Arts blog: Bear necessities at Fringe, as it’s time to exit, pursued by a panda
THE Fringe prides itself on being topical, although there’s a lag of several months as shows take shape for August. So it was likely that pandas – with Yang Guang and Tian Tian still selling out their time slots after their December arrival in Edinburgh – would make the billing.
The city was swirling with panda gags when they arrived, from pictures of pandas in club class on the plane to proposals to send a pair of Glaswegians to Beijing in a partial swap. For me, a panda Hamlet is an obvious missed opportunity, that could take Shakespeare’s study of sexual dithering and impotence to a whole new level.
It turns out there are at least three panda-inspired shows this year, but none remotely Shakespearean. Panga seems the most promising, from Strange Town Theatre, who brought Hex here last year.
That show was a hit, partly because Neil Gaiman tweeted about a “hilarious roomful of people laughing with delight” to his one and a half million followers; he’s back at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this year, and they’re crossing their toes for more of the same.
The company are known for their work with youth actors, but stress that the average age of the cast in this production is 25, and it is not for kids. The central character is Lucy, in her mid twenties, whose life is in a bit of a mess. Her mother sends her old stuffed panda, called panga (because she couldn’t say d as a child), to comfort her.
Panga, however, turns to be a misanthropic, foul-mouthed, chain-smoking drunken man in a panda suit, who takes her out clubbing and terrorises her boyfriend. “It is a dark comedy, and definitely not for children, there are no cute and cuddly pandas. It does not involve trips to the zoo,” says producer Steve Small.
In the show, at Hill Street Theatre, Lucy is played by Beth Godfrey, and the boyfriend by Ben Clifford, who were both in Hex, and the show has the same writing and directing team.
Over at the Pleasance Courtyard, meanwhile, is Stephen Carlin: Pandas vs Penguins. Carlin is rated one of the world’s best ten comedians ever, by Stewart Lee – which may not exactly be a recommendation after this week’s annual Guardian rant. The world’s eternal conflicts – man v woman, Scottish v English, penguin v panda – can be solved, the show promises, if we recognise the inner penguin or panda within all of us – “South Pole hogging psycho, or bamboo chomping maniac”.
The third listing, offered by the Fringe office, is Pips and Panda Meet the Three Bears, a children’s show at the Fairmilehead Parish Church Hall, with 26 years glorious years on the Fringe behind it. “Songs, laughter, and fun for everybody!” Thank goodness.
Next up: Fifty Shades of Grey. No, not the likes of “bondage songs” being offered by Virginia Gay, in her Dirty Pretty Songs, or even Camille O’Sullivan, vocal S&M if ever I heard it.
Fringe venues seeking adaptable yet sophisticated colours for their spaces have been struggling with exactly which shade of grey to go for.
In the basement bar of the Assembly Roxy venue, William Burdett-Coutts has developed a minor obsession for “elephant’s breath”, a shade of pale browny-grey, apparently invented by society decorator Nancy Lancaster.
At C Nova, meanwhile, they have also been struggling with the subtle tones for the former Registry Office on Victoria Street, with multiple studio spaces, a cabaret bar, and spaces for site-specific shows.
They opted for simple slate and granite greys, having passed on seagull and pearl, along with, I am reliably informed, French grey, Warwick, hurricane grey, condor, frigate, cumulus, dove grey, violet shower, grey dusk, pebble, nimbus grey, ice mountain, Bellingham, lilac bud, and graphite.
Taking a final bow
This diary is going to be my last for The Scotsman, though I will be contributing to the festival blog. Like its author it has had highs and lows over more years than I care to remember, and is possibly past its prime. Thanks to all who have contributed, some unwittingly and occasionally unwillingly, but mostly, like the festivals, in very good spirit.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west