Tim Cornwell: Award-winning art in the starting blocks
OUR very own artistic Olympics kick off this week and I’m wondering who the medal contenders will be. One has to say that on current form there’s a better chance of the home teams picking up a few golds.
Next week sees the kick-off of the Edinburgh big leagues, including the Edinburgh Art Festival and the Fringe. Among the Fringe venues Team Underbelly looks like a strong contender this year in the medal league, but Team Northern Stage at St Stephen’s Church is a promising newcomer.
The festivals have fewer countries represented than the Olympics, but what they miss in numbers they make up for in cultural back story. There’s usually more to say about them than the BBC’s Olympics now-famous commentary on the team from Kyrgyzstan – “one of only four countries whose name contains a single vowel”.
Asian countries seem to dominate the badminton at the Olympics – it’s the game I currently play, very badly, a bit of a geeky sport frankly, but totally addictive on the BBC’s excellent multi-channel internet coverage, where you can mostly escape the dreary (and so frequently disappointed) jingoism of the main channels.
They’re also here in force in Edinburgh. Difference/Likeness, for example, a group performing here late in August, feature Korean women actors in their thirties with two productions, The Utopia, and The Clothes.
“The Utopia is story about follow the journey of refugees escaping North Korea,” declares their press release. “And The Clothes is a story from the Korean woman’s deep sorrow who lost love in evitable history. All stories begin Korea war. It was really sad history and we will express that sorrow by Korean Young woman’s eyes.”
The Japanese offerings range from some popular comedians to Fukushima – A Silent Prayer of Poetry. It’s a theatre group of UK and Japanese volunteers aiming to raise funds and awareness for the victims of the Fukushima nuclear disaster after Japan’s earthquake, based on the poetry of Japanese teacher Ryoichi Wago, who wrote Twitter verses about his experiences living in Fukushima City.
None of them, of course, can hold a candle to the Bangkok Ladyboys, who for years now have dominated the festivals hustings, catering to an seemingly unending stream of young farmers’ associations looking for a good time on the Meadows.
Edinburgh already offers loads of awards. The Scotsman’s own Fringe First awards are the equivalent of Olympic gold, of course, but there are also the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, and a host of other trophies, large and small, not least the numbers of stars in reviews.
It will have those days, a bit like the road race, when the big set-pieces go belly-up, and there’ll be plenty of post-mortems for those too. It will boast the bold and frankly bizarre, with the fake turf in George Square standing in for Danny Boyle’s green and pleasant land at the Olympic opening ceremony.
Even as I write this column – looking for those contorted Olympics metaphors – comes this morning’s press offering from Summerhall, the transformed Dick Vet building, the former veterinary studies site, which is now to the Fringe as the velodrome is to the Olympics site.
“Artists go Balls to the Wall,” it says, though squash is not yet an Olympic sport. Part of the Edinburgh Art Festival, under the excuse of raising awareness of testicular cancer, a group of artists have produced a series of colourful prints that look a bit like Rorschach tests, “using there manhood” (sic). I’ll leave the rest – along with the grammatical errors – to your imagination.
Hot on the heels of this revelation comes a note from Cristian and Marta Ceresoli. “Really sorry if we’re bothering you in any way, you’ll have already received from our press agent something concerning The S**t, of course.” My asterisks, not theirs: in Italian the show’s title is La Merda, and a glance at Marta Ceresoli’s powerful (and by the way, completely naked) performance on YouTube, suggests it could well carry its Italian success into Edinburgh.
Interestingly, it does not appear to be part of the official Italian delegation, which will be unveiling its wares with seven shows in Italy@theFringe this week.
But it promises to knock the socks off beach volleyball.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
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