Edinburgh Fringe has filled the streets of Scotland’s capital for another colourful August. There are literally thousands of shows available to see. The sheer number of them means that there is bound to be something of interest to everyone. And that includes linguists!
After trawling through the masses on offer, here are some promising-sounding events for students / teachers / fans of languages. Inevitably, it’s the ‘mainstream’ languages of French, German and Spanish that crop up most. But amongst them, there are shows that will appeal to non-speakers, too. And that’s a great excuse to take along a friend or two to spread the language love!
The festival can’t get enough of Piaf this year. There are at least five cabaret shows featuring chansons from the renowned songstress! They include:
If you prefer your music folksy, then a set from Les Poules à Coulin looks like a good bet. For dance / physical theatre with a French slant, check out “La Maladie de la Mort d’Après Marguerite Duras”. Check the website, though, as some performances may be in English translation.
Something that really captures the imagination is a bilingual puppetry and storytelling event in French. “The Wonderful World of Lapin” looks like a particularly cute way to introduce the little ones to a bit of français. Most likely, quite a few big ‘uns would also find it magical!
German is a little under-represented compared to French (keine Überraschung, sadly!). However, there are a couple of interesting listings that might be worth a punt.
Absurdist theatre your bag? Well, there’s a show for you, performed in German with some English explanations. “Leere Zeit – Idle Time” is on at theSpace on the Mile, a venue that promises a global aspect to its line-up.
For some more classical, musical entertainment, you can enjoy Strauss’ opera Ariadne auf Naxos in the church setting of Broughton St Mary’s.
As ubiquitous as Piaf is for French, you can’t seem to get away from Flamenco at this year’s Fringe. There are three shows that feature the quintessential Spanish musical / dance style:
The poetry of Lorca takes centre stage at “Frost and Lorca”. The event features artwork by Sir Terry Frost, inspired by the Spanish writer; the presentation is in Spanish and English, so should be suitable for non-hispanist friends!
And for a proper melting pot of storytelling, try “Mimi’s Suitcase”, which blends English, Spanish and Persian to explore themes of identity and displacement.
Even the good old Edinburgh Ghost Tour gets the Spanish treatment this year. “Tour de fantasmas en español” sounds like a fun way to get a stock Edinburgh tourist tick and practise español at the same time!
Although it’s chiefly English-language comedy, Abi Robert’s show Anglichanka (Englishwoman) is worth a mention. Abi spent considerable time in Russia, and weaves her many tall tales into a wonderfully hilarious hour of laughter. I caught her performing a similar show at my very first Edinburgh Fringe (quite) some years ago, and it’s great to see her back at the festival with more of that hugely funny format!
Culture (without the language)
As well as the above shows, there are hundreds more without a specific language hook, but of cultural interest to linguaphiles. Russia is under the spotlight in several satirical / topical shows, for example.
Less controversially, Russian classical music is on the programme at a number of concerts. Scottish Sinfonia’s line-up sounds like quite a treat. Likewise, you can learn about imagined lives in Russia at theatre events like “The Girl Who Loved Stalin”.
If the aim is to steep yourself in the culture of Russia (or many other target language cultures), then there is a wealth of choice.
Edinburgh Fringe: take a punt
I’ve always found that the best way to enjoy the Fringe is to take a risk. With shows priced so reasonably, you can easily try something you wouldn’t normally see. Thought you hated Piaf? Give her a chance at one of the several shows on offer. Irritated by flamenco? Then give the Scottish twist on it a chance! Personally, the German absurdist theatre tempts the risk-taker in me. It could be worth a shot! And if not, then at least it gets me out of the house for an hour or two…
Have you managed to catch any of the shows above? Are there any others that you’d recommend? Please share in the comments below!