Pleasance Programme in full swing and packed with talent

With Edfringe now officially started, the Pleasance programme is now in full swing, with top talent from the comedy and TV world.

After his first solo show at the Pleasance in 2005, Edinburgh Fringe wouldn’t be complete without Mark Watson, who will be heading to the new pop-up venue at Pleasance Courtyard.

To celebrate a decade in comedy, Brennan Reece is going to tell you absolutely everything he has ever thought with the greatest hits from his trilogy of critically acclaimed shows Everglow, Everlong and Evermore.

Joe Thomas – a 37-year-old, of The Inbetweeners fame will bring his debut stand-up show Trying Not To Panic to the Pleasance.

Recipient of Pleasance’s National Partnership Award with York Theatre Royal, Eugene is a show about what happens when we give technology power over us.


Screen 9 Fringe Edinburgh

Screen 9

At the Colorado premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, gun violence turned a celebration of cinema to tragedy. Devastated by one man’s actions, a community refused to be torn apart.  This hard-hitting verbatim piece follows the survivors’ remarkable testimonies of the infamous Batman Shootings, as they attempted to respond and recover from the tragedy.  In Screen 9, Bold new company Piccolo Theatre – this year’s recipient of the Pleasance’s Charlie Hartill Theatre Reserve – reclaim the story of the survivors to interrogate the debate around gun violence.  Pleasance @ EICC (Lomond) from Tuesday 10th – Sunday 29th August 2021 (not 16th, 23rd).


Patricia EdfringePatricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man who used to hit her)

Patricia Gets Ready (for a date with the man who used to hit her) is a striking show which aims to shatter the stereotype of the ‘broken woman’ and instead presents a survivor. After spending a year crafting a kick ass speech while recovering from an abusive relationship, Patricia bumps into her ex and accidentally agrees to a date. Join Patricia as she gets ready, tells stories of her past, how it has affected her present and looks honestly at her future. Based on writer Martha Watson Allpress’ own experiences, this production shines a light on the realities of domestic abuse.  Pleasance @ EICC (Lomond) from Tuesday 17th – Sunday 29th August 2021 (not 23rd).


Push Fringe EdinburghPUSH

A hell of a lot can happen in the time you await the results of a pregnancy test. PUSH is the story of a woman staring down the barrel of motherhood, torn between her own ambivalence and an uncontrollable urge to push.  Award-winning Popelei have burst out of isolation and onto our screens with their darkly comic theatre production, reimagined for film after its preview at VAULT Festival 2020.  Fusing theatre, movement and dance the company have embraced this new medium, collaborating with cinematographer Jack Offord.  Pleasance Festival Online from Friday 6th – Monday 30th August 2021.


Kill Me Now Fringe EdinburghKill Me Now

A dark comedy about coming to terms with grief, Kill Me Now is by critically acclaimed Welsh new writing theatre company Dirty Protest (Sugar Baby, How to be Brave) and award-winning playwright Rhiannon Boyle. This funny and heart-wrenching piece is created specifically for a Zoom audience as we join undertaker Anna Morgan-Jones’ live webinar for the Edinburgh Fringe 2021.  After a year when many lost loved ones and many were touched by grief, Kill Me Now is about the healing power of connection.  Summerhall Livestreaming Platform from Tuesday 17th – Saturday 21st August 2021.

Ithaca Fringe Edinburgh


Ithaca is a feminist one-woman adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey from Phoebe Angeni.  Exploring contemporary social issues, Ithaca follows the journey of Nobody, a feminine aspect of Odysseus, as she re-defines her relationship with self and home.  Fantasy and reality merge in this dynamic and darkly comic production about Nobody’s journey to find home.  While the play draws heavily from Homer’s work, Angeni has taken its broad themes and used them to tell her own story, having always related to the obstacles Odysseus faces.  Edinburgh Fringe On Demand from Friday 6th – Monday 30th August 2021.

Mediocre White Male

A tragicomedy about ancient history, recent past and present lies, Mediocre White Male follows the central character, aged 30, still living in the same town and trapped in a job where he cant open his mouth without offending a younger colleague.  He longs for a simpler time of Pokémon cards, school nicknames and stable pronouns.  But nostalgia is always dangerous…  Everything seems to be changing but him.  With his job under threat and a figure from his past returning to haunt him, it might just be time to face up to some uncomfortable truths.  Assembly Roxy (Central) from Wednesday 4th – Sunday 15th August 2021.


