My choice cuts from Edinburgh Fringe

Just back from Edinburgh, where I saw 20 shows in 5 days. OK, 19. We were 2 minutes late for one, and missed out. Two of the shows were at the Book Festival, one at the International Festival, and the rest on the Fringe. I also gave a reading at the Fruitmarket Gallery with some friends.

This was the view from our B&B.

Yep, that’s Arthur’s Seat, which we summarily failed to climb despite plans for a 7am ascent.

I’ve been coming to Edinburgh every August for about six years (including one year to produce a play) and it’s always thrilling to experience the organised mayhem of the festivals. The city throngs with tourists from all over the world, students flyering for shows with increasingly desperate promises of “five star reviews” and “it’s actually quite funny”, producers and arts types with their fancy lanyards, performers in various stages of costuming rushing from sweaty basement venues. I love it.

This year Sarah and I sat through over 24 hours of theatre and as ever it was a real hotchpotch of the good, the great, the inspiring and the ill-conceived. We enjoyed plays about growing old and aerial displays that captured the fragility and absurdity of human experience. We experienced total darkness as well as total tedium. Political theatre seems to be having something of a resurgence: from police brutality to an independent East Anglia; from tax evasion to the Quebec liberation movement. Each piece made its own way through these, and other ideas, and the best were those able to create a personal, visceral experience that felt embodied in the space of the theatre. The least effective plays were those that presented a doctrinal attitude, rather than being open-ended, complicated or deliciously ambiguous.

Anyway, here are my top five shows (listed in alphabetical order):

887 by Robert Lepage (Ex Machina)

Edinburgh International Festival

The Beanfield (Breach)

theSpace on the Mile

Confirmation by Chris Thorpe


Tomorrow (Vanishing Point)


What I Learned from Johnny Bevan by Luke Wright*


* I declare a bias here: I am Luke’s editor and will be publishing this play in Feb. Still, it’s bloody good.



It slipped my mind to mention this, but over the last year or so I have written a number of reviews for the excellent online theatre magazine Exeunt.

So far I have covered classical experiments, perambulatory music, spoken word and poetry-inspired theatre…

Click here to read the latest, my take on a Spitalfields Festival walking tour, Flow Forms, or check all my reviews here.

Underneath the shimmering steel and glass of Spitalfields Market, East London, two metres below surface level, a small group of urban explorers is gathered in the ruins of a medieval charnel house: a repository for bones that was once attached to the great Priory of St Mary Spital. This subterranean space – intimate enough to be a shrine – is surrounded by thick sandstone walls and the stumps of decorated columns. There is a strong smell of smoke or, maybe, of incense. Fine pebbles underfoot give it the impression of a beach, somewhere that might just vanish on the next tide. You could squeeze a volleyball court in here, I think.

Edinburgh Festival 2012

I’ve just returned from a four-day trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Fifteen shows, over twenty-five hours of performance. A real mix of the very good, the very bad and the ugly.

My top three shows

1. Thin Ice @ Pleasance Courtyard (Shams)

2. Machines for Living @ Zoo (Let Slip)

3. Comedian Dies in the Middle of Joke @ Pleasance (Ross Sutherland / Show + Tell)

Biggest disappointment

2008: Macbeth @ Edinburgh International Festival (TR Warszawa)


I was tweeting throughout @thisisyogic and you can follow my trip below.

  1. thisisyogic
    Speeding along the beautiful North Sea coastline in evening sun towards Edinburgh… Hanging a big DO NOT DISTURB sign on metaphorical door.

    Thu, Aug 09 2012 11:02:18
  2. Day 1
  3. thisisyogic
    My first show of #edfringe was the charming Perle by @dancingbrick – medieval dream vision rebooted w/ video animation & mime @AssemblyFest

    Fri, Aug 10 2012 08:43:32
  4. thisisyogic
    Followed by Machines for Living @ZOOvenues – clever, funny & utterly captivating four-hander about brutalist architecture #edfringe

    Fri, Aug 10 2012 08:45:27
  5. thisisyogic
    .. featuring a wonderfully lascivious Le Corbusier. @let_slip look like a company to follow. They shd get @BarbicanCentre 2 book their show!

