Andrew Eaton-Lewis: Gongs that really matter, from first principles to final apologies

Fempire: Mess by Kirsten Vangsness. Picture: Darrett Sanders
Fempire: Mess by Kirsten Vangsness. Picture: Darrett Sanders
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It’s the final weekend of the Edinburgh festival, so I’m excited to reveal the winners of this year’s most important awards.

Best quantum physics joke

“Why is Heisenberg’s wife angry? Because when he has the time he doesn’t have the energy.” Thank you Kirsten Vangsness, whose show Mess, about childhood trauma, the nature of time, and kittens, was full of lots of other funny things that only really made any sense in context, and sometimes didn’t make any sense even there, but in a good way.

Best performance involving a condiment

The jury of condiment experts argued for hours over the relative merits of Eva O’Connor covering her entire body in mustard as skin-burning self-harm, in Mustard at Summerhall, and Lucy McCormick pouring tomato ketchup all over her face while recreating the execution of Anne Boleyn in Post-Popular at the Pleasance. O’Connor’s show was poetic, tragic, powerful theatre, while McCormick’s ended with everyone on stage pulling Heroes chocolates out of their bums. So obviously McCormick won.

READ MORE: All of The Scotsman's 5-star reviews from the 2019 festivals

Best use of male genitalia as a prop

There were lots of good things about The Patient Gloria, a provocative and very funny show about psychiatry and feminism. But the best thing was the prosthetic dick on a drone flying above the stage, whirring away. “This represents most of our budget,” explained the show’s creator, Gina Moxley. That’s your taxes – well, actually not yours, unless you’re in Ireland – spent on making a prosthetic dick fly. Value for money, I reckon.

Best use of a dog

Demi Nandhra’s candid and funny show about depression, Life Is No Laughing Matter, had one of the best reveals at the Fringe when, halfway through, her pet dog emerged out of a box and trotted around the stage not quite doing tricks properly. Cute.

Best ‘how the hell did they do that?’ moment

Ontroerend Goed’s Are we not drawn onward to new erA was a palindrome show in which the first half was performed live but backwards and the second half consisted of a film of the first half, but played backwards so that the story was now being told forwards, except that actually when the show was performed backwards it told the history of the world from the beginning until now and then when it was played backwards the action moved forwards as the cast tried to clear up the big mess they made when the story was moving forwards but backwards.

All clear? Anyway, I still can’t get my head around how there’s a bit in the first half when someone sings a melody backwards, and then when they play the film in the second half it has a recorded musical score, which they somehow manage to line up exactly with the melody the man sang earlier, live, which is now the other way around. How did… Oh never mind, you probably had to be there.

READ MORE: The best jokes from this year's Fringe

Best busker

The busker I saw on the Meadows singing a song called I Hate Busking. Hats off to you, mate.

Best breaking of fourth wall

The bit in Going Slightly Mad, a play at Bedlam Theatre set in a psychiatric institution, in which one of the characters suddenly directly addressed the audience to complain that the bit of the play in which someone directly addresses the audience – ie, the bit he was just doing - had been described as weird and distracting by a reviewer from the Skinny. Which made it all the more weird and distracting.

Best Tweet

Come on, that’s a ridiculous category for a festival award. What’s that got to do with art? Please take this awards business seriously.

Best newcomer

Eleanor Dillon-Reams in HoneyBee. Actually this is more of an apology. I saw HoneyBee near the end of the Fringe, on a recommendation, and caught one of the most dazzling performances of the month. There’s pounding music, lots of glitter, funny dancing, and a story about sexy but awful things happening at a music festival, and a young woman falling apart.

Eleanor Dillon-Reams is a star in the making, this is her first play, and I was going to write a review but I was already beyond exhausted. Sorry Eleanor.

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