Bringing Ballet to the Blind – How to make ‘visual’ art forms accessible to blind audiences

Dancing is one of the most visual art forms. Movement created for the sake of expression, brought to life in soft slow sways and energetic leaps. Efforts are now being made to cross barriers and bring the beauty of dance to visually impaired people, and it’s being done with the same grace and sophistication that are displayed on the stage. By Andrew Cook Dance is an incredibly visual art. Movements are honed and trained for years to produce the most pleasing aesthetics, the most elegant lines, alongside silent acting that is designed to scream volumes. But that isn’t the entirety of a performance. The frantic footfalls of the dancers, the music of the orchestra, even the reactions of other audience members all play a part in the magic of theatre. Without those, dance would be far less magical in its production. Therefore logically they are inextricably part of dance itself. With blind and visually impaired people being able to experience these impressions of a show, it’s a surprise that advances in support haven’t been made sooner. But now, companies, theatres and dancers are banding together to provide a network of support, the likes of which have never been seen before. Truly inclusive performances. Audio described performances While not exactly a new idea, more and more companies and theatres are opting into options such as this. It gives the chance for visually impaired individuals to not only enjoy the atmosphere of a live performance, but grasp a sense of what is being shown on the stage. Whereas other companies are just turning to this trend, Colorado Ballet have been offering this service for over 15 years, offering services to countless patrons via their program ‘Ballet for Blind.’ For every story ballet they perform in a single season, there is a heavily discounted, audio-described performance for those within the program. An educator, one who is intimately familiar with the particular ballet, sits far back within the audience. As the ballet progresses, they provide a continuous description of not just the actions on the stage, but the sensations, costumes, and mood. If a patron wishes to turn down the narration and focus on the orchestra and ambience? All they have to do is turn down the volume. This method has brought hundreds of patrons the chance to enjoy the escapism and magic of live dance, and Colorado Ballet is not alone in their efforts. Northern Ballet Theatre and English National Ballet are among many companies who have enrolled in these tremendous efforts of bringing ballet to the blind. But there’s more. Behind the scenes To allow blind and visually impaired individuals the chance to immerse themselves more deeply within dance, they also offer pre-show touch tours. A chance for audience members to move about the stage and understand the space around them, knowing that everything they will soon bear witness to will be performed in that very same area. Texture also has an incredible capacity to inspire emotion, although it’s one that sighted people often overlook. That’s why audiences are given the opportunity to feel props and costumes along the tour, building the image of the performance within their own heads. At Colorado Ballet they also provide texture-painted dolls to provide examples of the dancers movements, demonstrating to audiences how the performers will hold themselves during the ballet. Layer by layer the creativity and magic is produced long before any dancers launch themselves on the stage. Physical Experience Some incredibly generous venues are now providing workshops before the performances themselves. Not content with narrating the show and providing interaction with props, companies are now offering blind and visually impaired individuals the chance to work with the dancers themselves and experience the movements. Having the opportunity to work with talented and physically capable dancers explaining their techniques and movements in close proximity is a priceless opportunity for those lucky few. They also involve themselves in deep discussions about musical motifs, and the physical language expressed within ballet performances. The blind leading the blind An age-old adage used to describe a situation where no one understands what’s going on, but now that’s not the case. One dancer is changing all that. Mana Hashimoto is a renowned professional dancer and choreographer. She is also completely blind. Having trained in classical ballet when she was younger she suffered optic nerve atrophy while at her professional school. How was she supposed to spot her turns? Or critique her own positioning in the mirror? A fellow student helped her turn her situation around. Working together closely on the barre, they worked together as a single unit, with combinations and corrections being called out by her sighted friend. This display moved a teacher to tears, and solidified Hashimoto’s new raison d’être. For the last 20 years she has choreographed and performed solos, needing little more than an open space and occasional textures on the floor. Alongside her work as a professional dancer, she runs workshops for visually impaired students. The students enter her personal space, and follow her movements with her hands. There is no shame or compunction in such intimate proximity, merely a story being simultaneously told and felt. Dialogue is open, she explains to students how her body is moving, and they feel not only the movement, but the complex musculature and support of her body. In some ways, they come to understand the movements far better than a sighted audience ever will. Physically noting how each arm movement comes from the muscles surrounding the shoulder blades, witnessing alternate muscles interact in perfect conjunction to create the slightest shift in weight. It is a beauty beyond words and an indescribable experience – much like dance itself. Slowly but surely, companies around the world are peeling back the layers that form dance, and are sharing the experiences that make dancing such an incredible experience. They are showing that dance can be felt without being seen. The world is a great deal more magical because of it.

Hello Fringe!

It’s August 1st and Fringe is just around the corner. Excited? You bet we are. It’s been something of a hiatus but the EFC is back, Fringe is back, and we hope you dear readers will be too.

The world has changed since the Fringe of 2019 and the Fringe has had to evolve too.

As such, there is a blended programme with outdoor performances as well as indoor ones, and digital shows.

This year sees the launch of the Fringe Player which will provide a platform for scheduled shows and on demand, which can be watched at the viewer’s leisure.

The Scottish government has committed more than £1.3m to the Edinburgh International Festival and nine Fringe producers to allow them to create outdoor performance spaces, among them Summerhall, Pleasance, The Space UK, Assembly, Underbelly, Gilded Balloon, Zoo, Dancebase and the Traverse.

