Out and about on the Fringe. Day (-2)

Aug 4 2011 | By More

Dance Marathon, Lounge Room Confabulators and Creative Scotland’s CEO hoofing on the dancefloor

Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms – in a Christo stylee

By Thom Dibdin

There’s a whole day until the official start of the Edinburgh Fringe, on Friday 5th of August. Unofficially, however, the whole thing had already kicked off, big style, on Wednesday the 3rd, with at least five major venue press-launches.

In fact the whole thing got going for me on the Tuesday, with that special moment  of picking up the accreditation press passes at Fringe Towers. Suffice to say it passed without major incident. Fringe Towers looks smart and shiny, there are computers, coffee, free wi-fi and sofas – generally a great place for fringe participants to meet and go for advice.

Getting up there provided the first major shock, though. George Street looked busy enough, with the usual trail of out-of-town tourists in the telltale garb of not very much. Not so the Assembly Rooms, however. Usually a hive of activity and bold advertising at this stage in the proceedings, at the moment it’s all wrapped up in polythene like one of Christo’s buildings from the 1980s. Clearly no out-of-town garb here, but a full covering to weather any storm that August can throw at it, while it is being done-up in time for the 2012 fringe.

Tuesday was also first show night, with a specially convened press performance of Lounge Room Confabulations. These are the itinerant Ozzie storytellers who come round to your flat for an hour and stage a quite brilliant piece of theatre for the delectation of you and your pals. It’s a great concept, and the tales-within-tales structure allows the story they are telling to become all too real. Great stuff, which will make you view your own, or your children’s, imaginary friends in a completely new light.

On Wednesday the story was all about dance. In the morning the Federation of Scottish Theatre launched their sparkling new Dance in Scotland Report, referred to – quite rightly – by the very wonderful Janet Smith of Scottish Dance Theatre as the sector’s “manifesto”.

In the evening, there was Dance Marathon at the Traverse from audience participatory experts, bluemouth inc. In it, the audience become performers in, you guessed it, a dance marathon. With all the echoes of 1969 movie They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, a whole bunch of people discovered that they were rather more competitive than they thought they were.

The Dance in Scotland Report is an excellent tool for the dance sector in Scotland. Its author, Lucy Mason, has drawn together stacks of research from government and academic sources to support the level to which dance has become popular over the last thirty years, both as a participatory activity (as such dance is more popular than football, according to research originally published in the Scottish Household Survey 2009) and as performance.

Dance Marathon Winners!

Dance Marathon Winners!

It is a story which is likely to get drowned out in all the hullabaloo of the various Edinburgh festivals, but it demonstrates remarkable unanimity from the professional dance sector as the report looks quite clearly at how the sector can best go forward. It’s not a case of putting out the begging bowl, either, but in finding ways to fill in the gaps in dance provision.

It’s about the route that someone might take from finding they had a penchant for dance, to actively being a dancer. It’s about making sure that theatre programmers have the conviction to stage dance. It’s about making sure that the £1.5 million which will be available from the Scottish government’s Get Scotland Dancing campaign, to be fully launched this Autumn, is spent wisely.

For those who know the characters, the speakers were as you would hope. Jon Morgan, head of the FST, was factual and strong; Andrew Dixon, head of Creative Scotland in whose offices the launch was held, gave a solidly supportive speech, leaving no doubt that he wants the manifesto to succeed; Andy Howitt was eloquent, inspiring and emotive about the importance of dance; and Janet Smith was clear, analytical and very articulate about what the report means to dance in Scotland.

After so much talk – and having to distil what was said into a news story for The Stage – it was a relief to arrive at the Traverse for fringe show number two. And in one of those serendipitous events which make the fringe so special, also in the audience for Dance Marathon was Andrew Dixon, still wearing his stripy shirt. It is good to see the chief executive of Scotland’s major arts body out and about, not just taking in a show, but actively engaging in it.

As for the show itself, it is a brilliantly conceived piece of theatre that uses all the excitement and emotion of taking part in the dance marathon to enhance the theatrical experience. I have to admit, at this point, that I might be slightly biased: my partner for the evening, Bridget Stevens, and I actually “won” the whole event. We missed the random questions, kept our feet moving all the time, passed the arbitrarily placed finishing line of the Derby, and failed to be knocked out during the final dance off.

This was not just about the winning, however. Nor was it all about simply taking part, or a theatrical recreation of a depression era dance marathon. Here is mortality and the arbitrary nature of life, created by a hugely talented ensemble and given to their audience to participate in and feed from.

Lounge Room Confabulations appear in your lounge, twice nightly at 6pm and 9pm. To 29 Aug. Promoters Underbelly are organising a series of performances in their own lounge until 11 August, with single tickets available. underbelly.co.uk

Dance Marathon, Traverse, 7.15-10.45pm, To 14 August (not Mon), www.traverse.co.uk

The Dance in Scotland Report is available to download from the FST Website: www.scottishtheatres.com


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  1. Madeline says:


    I’m so proud of my sister..winner of the dance marathon!