Behind the Scenes at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019

Tag: fringe festival 2019

Featuring Fringy Female Graffiti Artists

Craving an off beat art experience, I bussed across town thirty minutes to Leith in search of the 360 Wraparound Street Art Courtyard and Urban Art Exhibition.  Spying a spray-painted Asian-looking cat on a large metal industrial door told me I was probably close.  A brick and stone arched tunnel about fifteen feet long covered in more painted art marked the entrance into an open-air parking lot space enclosed on all sides by high walls now covered in murals with a small indoor gallery space to my right.  

A lanky, fellow bent over his painting project in the yard looked up and smiled.  David welcomed me in to the parking area and introduced himself jokingly as the “curator” of the urban art project, and the landlord.  Another gal painting away on a 3 x 3 foot wood cube, offered a friendly Hello too.

David in front of Elph’s mural

“So what’s the impetus for this project?” I asked David.  He explained that initially he wanted to feature female Scottish street artists and invited as many as he could find to cover the outdoor space.  Most of the art was created a month before the Fringe Festival during the Leith Festival, but David showed me a few new works that were done during the Fringe – including an incredible work by Elph (@elphone).   David offered that Elph started out as a graffiti artist, then went to art school, and has returned to his street art roots by creating a new original graffiti work every 24 hours! Upon closer inspection of his painting, you see his lovely lightly painted touch in striking contrast to the other wall art with bold thick layered paint.  The Elph of Edinburgh is like the new Bansky of London. Now I’m on the hunt for his work!  How long has he been doing this? Anyone know?

Only three of the woman artists and one male (Elph) regularly do graffiti art as their primary art form.  Zoe Atherfold (@zoeatherfold), the gal I met when I walked in is a very talented screen print artist (I mention as I ended up purchasing a print), although she contributed to the 360 urban art project by painting a cool pigeon art mural high on the wall above the arch of the tunnel. 

David explained that inexpensive art studio space is hard to find in Edinburgh.  His indoor gallery and workshop space is a former refrigeration storage facility (that failed to pass a cheese inspection – not cold enough!).  I entered through an industrial roller lift door into a small gallery space with a variety of different artists’ works displayed.  Zoe invited me into her work space.  What work space?  Voila … A secret door opened amidst the displayed art, and we entered into a myriad of tiny work spaces with artists buzzing about.  She showed me her small print shop area.  David commented later how artists are great tenants because they don’t need much.  “Just a space to create and a toilet. No need for high speed wifi, etc,” he joked. 

I asked about other graffiti art I had seen around town. He explained that there’s a group of graffiti artists located not far away who do only spray paint mural art.  He showed me their “tag” of approval on this space – a show of urban art respect.  

Monsters Within

Traversing slowly through the foggy room to find my seat, Taiwan Season: Monster by Yen-Cheng Liu was an experience from the onset.  Creative, evocative, uncomfortable, boundary pushing – This is the kind of work I came to the Fringe to experience. 

Afterwards, Liu was very approachable and open to share about his art.  Although created in 2017, this is his first time touring with this piece.  Liu, an acclaimed international dancer, explained that he reached a point in his dance career where he began to seriously question why he was dancing?  “What was the point of dancing?”  This work reflects those explorations as he experiments with space and time in unusual and interesting ways.  He says that this is a “movement piece” versus a dance piece.  Liu explained how he likes that in some Chinese landscape paintings you see mountains on each side of the picture and a big open space between.  The concept is reflected in his work. His actual dance movements were captivating. I walked away wanting more! MORE!  And needing to think and take it all in.  I love that.  I love that the Fringe is the place he decided to allow a very non-traditional piece the space.  Isn’t that what the Fringe should be about after all?

About that Snail in My Shoe: Tent Camping at the Fringe

My new blanket and pillow.

Huffing and puffing, I arrived with my heavier than hell backpack via bus to Mortonhall campground and crematorium (not joking) about 40 mins away from the center of Edinburgh where most of the Fringe action takes place.  I thought I would try to cut my expenses at the Fringe by going cheap on accommodations and tent camp.  Surely this is what artists on a budget must do, right?  I envisioned camping amidst all sorts of creative sorts and getting a really behind the scenes glimpse into performers’ lives at the Fringe. 

The long walk past the cows to reception.
None of these deluxe setups are mine…

It was hot and sunny when I arrived, and I found myself sweating the 15 minute walk from the bus to reception.  I had pre-booked into the extra cheap “Fringe Festival Camping” area which proved to be another 15 minute walk to a back field.  With limited bathroom access and a location way too far from the campground amenities, I rather quickly surmised that it would not do for a month.  I resolved to pay the difference to be closer to the front.  With sweat now dripping down my face, I trudged back to reception.  The helpful gal kindly allowed me to camp in the regular tent camping area only a three minute walk away.  Thank you sweet woman!  My new spot was under a fine shade tree.  Score! Maybe this was going work out after all! Heck the campground even sports a nice restaurant and pub.