Yes, the Fringe will be smaller this year, and the huge late-night crowds might be missing. But there will still be street performers, there will still be beer gardens and pop-up eateries, and more importantly there will still be a comprehensive diverse programme of hundreds of acts. In fact, there are 675 shows listed on the Fringe’s box office as of today, 430 of which are categorised as ‘in person’, meaning that you can see the show live at various outdoor and indoor venues. These venues must comply with City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Government covid-related regulations.
So what does Edinburgh look like in the days leading up to Fringe? Well, the huge poster walls were nowhere to be seen, though we did see the odd poster or two around Bristo Square. With 6 days to go, we even managed to spot a comedian outside McEwan Hall – local comedy Youtuber Conor O’Dwyer! Assembley Fringe 2021 Edinburgh Fringe 2021 Edfringe 2021Edfringe21 This year might not be the biggest Fringe, but it is certainly the most anticipated. After the 18 month of horror the world has endured, we need the Arts like never before to make sense of this new world, entertain us, and make us laugh. Wishing everyone a brilliant Fringe 2021!

Masked and Making the most of it – How the Dancing World is Surviving against all the Odds

Dance pervades our entire lives. From classical ballet on stage, to hip-hop dancers appearing on our favourite music videos. A life without dancing is impossible to conceive – So how is the dancing world preventing its own death during this pandemic?  By Andrew Cook A prancing pair of lovers were gliding gracefully across the stage. Hand in hand, gazing into each others eyes, the motion of their entwined bodies declares their feelings for one another as they glide together as one. This could be any show from BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, to the widely acclaimed Swan Lake from English National Ballet. Yet no one has enjoyed these live performances for quite some time. Dance companies and schools across the entire world have been placed in an impossible situation. In an Art form so concentrated on physicality, and filled with complex stories requiring multiple individuals, the world of dance has been under a blackout. The Survival For many people, the love of dancing falls under two categories – the dancers, and the audiences. For the audiences, life has been easier to bear. Of course nothing compares to the ambience of a dimly lit theatre. The live orchestra projecting out an eery, heart-breaking melody while dancers perform their hearts out among softly drifting clouds of dry ice. However, audiences have had the opportunities to enjoy their favourite shows via new mediums for months. Directors, producers, and companies alike have launched a full-scale internet dispersal of performances. The Edinburgh Fringe, cancelled for the first time in 60 years, launched a cleverly adapted online streaming version. The Bolshoi Ballet company made six of their favourite recorded ballets available online. Andrew Lloyd Webber released a stage-filmed performance of one of his musicals every week. The list continues endlessly. In the age of internet access, these companies have done what they can to fan the flames of interest in their chosen Arts – an incentive for audiences to return once social-distancing is no longer a concern. The fact remains that audiences have faced the lesser challenge – it is the Artists who are truly struggling. The Dancers Years of their lives spent in total training, the forging of a dancer is unbelievable. Regularly breaking their bodies apart for 10 hours a day, six days a week, in order to mould themselves into forms prepared for their careers. Yet for the last months, dancers both professional and pre-professional have found themselves ejected from dancing studios and stuck under isolation in tiny apartments, with nothing of the physical activity they have become accustomed to for years. Left in ignorance of how long the situation will last, and dreading that moment they return back to work and face the consequences of going so long without leaping across a ballet studio. It was then, that companies and schools alike, improvised, adapted, and overcame. For the well-being of dancers and students, something had to be done to maintain some semblance of normality. The Zoom ballet class was born. Suddenly dancers were faced with a vast array of choices, all of which required a stable internet connection, and a little space. Using Zoom to host large meetings, professional dance companies and schools launched online classes, uniting hundreds of thousands of dancers across countries and borders. The effect has been stunning. Recognising the crisis within the dancing community, many celebrity dancers stepped up and hosted their own completely free online classes. James B Whiteside (American Ballet Theatre) hosted daily ballet classes in an effort to maintain dancers’ passion and enthusiasm. Posting live via Instagram stories, he inspired and coached dancers and students across continents, simply for love of his Art. Rebirth As the a wise man once said – ‘The show must go on’. While the dancing world has been eager to get back to work, it has now been up to theatres and school far and wide to enforce safety measures for their employees and students. Like penetrating Fort Knox, those dancers back at work and school have to enter layer by layer to minimise the risks. Not only are masks are an essential in the workplace, but temperatures and names are scanned and recorded on entry. Disinfectant-soaked sponge plates are used to clean all shoes that enter premises. Finally – a smorgasbord of disinfectant sprays, gels, and soaps abound through rooms. Finally we have the dancing itself. Companies and schools are now training in different ways. Not only enforcing masks, but also ensuring social-distancing has changed a great number of things. The feasible number of dancers in every class has been severely reduced – while an organisational nightmare for administrators, dancers are relishing having greater personal space in spite of the restrictions of masks. This method of training has born new inspirations for dance companies. With no end to these restrictions in the near future, companies have embraced their artistic sides, and created performances around their limitations. Stuttgart Ballet launched their re-opening with a special adaptive performance. Creating a distanced trio for part of their show, the stunning trio of dancers coordinated and moved both as one single entity, and yet very much apart. Also featuring on the stage was a full duet, feasible because both dancers lived together. Northern Macedonia’s Opera and Ballet created a brand new performance only for this pandemic. Renowned international choreographer Sasha Sagan created an outdoor performance for a dozen dancers. Masked, but in flowing costumes, these dancers were synchronised, yet never touching. Using disciplined timing and spacing, these artists kept social distance despite sweat, toil, and exertion. A dazzling display which formed a beautiful contrast of free movement and costume against the constriction of masks and space. The Return As we see the return of shows and classes, albeit in a somewhat restricted manner, audiences will be fighting for spaces in number-restricted auditoriums. Despite the long sabbatical for the Art world, the thirst for live performances has not run dry. While the industry has taken an economic beating across the world, the burning enthusiasm and love for live entertainment among audiences and dancers can not be put out. It is a fire that will not be quenched, merely altered.  
Title Image – Bromance by the Barely Methodical Troupe. Read our feature article with Charlie Wheeller from the Barely Methodical Troupe here.

