#EdFringe Day 1: ELECTRIC EDEN, PAPER HEARTS, COMPANY, SHIT FACED SHAKESPEARE

Instead of looking at all of the shows I'm seeing in Edinburgh separately on Shaun's Musical Musings, it seemed like a good idea to string together some mini-reviews of the shows I saw in each day in one comprehensive blog post. Today I'm looking at the shows I caught on my first day in the Scottish city, ranging from a site-specific play in a nightclub to a new British musical.


ELECTRIC EDEN (Pleasance Pop-Up: The Club, Venue 320) by Not Too Tame
One of the first shows that caught my eye when looking into what to see at the Edinburgh Fringe this year was Electric Eden, a site-specific piece set in a nightclub. The story follows a group of young people who rally together to remember a homeless man who used to once busk outside the nightclub we're all sat in, but was forced to move after a commercial nightclub opened along the street. Through the piece, we meet the busker's granddaughter and her struggles with starting her own family and fighting to remember her grandfather. It's a touching piece and thoroughly enjoyable from both an audience's perspective and an artistic perspective. The story itself isn't revolutionary by any means, but it works well for the site-specific setting and I left feeling excited and positive. The cast are excellent and the piece is very well directed considering the awkward stage space that they had on offer - I especially enjoyed when the girls mimed a random visit to the loos, very realistic indeed.

PAPER HEARTS: THE MUSICAL (Underbelly Med Quad, Venue 302) by Moon Rock
I was excited to see this show before I'd even gotten to the Fringe, but I was even more excited after having seen it. Paper Hearts is hands down the best show at the Fringe this year and is most certainly one of the best new British musicals of recent years. Following Atticus Smith - the manager at a local bookshop - Paper Hearts shows us Atticus' fight to save the shop he works in, find his creative voice, find peace with his father and find love in someone very special, all with the help of the characters he created in his book 'Angel Heart' about a couple finding love in the Soviet Union (think 'City of Angels'). The score is complex, catchy and lovable, so much so that I made sure I watched the group perform their medley on The Royal Mile twice and have been listening to the few songs on their website constantly since I saw the show; the cast are equally as incredible with not a single weak link. The show also still has room to flourish into something even bigger and more beautiful and I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am to see this show grow in the years to come. If you don't see Paper Hearts at the Underbelly Med Quad this year, then Shame On You!

COMPANY (C Venues - C scala, Venue 166) by The Lincoln Company
Company is one of my top favourite musicals of all time, so when I saw this gender-reversed production advertised for the Fringe this year, I jumped right on it... but I left the theatre feeling mightily disappointed. Not only were the performances pretty weak from almost all of the cast, but the concept was totally flawed: the idea of Bobby becoming bisexual 'Bobbi' for this production would be fantastic if explored correctly, but simply changing some gender pronouns just doesn't suffice. It left my friend who didn't know the show mightily confused and this cut-down version of the show doesn't help: I felt like I was watching a very disappointing concert version of the show's best songs. If it isn't broken, don't try and fix it.

SHIT-FACED SHAKESPEARE (Underbelly George Square, Venue 300) by Magnificent Bastard
A few of my friends have seen this show before me in London and I have to say that it has never drawn my interest, but after having seen it, I can definitely see the appeal. The show has one emcee who starts by telling the audience that one classically trained Shakespearean actor is drunk backstage and proceeds to show the audience what they have had to drink. They then offer two instruments to audience members for them to use when they think the actor needs another drink, but they only get one use. The performance of Measure for Measure begins and it's kind of funny to start with, but then both the alcohol and the gag start to wear off. The show starts to get dull when long scenes that don't include the drunk actor take place because they simply aren't funny; it doesn't pick up again until the end when lots of chaos happens at one. All in all, Shit-Faced Shakespeare definitely has appeal if you're tipsy enough to find anything funny, but it drags a bit if you're Stone-Cold Sober.

My first Edinburgh vlog can be found on my YouTube channel tonight at 8pm.

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