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Victorian Vices

UNITED KINGDOM | Monday, 25 August 2014 | Views [327]

By Friday my sister and I were pretty much out of things we wanted to see at the Half-Price Hut, but my mother wasn't. She volunteered to stand in line and pick up some of her tickets, so if there was anything we wanted to see, we should mention it to her. I thought Bitesize Chekhov could be good, though my sister wanted to see a show on her own, and my mother wasn't interested in that, my father agreed to go with me. While she stood in line, the rest of my family scouted out the venue for our first show (Alba) and also to pick up 2-for-1 tickets using the secret code (our reward for listening through the entire spiel the man handing out fliers gave) and find places to eat lunch.

We found several, the favorite of my sister and father being the venue itself, which had a beer and burger lunch special. My mother agreed, but when we got there, we were informed that the grill wasn't looking. So, at 11:50, we went off to find lunch. Most places didn't open until 12.

As we were looking at the menu of an Indian place, a man outside with fliers told us “Go see this show instead! It's upstairs, and it's better than the food. Actually, it's probably not.”My father joked that he'd write that in his review, causing the man a moment of panic. Then we went upstairs for the food, not the show. Despite it being a little before 12, they were seating people and had food out (it was a buffet.) The food was good, and cheap, and they gave us water.

We finished lunch with plenty of time to spare, so my mother and I went for a walk. My father and sister did as well, but they left later. Apparently my mother thought we were headed towards her next venue, since she didn't have much time to get between them. I thought we were just wandering around to see what was in the area. I won.

We found ourselves on a really quiet , residential street that was only two streets over from Nicholson. Which meant that only three streets parallel to where we were walking was the noise and bustle of the Plesanace/Gilded Balloon/Assembly/Underbelly shows. It was on that street that we (or at least my mother) wanted to be. As we were walking over to there (this time with the help of a map, which probably would have been useful the first time around) I was able to point out the venue for Bitesize Chekhov. My mother was joining us, since the person at the Half-Price Hut had never heard of the show she wanted to see.

As we were walking back to the venue for Alba, my father and sister joined us in a creepy and obtrusive manner (My sister was normal and just started walking right beside my mother. My father bent over and stuck his head out as he sped up to walk right beside me. So we walked back to the venue, and were told that the grill was now working, if we still wanted lunch. We didn't, but a beer wouldn't be amiss. So we sat down and killed time before Alba.

Alba is a musical about an economist in London. On Christmas day, he is preparing for a job interview for a significant promotion. Then he gets a call that his father is very sick. Although his father has taught him most of what he needs to succeed in business, they've grown somewhat estranged. So the man goes home to visit him, but arrives too late.

The funeral is scheduled for the same day as his promotion interview, so he calls his boss and asks it to be postponed. The boss agrees, just this once. So the man goes to the funeral, and then receives his fathers ashes in a special, bullet-proof urn with the request of his father that they be scattered at Reekie Lin, a waterfall some distance away.

Off the man goes in his rental car. However, it being winter in Scotland, the roads are blocked. So he goes to the nearest bar and is asking instructions for how he can get through anyway when he sees his car, dad's ashes and all, being stolen. Well, at least he tried. He calls a cab to bring him back, but as they drive, they find the car on fire. His dad's urn and ashes have survived that. He still has a duty to scatter them.

Roads are a mess. When he asks about calling a cab to bring him to Reekie Lin, he receives the response “it would be faster to walk.” He asks how long that would take. A woman offers to guide him, but he needs to trade his suit and business shoes for a coat and hiking boots. And off they go.

The woman does not stop talking the entire way She is an elementary school teacher, and she could become the superintendent if she stays, but she's decided that she needs to get away. She'll miss these walks. Meanwhile, his cell phone is is running out of power. At the end, they realize that they've passed the trail for Reekie Lin. The woman had missed that that's where they were going. But there's nothing to do now but continue the trail, since if they split up they'll probably die in the weather.

