Festival: Edinburgh Art Festival

Over a couple of drizzly days in Edinburgh, I saw 10 shows across the cultural smorgasbord that includes a major arts festival, a book festival, and a sprawling fringe.

Cabaret is a major feature and Alan Cumming, below, was the undisputed king in his evening of ‘Sappy Songs’ at The Hub. The hot ticket event was part of the International Festival, directed for a second year by Dubliner, Fergus Linehan. Well known for his role as Eli Gold in The Good Wife, Cumming delivered the eclectic song selection with an actor’s sensibility.

His candid stories drawn from his remarkable life experience, while very funny, also packed an emotional punch. The indefatigable Scotsman after two intense shows went on til the wee small hours acting as DJ in Club Cumming, based on his legendary post-show parties on Broadway.

The Usher Hall is a grand Edwardian building with a modern twist. Berlioz’s cantata, Romeo and Juliet was terrific, combining an array of musical forces — a trio of high-calibre soloists, a chamber choir and a big festival chorus with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Maestro was an hilarious autobiographical account by David Tennant lookalike, Kieran Hodgson, of his attempts to emulate his hero, Mahler, and write a symphony. Hodgson’s self-deprecating narrative and multiple characters had the audience splitting their sides at the Voodoo Rooms. Made Up was a humorous slice of teenage angst around an average club night out in Dublin, delivered in rhyme by Fast Food Collective, an all-girl theatre group from Trinity College. In Teatro Delusio, a hardworking trio of masked actors/ puppeteers playing multiple roles proved words are not necessary to keep the audience happy in the Pleasance Courtyard.

Meanwhile, 1916 featured in a special event of words and music dedicated to James Connolly, who was Scottish. American singer-songwriter Dean Friedman included a quirky 1916 song in his set at The Grassmarket.

There is something for everyone in the 3,000-plus shows at Edinburgh but stamina is required.

Cathy Desmond


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