Sue Perkins hosts highlights of the Edinburgh festival, including an exhibition of portraits of the Queen, featuring artists such as Lucian Freud, Andy Warhol and Annie Leibovitz.
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# Cos If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it.
# If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it.
# Don't be mad once you see that he want it.
# If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it. #
Welcome to The Culture Show at the Edinburgh Festival, where we are
brimful of comedy, art, theatre, music and dance. This week we are
going to be picturing the Queen, musing on the misery of modern
cinema, wondering whether comedy awards really do matter, and then
looking at the extreme genius of Philip Glass.
# All the single ladies. You should see where he's written
the credits! Coming up, capturing the Queen. Not
literally, that's treasonous. Think canvas or camera. Multiplexes. Have
they wrecked the modern movie experience? Mark Kermode muses. And
One Thousand And One Nights, how epic Arabian tales became an epic
Edinburgh show. Also tonight, Michael Smith seeks out Edinburgh's
more unusual venues. Mark Thomas on the artists embracing the freedom
of expression that the festival offers. Clemency Burton-Hill meets
acclaimed Chinese choreographer Shen Wei. And I invite two of this
year's hottest comics into Room With A Sue. First tonight we're
Lizzing it up, by which I mean we are discussing Her Royal Highness
Queen Elizabeth II. Those of you who think the Queen is no oil
painting, think again, because the Scottish National Gallery is
mounting an exhibition entitled The Queen: Art and Image, featuring a
selection of artists, ranging from the royally plugged in to the more
anti-establishment. Alastair Sooke went with him to find out more and
took with him a couple of commoners who aren't afraid of the odd
beheading or two. It will probably be just the one. That's enough to
do it usually. On 7th February 1952 young Queen
Elizabeth II landed at London Airport following the death of her
father. The world's press were there to meet her. This would be
the first of many portraits of Elizabeth as Queen. She would go on
to become the most depicted person in human history. Of course,
representing monarchs is nothing new. Royal portraits have been used
for centuries to create and underpin and disseminate the
authority of ruling Kings and Queens. But what is new is just the
sheer proliferation of images of the Queen in recent decades, and
the way that artists and photo journalists have challenged our
ideas about what royalty should look like. This exhibition spans
more than half a century, during which Britain has seen significant
social change. It also documents a seismic shift in the way that we
perceive and represent the monarchy. With me to discuss some of the
highlights are royal biographer Gyles Brandreth and social
commentator Kate Copstick. I thought we should begin by talking
about this portrait by Cecil Beaton of the Queen, the famous Coronation
portrait he did in 1953. Here is the Queen aged 27 looking like you
would expect a Queen to look. That's exactly the thing. That kind
of monarchy, even a Scottish working class girl, can I go, "Yeah,
alright, you can give my taxes to that, because she looks proper,
like a Queen." Growing up in Paisley we always knew posh people,
aristocrats, especially the Royals, were different from us. Not
necessarily better, just different. When you see a photograph like this
you go, "Yeah, they are different. That's a ruling class." Either the
monarchy is the monarchy and they look like that, or you don't have
one. You have fairy-tale, you have history. You have monarchy. You
have icon. It can go on any magazine around the world. It
delivers. She, thanks to Cecil, God bless him, looks like a star.
takes a Queen to understand a Queen. But times were changing. During the
Swinging Sixties, this stiff formality seemed increasingly out
of date and royal portraitists began to explore more personal
takes on the Queen. The 1970s. A decade defined by political unrest.
