Edinburgh Festival: Day 1
I arrive with minimal incident; drunk sixty year old women cackling about men and hooking up on this single’s group trip to the festival, two little kids feeding me Harry Potter Jelly Belly candies with names like Dirt Earthworm and Booger, handsome young hipster cabbie driving me through throngs of fringe goers past endless performance spaces finally delivering me to a majestic looking mini-castle where I’ll stay for a week, whirlwind tour of the house winding up to a sweet little room on the top floor, windows overlooking gardens and rooftops of residential Edinburgh.
I’m left alone to put down my packs. I’m a little overwhelmed. I feel far from the festival out in the burbs. My hosts are heading out shortly for the opening festivities of the book festival and the house is quiet.
I start thinking about what to do now. Should I unpack? Should I just grab my wallet and leave the house? Go exploring? See a play? There are so many and I don’t know where to start and I cannot make this decision by myself and…
Computer turns on, phone buttons start clicking and off I go into the land of please please answer my call talk to me I’m so very alone right now don’t make me do this alone…
I don’t get through to any of the people I know that are here. I worry they’ll think I’m a little unhitched. A little too needy.
Luck is with me and I have several wonderful Skype conversations with familiar and comforting friends from home. A boost. A little social insulin.
I can do this. I’m going to do this. I do this.
My first real glimpse of the city is at sunset. I have about a forty minute walk from my home to the theatre compound where my show is. The sun is setting over the dome of a church spire, and there are people everywhere.
I pop in Kid Koala’s 12 bit Blues and find peace in my solitude, pleasure in the groove as I walk through the parks, into the festival fray and, eventually arrive at my destination in time for me to take a big breath, have a beautiful moment of complicity with a bartender and find myself a little perch to drink my drink amongst the crowds.
In the line for the show I end up having an animated conversation with an actor from London. Her husband has a spoken word piece in the festival and she lived in Halifax, NS for a summer.
We form a duo and enter the space together. The show starts. Synchronicity strikes again.
In my Skype conversations earlier I had been plotting with two wonderful friends and collaborators about a piece that would involve live storytelling, music and projections. Playing together. Creating each evening within a framework. How it would look though, what it meant I didn’t know. I do now!
After a Technical Difficulty induced introduction the performer spends the show sitting at a desk. To his left is a dj spinning live music. Behind us is a video animator creating, you guessed it, live animation. For a moment or two I am off in my mind thinking of what I want for my piece and what I like or am not so keen on in this one and then… gone… story takes over, music sneaks in, video transfixes.
Beats, written and performed by Kieran Hurley “tells the story of Johnno McCreadie, a teenager living in a small suburban Scottish town at the time of the 1994 Criminal Justice Act – a new piece of legislation which effectively outlawed raves, or “public gatherings around amplified music characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”. BEATS is a coming-of-age story exploring rebellion, apathy and the irresistible power of gathered youth. With techno. Lots of techno.”
Seated there at his desk Kieran effortlessly bounces between the fifteen year old Johnno, his anxious mother, his Bad News slightly older best friend, the cop who, rebelling from the union battles of his early working days joins the force for the good of the country.
Not surprisingly the show builds like a dance track, the narrative sequences slow and distinguishable at first building building building to an almost untenable peakish fever as Johnno experiences his first hit of Ecstasy at his first rave barely registering the ripples of panic as the adrenalin and righteousness drugged police force plow through the mile high dancers and our cop’s baton meets Johnno’s face. The comedown is harsh and we are left with hints of the characters’ later realisations and re-narrativations of the events and their implications but, as with a dance track the story just winds down, perhaps opening the door for the next one to mix itself in and over. As it begins, so it ends with Kieran repeating the phrase “it doesn’t mean nothing” over and over and over and over – a sample for a track, a question of interpretation.
We feel we have experienced something. We have been on a journey and we are, as we were then stumbling out in the daylight, changed.
I glimpsed that world, just a little bit, through my own hazy teenage years. Like Johnno, I was, always a little nervous about diving in and I saw plenty to encourage that fear but, I saw plenty to make me wish I hadn’t. I didn’t get beaten by police but I had my horrible moments and I saw many many more and many that were much worse.
It doesn’t mean nothing.
Gonna try daily updates this week. Morning after type updates. Too many good shows, too good an opportunity to get my brain working again. Too easy to waste the morning otherwise.
Today’s activities include: finding old friends, living statues, comedy show and a book festival event.