The Culture Show at the Edinburgh Festival - Part 3 The Culture Show

The Culture Show at the Edinburgh Festival - Part 3

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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


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