Arts blog: Endless Summerhall

Prolific British composer Michael Nyman. Picture: complimentary
Prolific British composer Michael Nyman. Picture: complimentary
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GOT your head around the Edinburgh Fringe programme yet? Since it’s only been out a week and there are 2871 shows in it (and that’s only the ones in the official programme, there are many more that aren’t), then probably not.

I thought I was starting to make some sense of it, then I spent an hour with Rupert Thomson and Paul Robertson from Summerhall, and now I’m feeling completely overwhelmed again. It’s a cliché to say that some venues offer a Fringe within the Fringe, but Summerhall’s programme has massively increased in size this year. As Robertson points out, its exhibition programme alone is – in terms of the number of shows – almost half the size of the entire Edinburgh Art Festival. As Thomson points out, with a look of understandable trepidation in his eyes, the venue’s technical team will need to be four times bigger this year to cope with all the extra shows.

There are a few coups. Fiona Banner, the Turner Prize nominated artist famous for putting a fighter plane in Tate Britain, is exhibiting new work, as is Michael Nyman, best known for his film soundtracks but here making an extraordinary sounding art installation consisting of ten ‘remakes’ of the Russian classic Man With A Movie Camera, all of which will be shown simultaneously. And down in the basement, German artist Gregor Schneider will be doing something so mysterious and provocative that Robertson refuses to say what it is. It will, he promises, be a talking point.

As for the substantial performance programme, alongside some returning favourites (Stellar Quines’ The List, Silvia Gallerano’s extraordinary La Merda, both Fringe First winners) it includes work by Tanya Khabarova of Derevo and a programme of new Belgian theatre which anyone who’s seen Ontroerend Goed or the Belgian children’s companies at the Imaginate festival will not want to miss.

On the subject of children’s theatre, Summerhall is raising its game there too – with nine shows from Italy and Scotland playing throughout the day in a tent out back called Yurtakids! All in all, it means a longer working day than ever before for the staff at this still very young Fringe venue. There are shows on from 10am until 1am.

The plan is to tempt audiences to stay in this one venue all day. The Forest Fringe, which is moving into Out of the Blue on Leith Walk this August with a much smaller but similarly experimental, imaginative and strong programme built around new work by established names such as Tim Crouch and Action Hero, is hoping for the same result.

In a bigger than ever festival consisting of almost 3000 shows (and that’s before we even get started on the International Festival, the Book Festival, or the Art Festival) perhaps this is a year just to choose a venue you trust and stick with it. Either of the ones mentioned above would be a good bet – unless, of course, you mainly want to see comedy – of which Summerhall and the Forest Fringe have absolutely none. (Personally, that’s a selling point; but each to their own.)

Meanwhile in the Gallery of Modern Art...

IF you go down to GOMA in Glasgow next week, you’re in for a big surprise. Unless, that is, you were fully expecting to see people dancing with sculptures.

Running from 11 to 16 June, Every Day is a fascinating sounding project in which choreographer Siobhan Davies has created new work responding to sculptures by six artists, Laura Aldridge, Carla Scott Fullerton, Niall Macdonald, Scott Myles, Mick Peter and Hayley Tompkins (one of the three Scots exhibiting at the Venice Biennale this year). The first dance work commissioned by GOMA, it aims to “question audiences’ definition of sculpture and how that word could be applied to a moving person in space”. Visit www.siobhandavies.com for more information.