Sunday 6 August 2023, Edinburgh
This was the third day of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that I am attending with my son Elijah. It was one of the most magnificent days of my life and definitely the most satisfying theatrical experience. I really miss Sarah being here she would have loved it as well.
Today we saw 3 performances, 2 short and one full length play, One was better than the next.
The day started with a comedy done by 2 people playing an entire staff of a school. The comedy of a mis-run school was also a political statement on the declining support of education from the current government. The two actors were a woman and a man (though I am not as sure about this as Eli is) playing an entire cast of characters at an experimental school more interested in cutting corners and covering up for inspections than actually teaching something to their students. The comedy was broad and not very subtle but very entertaining. We were given a goodie bag afterwards which included a stress ball, a pen, stickie notes for marking the margins of books, a leaflet on the national school unions and a bottle opener.
After the play we stopped to have a lunch at a Japanese ramen restaurant. Eli ended up ordering vegetarian sushi. The ramen was excellent with a rich creamy broth, al dente cooked ramen noodles and a nice mixture of seaweed, fried onions and thin slices of pork.
The second performance was a one man show written on the early life of Tennessee Williams called Tennessee Rising. The author/actor made liberal usage of Tennessee’s words in relating his rise from a family refugee to this first big triumph with The Glass Menagerie. The actor, Jacob Storms, was a debonair young Tennessee Williams. He was an excellent nuanced and emotionally engaged actor who in turn engaged his audience. The audience was very small and the ushers encouraged everyone to seein the center rows of the small stage. There were about 15 people in an a make-shift theater created of trailers and meant to sit 50+. That everyone sat together made for a very intimate performance where Mr. Storms made generous use of making eye contact with his audience. The trailer-theater was so fragile that at the start when the lights went out during the performance we thought the energy really did fall out, but it was part of the play.
His text was actually quite funny but he delivered it with a subtly and panache that no one, except myself, caught the jokes. He put on a virtuoso performance as he recounted Tennessee’s encounters with homophobia, love, family trauma and the great stars of his day. At the end i thought he deserved a standing ovation, it was the best performance of the festival so far. As we left, Eli said to Jacob, “You were great” and I followed with, “You were really the best.” And he countered appreciatively with, “And you caught all my jokes.”
After a quick dinner, we rushed to the final performance of the evening a full length performance of the musical, Rent. Which I always wanted to see but never had. The play had clearly lost some of its edge in time as the audience was mostly families wanting to see a musical. The play is loosely based on Puccini’s La Boheme, and takes place in the Alphabet district of New York City instead of Paris and with the LGBTQ homeless subbing for the Bohemians. It was a compelling and very well done version of the play with the cast doubling and sometimes tripling roles—which i am not sure if that was the done with the original play but if it wasn’t it did not interfere in the least with the play’s effectiveness. The sets were bare-boned, which i actually prefer allowing the imagination to create a much more effective set than the ones they might put on stage. The actors was all very sympathetic, even the bad guys (except for one) managed to be three dimensional and at least understandable. Eli was particularly moved by the drag queen character, Angel, he found him extremely effective actor. In the scenes in the second act where two main actors died of AIDS we were in tears.
Afterward on the walk home back to our hotel, Eli and I said it was the best theater performances we ever saw. Eli said he was more than ever inspired to study theater. It was one of the greatest days of our lives.
Tomorrow we see another short play but then attend the Edinburgh International Festival for one night to see a jazz performance. Stay tuned…