City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Assembly's Taste of What's To Come

By Edinburghs Festivals - Posted on 02 August 2007

The Fringe is often called a juggernaut of a festival featuring (I quote the Fringe office) "31,000 performances of 2,050 shows in 250 venues." Juggernauts take time to get going. Which is probably why Assembly is off already.

Assembly, running 8 venues under its umbrella, is now a pervasive presence on the Fringe. It's gotten so big. A festival within a Fringe Festival. A juggernaut in itself.

Last night I climbed the Mound for the mobbed press launch at Assembly Hall, an old Church of Scotland building, and fittingly location for the launch for Assembly during August.

I arrived in time to catch the joyous Soweto Gospel Choir (pictured) wrapping up a set, on the steps of the courtyard.

Then after huddling in the bar, we streamed into the main auditorium. The circular venue is a good size, although watch you don't get a pillar obstructing your line of view if you head for the balcony.

Compering were Assembly's two favourite stand-up comedians Aussie Adam Hills (pictured) and high octane Jason Byrne. Byrne is totally nuts, filthy-mouthed, and took great pleasure pushing things beyond the limit. Hills, no comic slouch himself, looked like the straight man at times beside him. That's more a reflection of Byrne's nuttiness.

Previews are a wonderful way of checking out Fringe shows. Everything seems appealing with the smallest taster, even if you lack an appetite for more of a specific show.

It was a diverse preview:

Impropera married classic opera with theatre improvisation based on audience suggestions.

The Dutch Eagles, performing a song from their show Welcome Back to the Hotel California, gave us a very accurate and mellifluous rendition of the best-selling pop group The Eagles (although one Eagles band is enough for me).

The Colonanades Theatre Lab/Market Theatre performing an extract from Truth In Translation gave us an extraordinary, musical response to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission of 1995. South Africa have produced some great vocal ensembles. This might be another one. Assembly is certainly pushing this in a big way especially with the involvement in the project of the excellent African musician Hugh Masekela (who may be over in Edinburgh in a matter of days).

Quebecois dance group The 7 Fingers got one of the biggest roars from the crowd when reaching the climactic routine of their show Traces, which took three attempts to pull off.

All former Cirque de Soleil members their brand of physical theatre merges acrobatic feats with elegant, contemporary dance.

When they succeeded on the third attempt with this particularly tricky maneouvre where they spring one of the members some fifteen feet in the air into a backward somersault through a hoop, the audience responded effusively.

Havana Cuba The night was rounded off with some uptempo jiggling and jiving from Cuban music and dance troupe Havana Rumba. Très hot, even if some in the media horde were reluctant to swing.

And that's just a handful of Assembly at the Fringe's 144 shows. It's a big, bad fest.