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.
I may or may not have gotten absolutely zero sleep the night before my final day at Fringe. Like zero. A proper all-nighter. I may or may not have embarrassingly struggled to stay awake during my first show of the day, creating in me a feeling of dread for the remaining four shows I had (for some reason) stacked. It was like I was standing at the base of a mountain that I had to hike in flip flops. And then I experienced a revelation that jolted me awake.
Revelations of Rab McVie can best be described as, “If your favorite folk band told an hour-long parable in Satan’s pub.” The band, called The Filthy Tongues, are part Black Sabbath, part Black Keys, a group of people who have probably never not been the coolest people in any room. They were jamming stage right and, from my seat, I could see into the wings, where the band members' great shadows cast on the brick side walls of the venue. It was like something that frightened your imagination in the middle of the night, telling you something giant and sinister had crept into your room.
This entire show is overseen by Maria Rud—co-creative director (with musician Martin Metcalfe), author, and live painter of this experience. The back wall of the performance space is a colossal projection screen, on it displayed the ever-changing landscape of Rab McVie’s (played by Tam Dean Burn) nightmare-scape. So the story goes, Rab is caught in a night terror from which he may never awake. The music guides his journey, fighting through a war-torn poetic world that's interpreted live by Rud’s brushes, clothes, and fingers. Using a dark, deep color palette, Rud transforms a scene with a flick of a wrist—a dog becomes a bull, a rifle becomes a home, a soldier becomes the mournful visage of Jesus.
As part of his performance, Burn crawls, cries, sweats, and screams in anguish. Under the direction of Maria Pattinson, he's centered such that his face and body become part of the projection surface. We see him become desperate for hope, unable to find light in the darkness, trapped in a terror he cannot escape. A Jester tricks him. Everything around him turns blue, turns to a maze, turns to an embellishment of padlocks, turns to sand, turns to a river that sweeps everything away. The story is captivating. Rud’s hour of continuous painting is something that bewilders and entrances.
While experiencing this show, I couldn't help but redesign most of what I saw in my head—churning and tinkering on what this could be. What if this were in the round? Could the projections be thrown onto the floor? Could it be curved behind the top row of audience seating, casting us as casualties? What if this were in a cave? In a pub? On a battlefield? In a battlefield—outside. The possibilities were dizzying, and endless. I was mesmerized. I so wanted to see a fuller staging outside of the Fringe. Surely the beautiful, dark, twisted minds that had dreamt this up could expand the universe further in a fully-staged production, or concert, or warning, whatever this wanted to call itself.
At the very least, if performed again, we the audience have to be able to reach out to Rab, dance as part of the ritual—a teeming of skeletons worshipping at the altar of this calamity.
Revelations of Rab McVie has completed its run at Pleasance Grand. Keep an eye out on the show here. See more photos from Revelations of Rab McVie here.