Over the past few Augusts, I’ve been lamenting the fact that I’m not in Edinburgh, soaking up the Festival. For several years in the early 2000s, I went every year and hurtled around for the month writing reviews and features for a variety of media organizations from The Economist and The Scotsman to the BBC and The San Francisco Bay Guardian.
Today, though, I’m not feeling quite so bad about being on the other side of the world. A friend of mine (and former Edinburgh Festival employee) who lives in the city sent me a hilarious email this afternoon lamenting the money she’s wasted this summer catching bum shows at the Edinburgh International Festival. With her permission, I thought I’d share her experiences with you:
“Oh boy – how much tripe can one girl take?” Her email begins. “The one good thing we saw was the dance company Rosas doing a night to some live performance of Steve Reich’s music. Apart from the dodgy eighties’ number with the synthesizers and maracas, which did eventually do my head in, it was really exciting stuff.”
“The rest was just bollocks.”
“We saw the world premiere of Heiner Goebbels’ new show with the Hilliard Ensemble on Thursday – and I fell asleep only to wake and raise an eyebrow just at the moment when one of the singers intoned “I was asleep, I wish I were dead” (or something similar) and K [my friend's partner] got the giggles bad. Think we may have disgraced ourselves. We left in the interval. A turgid, over-studied murdering of TS Eliot.”
“We saw a Polish company do a version of [Sarah Kane's} 4:48 Psychosis - in Polish. Alright, but it would have been better if they'd trusted the words and not tried quite so hard to embody it all quite so dramatically."
"Then there was a night of Sufi dancing, which was just weird. Mostly because despite being in the international festival dance programme there was almost no dancing and what dancing there was, was pants. Also, left us both feeling entirely icky we felt like some dreadful post-colonial, white supremacist voyeurs peeking at a real religious rite because it was 'exotic'. Very peculiar programming."
"Then last night, after all that, we had all our hopes pinned on Matthew Bourne's new production of Dorian Gray. Oh lordy. It was just so tired and obvious and, well, nasty. So we left in the interval and came home to watch another episode of [the TV series] So You Think You Can Dance (much better dancing and we have become hooked since our Canadian friend Jen introduced it to us a few weeks ago).”
“Am trying to think of the festival as interestingly anthropological to stop me feeling quite so hacked off and imagining everything else we could have done with the ticket money.”
Ah well. Next year, I suspect my friend may rent out her apartment and vanish to the Highlands for the month. She won’t be the first Edinburgh resident to do the same come festival time.