Well, no one can say he hasn't tried. Back at the inn/tavern, he calls a cab to bring him to the airport. In the half hour before it arrives, the woman and man go off to talk. She confesses that she's scared, but she has to do it. You can tell the man is thinking of his own situation, and ultimately he is not able to say if he feels happy.

The cab comes and he asks to borrow the driver's cell phone to phone his boss. His boss informs him that no, the interview is not still on. They've given the position to someone else. “See you in work on Monday?” The man hangs up and tells the cabdriver to turn them back around. The woman tells him that he doesn't know who he is, so she has no attraction to him. They part ways.

 The man goes off again. This time, he makes it to Reekie Lin, but he can't scatter his father's ashes. So he keeps walking. Eventually he builds up the strength to go back and scatter his father's ashes. He calls his boss again, ready to quit, His boss informs him that the man they wanted to give the promotion to declined. It's his for the taking. The man hangs up and just sits at the tavern where he made the phone call, telling his story to any who ask.

 Alba was good. It had some nice parts of the story, like the guy not getting the girl, and just enough surprises (car being on fire, promotion being offered to someone else and then back to him via voicemails on a dead phone) to stop it from being too predictable. But in the end, although it was good, and nicely Scottish, it wasn't extraordinary.

 After the show, my parents split to race to their next venue, and my sister and I took a more leisurely stroll back down to High Street. Victorian Vices were scheduled to be on a stage at 2:50, but we had about another 40 minutes until then. So we walked up and down, seeing if there was anyone who could interest us in a show in the slim period we still had to see shows that weren't already full. No one did, but we did see some of the Victorian Vices people standing farther up the street. Including Dorian-actor and Dorian-picture.

 I watched them at a distance for a bit, then realized that Dorian-actor probably wasn't going to spontaneously make the same expression as his picture, and even if he did I wasn't going to be able to take a photograph of it from across the street without people walking past. So we approached him. He started to hand us a flier, but I showed him I already had one (I'd picked one up at the venue for Alba in case I needed to recommend the show to anyone) and said that we'd seen both shows and highly enjoyed them. Then I asked if he could make the same face he was making in the picture.

 “The same face?” He studied the picture for a bit, fixed his hair, (it didn't need it) looked at the picture again, then stood next to it to make a similar expression, while still keeping an eye on us so he could know when he could stop that expression.

 Still Dorian-Actor with Dorian-Picture

(Yes. I am really happy with this picture. The night before, I'd been looking at the theater company's website and noticed a promotional video that showed Dorian-actor, Dorian-picture, and the streets of Edinburgh and said “I want to see them on the streets.” [The layers of reality and art present in an actor initiating the title picture of Dorian Gray are confused enough to appeal to me. To have it captured on a photograph makes it even better.] The next day, my wish was granted)

As we walked past them again at 2:40, they were still there, not looking like they had any intention of moving. Well, mostly still there. Dorian had vanished. But the picture and the sign for Sweeney Todd were still there, and wouldn't you think they'd want to move those down to the stage.

We walked back t o the stage. It was a little before 2:50. No one from Victorian Vices was there. We waited around, and heard a woman call “Victorian Vices?” in a wondering tone of voice. Still no one. We left when an a capella group stepped up to take their place. My sister went back to the apartment, I wandered back to where we'd last seen them on the offchaance they were doing something interesting.

They were. Dorian had come back, and Basil, a guitarist, and a fiddle player had appeared. And they were singing “You'll Be Met” from Sweeney Todd. I texted my sister and stood back to listen to them. She joined me during their second song.

They sang for quite a while, including songs from both of their shows. Including singing the Dorian Gray song about the prostitutes Ermintrude and Griselda's love for each other, only without either of the actresses who played Ermintrude or Griselda. They'd get small audiences listening to them. I tried to clap loudly at the end of songs in the hopes that the others would join in, but it didn't quite work. The audiences remained small and only tentatively interested.