Jammy Reid's image captured the mood, launching a visual assault on
the Queen and everything she represented. This new irreverent
attitude was exploited by Andy Warhol in the '80s. This is
something very different. A series of portraits of the Queen by Andy
Warhol. On the surface of things this is the opposite of Cecil
Beaton style, don't you think? is one of the first pictorial
bricks out of the wall. It is just the brand. It is just a commercial
commodity. It is a tin of Campbell's soup with a crown on. I
prefer my monarchy in an era when doing that would have resulted in a
quick trip to the Tower and decapitation. What does that say
about the era in which it was made? It does certainly mark, as far as
I'm concerned, a loss of respect. Do you think it is satirical? Is
Warhol saying there is no reality to the monarchy? I don't think it
is either reductive or satirical. I think it exemplifies what the
monarchy is all about. The genius of the monarchy has been to adapt
to each era. That's why it has survived so long. The Queen can
survive a biscuit tin, a mug and Andy Warhol. On she goes. Do you
not think he is trying to say something about the superficiality,
the perception of the monarchy? Andy Warhol complaining about
superficiality? Pot, kettle. may have a point. This says, any
country in the world, two things they think - Andy Warhol and the
Queen, so for both of them it's worked. For me, I think this is
quite a satirical image. I hope it is, otherwise it is incredibly
vapid, because Warhol is really saying that monarchy is a mask. It
is something which is very artificial, which is given to the
masses and which in certain cases they respond to. 60 years on and
Britain has evolved from a formal society with imperial pretension to
a less deferential downsized nation. So perhaps it is fitting that when
Lucian Freud was called upon to represent the Queen for the 21st
century he produced something a little, well, different. Kate, if
the Cecil Beaton was your cup of tea, I imagine you detest this
Lucian Freud. Well, the problem with Lucian Freud is that everyone
looks the same, and it is ugly. That doesn't look like the Queen.
It looks like a bag lady. I suppose she did get off quite lightly given
His history and his oeuvre. She could have been whale-like and
naked with pendulous, ghastly breasts on a chaise longue.
story of the monarchy is that there they are, and the great artists of
the time will paint pictures of them, or in our age take
photographs of them, and the result is rather more a reflection on the
artist in this case than on the Sovereign. But you're right, it is
in fact Elizabeth II meets Edna, the inebriate woman. Not a total
success. And I think leaving it out overnight before delivering it did
not help, did it? It really didn't help. It is notable that he's
presented her as quite an irascible ill-tempered old lady. She almost
looks like she's got 5 o'clock shadow. The crown is lopsided. It
is as far away from flattery as you can get. Gyles, do you know what
the Queen made of it? No. A beer mat hopefully. One of the things
about the Queen is she's not really interested in herself at all. She
would have looked at it and walked on. Maybe this belongs to our
celebrity-infatuated age. This is Heat magazine trying to catch
celebrities in an off moment. if it was Heat magazine she would
have been showing her teeth, showing a smile. If it was Heat
magazine she would have been showing her breasts! LAUGHTER
you think this shows a change in perception of the monarchy we the
British people. I think it shows a mess. I think we've trashed the
monarchy. If art is a mirror of the times what does Lucian Freud say
about our times? We should get a new myrrh over. The fairy-tale spun
by Cecil Beaton, so redolent of flattery and flummery, has no place
in contemporary recent. It looks and feel as bit archaic and
appropriate. I take heart from that. The Queen: Art and Image will be on
at the Edinburgh Art Festival until 18th September.
The Culture Show very own's Mark Kermode, upon whom this coiffure is
based, will be talking film on Saturday. My tin us has gone very
woodland. He will be pondering the malaise in modern film making and
whether the multiplex experience is If you don't speak Wookey, press
the Red Button now. Here are two things you won't be
seeing much more of in the future, at least not in your local
multiplex. This is a 35mm projector, for the best part of a century the
heart of the experience. It takes celluloid images and turns it into
a system. This is a projectionist, a highly trained operative who
makes this possible. It is his job to make sure the film passs through
correctly, to add up to the perfect experience for the viewer. But
sadly Bank of England of these are in danger of becoming redundant
thanks to the digital projector, which in theory can cause a perfect
image to be projected simply at the click of a switch. There is nothing
wrong with digital per se. It is clean, efficient, Coe friendly and
it does away with the need for celluloid prints, which are bulky
and expense every. These new machines pretty much work
themselves, right? Wrong. If you've been to a mumenty plex recently you
may be familiar with the syndrome of the missing projectionist. You
know how it goes. You are in screen three watching a film and the image
is out of focus or spilling out of the top of the screen, or up side
down. But there is no-one there to fix it, because thanks to the rise
in digital there is no need for a projectionist. Neither is there a
need for ushers to stop people texting or talking. No, in the
modern mumenty plex world you buy your ticket from a machine, make
your own way to the screen and discover that the only person
watching the film is you. Excuse me. Multiplexs are like supermarkets.
