Monday, August 31, 2009

All over...?

It's been a crazy, hectic, tiring, chaotic and fantastic month.

I've seen shows which have left me moved, astonished, fascinated and inspired.

I've met performers, singers, magicians, actors and princesses.

I've taken some of my best ever photographs and I'm eternally grateful to the companies and press offices involved who let me do so.

I've had nights I can barely remember and mornings when it was an effort to drag myself out of bed and do it all over again.

And I've loved every minute of it.

I hope you've enjoyed sharing some of it with me via this blog, which has been - largely through the power of Twitter - more successful this year than I'd dreamed possible.

The daily updates will now cease, but I'll likely add to it now and again with a photo or an article - as much to remind myself of the wonders of 2009's season as for anything else.

Also, stay tuned for a rather exciting announcement, coming to these pages soon...

So long folks, you've been amazing.


Edinburgh Festival Insider - Pick of the Fringe 2009

Although I'd seen Zen Zen Zo's showreel and read about Zeitgeist's bold, cutting-edge take on contemporary physical theatre and dance, nothing prepared me for actually seeing this live.

The only point I didn't sit and marvel open-mouthed as their startlingly original and visually outstanding show progressed was when they threw eggs into the audience. Even with that, I was spellbound from start to finish.

A wonderfully physical group of talented dancers and artists, Zen Zen Zo have had much praise heaped upon them from many established sources this year as well as from me and - after much deliberation - the vision, integrity and style of Zeitgeist have resulted in it being given the highest accolade I have to offer.

Edinburgh Festival Insider - Venue of the year 2009

With 100s of venues across the city - from the 'big three' of the Assembly, Pleasance and Gilded Balloon to the likes of private residences and restaurants - there's almost as wide a choice of places to see shows as there are performances to enjoy.

The nominations for the Edinburgh Festival Insider Venue of the Year Award 2009 are:
  • C Venues. Particularly the multi-levelled labyrinth in Chambers Street, culminating in the wonderful Urban Garden. A great place to hang out and mingle with performers who keep the spirit of the Fringe alive.
  • Venue 150 at the EICC. With its air-conditioning, ample legroom and modern decor, this feels far removed from many of the hot, cramped and crumbling venues elsewhere.
  • St George's West. Few things can compare to witnessing some world-class music being performed in front of St George's beautiful stained-glass rose window.
  • Spaces venues. Played host to some small first-time groups on a budget and therefore brought some interesting - and in the case of productions like Stitches, exceptional - new talent to the Fringe
  • New Town Theatre / Universal Arts. A wonderfully diverse programme in the grand and only slightly spooky Masonic Hall on George Street.
And the winner is...

Venue 150 at the EICC

Although the EICC has been used as a Fringe venue in the past, this year it featured a far wider and more adventurous programme than ever. With close ties to Universal Arts and The World Festival, it saw two amazing world music shows, the wonderful Sambor Dudzinksi and his Time(less) Machine, Fred MacAulay's daily breakfast show, Fringe Select, a great cafe and more.
Besides its aforementioned comfort, its willingness to take a little bit of a risk results in it being my favourite venue this year - especially as its success during the Fringe could see more and more shows of a similar ilk being featured there outwith the Festival season.

For a resident like me, the chance of that is enough for me to give Venue 150 the:

Edinburgh Festival Insider - Dance / Physical Award 2009

Perhaps my favourite category of the Fringe programme, the dance / physical section always contains shows which challenge, delight and impress with feats of skill, fluid movements and some of the most original works to grace Edinburgh's stage during August.

The nominations for the Edinburgh Festival Insider Dance / Physical Award 2009 are:
  • The Chair by C-12 Dance Theatre. A striking and well-choreographed piece from a young UK company that show significant promise.
  • C!rca. A beautifully staged and skillful set full of acrobatic movements made to look effortless by a talented group.
  • Zeitgeist by Zen Zen Zo. An astonishing, challenging, brave and uncompromising piece which pushed its unique artistic vision straight into your face.
  • The Kosh in The Storeroom. An accomplished one-woman performance that contained sequences of beautifully-realised movement and dance.
  • Tales of the Apocalypse by Airealism. Wonderful rope, silk and trapeze skills from a group that presented an at-times surreal yet always captivating performance.
And the winner is...

Zeitgeist by Zen Zen Zo

A performance which you could not tear your eyes away from, Zeitgeist contained moments of beauty, startling originality, black humour and excellent choreography, courtesy of the acclaimed and uncompromising Zen Zen Zo physical theatre and dance group from Australia. Like some vision from Dante's Inferno, the dancers cavorted, squealed and ultimately dazzled with a show that fast became one of the tickets to secure at the Fringe.

For that, they more than deserve the:

Princess of the Day - Snow White

Now I have the full set, I can get to work on my Princess Cabaret Top Trumps set...

Edinburgh Festival Insider - Music Award 2009

Each year, the Fringe and the offshoot Edge Festival provide a wide range of musical offerings to cater for every taste. From world music to avant garde; classical to techno - there's something there for everyone.

The nominations for the Edinburgh Festival Insider Music Award 2009 are:
  • Camille O'Sullivan with The Dark Angel. A mesmerising show and an electrifying performer, capable of hypnotising a crowd with the raw power of emotion.
  • Patti Plinko and Her Boy. A bewitching set from Patti and The Boy, backed this year by a new addition on violin. Songs of love, death and suicide have never been so glamourous.
  • Amanda Palmer. During her visit, the Edinburgh Festival seemed to turn into the Amanda Palmer Festival - her many and varied sets and appearances were always hugely entertaining.
  • Creole Choir of Cuba. A wonderfully uplifting and accomplished performance that was the highlight of this year's World Festival at St George's West
  • Brocante Sonare. Music and percussion created from machinery, chairs and other household objects by a talented troupe of French artists.
And the winner is...

Camille O'Sullivan with The Dark Angel

With a uniquely beguiling and emotional voice, Camille blows away audiences whenever she plays. An inspired choice of songs backed by a tight group of talented musicians allows her to fully exploit the power, passion and pathos of songs she cradles like children. A consummate performer, her line in between-song banter amuses and delights, creating little moments of relief before a song like 'Hurt' or 'Look Mummy No Hands' slowly draws your heart from your chest and into your mouth.

Music that can change you, and for that, Camille O'Sullivan is awarded the:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Photo of the day - Brazilian Fever

Review - Creole Choir of Cuba *****

Once again, Toby Gough has curated a superb programme at St George's West under the banner of The World Festival. Bringing together acts from Africa, South & Central America and Sri Lanka, he has given us a rare and treasured opportunity to see some of the best performers on the world music scene today.

Having seen all the shows on offer this year, the absolute highlight for me was the Creole Choir of Cuba. A 10-strong group of Haitian immigrants settled in Cuba, the choir are capable of producing some spine-tingling vocal harmonies which are perfectly suited to the wonderful acoustics of the venue.

Symbolically representing the journey of Haitians to Cuba, the set contains songs of spiritual devotion to ancient gods, proud laments for a departed homeland and some beautifully uplifting and moving songs of celebration and joy.

The choir possess some of the best voices I have ever heard, with the main female vocalist having a marvellously rich and impressive range, backed by harmonies which surround her voice like velvet. Special mention must also go to the two acapella bass singers, who underpin each number with vocal rhythms and deep, rich tones which complement the rest of the voices perfectly.

The Creole Choir of Cuba was a joy from start to finish and they and Toby Gough should be proud of a show which shines like the Caribbean sunshine from the doors of St George's West.

Creole Choir of Cuba runs until 31st August at St George's West. £15 (£12 concession, £5 child)