    Fri, Aug 10 2012 08:49:17
  6. thisisyogic
    Today: brunch / play / odd jobs / play / nap / book launch / pub / Japanese food / bed. Nice day. #edfringe

    Fri, Aug 10 2012 16:01:54
  7. Day 2
  8. thisisyogic
    Show 3. Production of The Trial of Judas Iscariot by large cast of teenagers. Patchy (unsurprising). Next: Flaneurs at Summerhall #edfringe

    Sat, Aug 11 2012 06:02:05
  9. thisisyogic
    Show 4, Flaneurs @Summerhally. Mixed feelings. Endearing performer with usual array of lofi props – OHP & toy giraffe (cont..) #edfringe

    Sat, Aug 11 2012 07:41:26
  10. thisisyogic
    .. bit psychogeography-lite. But some powerful moments & addresses important issue of violence in our cities. Ace venue (demonstration room)

    Sat, Aug 11 2012 07:43:45
  11. thisisyogic
    I was left feeling warm towards the performer but without having gained insight or been challenged… #edfringe

    Sat, Aug 11 2012 07:45:30
  12. thisisyogic
    Now off to Vespers at St Mary’s Cathedral for my choral fix. Not exactly a “show” but it *is* in the #edfringe programme so there!

    Sat, Aug 11 2012 07:46:46
  13. thisisyogic
    It’s another low evening sun in Edinburgh & we’re on a specially requisitioned bus to get to @edintfest’s outta-town production of Macbeth

    Sat, Aug 11 2012 10:13:05
  14. thisisyogic
    I’m hoping a glass or two of red wine will cure my temporary malaise in preparation for this Polish interpretation of The Scottish Play

    Sat, Aug 11 2012 10:14:21
  15. thisisyogic
    I’ve just spilt wine over my shoes and leg. Toes pickling in Cabernet Sauvignon. Go me.

    Sat, Aug 11 2012 11:30:21
  16. thisisyogic
    Basically there were loud bangs, explosions, guns, nifty projection, lots of shouting & even more blood. But still SO dull #edintfest

    Sat, Aug 11 2012 13:33:06
  17. thisisyogic
    A shame so much money, talent & tech skill thrown at these huge productions. I cdve seen 3 #edfringe shows for my 30 quid ticket #edintfest

    Sat, Aug 11 2012 13:36:52
  18. Day 3
  19. thisisyogic
    I’m looking fwd to a packed #edfringe Sunday, with no less (or, indeed, fewer) than five shows planned. Bankrupt but cultured, that’s me.

    Sat, Aug 11 2012 17:48:26
  20. thisisyogic
    A spot of lunch before tackling Comedian Dies in Middle of Joke, @RossGSutherland’s interactive theatre show set in a time loop #edfringe

    Sun, Aug 12 2012 05:21:18
  21. thisisyogic
    Two well-spoken ladies on bikes just went past with three kids in tow called Hamish, Caleb and Lily. Living the middle-class dream #edfringe

    Sun, Aug 12 2012 05:28:25
  22. thisisyogic
    Scoffed a savoury crepe & downed a pint of lager to set me up for @RossGSutherland’s participatory feedback loop show. Excited! #edfringe

    Sun, Aug 12 2012 06:12:56
  23. thisisyogic
    Comedian Dies in Middle of Joke (show 6) was brilliant, very funny and totally different to anything else you’ll see at #edfringe

    Sun, Aug 12 2012 10:39:40
  24. thisisyogic
    Show 7 was the ingenious & accomplished After the Rainfall. Script, physicality & tech all combined to tell interesting story #edfringe

    Sun, Aug 12 2012 12:33:22
  25. thisisyogic
    Show 8 was Sealand @zoovenues .. wonderful concept, execution was sporadically successful. Weird casting. Hope it develops… #edfringe

    Sun, Aug 12 2012 13:07:43
  26. thisisyogic
    URGH three shows in v close succession. All good but HEADACHE TIME #edfringe

    Sun, Aug 12 2012 09:15:47
  27. thisisyogic
    Show 9 was 1984 @zoovenues – impeccably performed interpretation of Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece. A captivating 90 mins #edfringe

    Sun, Aug 12 2012 13:09:19
  28. thisisyogic
    Grabbing dinner before last show of the day – East End literary cabaret Homework at the Book Festival! Looking fwd to some familiar faces

    Sun, Aug 12 2012 13:10:41
  29. Day 4
  30. thisisyogic
    Urgh. #edfringe hangover. First show today is Thin Ice.

    Mon, Aug 13 2012 03:05:27
  31. thisisyogic
    Show 10: Thin Ice at Pleasance. Best show yet. A beautiful human drama set in Greenland in the 1930s @timewontwait #shamsthinice #edfringe

    Mon, Aug 13 2012 05:37:05
  32. thisisyogic
    If I could recommend one #edfringe show it’s Thin Ice. I found it both intellectually stimulating & moving. Very fine script & performances.

