So it’s August, and it’s Edinburgh, and a whacking great F-bomb has dropped with a splat!!! One day, just another day, next day, all hell breaks loose, in the nicest possible way for me, but it’s chaos in town now.
I know a lot of local people up their general moaning about this n’ that in August, I was one of those people many years ago too, but the thing is, you can’t fight it, so why not go with the flow instead? The whole world is coming to your very doorstep, and you’ve got the cheapest bed in town, your own! I can guarantee you will not be disappointed… okay maybe now and again you are, but that’s part of the fun!
Last week started for me with a wee lunchtime wander up to Traverse, for tickets, and Usher Hall, for choir subs. I came out of the Traverse and saw my first familiar face (as in A-Z list of the glitterati), only I just couldn’t place him at all… and then a wander round to the Usher Hall had me thinking ‘why on earth have they covered the box-office extension in grey hoarding?’
The latter was easy to work out, the Usher Hall had been turned into a blank canvas for the Harmonium Project free light show, which was to kick off the International Festival at the end of the week, more on that later.
The former, who was that face? Took a few hours, and then a whole week, to determine. I thought he looked a bit like the guy from Silent Witness, the older guy, who runs the forensic lab… a bit of IMDB research told me this was Will Gaminara, but I found nothing on the internet that linked him to Edinburgh this year. That means nothing, of course, and a week later, when a few of us went to see a play, The Christians, at the Traverse Theatre (mostly to show support for a fellow lady-tenor who was in the choir on stage) I was delighted to discover that it was Mr Gaminara in the title role. plus another familiar face, I’ve not named her yet, but she played his wife/partner in the same tv show, but they are not, as I mistakenly thought, a real couple. The play was very good, lots of food for thought.
But I’m skipping ahead, this was Saturday, and I’ve not mentioned our fabulous Friday yet, so let’s start with the event that has kicked off my Festival month!
I’d been allocated tickets for an EIF In Conversation event, just in a free ballot I’d entered; all I did was press a button on Twitter! This was the first of a short series of In Conversation events, live-streamed on BBC Arts Online, and was held in the Sky Bar at DoubleTrees in Bread St. Deborah Bull, former Royal Ballet star, was talking to Sylvie Guillem about her career and her farewell tour, and we had tickets for the first night of three in Edinburgh, the next evening.
The view was impressive, but very very hot, partly because it was a lovely day outside, and we were behind glass, but mostly from the TV lights. Having now seen the resulting interview online, I can report that those lights worked some magic, except on us, the audience… we did look like we were wilting a bit.
But it was the most fascinating hour, listening to Sylvie talk about her career, dancing with Rudolf Nureyev, leaving Paris Opera to follow her path, and no longer be shackled by the company, her time at Royal Ballet, and about her up-coming performances.
Sylvie was utterly charming and unpreposessing. She talked about being tall, but from three feet away, she seemed so very slight, but sinewy, and she carried a couple of battle-scars on her legs. From her talk, we could tell she was ready to retire. There was conversation about her giving up the classical repertoire, did she dance her final Swan Lake in 2000, or did she give up after 2000 performances? Clearly she knows her mind, and her path. She won’t think about the future until after the last performance, but knows that although she can choreograph, she doesn’t have that innate language that makes a great choreographer, so that’s not her future. Time will tell, was her message.
My friend M, who is dancing herself in a few days, was utterly charmed, but felt totally inadequate about her own abilities after watching the clips, and as we sat downstairs post-event, and Sylvie left the building, did her ‘we are not worthy’ thing.
But hey, if all the dancers in the world were Mount Everest, there is still only room for one or two at the pinnacle, and the rest of the world that Everest sits on is all the non-dancers out there!
So that was our first event, and we wanted to stay in the general area for the Harmonium event later that evening. We passed the Lyceum, asked what was on and did they have tickets? And took our guides over to the Filmhouse where we perused them to make a decision. In the end, we opted for The Last Hotel at the Lyceum, because, well, Festival proper, M gets half-price tickets now it is August, and there was nothing else we fancied.
Hmmm well, sometimes you have to book something out of your comfort zone just to remind you why these things aren’t in your comfort zone! It was a chamber opera, even the set was depressing, think 70s shabby hotel, and the singing was difficult to follow and disonant. No melodies, lovely or otherwise, although the live orchestra, well they weren’t bad.
And then after, outside for the Harmonium light show. Lothian Rd was just beginning to fill, and we found a space that wasn’t so bad, but it got more and more crowded as 10.30 approached. But the crowd were good-humoured, and tall men who decided to stand in front of us took it in good humour when we, and then the younger women behind us, asked him to move further back and out of our line of view.
The lightshow was incredible! The backdrop was entirely the Usher Hall, and as the music played and the choir sang, wonderful images were projected onto its facade. From a drawing of the hall projected onto the hall, faces emerging from lines and pulses, constellations playing across, until the dome started to spin in several different layers, and spotlights shot up into the night sky, illuminating the real constellations. Incredible!
What we decided, when it was all over, was that all we’d spent was £11 each on tickets, and the price of our dinner, and really, for that, we’d well and truly had our money’s worth for the evening!
Next day? ah there’s so much more, so I shall take a short break and be back to finish this soon