Online Auditions – Preparation in the new age of Arts

The world has changed. Once, audition hopefuls crammed together in waiting rooms for a one-minute chance in front of the directors. Now the landscape of auditions has moved to the digital realm. Has this become an advantage for aspiring artists? And what really provides an edge in this new phenomenon?  By Andrew Cook Auditions have always been a stressful ordeal. Rising before dawn, commuting to another city, loading up on caffeine to maintain optimum concentration, rehearsing lines and songs repeatedly on the trains and buses, waiting in line for hours, and finally, a psychological war of intimidation between themselves and the competition. Hours of preparation and gruelling work for the chance of a lifetime in front of a casting director. Covid-19 has altered everything. While not necessarily a brand new phenomenon, online auditions have now become a far greater feature in today’s auditions. Previously, sending videos and recordings was acceptable if you or your agent were already well known, with panels requiring face-to-face contact from the vast majority of artists. With the shift onto a digital platform, artists of all forms now face a very different style of auditioning, and knowing how to adapt to these changes, will be the key to success in upcoming casting calls. But it’s not the same! True. Online auditions are not the same, but what they do offer is a broad range of advantages for both the talent and the directors. While artists now save themselves the stress of commuting and travelling, so too, do directors. They now are saving themselves from obtaining a venue, and commuting there with producers, casting assistants, and camera operators. Directors now have a more leisurely time browsing potential artists (which is a godsend for artists, as cantankerous, sleep-deprived directors are the bane of auditions). There are many advantages to exploit , but perhaps the single largest benefit involves the increased casting pool. Now directors can peruse audition videos, and perform interviews with talent from across a vast geographical range. Previously being limited to location, and those financially solvent enough to travel to auditions, struggling artists can now showcase themselves without worrying about bankrupting themselves on travel. Many directors and artists have already employed digital auditions to great success. Emma Stone landed her role in Easy A  via online audition. Emma Roberts in Scream 4 auditioned via a Skype meeting, and Josefina Scaglione in the Broadway revival of West Side Story was discovered by the director Arthur Laurents from Youtube! Now, more than ever, we will see greater numbers of stars launched to success through online auditions.
Virtual Auditions
Choose an interesting backdrop for your audition, and be careful of background noise!
Online Auditions There are currently two types of online auditions available. The first are from pre-recorded tapes, the second are active online auditions being conducted via live-stream to the directors. but the principles of success remain the same. The tricks In normal auditions, the artist has the disadvantage. The space does not belong to the artist. To stride into an unfamiliar area, and bring forth another personality, leaves a candidate incredibly vulnerable. Online auditions offer a calming advantage. Artists can, and indeed must, prepare their space for hours, or even days beforehand. Fixing the background, knowing the area, feeling at home enough to pour out emotions, this evens the playing field with directors. It makes an audition feel less like an inquisition. With preparation, and the correct mindset, an artist can showcase themselves with a conversation, and help restore any power imbalance they would feel in a standard audition. This also provides the chance to take risks. Directors now have access to greater numbers of audition hopefuls, so standing out is the only option. Artists must now become more liberal in their performances. Being unique and memorable through any way possible is imperative in this online age. Setting up is a priceless advantage. Artists cannot afford to simply sit at a table, turn on a laptop, and hope their monologue will dazzle a director – planning ahead on staging allows you to exhibit professionalism. The chance to feel comfortable in a home environment must be exploited. Movement around a room, body language, and everything an artist can muster on a stage, must be presented in the greatest degree possible. Preparation time now belongs to artists. Normal auditions require awareness of everything occurring around them during the audition process. Vocal warmups and line recitals can’t encompass all their attention, lest they miss the call out for their audition slot. With online apps such as Zoom, the waiting room allows time for personal preparation without loss of concentration. Perhaps time is spent contemplating the emotions of a monologue, perhaps the vocal warmups need additional care. Relaxed breathing, moving around a room to gain energy, anything and everything possibly required for the artist is now available during these private moments. This personal time is invaluable, and if used properly, can make the difference between that big break, and just another unsuccessful attempt. Is it here to stay? Time will tell. Perhaps this era will change the face of auditions forever. Online auditions, if successful could become the new norm for future generations. Or perhaps when all is said and done, the digital audition will fade into obscurity, with directors citing the need for face-to-face time with candidates. Truth be told we have no way of knowing. What is certain, is that candidates must seize this advantage provided by fate. Rarely do the Arts see such a boon, and for those who are willing to put in the effort, these current online auditions could the stepping stone to fame and an illustrious career in their field.