They would have gotten a lot more attention if they'd moved up to the stage. Maybe stages, like applause, were things that their director didn't believe in? Or maybe, unlike most of the shows at the Fringe, Victorian Vices was not used to moving their set around and simply didn't feel like going down the street? Or maybe they forgot? I don't know.

It was a little disorganized, with long pauses between each song. It was also noisy on the street (it wouldn't have been that noisy on stage.) 

Some of the musicians and cast from the shows

But they sang well, and it was nice to listen to them. We'd mostly decided to go back to The Picture of Dorian Gray that night, but were hoping to have some form of incentive. The Girl Who had a code that they gave to people as they watched the show if they wanted to see it with different choices. Sadly, Victorian Vices had no such deal for people who had seen one show and wanted to see the other.

At one point, they ran out of fliers. Their producer was coming with more, but in the meantime they asked people to take pictures of the posters to remember the show names. I tried to offer my flier to the people standing next to me but, sadly, they didn't want it.

Eventually we decided we'd been watching for long enough and headed back to the apartment. I had enough time to prepare hot chocolate and a scone, and to eat the scone, but not to drink the hot chocolate, before it was time to head to the venue for Bitesize Chekhov.

Bitesize Chekhov was a collection of three of Chekhov's shorter and more obscure plays. (On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco, A Marriage Proposal, andSwan Song.)Two of them were essentially one-man plays. In my opinion, neither actor was strong enough for that to have been a good plan. There simply wasn't enough variety to keep things interesting. Even in the one play that had three characters, the acting was somewhat monotonous. "Crazy" and "yelling" appeared to be the two modes they operated at, which made for a less-entertaining-than-hoped-for hour.

So back to the apartment to wait for my sister and then eat dinner. By this point, we'd decided on going toThe Picture of Dorian Gray. I thought my mother would enjoy it, and I certainly wanted to see the show again.


Every single actor stumbled more during Friday's performance than they had two day ago. Either they were more tired than they had been then, or they were disconcerted by the presence of a photographer, who kept clicking away during the show. But it's not like it mattered to the pictures if they messed up their lines, so if it was the latter it worked out.


 The second time around, I was especially impressed by the actor who had played Sweeney Todd the night before. During The Picture of Dorian Gray, the thought “hey! That's Sweeney Todd!” was as far from my mind as the thought “What's Lord Henry Wotton doing here?” was during Sweeney Todd. His hair was different for the two performances, but more than that, his characterization of the two roles was completely different. Sweeney Todd was the nicer and more sympathetic of the two, which is kind of frightening when you think about it.


 Having already seen the show, I left behind Dorian's introductions to the women to go eavesdrop on Harry's conversation with the Duchess of Monmouth. I didn't quite do this fast enough, as I only caught a couple of sentences before Harry launched into the opening of “Victorian Vices.” However, by moving before anyone else knew to turn around, I put myself in a position for Basil to warn me “Don't believe a word Harry says.” I also knew where Dorian was going to make his break, and left long before he did.


 When Sibyl appeared, I was once again in the front, so she handed me some of her flowers. This time, she broke the bouquet into four groups instead of three. I got one, as did my sister. Dorian almost looked like he was going to forget about the flower in my sister's hand, but he remembered before he walked away.


 Between the two performances, I'd started rereading The Picture of Dorian Gray. I finished it a couple days later, with the voices of the actors still echoing in my head. For the most part, the play was pretty accurate to the book, with whole speeches taken verbatim. However, most of the minor characters in the novel were male, but in the play were female. I do think the play spent too much time on Sibyl's family, though I liked Sibyl's song and her explicit hope that her Prince Charming would get her off the stage. Most importantly, the “hunting accident” that killed Sibyl's aunt (brother) was really an accident. There were also less homosexual themes in the novel, for obvious reasons.


Although their performance on Friday wasn't as good as their Wednesday performance, it was still very enjoyable, and a nice end to my stay at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.


Tags: fliers, fringe, musicals, victorian vices, wilde

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