They don't specialise in organically grown local fare but
Hodge only theseed local brands. This is -- homogenised local brands.
Ever since Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor became a massive hit in 2001,
despite being described as one of the worst films ever made, it is
clear that if you spend enough money and blow up enough stuff, it
will make its money at the mumenty plexs. -- multi- plexs. What about
Pirates Of The Caribbean? Despite opening to universally poor reviews
it has made nearly $1 billion worldwide, meaning that Pirates Of
The Caribbean 5 is almost certainly on its way. How did we get to this
point? After years of industry apathy the
recent rapid rise of digital projection has been driven by 3D, a
format that has failed at least three times the previous century we
are being told it is the future of sin match. 3D has always been
pushed by the industry. In the 1950s it was pushed for television
and in the noughties a weapon against piracy. But every time the
audience response has been the same. A brief increase in novelty value,
House Of Wax, Friday The 13th, Avatar followed by something better.
Once again despite the best efforts of Hollywood producers to ram 3D
down our throats the tide has turned.
Earlier this year Mars Needs Moms 3D was the first bona fide flop of
the century, largely because audiences rebelled against
overpriced stereoscopy. More people chose to watch Pirates 4 and Kung
Fu Panda 2 in 2D, causing industry pundits to conclude that the 3D
format is dying. Hooray.
Where does that leave us? The multiplexs have become supermarkets,
where sub-standard Hollywood fodder is screened by robots. If you want
You will see brilliant atmospheric ones like Let The Right One In. As
opposed to the English language remake Let Me In, which was rubbish,
but played at the Multiplexs because all the actors spoke
American. It's here that you'll get to see
the best of home grown fair like The Arbor, which saw actors lip
synch to documentary audio interviews to surprising and
haunting effect. Been in the house, mum out in the pub, our mum
comatosed in -- comatosed in bed and set fire to the bedroom. These
are the film that's represent the true diversity of British cinema,
not just the stuff that attracts Oscar ascension like The King's
Speech and the Queen, here you'll find celluloid and digital co-
existing nrt watchful eye of a trained projectionist working their
hardest to give you the best viewing experience possible. We
hear loads of whingeing about how hard it is to finance movies in the
UK. What's the point of making them if there's nowhere to show them? I
think we should shift the focus of public funding into the upkeep of
cinemas like this, where they show the kind of movies which Multiplexs
have no interest. Cinemas which speak an international language of
fear, has no fear of subtitles and which values movies beyond spread
sheet success and box office clout. You can hear more from Mark at the
Books Festival this Saturday. Now it's my final week at the Festival.
Can I say my highlight has been meeting a musical hero of mine,
Philip Glass. He was here last week, with the Philip Glass Ensemble,
performing the scores he wrote for the extraordinary films by Godrey
Reggio. During the interview I held him, I cried, I told him I loved
him, I loved him, I loved him, but here are the bits they could use.
The collaboration between one of the world's most influential
composers and one of the most visionary producers gave us three
exquisite pieces. Godfrey spent a lot of time with the Hopis and
talked to the elders of the community and these ideas kind of
matured around these words in a certain way. Catcy means life.
the first is life was transformation and the third is
life is cannibalism. It's mostly about, it's about the
transformation of skwiet through technology. That's really the
Reggio's films are ground breaking, packed full of provocative images
and time lapsed images. The close working relationship between
composer and director is unique. The way we chose to work is
sometimes the music came first, sometimes the pictures came first.
We didn't work in the traditional film way. You're presentsed with
the images as a composer and you have to... Dress them up. We didn't
do that at all. Neither of us had maed a movie before. That helped.
It was very helpful. We can re- invent how the form could work.
