An Edinburgh Festival Diary Day 1

2013-08-16 16.33.25Yesterday I had my first taste of the full Edinburgh Festival experience.  And even though it didn’t start until the middle of the afternoon when I arrived at Waverley station, as it comprised listening to blues played on a home made guitar made from an old radio in a jazz bar basement, and  experiencing the induction to a life on ‘New Earth’ at an out of town climbing centre, I think it counts as a proper initial immersion.

John Hunt does Afternoon Blues and Swing using his own home made instruments.  There was a short legged coffee table on which he stamps out his percussion section, and a first guitar made from a wooden shelf, with built in amplifier and microphone.  It’s worth descending the stairs to the underground bar on a sunny afternoon for his ingenuity alone, but he delivers his set with dry wit and a gravelly voice, mashing up his own compositions with reinterpretations of early 20th century classics like Someone to Watch over Me.

All round it was a very satisfactorily disorientating introduction to the Festival.

After refreshments, it was down to the Conference Centre to pick up the bus to Leaving Planet Earth.  The bus ride is only the first part of the experience of ‘jumping’ from Old Earth, a dying planet ravaged by war and unrest, to New Earth, a twin planet of bright colours and endless opportunities.  At the Ratho Climbing Centre, doubling as the induction centre for new arrivals on New Earth, we learnt about the great future we will share, so long as we can avoid The Pull of memories of Old Earth.  The Pull can turn people into Empties who cannot go on and who endanger the success of the project, so have to be taken on the Path.

We’ve been promised that, in return for our pledge to put the survival of the human species ahead of our own individualism, we will live a great new life on New Earth so long as we can sever all our memory and emotional ties with Old Earth.

As the show progressed, and we were led from space to space around the concrete and iron space of the climbing centre, it became clear that all may not be well in the New Earth, and that we may not have come to the better place of freedom where we can satisfy our own desires.

How sane are the leaders of the project?  Have we been dragged into a cult of personality? And  who will decide if we are to be sacrificed in the interests of an idea of a higher plan?

While some of the speeches were a little too laboured, the overall experience of the show has lingered in my memory.  It is almost that this morning the impression of the experience has improved.  The way that GridIron has used the industrial scale of the  climbing centre is very effective, and evocative  of what might be a purpose built landing point for a new colony.  The way the audience is moved around, in a choreographed and timed fashion, adds to the impression of a busy working facility.  Sometimes each of the three groups is alone, sometimes we all emerged into the central area, where we could see each other all arrayed along the various levels of the raised walkways.

The show’s literature warns that there are stairs to climb, which is true, and that there are loud noises and strobe effects, which I thought were relatively minor hazards.  What they failed to mention is that the promenade staging presents quite a challenge for anyone suffering from vertigo or a fear of heights.  I found the open grilled external walkways and stairways extremely challenging, and I was not alone in this; there was also no mention that there were no toilet breaks and no refreshments available.

It’s definitely worth seeing, but take some water, a person whose hand you can hold on the stairs, and be prepared to miss a few minutes if you need a ‘comfort break’.

All in all, not a bad start to my Festival experience…….

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