The Silence of Laughter  – Are we witnessing the death of Scotland’s Comedy Scene?

Crisis for the Arts as Covid-19 forces Scottish Arts Festivals to shut down for the first time since their creation. Fortunately, aid is on the way for some Art forms, but is Comedy being forgotten? And will this be the death knell of Scotland’s comedy scene?  By Andrew Cook An unprecedented year for the Arts, as for the first time in their illustrious history, both the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe will not be gracing the streets and stages during 2020. Upholding 70 consecutive years of music, dance, and other Art forms, they have battled against both the Olympic and Commonwealth games and held their ground until this year. They are not alone in their plight. Edinburgh has waved goodbye to many other August events this year, including the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and the Edinburgh International Art Festival.The disappointment of audiences is palpable, as these scale of events attract 4.4 million audience members every August. Without mentioning the thousands of writers, artists, and performers that migrate from over 70 countries just to be a part of these iconic and incomparable events. “Heartbreaking, but the right decision” were the words of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Even as the terrible news sunk in, steps have been taken in response to the plight of this year’s events. An amalgamation of pre-recorded and live-broadcasted shows will replace the Fringe Festival this year and live-streamed online. This collaboration between Aydan Wilder and Vibes Arts Studios, is an attempt to raise donations to support at least some of the Artists losing their livelihoods this year. Even greater news, is that the Scottish government have announced a £10 million lifeline fund for grassroots music venues, and are expected to receive a £97 million bailout fund from Westminster with the sole purpose of saving the UK-wide Arts sector. Why is Comedy Concerned? The issue has come to light about the consideration of Comedy as a proper Art form. A campaign has arisen in an effort to prevent the death of the comedic scene amid fears that comedy grassroots venues will be forgotten. The fears stem from the creation of a new culture task force created by the Scottish Government. Newly launched ‘Comedy Campaign’ claims that this brand new task force dedicated to Arts throughout Scotland, lacks sufficient representation of Comedy, as within the task force are representatives from theatre, classical music, film, literature, publishing and health sectors, yet none from Comedic scene. The concerns of the Comedy Campaign are well founded. Despite not having the prestige of dance, or emotional severity of acting, comedy remains to be perhaps the most malleable of Art forms. With very little stage requirements, and the ability to adapt to any space, the grassroots comedy scene is incredibly popular among smaller venues throughout the length and breadth of Scotland, and it is these touring and grassroots venues that provide the income, and experience for aspirants to pursue successful careers within Comedy. Rising Scottish comic Fern Brady said Stand up has long been dismissed and ignored by arts funding bodies despite being one of the most engaging, exciting and popular forms of live theatre we have. This season the comedy scene are fighting back. In order for Comedy to have sufficient  representation during these troubled times of Covid-19, they formed the Association of Scottish Comedic Arts. A spokesperson recently stated – The comedy industry in Scotland is in danger of falling down the cracks between the available emergency financial packages for not entirely fitting the criteria for either the hospitality industry or the arts and culture money announced this week”  An incredibly difficult path to tread for those within Comedy, fighting for their rightful place at the table. There are dubious concerns that the majority of the bailout money will be handled by Creative Scotland, who for many years have refused to grant Comedy the status of an Art form, despite the fact that Scottish TV, and Radio rely heavily on this Art form every day, and that Scotland has produced numerous internationally-recognised Comedians, including Billy Connolly, Frankie Boyle, and Kevin Bridges. What are the knock on effects? For starters, highly applauded comedy venues and grassroots comedy clubs will be facing closure if they are overlooked during the bailout. Being passed over in favour of other Arts facilities could possibly topple the entire industry. This will in turn affect the careers of the comedians themselves. A survey conducted in Scotland recently revealed that 55% of Scots within the Comedy industry have already lost over half of their income for this year. Perhaps even more damaging to the new generation of comedians is that two-thirds of those surveyed had seriously considered giving up their profession, and 75% of all surveyed confessed to facing mental health problems over the uncertainty of their chosen profession. In the coming years we could be facing an entire generation of up and coming comedians being forced to turn their backs on their dreams, because the support structure for Comedy is not to an equal standard of other Art forms. This would be especially devastating to the Edinburgh Fringe scene next year. One can simply imagine the disappointment of the grand re-opening of the Edinburgh Fringe next year, without a single Scottish owned and run comedy venue. Particularly as 40% of the Edinburgh Fringe’s shows consist of this supposed ‘not-quite-art’ form – Comedy. An Art? Or simply Entertainment? While there are who would deny Comedy’s place among the Arts, it should stand on equal representation with all other forms. They are each unique, and incomparable to one another. Some bring tears of beauty, others bring passion and awe, Comedy brings laughter, joy, and a level of relatability between performers and audiences that is nigh impossible to be matched in other Art forms. Our world would be much emptier, with a few less laughs.  