Collaborations have always been important to Glass. He's teamed up
with artists like Ravi Shankar, David Bowie, Woody Allen and Allen
Ginsberg. His musical style is often
associated with John Adams, Steve Reich and Terry Riley, composers of
the minimalist school. It's a term he's in the a fan of. The tag
you've been given, like kryptonite I imagine now to you, the term
"minimalism", how do you respond to that? It was perfectly fine until
about 1976. The only real difficulty with using that word is
that if you tell somebody what it is, they'll look at it and say well,
is that minimalism. Then you're in trouble because it doesn't, you
know it's a shorthand that's mostly invented by media. The difficulty
is that instead of preparing people for what they're going to see they
prepare people to be disappointed, because they don't understand what
the word has to do with what What it meant for me was putting
together the idea of form and content. In other words the
structure became the content of the music. If you look at it that way,
you can see that by minimalism, there was no place for skrainious
idea like putting a story in. Despite being described as
America's greatest living composer, Philip Glass still divides critics.
His signature repetitive ar Beth yoz and at times impassive delivery
can (arpeggios) at times impassive delivery. It's like saying that
breathing is meical -- mechanical. Of course it is. But every breath
is a little bit different. Your breath gives you life. When you
look at it this way, your pulse is I began working with Ravi Shankar
in the 1960s. I was a young fellow. And through him I was introduced to
the structure of classical ifpbdian music. The ridge make structure of
Indian muse sick made up of twos and threes, it's binary. Digital
struck skhur ones and Zeroes. It's the same thing.
The way I write music is the way people are sending messages and
it's the way language is constructed now. So it was kind of
accidental, because I was actually entered it through the world of
global music. That's a very important idea. Because my
generation of people were the one that's went out and began going to
Africa and Asia and Australia and South America and learning about
how music was made this those places. I put it right into the
Some people might think this is your Edinburgh debut, you'd be
leading the whole thing. But Michael Riesman is conducting and
you are in the thick of it, playing. If you want to see me by myself, I
do a lot of solo concerts, 20 or 30 a year. That's where you get to see
me do that. The reason I don't do the other thing is it's just too
much work. The amount of preparation that Michael has to do
auditioning players and actually leading the rehearsals, it would
very, it would leave very little You know, I don't have any problem
being the third key board player. It means I don't have to practise
as much as the others, playing with a group of people whether I
practiced that morning or not will not make any difference to you as a
listener. It's very, my name's all over the thing, the Glass ensemble,
what do I care. If people think Michael, he's a handsome fellow.
You've got it all worked out. think I do. I think you have.
other words, generally when I work in collaboration with people, I let
them do what they do best and I leave them alone.
He was amazing. He was amazing. He was amazing. He was amazing. So in
the last of the assignments for our festival virgin Michael Smith, we
packed him off to find out about Every August Edinburgh floats free
in the bubble of unreality. A temporary make-believe world. A can
Valesque suspension of the everyday. But unlike other festivals, this
other reality isn't played out in muddy fields. It overruns and
cannibalises a beautiful capital city. It seems like every nook and
cranny is utilised for all kinds of performances. I want to explore
some of the stranger places and see how they influence the work.
The play you once said yes, involved a series of one on one
encounters with 13 actors across the city. You never know what to
expect. Let's go. Time is of the essence. Shut your door. What are
we doing? You having a laugh? We're doing the bank, mate of course.
You've been fully prepped. I know you have, mate. No time like the
present. Kev told me you got the clothes. Who's kev? You telling me
kev hasn't given you the clothes? The bossman? What are you talking
about? You ain't got the clothes? Are you having a laugh, mate. Who
agrees to join a sting that you know nothing about. You're a
lunatic. Get out of my car. Don't you tell no-one or I will find,
Michael. Every pedestrian is a potential performer. Even a stroll
in the park can lead to an impromptu show. This year by
conceptual comic Simon Munnery. will see if I can find that waiter
for you. Alfopbs? Alfonso, he's in the difference. If you could hold
that and bring it close to yourself, that will complete the illusion.
