Friday, August 17, 2012

Edinburgh 2012: Sunday, Day Two

 So attempting to move on a bit through my Edinburgh experience (after all, I left on Wednesday): Sunday was relatively sedate. I got up later than I should but made it, just (see below) to Summerhall for Rime.

This might make me sound old (it makes me feel old) but I'm not sure how else to put it: Square Peg are young, good looking, enthusiastic, incredibly skilled and make it seem almost easy. Their acrobatic, dance and aerial skills are amazing and the piece was produced to a high standard, with fantastic sound both live and recorded. I guess my reservation was that it just was a little bit too slick and pretty. For example that mock Victorian look with tan and brown shades, knickerbockers, shirts and corsets is nice to look at but feels clichéd. It was very clear how talented they were but I didn't quite believe them. And particularly when - and this is just me being pedantic - they used granny knots to tie the sails when any sailor would use a reef. I'm interested actually - is this a circus rigging thing? It was consistent, at least.

Still. It was incredible to watch, they gave me an apple (see my previous post, I'm easily bribed), and to have a window open might not have been a deliberate part of what was going on but worked brilliantly - before I realised it gave me goose bumps as I felt the breeze on my neck as a storm gathered in the play. Maybe we should think about sensation effects more often as well as sound and lighting.

After Rime I popped back to the Hunt and Darton Cafe, in residence on St Mary's Street for the Festival, where I had an absolutely fantastic roast beef sandwich (complete with parsnips, stuffing and gravy - I was unsure, but it was good! - and managed to earn my copy of Forest Fringe's Paper Stages by giving time to an artist/waitress who was asking punters for helpful advice on her career. She seemed pretty sorted actually, but then I know that feeling of still wanting to be told what to do. My only complaint at Hunt and Darton was that the admittedly charming mismatched crockery was completely impractical - my tiny coffee mug had a curved in rim that made drinking from it tricky and my knife did not match up to the sandwich!

I didn't see any more shows on Sunday but very much enjoyed returning for a bit of a look around Summerhall. There are incredible spaces, with many original features from the venue's past life as the vetinary school, and exhibitions, including Figure Studies which are Muybridge-esque films, slowing down of the movement of people so that every movement and ripple of the skin can be observed in fine detail. I also attended the deliberately provocatively titled "Taking On The Boys" talk from Stellar Quines which was really interesting both on women's presence in the industry and their attitude to each other. The basic message was that only 30% of creative theatre roles in Scotland are filled by women, so it's clear that gender is still an issue, but also that people feel quite passionately, and often differently, about it. I'm looking forward to reading the full report from the research they have had carried out.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Edinburgh 2012: Saturday, Day One

Due to my otherwise excellent accommodation not having wifi (it does have internet, just not wireless, and the owner of the accommodation (my uncle, but not the same uncle as the caravan uncle) quite often seems to want to plug into it (how dare he. In his own house)), and the preponderance of late nights (keeping up with this sentence?) I'm rather behind on blogging about Edinburgh. Not that anyone is waiting with breathless anticipation, but I did intend to write something. I've been keeping notes. So, even though it's Tuesday, here's what happened on Saturday.

I arrived at Waverley and exited the station only to see Daniel Bye stroll past. I hadn't only arrived in Edinburgh, I'd definitely arrived at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

I'd not booked much before arriving so had to sort that out fairly quickly, and started with This Hour Only and The Lonely One in quick succession at the Underbelly, Cowgate, before heading off to the nabakov Arts Club where due to my lack of sleep the night before I really didn't last the distance and probably missed out on all the best bits.

This Hour Only was well performed and mostly well written.  It's about a new prostitute giving her first session, which coincides with a young man's first visit, bought for him by his friends for his 21st birthday. The story as it unfolds feels fairly unlikely but then the script makes a point of how unusual as prostitute and customer they both are. It was sweet, and there was some clever rhyming which felt too clever when it was too obvious but really worked the rest of the time. I enjoyed it.

The Lonely One was less successful for me, but that might well have been because the tiredness really caught up with me then and, I have to admit it (and I was in the second row and am pretty sure at least one of the performers would have clocked it: sorry!) I fell asleep more than once. There were lots of experimental techniques; shadow puppetry, mobile lighting, etc; which all felt interesting as concepts but didn't always deliver. The tension, from my admittedly somewhat limited viewpoint, felt as though it was built up over too long a period. Good performances, though, and believable characters. I don't think I can really judge something where I wasn't fully with it, through no fault of the show.

The nabakov Arts Club was fun while I was there and I wished I was more awake and there with a friend or two, to get drunk with and stay out till all hours. It started late (I heard someone from the venue talking about how they had 86 performers. I sympathise), but that was ok because half an hour isn't much in the scheme of 6 hours. Briefly I wasn't at all sure what was going on where and would have welcomed a programme but once I'd got my head round the layout a bit and identified the right rooms that was ok. I heard great music from Interplay Leeds (who are performing This Land: The Story of Woody Guthrie) and got a brilliant fridge sticker which is definitely going on my fridge when I have a fridge. The One Hour Plays did a ten minute play, made in an hour with the collaboration of the audience, which had no tigers in it sadly (though one was promised) but did have a flamenco dancer and was amusing. Then I lasted through some good poetry and comedy in a room that had appalling acoustics and not very sensible layout for getting anyone to shut up and listen, and went home, missing John Osborne, Molly Naylor and Kate Tempest: very foolish I expect but I think I might have gone to sleep again and it really is rude. Once in a day is a misfortune but twice is carelessness… etc.

