I still haven’t quite got to grips with the weather up here. It is entirely possible to go into a show when the sun is shining brightly only to emerge an hour later to find a great grey blanket has been spread across the sky. The heat in the venues can also be intense, especially the smaller ones. A woman even fainted during Hugh Hughes’new show, 360, at the Pleasance Courtyard. The show had to be stopped and the woman attended to. Eventually the audience were allowed back in and Hughes was able, tentatively, to pick up where he left off and complete the show and to recreate, at least partially, the atmosphere that was lost.
Hughes, the charmingly childlike alter-ego of Hoi Polloi’s Shon Dale-Jones, is listed in the Comedy section of this year’s fringe programme, rather than under Theatre, and he’s performing solo, without the flip charts and musical accompaniment of his previous shows. It’s just him in front of a big, black curtain telling a story.
With a constant curious smile, he describes how he returned to his hometown after living in London and climbed Snowdon with his friend Gareth. On top of the mountain he forced himself to do a 360, to spin on his heels, to change his perspective on life. Into this story he folds childhood memories of building dams and writing letters to the pretty girl in the classroom. Occasionally he will introduce elements of the fantastic, white horses or Superman, but then he will gallop back to the ‘true’ narrative, though the nature of truth always floats close to the surface with Hughes. Does it matter if these events happened? Does it matter if Gareth, or someone like him, exists at all? Not really; his stories have their own life, they have their own reality, and there in that hot room the story is all.
But this unpredictable and unfortunate incident in a way exposed the limitations of Hughes’ persona. While there’s something ever so appealing about his big-hearted, warm, embracive view of the world and while it would be nice to always be so alive and open to beauty, to everyday magic; it’s a difficult position to maintain. Not everything in life can be met with a calm, curious smile. This, of course wasn’t the most ideal evening to judge his act on, but reality – as he had been pointing out earlier in the set – has a habit of throwing such curve balls.
I have also seen my first naked man bits of the festival, though there will probably be more before August is out. This was during the utterly barking Or(f)unny at C Soco. Part of the Espresso! Teatro Italiano season, this seriously energetic piece of physical theatre features a brother and sister, seemingly parent-less, locked in a room together.
The two performers capture the recklessness and unselfconsciousness of childhood as they fling themselves about the room with seemingly little regard for their physical well being, dancing with abandon, spinning until they were dizzy and hurling themselves to the floor with some force. These moments of mania were interspersed with calmer, more exposing moments, literally in one case, where the brother lay horizontally on a table top staring serenely at the audience with his genitals out in the open and ketchup smeared on his chest. There was something both silly and yet so completely, totally vulnerable about this sight that it was actually rather moving. In terms of the sheer exuberance and physical commitment of the performers, this one is worth seeing.