Look at him there with his pencil moustache. Look at him there. Yes,
I am here, I am write your orders down using my pencil moustache. For
you, Sir... The plait bel gique. Why not. There we are. It's a man
standing in the middle of Belgium. It's a small country. There's the
tallest building. There's Belgium currency, some pebbles. And great
Belgians from history, blank. It's a treat today, we have three, four
dead flies. OK we go with the bubbles. Viola. Welcome to the
Fringe. You can't even find peace and quiet on a bus. Kenny is sick
of the sight of Edinburgh. A great big church... After 19 years in the
job, he's had enough. And for his last tour, he goes slightly left
field. Particularly around the docks, famously has been
regenerated. Invested in. Lots of swanky new flats and restaurants
and the like. I don't know, some people say the character's gone.
Certainly the prostitutes have. Unlike Kenny. I've fallen for
Edinburgh's quirky charm. It's even got lovely toilets.
Sailing on is staged in a ladies' loo. Me hosts are two drowned
literary heroins. Let's just say I'm Virginia Woolf. You've probably
heard of me. Let's just say that I'm Ephelia, just for now.
The two women become fixated with a regular visitor, Momola, who hides
a dark and tragic past. I went to the pier with my mum. It had been
raining, so she was wearing this big raincoat, the one with the red
rose in the button hole. She was wearing her favourite leather
They really use the confined space to get frequent in this play. Every
bit of the toilet is used, like the sinks and the hand driers. You
often find yourself getting out of the way of the performers as they
use them. It really heightens the show as emotional impact.
The next play is a much bigger stage set. The well-proportioned
elegant streets of Edinburgh itself. Blood And Roses unfolds through a
set of headphones. Welcome to my city. The home of so many stories.
So many people, so many lives, so much history. It is a tale of love
and loyalty spanning 400 years. It interweaves the lives of two
families, from war-torn Russia and contemporary Scotland. I promise to
love, honour and cherish you. promise to love, honour and cherish
you. It has a nice dynamic, this play, because while you get to
wander round the physical fabric of the city, with the headphones on
you explore the memories and forgotten lives of generations who
lived hire. The two complement each other well. It is also the only
play that's ever given me a stitch. Edinburgh's drama and character
make it the perfect city for sight- specific shows. The city is like
one big stage set itself and like a magnificent or grande dame
Edinburgh is the star of the show. One someone a witty, brutal and
erotic cornerstone of Arabic literature. It's been turned into
epic theatre, with a cast from Africa and the Middle East.
Journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown went the meet Tim and the leading
actress. We think we know One Thousand And
One Nights. The exciting exploits of Aladdin and Ali Baba. But that's
just the anodyne children's version. The original is a complex
collection of stories about the Arab world that emerged at the same
time as the Arab empire itself was being forged. One Thousand And One
Nights is an adult fairy-tale, an X rated fairy-tale, but at the heart
of is it the power of storytelling. During the flashpoints and turning
points of history, the ability to listen and tell becomes vital. When
people have important things to say and describe, that's where they
turn. Like the tale itself this, new protection came into being
against a backdrop of political upheaval and change. Involving a
cast drawn from across the Arab nations, the rehearse arls were
infused by if -- rehearsals were infused by the heat of the Arab
Spring. Do you feel and do your actors feeling that with all that's
happening, the political upheavals, that this little thing of you is
self indulgent, disloi loyal to the missions that people are dying from
in those countries? That's such a powerful question. There was a
choice for some of the performers. The Egyptian performers had to
decide do they stay in their country and be part of the changes
taking place or do they come and do a play. At the same time this is
not a play. This is an attempt to make an honest portrayal of a
fundamental work of culture from the culture that is in struggle. To
me and to the actors we know that what are we fighting for in any
struggle of freedom if it is not the struggle of culture? What
revolution is worth a penny without The stories are risque, sexy. In
some ways quite unacceptable in the cultures which you are now
describing. What reactions did you expect? The relation between men
and women is the central subject of One Thousand And One Nights.