This is my tent, and this was the last day I saw sun!

That was pretty much the last I saw of the sun for the next 13 days. It poured seemingly non-stop.  Rain makes a few things I intended to do much more challenging – cooking and drying clothes being the two biggies.  Fortunately, the campground had a kitchen, as do most campgrounds in Europe.

Kitchen, laundry, and recreation room.

I depend upon the plugs in their recreation room with inconvenient hours to do my charging, or hopped the bus to town to enjoy a coffee and recharge.*

Adding to the challenge, there was simply no way to dry clothes – not even my quick-dry towel would dry with the constant rainy damp weather. 

The welcome mat.

With the rain, came the mud.  My lovely little camp area turned into a mud pit.  I purchased a mat that said “SMILE” for outside the door to put my shoes on and make getting in and out less messy.  That helped.  Another challenge was keeping warm.  I erred in bringing my lightweight sleeping bag.  It’s summer after all, right?  I froze for the first few nights until I finally broke down and bought a blanket and a pillow, and another pair of pants.  I only brought one long pair – jeans, all the rest were shorts and a pair of capris.  Fortunately, Edinburgh has fabulous secondhand stores, “Charity shops” as they call them.  I got some fine pants for just a few pounds.  I went new retail on the blanket.

The break in!

Then came a new challenge — one I had never encountered in all my years of camping.  A break in!  I arrived back to my tent one evening to find a large hole, approximately 4 inches, chewed through the wall of my tent and into my bag of bread! Thank goodness it was not through my rainfly!!  I have no idea what critter broke in, just that I no could no longer keep any sort of bread product in my tent. 

On the bright but pricier side, the weather prompted lots more dining out, which is a bit of a treat in an international city like Edinburgh.  I am also taking in more shows (which have been amazing) than I anticipated because it’s just too miserable to wander outside.  I bought a monthly unlimited bus pass, so I spend a lot of time on it too. Plus, all the wet weather has been great for my skin and hair. 

About those artists camping … Yeah, not so much.  I didn’t notice very many folks camping, not “fringe” tent camping anyway.  Those that were in the field had much larger, more deluxe tent set-ups – so presumably they’re from Europe and not trying to pack small and light for flying.  Also, one should note that the night busses run much less frequently.  

One more little unexpected issue: bees!  At first there was an occasional one buzzing about my tent, but yesterday there were more like five making efforts to get in.  Did I park myself on a nest? Are they too over the rain?  Another first for me camping.  Wait … maybe it’s the banana peel! I think I got that one figured.

And about the snail I found in my shoe? At least it was not a slug. The slugs really like sticking themselves to my tent as well. Needless to say, when my friend arrives in a couple of days, I’m moving indoors.  Of course, it will probably stop raining thereafter! Ha!

*No free wifi, so I opted for a $20 sim card for my phone with 12GB of data for the month.

Only 15 Minutes to Set Up!

Phil Poole, Set Designer

Director, Claudine Sinnet, likes a challenge and has big ideas.  While most shows bring a suitcase full of props to the Fringe, not Claudine.  “She wanted a proper set for her first show at the Edinburgh Fringe and her new production company, Cry Havoc,” says Phil Poole, her set designer. Approximately fifteen minutes is allotted to erect the set for the 50 minute new play, Devil of Choice, by Maggie Bofill, a playwright from NYC. Phil explained that they must wait for the previous show to clear out before they set up — and everyone always runs late. Go figure.  Phil, an experienced professional set designer, worked with Claudine, also an experienced theater professional, to design a set that could be put up fast! He created what are called “bookend” flats.  These mobile walls are approximately 8’ x 3’, open like a book, and are self-standing without weights.  The three actors in the show engage in quick costume changes behind these bookend walls.  The 15-minute stage set up by the cast and limited crew includes erecting the bookends, plus setting all the props and costumes. Whew! 

So surely they had plenty of time before the actual performance to work out the techy bits, right?   Nope.  Two weeks earlier, they had a four-hour technical rehearsal where none of the actors were present.  Claudine and Phil and rest of her theater crew live in Brighton, UK while the actors reside in the United States. The Thursday before the show opened, the full cast had a one-hour dress run-through.  Only one hour! They engaged in what they call “top and tailing” the scenes.  The cast members would do a line or so at the beginning of each scene and then skip to the end of it in order to get lighting and sound clues right.  Then show time baby!  That’s it! I’m excited to actually go see the show now. 

UPDATE: The very adult themed drama was quite good. It was a small audience, and I believe I ended up chatting afterward with everyone who attended…and everyone liked it. Interesting story, well directed, good acting, nice set design, and great music. Definitely a solid show worthy of attending.

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