The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!
As part of our Edinburgh Fringe coverage, Playbill is seeing a
whole lotta shows—and we're sharing which ones you absolutely must see
if you're only at the Fringe for a short amount of time. Consider these
Playbill Picks a friendly, opinionated guide as you try to choose a show
at the festival.
“What is your fantasy death?” the little blue cards read, delicately placed at each audience member’s seat. It’s the second thing any of us see, after writer and performer Ben Target, who offers each of us some coffee. “Describe it in one sentence.” Otherwise unprompted, the rest of the audience file into the performance space, metal hinges on seats creak open, and those already seated pick up our pens and begin.
Lorenzo is a proper goodbye by Target (or Ben Targét as he’s perhaps better professionally known), to his eponymous uncle, a Cantonese architect who lived and worked with Target’s grandparents for 30 years. Directed by the late Adam Brace (with continued direction by Lee Griffiths), Lorenzo details the end-of-life care Target provided for his chosen uncle during the pandemic.
Staged in Summerhall’s Anatomy Lecture Hall Theatre, audience members sit in half-circle pews on small, square wooden stadium seats. We face Target, clad in a cream white knit beanie and blue-grey coveralls, like something out of a Wes Anderson film. Before us is a great, beautiful wooden worktable (by Tom Hartshorne for Morice Designs). Throughout Target’s story, present, past, and distant past interwoven, the table’s many ingenious, though somewhat silly, compartments reveal a shredder, a shadow-puppet floorplan of the home where he grew up, two types of saws (Eastern and Western), and a miniature crane, the purpose of which I won’t spoil here.
Target’s “performance art with punchlines” is a beautiful sharing of his relationship with Lorenzo, a person Target describes as the only adult around whom he ever felt safe, someone who was unwaveringly kind where everyone else was harsh and hardened. Lorenzo’s kindness and imagination was as novel as his inventions, whimsical designs he and child Ben dreamed up and executed at the divine hour, “silly o’clock,” a time when “precision and idiocy” perfectly converged. In fact, Target specifies that in everything proper, there must be something a little silly.
And there is plenty of silliness in Lorenzo. Audience laughter punctuates deftly delivered zingers from the once-upon-a-stand-up-comic, making the touching tribute all the more proper indeed. Between laughs, Target wrestles with two deeply unfunny realities—the reality of loving someone and the reality of watching that someone you love die. There are, within these realities, the visceral chores of caring for the dying, like sponge baths, mop buckets for all manner of human waste, and biscuits soaked in morphine. There is a lack of dignity. For Lorenzo, who as a young boy was made to wave ribbons and dance whenever he felt gratitude, life amounts to how one best gives of oneself to the world, invisibly, actually serving people without spending all one has.
As a lump in my throat formed during the show’s final moments, I thought about all the people, places, and things, that never got my proper goodbye—the grandmother-figure who taught me forgiveness; my childhood home and in it, the little blue stuffed dog I always swore I’d save if there ever were a fire, or a flood, or, as my terrible luck would have it, a hurricane. Tears fell as I realized that in my tiny, tender 30 years, there were only two great losses. Did that make me lucky? I thought of the goodbyes unknown to me now that I wouldn’t get to say. Could I say them now, in advance? Would they count?
Or, instead of imagining the fantasy goodbyes for the deaths of my nightmares, I could, like Lorenzo, find ribbons of gratitude to wave (actioned by Target in the form of toilet paper—a white flag to sorrow—in one delightful moment of audience participation). Yes, we can adorn ourselves with ribbons of gratitude for the very real people, loves, lives, families, homes, and deaths of our choosing.
Before the performance began, Target came to read what I had written. “You wrote an essay,” he teased, responding to my eight-lined sentence. “I promise it’s one sentence,” I assured, holding up a single finger.
He nodded, reading it quietly, thoughtfully. His expression changed from one that was vague confusion (or was it concern?) to understanding.
“Wow, well,” he said, touching the small blue square delicately as he placed it face-down on the wooden desk. “Beautiful. A thing of literature.”
Lorenzo plays at the Anatomy Lecture Theatre at Summerhall through August 27. For tickets, click here.