Through that prism you get all other relationships explored,
including the despots, including political power, including the law
and religion. But it is all the great ne'ertives of One Thousand
And One Nights -- narratives of One Thousand And One Nights. It is a
metaphor isn't it? Power is at the heart of that narrative. To his
horror he found her lying in the awares of one of the kitchen boys.
The story unfolds in the Palace where the King, having witnessed
his wife's infidelity, vows to sleep with and slaughter a
different Virgin every night. In a gesture of self sacrifice
Scheherazade must spin a tale every evening to prevent her impending
doom. Scheherazade always has to find a new way of interesting him.
It is One Thousand And One Nights. She had children and she kept going.
It is the power of the story that saved her. Did that to me really
stood out, that here in this extraordinary text you get every
trick under the sun. Yes. And some you haven't even thought of. And in
a sense, so much more effective than the more obvious things that
we now do in modern times to attract and keep our men. It is not
just about the one man, women have sexual needs and one man is not
enough sometimes. There are stories of women who are married to Princes
but want to sleep with slaves and have orangies with slaves. I think
we are more exposed to men's needs. You do realise you said something
which is pretty revolutionary in the 21st century, in terms of where,
especially in Muslim communities and societies are at the moment?
Well, Muslim women who are in places like Saudi Arabia, where it
is not easy to express yourself, not easy to show your sexuality and
to own your sexuality as a woman. But these stories happen. I'm a
Muslim woman so I do not say this as as an outsider. And I think
there's a kind of knowledge about sex amongst women in the Arab
countries which is so sophisticated. People really don't get that image
in the media and elsewhere. because they don't have access to
it. But I find that sex is discussed in such frankness and
honesty between Muslim Arab women while they are with each other,
more so than in the West. So in a way this is an eternal story then?
Yes. For our times and theirs? and it continues. I would fall in
love with you. Edinburgh can be tough for comics.
It can go one of two ways. You could be feted by audiences and
critics, bathed in champagne, or slumped in a gutter eating sub-
standard chips sobbing, "Why?" But enough of my Edinburgh experience.
Swing a ball everybody. One name on everybody's lip this is year is
Adam Riches. One critics declared him the funniest man on the Fringe.
Nick Helm has hit the comedy sweet spot this year His show he's either
ritually humiliating his audience or singing to them. There seems to
be a theme this year, it is prevalent in your shows, of
audience participation. I use the word lightly. It verging on kidnap.
Good. So it is like revenge? well, to be pretentious... Oh, do!
You are in the right place for it. I am on The Culture Show. I guess
what I do and what do you is develop from people coming out
there and people not being apathetic. You've got to pull them
into the show to do it. The quickest way to start the show is
not giving them an option. You have to say you have got to participate
otherwise there is no show. I haven't got time. It is going to
happen with or without you. It is to you if it is a good one or not.
Move over... There's a lot of inTim asy. Some would almost say erotic.
There's a bed scene? I think that's been misread. I think it was fairly
explicit. It is father and son. It was meant to be paternal. But it
didn't feel paternal but you put your leg over him. Don't ever leave
me, Kev. You can be anything you want to be, Kev. You can be
anything you want to be. Anything. You don't need help, nuclear the
safest place in the world right now. Don't blame me for the position
you've put yourself in. LAUGHTER Sometimes you feel comedy is being
performed at you and you are separate from it. That's been I
think a trend that's carried on until recently. That was from doing
the same thing every month. That would and has been boring to do. To
push yourself and keep the show fresh and keep me on the toes to
last a month. It was good to involve the audiences, a frisson, a
different torpedo potentially to ruin it. What if they wouldn't play
ball? If they don't get up... They are getting up. If you let one
person by and through, that filters through to the rest of the room.
breaks your authority. You have to stay in complete command. Even if
if remaining 40 minutes is yelling at one guy... I want tow look out
at this sea of beautiful people and pick me out the most beautiful and
attractive female in your opinion. I beg your pardon young man! How
old are you to be using that language. Where else do you get the
pick a woman. Pick one. She's not looking at you at off. They are
always the people I picked. When I grabbed you, you were looking at
the floor! LAUGHTER Who would you like? Who is the most attractive
woman in here? The fine young lady there. Just here? What's wrong with
the one here in red? LAUGHTER kidding. I know exactly what's
wrong with her. LAUGHTER Come up here for me my darling. You've got
it very easy today. You just have to stand there to the side and look
radiant for me. That's good. You've got a girlfriend? No. Oh, right!
