By Maxwell Modell
This year was my first year at the Edinburgh Fringe festival and seeing as I had no expectation going in it could be argued that everything was a surprise. However, with some shows, I knew what I was going to get, this particularly tends to be the case with the big shows containing famous performers as they are a known quantity to a certain extent. That is not the case with many of the smaller show which are often found in dingy backrooms of pubs, or in rather seedy looking venues. Despite the venue not always boasting of grander or suggesting quality, these are often the places where a show can sneak up from nowhere and complexly blow you away. These are my 3 favourite unexpected surprises from the Fringe 2017.
Christopher Hunter’s Venus and Adonis
While not a complete Shakespeare novice I am near enough one, with only a knowledge of his most famous plays such as Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Hamlet, with all of this knowledge depriving from what I studied at secondary school and watching films. This meant I was going in blind when I met to see Christopher Hunter’s one-man performance of Venus and Adonis (Shakespeare’s first play) at Hill Street Studio. This lack of knowledge of the play and understanding of Shakespearian language meant I often found it a hard to understand what was happening, but it made the performance no less captivating. I would be shocked if there was a show at the fringe this year which showed more craftsmanship and perfect execution than Christopher Hunter’s show. The show is emotionally intense and the minimal production allows it a purity and intimacy many productions lack. While I don’t expect this show will blow up this year’s Fringe it is a show which is worth a watch for Shakespeare lovers and novices alike because it will electrify you to your core and you won’t be able to look away. However, a small word of caution, this show many leave you feeling rather emotionally drained so you may want to leave yourself sometime to recover afterwards!
How would your life be affected if you knew what year you were going to die? This is the question that Open Road tries to answer, a six person play being performed at Ecce Theatre. Of all the shows I saw at this year’s Fringe this was by far the most mentally challenging and thought provoking, it left me thinking about it for weeks afterwards. The play is based around a dinner table setting exploring the relationship and friendship dynamic of three different couples all of whom have different death dates. Though this set up the play exams the political and social climate the knowledge of the date of your death causes, while still managing to maintain a character drive story which felt very realistic despite its sci-fi motif. The show almost felt like an episode of the Twilight Zone or Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror and was the best play I saw at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The Committee Improv
Free shows at the fringe are always rather hit and miss, sometimes you’ll see an act which is dreadfully misguided or just plain bad. But other times you will see something incredible and the rising stars of the future, and while I’m no clairvoyant I think this is what I which have seen Bar Bados when I saw the improv group the committee. The show had me laughing clear constantly and sometimes just staring in awe at these amazing performers and their quick wit. The show was an hour long and consisted of the performers asking the audience for one word, they would then build a series of improvised sketches from this. Bar Bados, where this performance took place, is probably the seediest dingiest bar I was ever been in. Despite this I feel the rather dodgy atmosphere the bar provided played in the favour of The Committee who managed to transform this undesirable location into the race track at Goodwood, a dairy farm and a Tossed salad bar, along with many other locations, showing you can’t judge a show by its venue at the Fringe. The Committee are a group to watch for the future whose comedy stylings would fix perfectly with the world of BBC and Channel 4 comedy. My only regret is that I only saw this free show once as it would have been amazing to see what they could do with a different word and a different set of sketches and characters.
Read more about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017 here!