network, setup within the parameters of the venue, they then draw a character, which pops up on a screen on the stage. Phones then become joypads, the characters being controlled like a Pokémon character in Pokémon Go.
Through manipulation of various magnets on the stage, the crowd eventually cook a sausage on a frying pan, all with a well written comedic backdrop and music played live by the lads themselves. So go see RoboChef, it’s future comedy. We’re all going to be taken over by the machines, these guys are just getting ahead of the curve.
After The Cuts
Demonstration Room, Summerhall
The Fringe was 70 last year, but another bastion of UK life, the NHS is 70 this year, which inspired one of the themes for this year’s festival, Healthcare, and it’s into this bracket that Gary McNair’s After The Cuts, neatly and searingly fits with its darkly comic outlook at what might be in a dystopian post-NHS britain. The action is focused solely on two heartbreaking protagonists Jim and Agnes, (tenderly and acutely brought to life by George Docherty and Pauline Knowles) within the sparse confines of their shabby 20th-century-styled living room. No time is wasted in building an exterior world here, other than to hint passingly at markers of the seemingly post apocalyptic time, like an absence of chocolate and petrol. Instead everything hones in on the couple and their situation as “poor” people, without the safety net of a free health service that will care for them (“perish the thought”, says everyone outside the UK caustically).
Agnes is revealed to be suffering from lung cancer via an automated phone system and the narrative chooses not to follow the obvious overwrought polemic at this point choosing instead to take a gently funny but poignant route in portraying the pair. There is a final twist taken before the end pulling the audience further in, whether or not they want to be. The end result is a mixed bag of visceral reactions but a timeless heartening of love that endures all.
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