You got a boyfriend? Is he here tonight? Ooh! Come on! I feel I can
get more out of people if I celebrate them more. They do get
berated but if there's a sense that they are going to be the hero and
get applause at the end, their ego will kick in and they'll do that.
would be interested to see what happens next year. I imagine
there'll be a slew of people doing more participation because of you.
We should combine a show next year. It would be too sweaty and too
sexual. Too much for any person to stand. They would have to add
another star. Six stars. Can I just say the smell of the Vic's you
applied med show will stay with me forever. I do sweat a lot. It hid
the smell of my crotch. You didn't I was going to do that! Anything
goes in Edinburgh. Freedom of expression is not just tolerated
but positively embraced. Artists of all kind around the world can face
imprisonment or worse for acts of self expression. Comedian and
activist Mark Thomas went to meet A festival turns everything upside
down, so the grey of Edinburgh become as live with performers and
drunkenness and lewdness and freedom of expression.
Yes there are problems with this festival. It's too bourgeoise,
there are too many comics, street performers, people with face paint
and too many drama students handing out leaflets for substandard plays.
But there are spaces at this festival where international
performers get a chance to use the freedom of expression here that is
not available to them back in their Nassim Soleimanpour is a 29-year-
old Iranian playwright who has been refuse aid passport bit authorities
because he didn't do military service, so he can't leave Iran and
he's used that to his advantage, creating one of the most original
and exciting works on the Fringe. There is no set, no director and
the actor, well, they get a different actor to perform the show
each day. Neither the audience nor the actor
know what's going to happen until the actor is given a sealed
envelope with the script inside. OK. So I have just opened the
envelope. I've begun to read and I have no idea what's going to happen.
It's not really a play. The playwright himself describe it's as
an experiment. It's an experiment without plot or narrative but it
encourages the actor and audience to kind of get together in an
imagined world. My name is Nassim Soleimanpour. Because this might be
the first time you've heard such a name, Nassim is usually a girl's
name in Iran, nonetheless I am a boy. I don't know the name or
gender of the person saying these lines. Dear actor, what is your
name? Tom. I've always have a dream of writing something which makes me
free. I'm 29 as I write this, full of hopes and energy. But I'm not
free. Not enough to travel. We've had very different audience
reactions. Some of them quite extreme actually. It changes the
direction of the end of the play. It's fascinating to see the build
up of the tension right at the end that leads to the audience making a
decision on how they wish to continue and finish the play.
me explain, we have a play which has gathered us here. At the end of
it, the actor who's speaking right now might very well commit suicide.
This is a part of the play. And, he will not know this might happen
until this very moment of this very reading.
I think the piece is an incredible peace actually because the actor
doesn't know watt script is, there's a real sense of danger.
What's remarkable about it is you feel the writer's presence there.
You feel it throughout the piece. The yearning to actually be there
There are many performers who will talk about risk taking or believe
they take them. There are students stechtruepz who think being risque
is about doing songs about bestiality. There are those who
think taking risks is about political comedy. But there are
real risk takers like the Belarus Free Theatre.
We are banned in our country. We are illegal in our country. We are
prohibited theatre. We are the only independent company in Belarus. The
rest are state-run theatres, controlled by the government. In
order to survive, you just need to go underground. We've been allowed
into the rehearsal for the Belarus Free Theatre here. It has to be
said that the fact the vast majority of the company do not
speak English probably adds to the sense of chaos that Edinburgh
naturally brings in during the When you said your performances are
underground, could you describe a typical performance. First of all,
you need to find the place where to perform. When we start, it was in
the clubs and bars. But then, it came to the moment when few
business people who help us to perform, they lost their license.
