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Five shows to see at the Edinburgh Fringe, vol. 9
A multimedia piece about drug deaths in Scotland, a sophisticated Danish show about financial fraud, a show set in a swimming pool, and more...
Hello, and welcome to The Crush Bar, a Substack newsletter about theatre written by me, Fergus Morgan.
This issue is the ninth of ten specials - only one more! - that I am sending out during late July and August, all focused on shows at the festival. Each issue will highlight five shows worth seeing. Three will be picked by me, and a couple will be paid promotions. Hope that is okay.
Some issues will be themed. Most will not be. Some I will have seen and loved. Some I will just have heard good things about. Some artists I will know and admire. Others I will just like the sound of. Please feel free to get in touch if you want to let me know about a show you love.
One last thing: you can support this newsletter in a couple of ways. Firstly, you can share it with anyone that might be interested. And secondly, you can become a paid supporter for the cost of a cup-and-a-half of coffee a month using the button below. That would be brilliant.
Scotland has a higher rate of drug misuse than most other developed countries: in 2021, there were a record 1330 drug-related deaths. Concerned Others, the new show from Edinburgh-based company Tortoise In A Nutshell, is a documentary piece that uses puppetry, micro-cinema and more to dig into the stories behind these statistics.
The show’s solo performer - the company’s co-director and co-founder Alex Bird - is silent for the duration of the 45-minute show. Instead of speaking, he manipulates various models and operates different devices while videos play on small screens around him, and recorded commentary - insights from doctors, politicians and those affected by drugs - echoes overhead, augmented by Jim Harbourne’s electronic score.
It is, as I wrote in my four-star review for The Stage, an exquisitely crafted show of shocking statistics and stunning visuals. You can catch it at Summerhall every afternoon until the end of the festival, and get tickets via the button below.
This is basically a slick, sophisticated, European, theatrical version of The Wolf Of Wall Street, or The Big Short. Written by Anna Skov Jensen, produced by Aarhus-based company Teater Katapult and presented in Edinburgh as part of the impressive #DANISH showcase, it is a 65-minute long docu-drama about the Cum-Ex scandal.
The Cum-Ex scandal, if like me you were unaware, was an international network of banks and lawyers that exploited international tax law to defraud European treasuries of over $60 billion in falsely claimed rebates. The enormous extent of the scheme was only uncovered in 2017, and there is an ongoing German investigation into it.
Here, director Johan Sarauw’s production tells the story through the eyes of one whistleblower. With the audience wearing binaural headphones, the action takes place entirely inside a glass box, jumping backwards and forwards in time from interrogation room, to office, to nightclub. You can read my four-star review for The Stage soon, and you can get tickets to see it at Zoo Southside using the button below.
Multi-disciplinary artist Ray Young has been working with water a lot. Their 2020 audio piece Thirst Trap was a contemplation of the correlation between social justice and climate justice that was designed for audiences to experience while immersed in the bath. Young’s 2022 installation, BODIES, is something of a sister piece, inviting audiences into a swimming pool to explore similar themes.
Commissioned by Unlimited, directed by Gail Babb and designed by Naomi Kuyck-Cohen, BODIES premiered at Leytonstone Leisure Centre last year before touring to swimming pools in Cambridge and Leeds. It now arrives in Scotland – it is in the Summerhall programme, but takes place at Deans Community High School in Livingston, several miles east of Edinburgh – for two days only as part of the Horizon Showcase of work created in England.
Ticketholders are told to bring their swimming costumes, towels, flip-flops and goggles – if they have them – and prepare to spend fifty minutes floating in an immersive, interactive environment incorporating light, sound and movement. There are three performances on August 20, and three more on August 26. And shaky swimmers should not worry: lifeguards will be on hand at all times!
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In 2014, a 100kg iron gate, bearing the notorious slogan “Arbacht Macht Frei” was stolen from Nazi concentration camp Dachau, and a local blacksmith was tasked with creating an exact replica. In durational installation piece FORGE, performance artist and fringe favourite Rachel Mars is making a third – a replica of that replica – in an exploration of memorials and who has the right to make them.
Over three days – from August 23 until August 25 – in the Lyceum Theatre’s Roseburn workshop, Mars will weld together the massive metal gate against an atmospheric soundscape composed by sound designer Dinah Mullen. Audience can enter at six different timeslots throughout the day, and stay to watch for as long as they like. Long-sleeved tops, trousers and shoes are required.
Mars, whose grandparents arrived in Britain via The Kindertransport in 1939, taught herself to weld for the performance project, which she debuted at Leeds’ Transform Festival last Spring and subsequently performed at the Barbican in May this year. She is a regular at the Edinburgh Fringe, having earned fans through 2017’s Total Theatre Award-winning Our Carnal Hearts and 2019’s critically-acclaimed comedy performance Your Sexts Are Shit: Older Better Letters. You can get tickets for her latest work FORGE – also part of the Horizon Showcase of work created in England and presented in association with the Edinburgh Arts Festival – via the button below.
This is promotional content.
Mary Lincoln, the wife of assassinated president Abraham Lincoln, is perhaps the most reviled First Lady in American history, a woman traditionally – but unfairly – thought of as a meddlesome and manipulative presence in the White House, and as a lunatic liability after her husband’s death.
Mrs President is a two-handed play from American artist and writer John Ransom Phillips that reappraises the life of Mary Lincoln. Produced by Houston-based company Rec Room Arts, directed by Lily Wolff and featuring LeeAnne Hutchison and Christopher Kelly, the drama imagines the conversations between Lincoln and photographer Mathew Brady, whom Lincoln sat for in 1861. Developed through acclaimed off-Broadway performances in 2022, the show now makes it international premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe, running at C Venues for the entire festival.
“Mary Lincoln is the most vilified First Lady in American history, but the story most people know is based on misinformation and misinterpretation,” says writer Ransom. “She suffered from profound grief, sadness and discord her whole life. That is the true story I want to tell. By bringing Mrs President to the Edinburgh Fringe, we hope to meet other theatre producers who feel similarly and will want to mount this play elsewhere.” You can book tickets for Mrs President via the button below.
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Thanks for reading
That is it for this issue. I will be back in your inboxes in a few days with the final Edinburgh Fringe special. If you want to get in touch about anything raised in this issue - or anything at all, really - just reply to this email. Or you can find me on Twitter, where I am @FergusMorgan.
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See you soon.