One of the special treats of the Forest Fringe Festival was the opportunity to take part in some one on one performances. I missed out on Rosanna Cade’s Walking:Holding, but for the final Saturday and Sunday I was able to book a slot both to Jo Bannon’s Exposure and Andy Field’s Motor Vehicle Sundown (which was either a two person experience or a zero person experience depending on how you look at it). While the Fringe Festival is now long past, I’d like to document these two performances as they seem like the kind of small precious things that might be completely forgotten by the tides of time while Bremmer Duthie’s 33 (A Kabarett), which made me want to tear my eyes out, somehow gets reviews all over the place when I can only hope to some day forget it. (I’ll consider that my review of the show and hopefully finally the anger will die.)
Registering for these was a bit odd because I couldn’t figure out how to do it online; still, at about 10 minutes per slot, there were many opportunities to see Jo Bannon perform – as we were taking an hour between shows for a tea and scone break (Drill Hall is great for that), both I and Worthy Opponent were able to see it. The description was “Exposure is the beginning of an investigation into how we look, how we are looked at and if we can ever really be seen,” so I thought there was going to be a discussion of identity, how people make assumptions about you based on your appearance, maybe something where each of us were talking about our experiences.
But with a one on one performance, you can pretty much expect to leave your expectations behind, and this was decidedly the case for this tightly choreographed, jewelbox experience. I was led into a pitch black room where I was sat at a table, and a flashlight pointed at two earbuds which I put on. Then I listened to a series of recollections and meditations about Bannon’s experience of living as herself. I was unable to see her myself initially, except for a brief flash of light shone across her eye – providing me a glimpse of rather a lot of pink and tiny clouds of blue. I was reminded of a rabbit’s eye rather than a person – correctly enough as it turned out, as (as shown in a slide show) Bannon is albino. This has led to a very differently experienced life than I’ve had, and her narration of it, and how it’s affected her, was quite interesting. At the end, she paused and we looked at each other, fully lit, for a minute or so. She was all dressed in white, which enhanced her ivory hair and delicate features – it was like looking at a ghost in a movie. But I wonder – what was it like for her looking at me? What was her experience? That, however, wasn’t what Exposure was about, but I enjoyed it anyway.
The second “one on one” show I went to did actually involve two people but had no actors – rather, it was a shared experience with one other audience member in which we both put on headphones and “went for a ride” in a car situated in the Drill Hall foyer. (I hadn’t read about it beforehand – I just saw the opportunity and went for it.) Motor Vehicle Sundown had three different phases – one in which we sat in the back, one in which we sat one in the drivers seat front and one in the rear, and a third in which, er, an apocalypse happens (and we sat in the front). We occasionally received instructions, i.e. to get in the car, to look at each other, but mostly we listened to a monologue of the experience of driving, of watching a drive-in movie (with a sound track – I think it was a slasher flick), of watching the world end.
While I found this experience very enjoyable, I kind of felt like it should have gone a little further. With two different headphones, we could easily have been having a very different experience from each other, much in the same way two people can read the same book and get different things out of it – but this could have been pushed much further. One of the people could have been a murderer, or could have been angry at the person they were driving with, and the emotional interactions between the two people could have been used as part of the artistic experience. This element was completely neglected, which is a bit of a shame – it felt so edgy having someone else there, and I thought for sure this was going to play a part in the goings-on other than just the little bit of eye contact we made.
Ah well. Perhaps that play is the one I should design. As this is my last review for the Edinburgh Fringe and my last review of the Forest Fringe, I’d like to sum up by saying what a great venue this was and how very much the Forest Fringe added to my overall Edinburgh experience. I’m sure not everything they did was great, but I saw four things there that were all recommendable and thought provoking, while of the four things I saw in the regular festival, two were utter turkeys. On top of that, it filled me with enthusiasm to create art myself. When I come back – and I am hoping to – I’m going to make even more of an effort to enjoy what’s going on at this well curated performing art event. Thanks to everyone involved for making it so great!
(This review is for two performance/experiences that took place on Sunday, August 25th, 2013, the final day of the Forest Fringe Festival.)