Friday, August 12, 2011

thistle do nicely

Our final day in Scotland was a decent mix of relaxation and panic. Relaxation, because the rain was incessant and we stayed inside, and panic, because we are all leaving tomorrow. I always feel a sense of urgency; like I need to do something that will make me feel like I've truly enjoyed Edinburgh. And I have enjoyed it, but I have to remind myself that I can enjoy it from my dry hotel room and not feel like I have to be out in it.

We had our final performance of What the Moon Saw today, and I was so proud of the students. They did a beautiful job with a really creative and inventive piece. They seemed proud of their work, and I could tell that the audiences loved and appreciated it as well. They quickly dismantled the set and we were out of the space in fifteen minutes. Amazing how much work goes into something that comes apart in just a quarter of an hour. I guess that's the way theatre works. Part of the magic, I suppose.

There wasn't much action on the Royal Mile today. The rain had sort of driven everyone indoors. But I was approached by a guy wearing a poncho, desperate to give me a flier advertising his sketch comedy show. I politely said "no thanks," and he replied "But it's free! Lunchtime comedy! Please! I'm wearin' a bag!"

I saw a production of Steven Berkoff's Oedipus today. Steven himself was supposed to be in it, but he was "indisposed," so we got an understudy. Steven Berkoff is a big name in theatre - he's sort of a revolutionary. I saw his production of On the Waterfront a year or two ago. I liked it. He's very into physical movement and storytelling. This production followed those same lines. There was an all male chorus, and they were sort of dressed like 1920's hobos. They did a lot of slo-mo stuff, and created theatrical shapes and pictures, which they impressively held for a long time. I thought that was great. But the show was really long. I don't really love Greco-Roman theatre, to be honest. So much talking, and always about the same dumb story. Yes, you killed your father! Yes, you married your mother! Get on with it. I'm always leery of shows without intermissions, too, especially if they are over 90 minutes. It sometimes means the producers are afraid people will leave at intermission. I probably would have. The show was artfully done, just kind of boring. And the curtain call went on forever. The people who seemed to enjoy the performance the most were the cast. So this one didn't do much for me.

More interesting, however, was the Royal Military Tattoo, which we all saw tonight! This is my fourth time at the Tattoo, but it's different every year. So it's fun to track that. This year I had to sit by complete strangers, which was an adventure in itself. The old lady next to me took the Tattoo VERY SERIOUSLY and she did not like the Spanish people behind us who kept talking. Also, she sang all the songs with the marching bands. And she held my hands and sang "Auld Lang Syne" right into my face at the end of the show.

The Tattoo is always really special, and I mean that honestly and also facetiously. There were some really weird elements this year. For one thing, they did this odd pirate segment. They were trying to show how the Scottish military combats pirates in the Indian Ocean, and they did this demonstration. But the pirates were just girls in denim jackets with bandannas over their faces. And then some Jack Sparrow-type pirates came out as well. And then these fake helicopters showed up and a bunch of security guys popped out of the audience with guns.

Another weird moment was when the Bavarian Military band came out, wearing what looked like green Nazi uniforms and following a banner with a giant gold eagle on it. And they were doing goosesteps. It felt weird to me. And then some guys in lederhosen came out and chopped at a giant log.

Also, some Scottish girls came out and did a fish dance. Some guys tried to catch them with a big green net, but they got away! And then they danced around with big plastic crates of dead fish.

I did like this part, when some Naval officers had a race to see how quickly they could assemble a canon: video
video

I always like the marching bagpipes: video

And best of all, the return of Anne - my very special usher from two years ago! It was fun to watch her again. She really, really loves the Tattoo. Even more than the old lady next to me, AND THAT'S SAYING A LOT. Here is a clip of Anne singing along to some Scottish song that only she knows. Pardon the froggy throat! video

And with the signal of the lone bagpipe, high on the castle walls, the Tattoo was over. But the lone bagpipe has come to mean more than that to me. It's also the end of our studies abroad. I always feel a little melancholy. So excited to go home, but always a little sad to leave this great experience.