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Across the Festivals: Long Distance Affair

Michael Cox enjoys an international affair via Skype.

A common occurrence with many shows this Fringe has been that things have been better in parts than as a whole. Here is a show that is the reverse: better as a whole experience than its individual parts.

Long Distance Affair (****) allows audiences one-to-one experiences via Skype with performance artists around the world. It’s a great idea that is, fortunately, handled well at Summerhall.

Perhaps one’s enjoyment hinges on: a) which performances you see, b) whether you connect with the performances you’re watching and c) if the tech works in your favour or not. The programme notes that 18 teams and 50 actors are involved in performances given in 14 different locations, so the possible connections available are actually quite numerous. I saw pieces from Madrid (a sweet monologue about miracles and angels), Moscow (a rather interesting political statement about a parent’s hope of a better life for her child) and Singapore (a very funny prankster who demanded participation).

The room for error is huge, but Summerhall seems to have its act together with everything flowing smoothly. Even slight sound problems I had with Singapore and a slow feed that made the Moscow performance difficult to watch at times didn’t deter the enjoyment and appreciation of the performances. And there’s something rather special being able to say that one saw three performances from around the world from a computer screen in Edinburgh.

So, is this the future of theatre? Probably not, but it does prove that, with a creative spirit, an original idea can bring forth something beautiful. It’s the fact that the concept actually works that makes it rather special and wonderful.

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