A benefit for Gaza. That could conjure up lots of images. Painfully right-on people braying about how to fix the Middle East? Or bleeding heart liberals crying for the poor oppressed? Or rent-a-mob protest ‘finger-in-the-ear’ crowd? But what it actually conjured up was a socialist magician. Good eh?!
Actually none of it was predictable, it was just a good night out, with or without the benefit bit.
But… A bit of background though…
The whole thing came out of a post by Scottish playwright Davie Greig, around the ‘should Israeli theatre company Incubator play the Edinburgh fringe’ question, and his influence was to suggest that the issue was not necessarily what we shouldn’t be watching but how do we ensure that we can hear all the voices that ought to be there at the Fringe. I’ll drop in bits of his post, including his time with theatre-makers on the West Bank, as we go along.
First on the bill – introduced by MC Rod of Red Ladder fame – was Ian Saville, the magician. Obviously we all know that bourgeois magicians will turn red hankies into blue ones. Cheap trick. You can reverse the trick merely by waving your wand and reciting (instead of abracadabra) something like ‘mass action should ensure that workers control the means of production’. What you also need is someone who can explain the banking crisis by showing (visually) how money can just keep multiplying, the more the banks lend, the more they have left for bonuses. I never saw how Ian did that… but then I never saw how all the banks did that either. Later Ian engaged a cardboard Karl Marx in conversation (this is a ‘had to be there’ one). Karl’s little-known fact is that he had always wanted the old ‘nothing to lose but your chains’ stuff to be explained through the medium of conjury. But Engels stopped him. Spoilsport. (He spent too much time in Manchester that Engels, just saying).
We heard songs from Ella – the mini suffragette from Boff Whalley’s play Wrong Un. I really enjoyed Zodwa Nyoni on growing up in Zimbabwe and Yorkshire. A unique voice. And the poetry of Michelle Scally Clarke, jumping from happy to frustrated to just hanging out with the girls. We also got to see the mermaids of Yorkshire Life Aquatic gracing the stage with their dry-land synchronised swimming…
The challengingly tricky-to-say duo O’Hooley and Tidow – well it’s the second time I’ve seen them and the vocals are beautiful, sharp, cutting through the background noise. I have struggled to find my way round all the lyrics but you can just lose yourself in the sound, it is so beautifully harmonised.
A little love too for Mik Artistik. Fans of Mik may know his anthem Sweet Leaf of the North. Perhaps you may already know that it really is going down ‘In The Library’. But I was unprepared for the acerbic satire of Plastic Fox or the beautiful image of riding a green and gold armchair with castors down Briggate ‘past MacDonalds, past the chuggers’. Only a local lad could truly capture the joy of wheeling downhill past Poundland (not a metaphor).
And finally the end. So armchair anarchists, where were you when ChumbaWamba played the next of their absolutely final gigs? You thought it was all over? Well it is now and you weren’t there! The last half hour we listened, sang along and warmed to the great Roy Bailey. And at the last he brought on his mates – the dispersed Chumbas – to join him for a last song.
And last of all C’Mon Eileen. Led by awesome vocalist Lucy Ward, the final song brought everybody back on stage and I half danced, half ran out the door for the almost last train thinking ‘that wasn’t half bad’ and we raised quite a lot for that Gaza thing too. Your chance to pay is not yet over… don’t even think of looking the other way and filing your nails…
You can read more about and donate to the Kickstarter project here.
The last word should really go to David’s colleagues in Palestine though.
‘I suppose you must get used to it, the fear.’ I asked. ‘When it’s every day, like this.’ ‘No,’ she said. You never get used to it.’
You can read David Greig’s original post Welcome to The Fringe here.
Images are all mine but they’re a bit dodgy cos I didn’t want to use the flash!