We started to perform even in the woods, when it's summertime, so
more people could see it. Welcome to Minsk! Vaclav Havel who
is the patron of our theatre, he told us that if you want to change
your life, can you not whisper, you need to say very openly and loudly
whatever you think. Otherwise if you whisper, you would continue
In Belarus it's not just the performers who have to be brave.
Just being in the audience requires courage. Police arrive and they
film faces of spectators, then they go into schools, universities, jobs
and they just threaten people, they would lose education, jobs and this
is what's happening. We say that we love our audience all over the
world, but our audience in Belarus the most bravest audience in the
world. The first play they are performing is about sex in the city.
But the city in question is Minsk, so even the most simple questions
become hugely political. We do not care how people call us, if you
want us to become political theatre, call us political theatre. You want
to say that it's another kind of theatre, we're happy about it. We
just want to say whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want
to whom we want by means of the theatre. So freedom of expression?
Absolutely. Absolutely. And Belarus Free Theatre and White
Rabbit Red Rabbit run until the 29th August.
Now the fringe finishes on Monday. The international festival powers
through until the 4th September. And next week sees the opening of
acclaimed Chinese choreographer Shen Wei's Re-Triptych which takes
home coming as its theme. Born in rural China, Shen Wei now lives in
New York, where Clemency Burton- Hill went to catch up with him
Artist and choreographer Shen Wei has been a presence on the New York
dance scene since he moved here from China in 1995. Known for his
completely original movement and spectacular vishuals his work is
influenced by his background in traditional Chinese opera, which he
studied from the age of nine. He also works as a painter and
designer, which is evident in his dance work. His success abroad was
rewarded at home, when in 2008, he was invited to create a work for
the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.
His company Shen Wei Dance Arts made its debut here in 2000. Their
work, which fuses eastern and western philosophy and aesthetics
it's led to him -- his being recognised as one of the world's
contemporary choreographers. I can feel that you are enjoying
your own world. That moment is real nice. I caught up with the company
at one of their final rehearsals before they left for Edinburgh.
Shen Wei the man, is really specific. Though there's a lot of
freedom to put your own creativity, he demands you communicate it
clearly. Don't worry about anything in the room. Only focus your
situation. I've been working with him for three years. So it's great.
It's a big challenge to be able to push your body's limits. There's a
kind of really nice sense of his intuition about how it push us to
work harder. Here, once you guys go on the legs here, you go so reach
up. It's like a reach up. My dancers have been trained in my
own technique called natural body development. I have been here 11
years to develop this technique by In many ways your work is being
seen through the eyes of a painter, which of course, you are. What
comes first - the image or the movement? For me, personly, always
the passion come first. Without passion I cannot even start it. Of
course, each production may have each different process. The work
the company are bringing to Edinburgh, the Re-Triptych was
inspired by Shen Wei's travels throughout the Asian continent.
first part of the is in Tibet, the traditional chanting, tempo, by a
Two is about my journey in Cambodia, because all amazing, humungous
temples that integrate with the nature of the trees, then you will
see human power and the power of nature, of the trees, combined
In common with Shen Wei's other work Re-Triptych explores the
differences between the distinct actualures of the East and West.
the East, especially in China, they are really focus on the power of
unity or collective. You look at the Western culture, New York, they
are really focused on individual power, over creativities. Those
cultures are so different. I find Some people find the language of
contemporary dance quite alienating, quite different. What would you say
to someone who hasn't ever seen your work, what's it really about?
You know, art is all about inspiration and how I can give you
something you feel, but you may not complete understand. I think that's
the purpose of art. Really enjoy the freedom of closing eyes, like
you're in a disco, you really don't care, you just play around with
whatever you want. And Re-Triptych is on from the first to the third
of September. That's is all we've time for at Edinburgh. If you want
more festival fix tune into the review show tomorrow night at 11pm
on BBC two. We're back on your screens on 29th September. It's
time for me to leave. I'm due at a clown orgy. I will leave you in the
Sue Perkins presents the final Culture Show from Edinburgh with all the highlights from this year's Festival, including an exhibition of portraits of the Queen, featuring artists such as Lucian Freud, Andy Warhol and Annie Leibovitz.