For those of you not lucky enough to live in Edinburgh all year round,
An excellent taster for the season of work yet to come.
For this year’s Fringe, the VPT team have put together a programme of individually-themed events featuring a different roster of writers, actors and scripts each evening. Admittedly, the first night was unique in one respect: the performances were co-directed by Mark Thomson, whose normal business card identifies him as Artistic Director of the Royal Lyceum Theatre. Just for context: the following day, Thomson was due to start rehearsals with Brian Cox and Bill Paterson for his forthcoming production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. His willingness to be involved with VPT is proof of how seriously Edinburgh’s indigenous theatre folk already take what’s happening here.
As themes go, The Village Pub Theatre Will See You Now was not among their strongest, with most writers taking from it some aspect of ‘new beginnings’, either in terms of situations or characters. Jonathan Holt’s Singing Set Me Free was a humorous take on how men can find happiness by being in touch with their emotions, while Belongings by Belle Jones underscored the different levels of possession in our property-fixated world. Tim Primrose’s Pussywhipped, meantime, focused instead on a new beginning for a relationship between two women, one of whom clearly considers the other to be a social and emotional “doormat” – until the tables are turned, quite spectacularly.
After a short interval, The Consecration of the Bishop by the acclaimed theatre maker Tim Crouch certainly grabbed the attention by disturbingly mixing the imagery of the anointment of a female bishop with the preparations for a suicide bomber – all in five minutes! In contrast, Sylvia Dow’s Annus Mirabilis was much more grounded in the everyday; a dinner date for two older people, Rose and Peter, who are each looking for some “agreeable company” to distract themselves from their post-divorce, post-bereavement loneliness.
Initially, at least, Medio Pollito and the Jesus of Leith appeared to have the least connection with the theme of “new beginnings”, being essentially two boys telling different stories about their homes: one, a Mexican fairy tale about a one-eyed, one-legged “half chicken”, the other a version of Leith filled with bus shelter zombies, piss-smelling “superhero” Majestic Man, and the shaggy Jesus who stands outside a local pub with his dog.
Together and separately, actors Jamie Scott Gordon, Jonathan Holt, Belle Jones, and Sarah MacGillivray gave energy and focus to their roles. All in all, this was an excellent taster for the season of work yet to come. Which is appropriate enough; by a show of hands, a majority of the audience had never been to a VPT event before. They will surely have been impressed by what they saw.