Monday, August 25, 2014

Edinburgh, Scotland

After coming from the glorious heat and warmth of the sun-kissed Mediterranean, Scotland was a radical change.
We got scared as the blustering wind and gray skies seemed to snicker at us as
we walked to our apartment. It seemed we had just entered a fully deserted land, and the few specimens left walked quickly and hunched over through the streets. The visage of these Scottish people were right out of Harry Potter; wrinkly, scrunched up, plain looking faces compared to the flamboyance and expressiveness of the Italians. And this is not at all to be rude or judgemental–it’s just when you come from a place where topless women and men in speedos line the streets, and you see plaid coats and winter boots on everyone, it’s a little depressing as the idea of summer slowly fades away...
With a glum feeling inside all of us, we put our best faces on the next morning and set out to Jenners, the Edinburgh department store, to have a classic Scottish breakfast. We had beans, toast, haggis, blood sausage, tattie scones, bacon, eggs, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, and toast. We were slightly shocked at how delicious it all tasted! Deciding that we’d embrace and explore this culture as best we could, we headed out to our first show of the Fringe Festival–the biggest performance festival in the world–which was the whole reason we’d come to Edinburgh in the first place.

We saw four shows that day: first an improv performance that structured itself by “forgetting” the title and characters of the story and using the audiences input to create it. Then a drama about greedy King Ubu, and how his pursuit for all riches turned around and smacked him in the face; a brilliantly orchestrated piece full of synchronized movement all performed by high school students. Then the most original, beautiful, elegant magic show I’ve ever seen. Ben Hart, the rather cute magician, told his story about “the Vanishing Boy,” in which he describes his encounter with an alien-like looking boy late one evening. The boy disappears from his home while Ben steps out for a moment, but he leaves a box, which has the instructions for a grand magic trick only done by one man in the history of the world. With this build up, Ben incorporates small magic tricks along the way, and finishes with the trick from the box: taking five empty tin cups, magically making them fill with water, and then turning that water into snow. It’s impossible to describe the sophistication and elan of this man’s performance: it was just fantastic.
We ended the evening with another one man show that brilliantly explored what it means to be an outsider, and what it means to die. The man comes on stage dressed in a big green sack and begins singing and making sounds into a microphone, which are then recorded and start to replay. Throughout the show, he dances, sings, acts, talks to the audience, and finishes with everyone coming on stage, forming a circle, and holding hands. Everyone begins to chime in with his song, singing, “I’ll live forever, I’ll live every single day, in you, in you, in you.” And then we all slowly fall down, slowly dying and singing, and it’s just so incredibly beautiful.

During the next few days we saw an Adams Family musical, a show where a man tells stories from his African village, Monsieur Butterfly (where a man puts together a Rube Goldberg machine using objects representing different parts of his life), the James Trilogy–divided into three different shows, we saw 7 ½ hours about King James I, II, and III of Scotland, which were incredible, and we learned a lot about Scotland’s history. We spent a day in North Berwick, a beach town, and although it was freezing it was really nice to be by the water.

We saw more shows; more comedy, more improv, more theater. A show called “Stuck,” where an audience gives a location and an inspirational word with which they use as a basis to improvise the show. An interactive show called Eden Gate, where you pretend you’re a survivor of this rapidly spreading disease, and you have to collectively make a decision to loose your memory but then go to this underground world called “Eden Gate,” or to keep it and take this culture for an antibiotic and go back to a lab in London. It was really quite terrible, at least for me, and that’s when I realized that I actually have a lot of training as an actor. During the past three years, in my drama intensive at school, I’ve done so much improv, and process drama (like the “Eden Gate”) that to me, some of the performances that other people raved about didn’t seem at all special, because I’ve done so much of it already.

Another show was called “The American’s Guide to Being, Like, Totally British,” where a 30-year-old comedian talks and makes jokes about how she moved to London, and what people think of being British compared to what it’s actually like. It was really funny...

So I'd say we got used the cold, made amends with the gray skies, had some yummy food, saw some great shows, and made the best of our visit in Edinburgh! I'd even even say we had a lot–a lot a lot– of fun. *smiley_face* 

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