    Mon, Aug 13 2012 05:41:05
  33. thisisyogic
    Spirit-restoring brunch & now show number 12 : NOLA, verbatim piece about the BP oil spill.

    Mon, Aug 13 2012 08:39:22
  34. thisisyogic
    NOLA tells important & tragic story of the BP oil spill off coast of Louisiana thru personal testaments of oil workers, shrimpers &c.

    Mon, Aug 13 2012 09:16:37
  35. thisisyogic
    NOLA thought-provoking and impeccably performed. Show 13 coming up @summerhally after a coffee break.

    Mon, Aug 13 2012 09:18:00
  36. thisisyogic
    About to commence show no 12 or 13 (lost count). Small Narration @summerhally .. unpromising start. It’s late due to tech probs

    Mon, Aug 13 2012 11:20:45
  37. thisisyogic
    Penultimate #edfringe show: Polish artist Wojtek Ziemilski’s monologue Small Narration, autobiography w/ bit of philosophy. Utterly tedious.

    Mon, Aug 13 2012 12:21:35
  38. thisisyogic
    Definitely the worst thing I’ve seen. Maintains Summerhall’s reputation for programming a wild mix of the exciting & the awful! #edfringe

    Mon, Aug 13 2012 12:23:20
  39. thisisyogic
    I should add that’s really just my opinion. I have no idea what Summerhall’s reputation is. As ever, the performance space itself was great.

    Mon, Aug 13 2012 12:24:33
  40. thisisyogic
    Oh dear. We’ve walked out of our last #edfringe show. Into the Woods. Schoolchildren jumping around in tree costumes to Enya. V Pans People.

    Mon, Aug 13 2012 15:14:11
  41. thisisyogic
    But hurrah! we’ve managed to slip into The Horne Section for a jazz comedy finale! #edfringe

    Mon, Aug 13 2012 15:14:50
  42. thisisyogic
    THANK YOU @alexhorne & band for a brilliant, funny, warmhearted end to our 5 days of #edfringe You shd all see The Horne Section right away!

    Mon, Aug 13 2012 17:47:57
  43. & home
  44. thisisyogic
    Lovely to catch up w/ friends @juliaatthehub @matthewlinley @rachelonthehill @crystalbennes @exeuntmag @RossGSutherland @joedunthorne

    Tue, Aug 14 2012 03:00:48
  45. thisisyogic
    Wow, so the atrocious #edintfest Macbeth we saw cost almost half a million quid to produce. Jeez…

    Tue, Aug 14 2012 04:50:05
  46. thisisyogic
    Currently passing thru Newcastle on way back to London. Had a very nice #edfringe. As ever, a mix of work (good, bad, indifferent).

    Tue, Aug 14 2012 02:58:03

Cillian Murphy in Misterman

Cillian Murphy

On Sunday, Mrs Yogic and I went to see Misterman by Irish playwright Enda Walsh at the National Theatre. Performed by just one man in the cavernous space of the Lyttleton, this is the most sublimely affecting theatre I’ve seen in years. Cillian Murphy is an astonishing actor and the star of two of my favourite films of the last fifteen years: Disco Pigs and 28 Days Later. He is at his best in this brilliant play about faith, imagination and memory set in smalltown Ireland.

His character, Thomas Magill, flits between mania and vulnerability, evangelical passion and childish nervousnes as he reconstructs one day in his life in Inishfree through a series of dialogues, some spoken by Murphy (who’s an excellent ventriloguist) and some recorded onto numerous reel to reel players dotted around the huge industrial-style set. This workshop-cum-prison, which might be interpreted as a physical representation of the unstable mind of Magill, is brought to life by some of the best lighting and sound design I’ve witnessed. I’m not usually brought to tears at the theatre, or compelled to give a standing ovation, but Misterman produced both. This play will haunt me for a long time.

Indy, cover your heart!

Yes, I am involved in co-organising this brilliant and brilliantly silly homage to Indiana Jones – celebrating this year its/his 30th birthday.

It’s Saturday 22 October, from 7pm.

Jazz star Gwyneth Herbert will open the show with a rendition of “Anything Goes” from Temple of Doom, poets including Jack Underwood and Kirsty Irving will perform new Indy-themed work, Richard Sandling will give us some historical VHS context, Siddhartha Bose will do something very dark in the basement, we will restage the giant boulder scene from the start of Raiders and much, much more.

Tickets are a fiver if bought online in advance.

My own contribution is a particularly florid poem which I will perform accompanied by music by Youth Lagoon (thanks Spotify!) and some mashed up clips of Temple of Doom. Fun!

Hope you can be there, dear reader(s).

