By Annie McNamee, Features Digital Editor
Each year, tens of thousands of show-loving tourists turn Scotland’s capital into one big theatre. There are countless sold-out shows, the impossibility of finding a hotel room for less than the price of a black market kidney, and tourist shops making a pension selling Nessie adorned tartan mugs.
The Edinburgh Fringe is famous around the world. It is one of the biggest celebrations of independent arts and theatre on the planet, and its sheer magnitude allows for thousands of performers to take their talents to the stage every day across over 300 venues.
What makes the Fringe so special is the level of access it provides for up and coming creatives. By now everyone will be aware of the multi-award winning success story of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag. It is a series so ground-breaking it is able to make Olivia Coleman a truly hateful figure, but started as a one-woman Fringe show in 2013.
It is not only a privilege to perform at the Fringe, but an achievement too. Bristol University is home to plenty of incredible talent, and this year multiple societies and Bristol-based shows have managed to make it across the border.
GAZE by UoB Dramsoc ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Gaze was inspired by rage, Lily Camyab, its writer and director tells me. The play takes place across a dinner party which becomes increasingly uncomfortable for its host Julia. This is in large part due to the fact all of her guests are simply awful. Her boyfriend is overly possessive, her best friend is backhanded, her best friend’s boyfriend thinks that being against the pill makes him deep and spiritual. Throughout the evening, Julia lives and relives an evening of torment, whilst becoming increasingly aware that someone is watching the entire thing.
It would be easy to tackle the meta fourth wall that breaks in the show tactlessly, but the show’s strong script and talented cast make them work perfectly. Audiences are made to feel uncomfortable and gazed upon. ‘I think for a lot of people, especially women, you never really stop feeling as if you’re performing for someone,’ Camyab explains. At the end of every show, Julia asks two people from the audience to swap with her, so she can watch them for a bit. ‘It’s been two men every night,’ she laughs, ‘I think women just feel as if they’ve been watched enough.’
Gaze is a genuinely original and clever look into a well-trodden topic. It leaves its audience with a vague sense of unease in the best way possible. Even days later, I am still sitting with it. I can still feel it watching me.
1 Tent, 4 Girls by Talkers and Doers ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Four girls, one relationship, one broken heart, the rolling Welsh countryside, and an oncoming storm. What could go wrong?
One tent, Four girls is pure fun. It is straight out of Derry Girls, and impressively based on a true story. The slick script prevents the performance from getting boring at any point, as well as the choreography making great use of the space and keeping the girls moving. At one point it is suggested that they rap to keep morale high, but the eccentric Rosa immediately ruins it by performing her haiku about death. Rosa was a crowd favourite, with almost every one of her lines eliciting a belly laugh throughout the room. In fact, every joke hit, with no awkward "did I really pay £10 for this?" silences at all. Talkers and Doers are certainly a company to look out for, with this being one of their first productions, it is exciting to see where they will go next.
Ready to Board! by Bristol Revunions ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Utterly bizarre and completely silly, Take Off is the perfect way to end your evening (or start it off with a bang it if that’s more your speed). It is 50 minutes of sketch comedy, performed by a crew of seven who were clearly enjoying themselves the entire time. Sketches range from 30 second long puns that are so bad they’re good, to a five minute long Death in Paradise parody. Director Kat Treasure told me, ‘I love well thought out, intelligent comedy. But there’s definitely a place for jokes that are just completely silly,’ and the show achieves that. Although you may not leave Take Off with a new perspective on anything other than children’s magicians, you will not regret going.
If you enjoy surreal comedy that at times makes you wonder ‘how does a person even begin to come up with that scenario,’ this show is for you. I knew I was in the right place when a character named ‘the Terror’ decided to spare a life because, ‘The Terror is in a festive mood.’ Wonderful.
Susps do Friends by Bristol Suspensions ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
As the self-appointed biggest Pitch Perfect fan in the south-west, I have high standards for a cappella. The Suspensions does not disappoint. The hour-long show is also very funny. My personal favourite subplot was the ‘lads’ who performed in Disneyland Paris for the purpose of attracting some ‘single Milfs’, as everyone knows that single mothers love nothing more than a man in an Olaf costume.
The level of talent that it takes to perfectly harmonise with a dozen other people without losing your own tune AND keeping in time with the choreography is immense. Doing it all live without error makes you wonder if the Suspensions might have come from another planet. I never knew a human voice could go so low.
Every singer was given their moment in the spotlight, and not a single performer let the rest down. Although I must give special recognition to Ilona, who is an effortless comic actor and has a beautiful voice, and to the group's cover of Telephone by Lady Gaga.
Susps do Friends is funny, and a display of some of Bristol’s best voices. My one wish? The cover of ‘I like to Move it Move it’ needs to be recorded in full immediately.
Featured Image: Courtesy of the University of Bristol
Have you been to see any shows at the Fringe this year?