Day One summary of achievements & highlights

  • Walking down Royal Mile (hideous)
  • Only taking one flyer while walking down Royal Mile (I think I have a "don't flyer me" look on my face. Or avoidance of look)
  • Accepting a bribe for the one flyer I did take (a sweet. I felt like I needed it)
  • Falling asleep in a show
  • Having blisters and onset of shin splints by the time I did get home and having to walk like a ballet dancer for the last few hundred yards (toe first)

Friday, August 3, 2012

First day as a full time freelancer

It's been a very scary thought in the build up, and may well get scary again in the future as at the moment I'm feeling slightly in holiday mode with trips to the Edinburgh Fringe and to France (the latter the genuine holiday) lined up. It might feel more real in September. Today, though, I've felt very able to cope with the idea that from now on I'm employing myself.

It's perhaps because I've had all the nice sides of it today. I started at ten thirty after leisurely eating my breakfast and making real coffee. I had the back door open with the sun shining outside and at one point went for a stroll to pick blackberries. I cooked myself pasta with artichoke hearts and basil and a big glug of olive oil for lunch. I felt motivated, productive, and so able to finish at four o'clock to go for a bike ride and an icecream, knowing I'd got as much done as is sometimes possible in an 8 hour day.

I know from having done it two days a week for the last ten months that it's not always like this. Sometimes it's hard to get into gear when you're at home on your own, and I was lucky that I had people I could email when I had questions I wanted to ask someone. When I'm not earning enough and working away at things that might never get funding and never happen, that's going to be hard. Worrying about paying the rent will be even harder.

For now, I'm not going to stress, but I might do a little planning. I'm going to think about ways I might support myself better and keep myself motivated. I'm going to do some talking to some wise people and appreciate my avenues for advice. I'm going to try and keep getting up in good time, having leisurely breakfasts, and making sure I get out of the house and having exercise on a regular basis. I'm going to try and schedule work time and personal time and not blur the boundaries too much. Most of all, though, I'm going to enjoy it while it feels good, and cross other bridges when I get to them.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A question of perspective?

I went to the Hayward Gallery on Monday after finishing work. It's not going to make it into my 100 things to love because it's a bit too obvious a choice, but on the other hand I've never been there before. It feels a little too inaccessible and concrete, somehow, though I've admired all the artworks outside for years. Do they have to do that because other people don't walk in either?

The irony is that when I got there, I discovered that the exhibition currently on display is Invisible. It's a bit like the "What's the password" joke or the one about "The storage is in Ware" "Where?" "Ware" that came up at work recently. The subtitle is Art about the Unseen. All very modern and when I walked in to practically empty walls and pieces about thoughts and gazes it was all a bit too much like nonsense. Some of it funny nonsense, like the man who'd forgotten to bring a piece of artwork to an exhibition so put in a police report for his invisible art which had been stolen. Other nonsense verging too close to the pretentious.

Once I'd wandered around a bit though, there was also some fantastic stuff. Or stuff I really liked, anyway, and that makes it fantastic in my book. Some of it was there, some was mementos from stuff which had been fantastic before.

I started to warm up with the piece of a platform which had been an installation by Chris Burden called White Light/White Heat where the artist lay unseen above the gallery for every day of the exhibition. I quite liked Bethan Huws's "...from New York to San Francisco to..." - that sometimes there would be an actor in the gallery, behaving like a member of the general public, so you'd never know they weren't just another visitor.

I found "The Ghost of James Lee Byars" quite scary - you enter a room through a curtain, thinking it'll be one of those shadowy exhibition rooms with a film in or something and actually it's seriously dark, so dark you can't see where the wall is, and only, eventually, a faint chink of light where the opposite exit is. You have to walk through it to get to the rest of the exhibition (though you can get help) and I, like I suspect many other people, crashed through pretty quickly. I swear I could hear someone breathing, though when I lifted the curtain and let the light fall through there was no one else there. James Lee Byars was the artist and was originally alive when this was first exhibited, but no longer.

Then back to the funny again - I loved Carsten Höller's "The Invisible" - one of a series of fantastical cars invented as competitors for the "New World Race". This one, on spot four (which they had laid out on the floor) was so advanced it was invisible. I also found the realisation I was in a drawing quite lovely - Lai Chih Sheng's "Life-Size Drawing" where every edge and line in the room (though presumably not the oher exhibits) had been drawn over in pencil. Less successful, I thought, was Tom Friedman's Untitled (A Curse) which was meant to be a spherical patch of air over a pedestal which had been cursed by a witch.

The one I found the most disturbing, even more than "The Ghost...", was Teresa Margolles's "Air". I almost wish I hadn't read the display outside first, to see if unknowing it'd have had the same affect, though I guess they have to warn people. Earlier in the exhibition there'd been a room with aircon making a point about atmosphere but this one was cooling systems using water, and the water had been used to wash bodies in a mortuary. I was fine about reading this, but went in and suddenly went crawly all over. Not because it was distasteful particularly (though it does feel a bit icky) but with the sensation of desperately sad souls. Why this felt meaningful when Tom Friedman's didn't... I guess is half the point.

Ceal Floyer's plumb line, marking the centre of the gallery space (randomly on the edge of a staircase) is worth a mention if only because she's a distant cousin but then I finished with an invisible maze - I didn't find out who this was by. You pick up kinesthetic headphones (I've made that term up. They vibrate rather than making noise) from a rather beautiful display, and sit them just above your ears. There is a map of the day's maze which you have to walk through, with the headphones vibrating every time you hit a "wall". I kept finding dead ends where there shouldn't have been dead ends and gave up.

If there is a meaning in that then it's worrying, but the exhibition is definitely worth something which may not be a look.