A Fringe Re-imagined

The Fringe and the world will be very different this Summer. In response, the Fringe Society have re-imagined the event this year with virtual events and live streamed performances. Following the announcement that the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will not be going ahead as planned in 2020, the Edinburgh Fringe Society has unveiled alternative digital plans taking place this summer, complementing a variety of activities planned by Fringe artists and venues. Creatives from across the Fringe landscape will be bringing versions of their work to life digitally, many for the very first time. From live streamed performances to nostalgic throwbacks and community-focused events and support sessions, the spirit of the Fringe will live on in the work of thousands of Fringe artists and venues, and the Fringe Society will help audiences navigate them through a central listings service on Alongside this, the Fringe Society will be running a series of digital activities, including virtual shows, a festival-wide crowdfunding campaign, artist-facing workshops, a new online arts industry platform and a virtual Fringe Central, so there are still plenty of ways to #MakeYourFringe in 2020. Commenting on the launch of this year’s digital Fringe activity, Shona McCarthy, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society Chief Executive, said: “It’s hard to imagine a summer without the Fringe. The explosion of creativity and community that the festival brings every year is unparalleled, and whilst we may not be able to provide a stage in Edinburgh in quite the same way this year, it feels hugely important that the spirit of this brilliant festival is kept alive. “Little did we know way back in autumn, when we first started talking about this year’s programme artwork, how prescient the superhero theme would be today. We’re happy to be able to shine a spotlight on some of our Fringe heroes now, as we rally round to support the people that make your Fringe. On the other side of this, we’ll need them more than ever. “The impact of Covid-19 has been devastating for the countless artists, audiences, venues, workers and small businesses that make this festival happen every year. The FringeMakers crowdfunding campaign is designed to support them, while the Fringe on a Friday live show and the Fringe Pick n Mix website aim to bring some much-needed joy to our devoted audiences both here in Scotland and all over the world.” Professor Sir Tim O’Shea, Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society Chair, added: “It’s been an extraordinarily difficult year and we still have real work to do to secure the future of the wider Fringe ecosystem. The partnership with Crowdfunder is an important step towards helping venues and artists raise vital funds that we know are needed to keep the Fringe alive. “At its core the Fringe Society exists to support artists and we’re pleased to be able to offer so many different opportunities for arts professionals during this difficult time, from our online artist development programme, Fringe Central, to our dedicated Fringe Marketplace arts industry platform. “We’re incredibly grateful to all the partners, funders and supporters who have helped us to deliver this. Their support is invaluable during what has been a difficult time for the Fringe and the wider arts sector.”    

Naked on Stage – The Body Confidence Battle for Artists

Nowadays, nudity in popular media is seen as a common phenomenon. From contemporary art to Game of Thrones, many artists and actors find themselves stripping down and baring it all on the stage or on screen. Is this essential to the process of the Arts? And if so, how can performers maintain the confidence to bare themselves? By Andrew Cook Art has shaped our society since the beginning. From the first tribal dances to the latest series on Netflix, the arts have help us explore our natures, limits, desires, and emotions – and nudity has always featured prevalently. Now, stage and screen share a huge responsibility of the Arts. Game of Thrones and Spartacus are among many series with actors and actress baring it all out on screen. Contemporary Artists are creating more and more nude pieces for dancers to present on stage. But how do these artists maintain the confidence to do so? ‘Work-out’ is the most misused suggestion. People believe that the only way to be confident while naked, is to be perfect. Too many believe that confidence only comes from a lack of imperfection. This is a terribly damaging outlook for young artists on the screen and stage, as they search for a perfection that doesn’t exist. For those who want to become more physically attractive, critique is fantastic. It can guide us in ways we wouldn’t understand before, but to become obsessed with one’s flaws is a dangerous thing. Dancers and Actors training and constantly judging their reflections in a mirror allows them to understand their bodies far better than they otherwise would, but they have to be careful of one essential problem. Do not forget the art. The definition of Art is ‘the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination… … producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.’ This is why the phenomenon of artists becoming obsessed with physicality is very worrying. A dancer is not just the way he looks motionless and tensing. He is the gentle flow of his arms through the air, he is in the languorous tilt of his head, he is in his perfect musical timing. An actress is not a perfect hourglass figure in a bikini. She is the body language of her character, the raw emotion in her voice, the soul of her role shining out from behind her eyes. The history of nudity as an effect within art is varied. A Greek sculptor, would portray his idea of masculinity within the fierce musculature of a man’s torso. Statues of a man and woman during intercourse are considered to portray the ‘divine perfection’ of femininity and masculinity as one. Even the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages, a time where sexuality was heavily repressed and desire looked on with disdain, portray the Virgin Mary with one breast out. Symbolising her femininity, fertility, and original sin. The point of Art was not to agree or disagree with these symbolic statements, but rather an Artist’s attempt to show ideas, philosophies, and meanings. This is how true artists maintain their body confidence whilst naked. It is not stripping off on stage or screen, it is surrendering oneself, and become one with the art form itself. Present day artists such as Javier De Frutos, Spanish director and choreographer, expand on these ideas. He wants to ‘work with raw nerve, to choreograph the organs and work with the effect of light on naked skin.’ Using dancers’ nudity as a performance effect. Combining the aesthetic placement of lighting, with the emotional power of nudity to create and control the feelings within the audience. The dangers of nudity Nudity is powerful. Whether fully naked, or only partially so, this inherent power that we all have a connection to, should be used for the sake of the art. A director may employ it to demonstrate vulnerability, or perhaps confidence. It is a tool for the art and the story therein, but as with any tool it is devalued when used incorrectly. Unfortunately, misuse is rife. Recently during the #metoo movement actors and actresses have stepped forward and recounted their stories of Directors abusing the power of their position in order to demand nudity from their actors and actresses during production. Salma Hayek, Debra Harding, and Sarah Jessica Parker are among the actresses naming and shaming directors such as Harvey Weinstein and Steven Seagal for their indecent behaviour, and extreme pressuring for nudity during filming. As the classic song says ‘This is a Man’s World’, the pressure for performing nude scenes falls almost exclusively on women. According to the University of Southern California, within the top grossing films of 2016, 25.6% of named or speaking female roles were either heavily exposed, or nude, compared with an extremely low 9.2% of men. If all nudity was correctly used to express an idea, emotion, or effect, the rates would be much more equal. Frequently nudity is used simply for nudity’s sake, and unfortunately not every actress is in the position to address unfair situations. Many aspiring actresses in their first roles are susceptible to overbearing directors, and submit to demands in order to get their ‘big break’. Thankfully, things are changing, perhaps because of the #metoo movement, or perhaps because actors and actresses are now being backed up by organisations such as SAG – AFTRA, who provide protection and require prior notice of nude content to be displayed before auditions begin. Proof of these new times is with Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, who performed numerous nude scenes throughout the series, and was fortunate enough to call the shots on when and how. She declared that she is comfortable with nude scenes, only if it ‘forwards a story or is shot in a way that adds insight into characters. Sometimes explicit scenes are required and make sense for the characters/story, as they do in Westeros, If its gratuitous for gratuitous sake, then I will discuss with a director on how to make it more subtle.’ For all young artists out there, we must be careful of those who wish to misuse the power nudity within art, but also remember one thing. To attempt to appear attractive is fine, to look perfect is impossible. We must look beyond the flaws and realise that our beauty is within our Art, not our muscles. It is within what we do, not how we appear. Art is not skin-deep. It is inside us.

