Posts Tagged ‘Forest Fringe’

Reviews – One on One Forest Fringe (Exposure and Motor Vehicle Sundown) – Jo Bannon and Andy Field at Drill Hall, Edinburgh

September 19, 2013

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.

Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear

Passenger view, Motor Vehicle Sundown, Forest Fringe Festival 2013

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.)

Mini-review – Purge – Brian Lobel at the Forest Fringe, Edinburgh

August 25, 2013

I’m doing something different this weekend: I’m at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the first time since I moved to England. “What?” you may ask. “How have you not been before?” Well, to be honest, it was a cost thing. Hotel rooms seemed four times the normal cost and they’re not that cheap in the UK under the best of circumstances. And many places that were a little less unaffordable seemed to expect you were going to rent for an entire week. So: really, really expensive prices to watch shows of questionable quality? And it looked to me like the best came down to London anyway. So I sat it out.

But it happened that thanks to Air B&B I’d found a tip on a really cheap place to stay, and thanks to Lyn Gardner I’d heard about the Forest Fringe which is entirely free and had a really interesting slate of shows, many of them hitting a particular area of interest of mine: how new forms of communication (cellphones, social media) are affecting how we live our lives. Thus, it was obvious that one of the shows I had to see was Brian Lobel’s Purge, “a live performance that recounts Brian’s emotionally-disastrous installation in which he, over 25 hours, deleted his Facebook friends via public vote.” I arranged my arrival time in Edinburgh carefully, and VOILA, I was there!

I wasn’t expecting him to be American. And I wasn’t expecting him to be a monologuist (I was reminded of Mike Daisey a bit). But what did meet my expectations is that I got to hear of lots and lots of drama, in a way that allowed for substantial audience participation (which was both simultaneously gratifying and emotional). Lobel has been doing performances for quite a while – this one is part of a series on his experience of dealing with the death of his first boyfriend – and you’d expect his friends to have been somewhat immune to the trauma of having their relationships with him be potential fodder for his work. But no: from the very beginning, alerting people to his upcoming experiment caused people to IMMEDIATELY cut their Facebook ties with him. Waiting for a public judgment on the quality of their relationship with him wasn’t good enough; they wanted to avoid the whole circus.

I can sympathize with people who didn’t like the thought of having their relationship details revealed to a roomful of strangers (a situation made more intense by the fact the presentation, vote, and possible defriending was all taking place via a live video feed); but I expected a bit more sportsmanship, a desire to play, knowing that the reconnection could easily happen after the event was over. But no: in addition to the pre-removers, other people wrote so hostilely of their expectations that it was inevitable that they would be voted “out” – and, sadly, the things they revealed in their angry responses had the effect of permanently severing their ties with him.

Lobel’s experiment touched both on the Big Brother/Apprentice “who’s in/who’s out” gameshow trend but, more tellingly, on the construct of “friends” and “friending” created by using Facebook, and on the passive aggressive culture social media seems to have fostered. What makes a friend? Is it meaningful to have a thousand of them? (We were invited to live un-friend someone during the show; the degree of hostility manifested by the man who volunteered for this was quite surprising to me.) Is someone who is on your Facebook “friends” list or Twitter followed feed someone you’re actually close to? How does it affect you to see so much trivial information about people on a daily basis? How is it that this can seem like community but also be confused with community? As he discussed the complex stories of the people who became a part of this project, I found myself emotionally swept up into it, both the Roman Coliseum drama of thumbs up/thumbs down but also the horrible hurting sadness at how petty people can be when they’re not dealing with each other face to face, with voices and expressions to help soften their messages. And I thought about what it means to construct a community deliberately, and what kind of people you really want to have as part of your life, and the illusions you build up based upon a silly naming convention some Harvard kids thought up years ago that doesn’t really capture relationships.

At an hour in length, this show was a perfect afternoon snack, and the one I engaged with the most out of the eight shows I caught over the weekend. It also gave me a lot to think about afterwards – both about the people he’d made come to life, and about how “social media” has changed how we deal with each other. It also inspired me to do some writing. All that and it was free? Now, there was a BIG win! Thank you Forest Fringe!

(This review is for a performance that took place on Saturday, August 24th, 2013. It closed August 25th but may be revived again.)