En Route in Edinburgh

So, whilst I was in Edinburgh I took part in the site-specific walking tour of the city: En Route. The ‘show’ is the brainchild of Melbourne-based collective one step at a time like this. It goes like this. You meet in the foyer of the Traverse Theatre in a group of 2-3. Someone takes you half-way up the road, splits you up from the group, gives you a set of headphones, straps an iPod to your wrist, takes your mobile number, and tells you to cross the road, walk down a set of stairs and wait for further instructions. Orienteering, then, crossed with a treasure hunt, and with dashes of psychogeography.

What follows is a 70 minute (?) tour of Edinburgh which leads you down dark alleys, across busy roads, into a Hotel lobby, a shopping centre, and up to the top of a multistorey carpark. Instructions are received as texts on your mobile phone, from the soundtrack on your iPod, are discovered in envelopes behind garage doors and in record shops, daubed in chalk on the increasingly slick pavements.

All the time you are being shadowed, discretely, by your ‘helper’ – ie. the person who fit your iPod/headphone gear. In my case, the shadowing was less than fluid as I failed to receive the first few instructions by text, meaning that I ended up hanging around rather aimlessly. I didn’t mind this though. In fact, it was the interaction with my ‘helper’ – as well as the sense you are being watched over – that gave this experience depth of meaning. I’m pretty au fait with psychogeography/Situationism/derives &c. so all that ‘looking at the city differently’ stuff, whilst fun and important, was hardly new to me.



The sense that you are being ‘controlled’ (however benevolently) also, inevitably, leads to the temptation to rebel against that control – even in small ways. At one point I caught a glimpse of my ‘helper’ behind a wall trying to find me, a fantastic role reversal which gave me a brief moment of pride in my urban strolling.

At one point you are led into a backstreet where a hidden wall has been covered in chalk graffiti (by previous participants). You stand here for a few minutes’ contemplation, and are asked to add your own.

Sometimes, you spot other participants; your journey through the city coinciding with others’.

Edinburgh in August, you hardly stand out amongst the street artists, lost tourists, pipers and performers running to shows in full costume. Moments of recognition, though, are compelling – a passing glance with someone who’s “in” on the trick.

You are instructed, at one point, to wait in the lobby of the Balmoral Hotel, and make a phonecall to someone.

… and then into a shopping centre, to browse the cosmetics department of John Lewis.

There are some nice tricks too. In the multistorey carpark, you come to an abrupt halt, at which point you pick up the path by using a flick-book, which animates a woman towards a door.

The experience ends with wonderful views of the sea (no need for Arthur’s Seat, then), and then back down for a complimentary cup of coffee – at which point I took off my headphones, and started to interrogate the barrista about the deal the cafe has made with En Route.

Edinburgh Fringe

I’m just back from a four-day trip to Edinburgh where I saw a whopping sixteen shows, including the fantastic, surreal office farce Flesh and Blood and Fish and Fowl (pictured above).

In customary Fringe style, I am reviewing my shows using a complex star-rating system, out of five.

Flesh and Blood and Fish and Fowl (Barrow Street Theatre) – 5 yogics
I’m No Hero (Tangere Arts) – 3 yogics
Jonathan Storey, Jack Pratchard – 3 yogics
En Route – 4 yogics
The Harbour (Limbik) – 3 1/2 yogics
Daniel Kitson, It’s Always Right Now, Until It’s Later – 5 yogics
The Monks of Tashi Lhunpo, The Power of Compassion – 5 yogics
Hannah Walker, This is Just to Say – 4 yogics
Molly Naylor, Whenever I Get Blown Up I Think Of You – 3 yogics
Ross Sutherland, The Three Stigmata of Pacman – 4 1/2 yogics
Tim Clare, Death Drive – 4 yogics
Blackout (Thickskin) – 3 1/2 yogics
Operation Greenfield (Little Bulb) – 4 1/2 yogics
John-Luke Roberts Distracts You From a Murder – 4 1/2 yogics
John Robins, Nomadic Revery – 4 yogics
Invisible Dot by the Sea – 4 yogics

But I might change my mind later.

Also, I am announcing some special awards.

This is Yogic Award for the Longest Journey to Get to the Venue
Invisible Dot by the Sea (the clue’s in the title)

This is Yogic Award for Most Sickeningly Talented Youngsters
Operation Greenfield

This is Yogic Award for Best Former University Tutorial Partner
John Robins

This is Yogic Award for Most Dazzlingly Ingenious Set Design
Flesh and Blood and Fish and Fowl

This is Yogic Award for Best Use of Wellington Boots
The Harbour