Every year I join up with a group of friends from Glasgow for a day at the Festival, a good way to take full advantage of the 2 for 1 ticket offer.
After a sandwich and coffee lunch in Quartermile, listening to a variety of street performers, we headed into the university complex for an afternoon of improvisation.
First performance was Impromptu Shakespeare which attempts to create an entirely new play by the Bard every performance, inspired by words written on table tennis balls which the audience were invited to throw into the giant pants of one of the actors on stage (a good bit of fun in itself). I got two balls on target.
Our play was performed by four girls and one man wearing sack-like costumes, talking in Shakespearian tongue, complete with fake moustaches, and using a few chosen words of guidance written by the actors onto a piece of slate for everyone to see.
Love, poetry, tragedy, and comedy were all delivered in this hour-long comedy performance. The actors played a variety of characters from simple servants, monks, Kings and Queens, to a ghost from the past. Each actor played multiple parts, leaving the audience wondering how on earth they pull off this scary improvisation every day.
The result was a story that resembled something mildly Shakespearian, but was definitely fun and kept the audience guessing and the actors on their toes.
Impromptu Shakespeare: (Rating 4/5), Gilded Balloon, Teviot until 26 August
Next we headed to The Noise Next Door at the same venue. This is a comedy improv show for the family that takes you on a time-travelling adventure. The audience was half grown-ups and half children.
Like all improvisation shows the performance relies on suggestions from the audience (some good, some not so good, some definitely lavatorial that only a child finds funny!).
It takes you on a fast, furious and dream-like journey through history, to the future and back. The 4/5 quick-thinking male performers act out silly situations, sing and mime to suggested celebrities and creatures from the past.
It was an hour of colourful visions which delighted the audience. You can catch an adult-only version at a later time in the day.
The Noise Next Door, Gilded Balloon, Teviot Debating Hall, until 25 August (rating 5/5)
We headed back to Quartermile for tea before our final show of the day and headed to the New Town to catch Black and White Tea Room – Counsellor, a drama presented by Theatre Hooam a Korean theatre company.
The play is set in the tea room of a counsellor’s dead wife where he has set up his practice in remembrance of her and prepares to welcome a new client. It soon becomes clear that they have had a previous encounter and as the consultation continues, the pair find themselves facing an unnerving turn of events.
On the whole this is a good performance by the two English actors, and the characters are believable. The use of music and props from the era sets the mood beautifully. While there is an over-use of angry interaction, the premise that our actions in life can sometimes come back to haunt us is a hidden warning for us all to contemplate.
Unfortunately, locating this play in the same building as a music concert was a bad move as My Leonard Cohen was being performed in a neighbouring room and could be heard through the auditorium walls. It’s just as well that I am a Leonard Cohen fan and that it is a good show. Even so, there is a time and place for everything and it did distract from what is a serious and well-presented play.
Black and White Tearoom – Counsellor: Assembly Rooms, George Street, 9-11, 16-18 and 23-25 August (rating 4/5)