Lockdown Photo Tour of Edinburgh

We walked the streets of Edinburgh today to give you a sense of how the city is faring in lockdown. Our photo tour starts at midday at Waverley Station, walks up Princes Street and George Street, back up the Mound to Victoria Street, then down the Royal Mile and back to Waverley. It was strange to see the city devoid of Fringe posters, tourists and noise. But there was no sense that Edinburgh was in a ’28 days Later’ meltdown. Yes, it was sad to see an abundance of ‘for sale’ signs and hotels such as the Balmoral boarded up, but there was also builders everywhere, using the opportunity of lockdown to renovate buildings. There was also a sense of tourism on the cusp of restarting with the first outdoor cafés and bus tours starting to appear again. Let us hope the pandemic is now under control in Scotland, and that we have seen our last victims, so that the economy can start to recover and Edinburgh’s shops, restaurants, theatres, comedy venues and pubs can welcome guests once again.
The tour starts at midday today at Waverley station.
No cheeky McDonalds for us on the way to Princes St!
The Balmoral hotel is boarded up
Leith St looking pretty quiet
Signs of Edinburgh up against the backdrop of a boarded-up Balmoral – Neighbourhood
The quietest you have probably ever seen Edinburgh in July
Edinburgh thanks all Key Workers – it sure does!
Stay Safe!
Princes St NHS tribute
No Fringe posters along Princes St this year!
Sir Walter’s Cafe in the Gardens – Back in business!
The lovely Seonad of Edinburgh Bus Tours telling us that some tours were available free until Tuesday!
George Street. Street cafés are now starting to appear
Please respect social distancing!
George Street
The Mound today – no posters, no people
Despite fears going into lockdown, the good people of Edinburgh seem to have been pretty well behaved
Victoria St
Start of the Royal Mile
Tumbleweed today outside the National Library
No queues today!
Looking up the Royal Mile towards the Castle
These phone boxes will be familiar to many of you!
Fringe Shop
The lockdown has given some the opportunity to perform renovations
No street performers today
Bottom gates to the Royal Mile
Boarded up for now
Hunter Square
Was this a crow magpie hybrid? For now he was the only entertainment at the Tron
South Bridge
Back to Waverley

World Fringe Day – the arts industry is taking a beating, but artists are still innovating online at Fringes around the world

