#EdFringe Day 2: EMPTY BEDS, THE ENCHANTED, REMEMBER TO BREATHE, SPELLING BEE, 5 GUYS CHILLIN'

Day Two at the Edinburgh Fringe saw me catching an even wider variety of shows than I saw the day before. Friday was the first official day of the Fringe so the majority of shows that I saw were playing their first performance and considering a lot of these shows are making their premiere at the Fringe, it was a privilege to get to see their premiere public performance.

EMPTY BEDS (Underbelly Cowgate, Venue 61) by Pennyworth Productions
I have a real passion for small conversational plays and Empty Beds is exactly that. The story follows three sisters who aren't the best of friends, but are reuniting on a train journey to visit their brother who is in hospital on his birthday. The play has its funny moments and most definitely has its more solemn moments as well and it's a gripping piece overall: fantastically written by Julia Cranney and performed by herself, Matilda Tucker and Carys Wright, this play is one of the best bits of new writing then you'll find at the Fringe this year. My only criticism is that I wish it was longer!

THE ENCHANTED (theSpace on Niddry Street, Venue 9) by Pharmacy Theatre
The art of physical theatre never ceases to fascinate me and we don't get much of it in London so when I find it, I run toward it. The Enchanted is exactly what I look for in the genre as well: artistic, abstract and dark. Narrated by a man who is exploring life on death row, the cast use only six tall cages to create all of the set. While they speak and while they move, their bodies tell the rest of the story and it's this play's minimalism that makes it so intriguing; The Enchanted is an expertly directed and performed adaptation of the Rene Denfeld novel.

REMEMBER TO BREATHE (Summerhall, Venue 26) by Figure 8/Scary Biscuit
I have always been fascinated by any sort of dialogue about swimming pools. It sounds random I know, but plays about swimming pools are few and far between and when I saw that this was playing at the Fringe, we jumped on it at the last minute. There is something so poetic about the space that really lends itself to a good story like the one in Remember to Breathe. The story follows a woman who moves to New Zealand and takes on adult swimming lessons, which then trigger a series of memories about her late father. This small play with a cast of three is superbly written and wonderfully performed with literally no set whatsoever, a feat that is pretty difficult considering the majority of the play is set inside a swimming pool. If you're a fan of well written, thought provoking new drama then this is something to keep your eyes on.

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE (theSpace @ Venue 45)
A few of the shows being performed at the Fringe this year are part of the American High School Theatre Festival and this includes a production of one of my all-time favourite musicals, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The show's source material is faultless so there is no question in that: the book and the lyrics are laugh-out-loud hilarious and there isn't a single moment in the show where you're left thinking "I'm bored". The casting of the children was fantastic as well and while you could tell that they all were friends in real life, they managed to portray a group of unacquainted children perfectly, While not all of the performances were outstanding vocally, the majority of them threw themselves into the parts so much that I really didn't care. This is a solid production of the cult classic and I urge you to catch any one of the three productions playing at this year's Fringe.

5 GUYS CHILLIN' (C Venues - C too, Venue 4) by EM-Lou Productions
I thought that 5 Guys Chillin' was going to be something completely different to what it ended up being when I saw it: I walked in thinking I was about to see a comedy, but I left feeling decidedly upset and uncomfortable, but in the kind of way that made me feel like I'd just seen something very unique. The story of the play takes a look at the conversations and escapades that occur between five gay men at a "chill" (a type of gay sex/drugs party). Using verbatim excellently, the audience becomes a fly on the wall as the group discuss hard hitting topics about STDs and overuse of drugs, as well as talking about sexual abuse while graphically re-enacting some real-time sexual encounters. It's graphic, hard-hitting and cringe-inducing in the best way possible and most certainly isn't one for the faint-hearted or closed minded, but this play is so deeply real and raw that its innovation has to be applauded and commended.

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