Lockdown, social distancing and little funding – the arts industry is taking a beating in 2020. Against impossible odds, the performers of Edinburgh Fringe Festival and other industry artists are innovating diverse methods to prevail in the current climate. By Andrew Cook Rehearsals are cancelled. Shows are cancelled. Performing arts institutions are at a standstill, and those self-employed throughout the arts industry are facing serious difficulties with no clear end in sight. Yet, somehow, great minds are developing other possibilities to keep the creative atmosphere of theatre alive. Edinburgh Fringe The Edinburgh Fringe is both historic and iconic. The largest celebration of arts and culture around the globe, Edinburgh is a city crackling with creativity every August as performers from all walks of life gather together to demonstrate the skills of their astounding crafts to wide-eyed audiences. Born in 1947, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival has, to date, inspired over 200 Fringe Festivals all around the world But unfortunately, this year it will not be the same. As many other teachers of the arts have had to adapt to lockdown provisions, so too will the performers past, present and future of the Edinburgh Fringe. For the last few months online classes have become the norm for all students studying from home. Attending carefully planned Zoom classes to maintain a sense of normality has been essential to make progress in their fields. In an attempt to keep the arts alive, and to ensure the artists behind these productions continue their creative works, theatre director and filmmaker Aydan Wilder, in collaboration with Vibes Art Studios, is attempting to put together an online Fringe Festival. Creating an itinerary of shows and productions that have been performed at Fringe venues all around the UK, including Edinburgh Festival, and London’s Vault Festival, the selected pieces gathered will be accessible for short periods online. Amongst the repertoire involved will be performances such as an adaptation of Chekov’s Uncle Vanya from Theatrical Niche, Baaba’s Footsteps by Susan Hingley, and The Two of Us created and performed by Mariana Aristizábal Pardo, alongside many other pieces yet to be confirmed. Far from being an online streaming service requiring paid membership, these shows will be online and free-to-access for all who choose to watch them. However, in an effort to maintain the livelihoods of the artists and of the Fringe itself, donations are requested and very much needed. 10% of all donations are being returned to the festival organisers themselves, and the remaining 90% going to the artists, and directors behind these pieces of art. Online Fringes become the new normal It seems that the online trend has begun. We are seeing similar efforts being coordinated amongst fellow Fringe Festivals across the globe. Cincinatti, Nanaimo, and Paris are among many locations holding online Fringe festivals this year with minor changes from festival to festival. The Paris Fringe organisers attempted a different approach to Edinburgh. Signing up productions from Australia, Brazil, Albania, Canada, India, Italy, Belgium, the UK, USA and France itself, the Paris Fringe wanted to maintain as much of the live atmosphere as it could. Preserving 80% of the shows as live performances was an incredible effort from the Festival this June, with some acts able to live stream directly from theatres and other locations. Other performances were adapted in incredible ways and were live streamed from living-rooms and other home locations. Programme Director Anton Bonnici insisted ‘We wanted to keep that sense of being at a live event, as if you are in the room with the performers’. A challenging, unique, and admirable approach, the birth of the online Fringe Festival seemed to be a success. With thousands of viewers around the world tuning in to watch these pieces, the magic of the arts is being maintained a little while longer, despite the adversity and difficulties being faced. Across the arts, the desire to overcome our challenges together has been spreading. British artist Frank Turner in collaboration with Music Venue Trust has been performing live gigs from his living room in an attempt to raise money for independent venues in multiple locations. Launching the hashtag #independentvenuelove he has been raising donations to support smaller venues, and their staff, during this incredibly difficult time.
Thistle do nicely for the future? A cross between online and live performance?
Is this a new online-era for the arts? As the trend continues, we are seeing more and more artists exploiting online platforms to reach audiences, Camden People’s Theatre is streaming its greatest hits, Gateshead International Festival is taking place on Zoom, and the indie collective Forest Fringe launched Forest Fringe TV. These are opening new and interesting opportunities for art institutions and collectives to grab their audiences, directly within their homes. Paula Varjack, a video artist and producer described the new online opportunities – I’m seeing it as just another form to play with’ But, as with everything, there is a darker side to these developments. While these online streamings and donations give a chance for public enjoyment, and perhaps a little income for some of the artists involved, without serious changes in the future the arts will ultimately suffer. For one, many are worried that the magic of real theatre will be lost in the attempt to reproduce a large amount of film-like plays. The emotions of actors and actresses baring the souls of their characters on stage just feet away from you in a dark auditorium is irreplaceable on any sort of filming, no matter the equipment, conditions, and skill set of the producers. Secondly, the theatres themselves will fail without proper support. Theatres are training grounds where small plays can be tested and tweaked before taking off, launching new productions every year and creating generations of groundbreaking performances. With the use of repetitive online services and reruns of prerecorded shows, stage managers, technical managers, and other backstage crew are being forced out of work. These hard-working individuals are not acting on the stage, but their skill sets are invaluable and necessary to any working theatre. The more who are forced to change profession, the more knowledge and skill is lost. If that happens, theatres will find themselves hard-pressed to deliver live performances once back up and running. The saving grace Currently the Arts are making the best of a terrible situation. With their groundbreaking attempts at bringing Festivals to the masses via online services, they are sending a reminder to everyone that the Arts are not just alive, but necessary to our lives. Hopefully a lesson will be learned from these troubled times, and 2021 will bring a packed Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow art lovers, watching the beauty and fragility of live performance. We will once more bask in the ethereal atmosphere of theatres, and never again take for granted what we lost this year.  
Just a few of the Fringes in 2020 which have confirmed online performances Some other Fringes will go ahead ‘live’ as in previous years but with relevant social distancing measures in places such as Boulder in August and Amsterdam and Gothenburg in September. The COVID situation means many events have had to change existing schedules, sometimes at short notice. Always check the official website for an event before visiting a Fringe Festival in person.