In all, the Mister and I saw 10 performances and went to one awesome whisky tasting during our time at Edinburgh Fringe Fest, but I couldn’t devote an entire article to each one. Some things were too short for their own post or fell short in terms of quality, and I didn’t want to devote entire posts to negative feedback. But, by putting everything on my posted itinerary it looks like I am endorsing it all, and I can’t say I’d recommend everything I saw during my week at the Fringe. So here is my final set of reviews for the rest of what I saw in the order that I saw them.
21st Century Poe: Moyamensing
I was excited for this hour-long performance that promised to explore Edgar Allan Poe’s imprisonment in the Moyamensing prison in 1849. Unfortunately, within the first 10 minutes I wished I had been one of the lucky ones who sneaked out while “Poe” was off stage. The entire tale was told at a decibel level that hurt my ears, and even though the one-man show was supposed to be told through several characters, the only thing that changed about the delivery were the hats he wore. I thought that I was going to get a piece of Poe-like story-telling, with suspense and just the right sprinkling of grotesque, but the delivery was off-putting and the story just plain gory.
City of the Dead: Haunted Graveyard Tour
There are a few different City of the Dead tours, and this one takes your group to Greyfriar’s cemetery. I love these kinds of tours and the guide was just as engaging as I’d hoped. There was just the right amount of humor to offset the truly horrific details of Edinburgh’s past and their dealings with their dead. If you like true stories of the darkest pieces of history, definitely check this one out.
Arthur Conan Doyle Experience
The Arthur Conan Doyle Center is housed in a beautiful Victorian townhouse on a lovely street. The lecture took place in the sanctuary for the Edinburgh Association of Spiritualists, though the speaker was specifically not going to be talking about spiritualism. She focused instead on the time in Conan Doyle’s life that he lived and worked in Edinburgh and focused on trying to tell the audience things they might not already know. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know much about his life at all to start with, so the lecture felt sort of scattered and there were many times when she started a sentence with “And as you already know” and ended with “so I won’t go into that.” So if you are looking for an intro to this amazing writer’s life, I’d start somewhere else. This was clearly meant for people who already had some background knowledge.
The Center itself is worth a quick look if you are in the area. The upper levels are accessible in all of their Victorian splendor, and there is a gallery space that is lovely and bright. The Center offers yoga and other practices to enhance your mind-body connection, as well as studio space for artists. I thought there would perhaps be an exhibit or something about the man himself, but alas, there are just books in the gift shop. So don’t plan on spending more than a few minutes there if indeed you go at all for anything besides a lecture.
This was a totally different way to present the tale of Dorian Gray from the manner of Victorian Vices. In this version the actors were all in black and white, including their painted faces. They never revealed the portrait to the audience, but used a large canvas on stage that was smeared with “blood” by Dorian’s victims after their deaths or ruination. The show moved far too quickly, even the lines were delivered rapid-fire, so it ended up feeling like the Cliff’s notes version of The Picture of Dorian Gray and lasted maybe 20 minutes total. But the proceeds go to a charity so if you are in the area and have half and hour to kill it is an interesting little show.
I didn’t actually put this on my formal itinerary because it was an free, non-ticketed event and I wasn’t certain I’d make it there. The small but appreciative crowd assembled inside The Wee Pub in a wonderful little room complete with a beautiful old-timey fireplace and lights. Unfortunately, the large picture window overlooked Greenmarket Square and there was a lot of activity outside. The music of the street musicians really detracted from the tales of horror and made it difficult for the actor to build the kind of suspense that he was going for. David Crawford has a wonderful voice for telling scary stories, and I’d love to see him again in a different setting. He asked for suggestions after the show because he is planning to have some engagements in the US, so maybe you will get a chance.
What is it about our many legged friends that makes them a popular trope in Steampunk?
۞ Monster Cephlapods have been the major focus of several classic works of Science Fiction and Fantasy such as H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulu, Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the 1830 Tennyson poem The Kraken. There is also a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story called Horror of the Heights that features a flying tentacled monster. In more recent times both the Kraken and Cthulu-like monsters have made appearances in Hollywood blockbusters like Hellboy and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (though you also get a good look at the Kraken after it is death in Pirates of the Caribbean: World’s End).
۞ Their bodies are also reminiscent of complex machines. The long skinny tentacles are like wires or tubes and their movement is powered by water, not unlike steam vehicles. As a bonus their bodies kind of look like they are wearing a helmet and goggles all the time, and if Steampunk had an official symbol I’m pretty sure it would be a pair of goggles (or maybe a gear).
۞ Brian Kesinger, the talented artist behind Otto and Victoria and the book Walking Your Octopus: Your Guidebook to the Domesticated Cephlapod, did an interview for ComicMix.com, and when asked about his choice to draw an octopus as a couture pet he answered:
“I find octopuses extremely fun to draw. It is a real challenge inventing eight different things for them to do in every image. They are nature’s original multi-tasker and they certainly have captured the imagination of a lot of people. Along with the squid and other Cephalopods, octopuses seem to be a sort of theme animal for steampunk so when I set forth trying to render an image of a high class Victorian lady and her boutique pet the choice was obvious. What was not obvious was how popular Otto has become since I first drew him a year ago. He has inspired fan art, tattoos and I’ve even seen girls cosplay Victoria and conventions around the country! And for that I am so grateful and it keeps me drawing octopus.”
Cephlapods are fascinating creatures that are about as far away from human as you can get.
۞ I used to work at an aquarium so I got a chance to spend lots of time observing octopus and my personal favorite cuttlefish. These invertebrates can move in three dimensions, jetting around the water column and feeding on smaller animals.
They are also totally visually stunning. Undulating tentacles aside, many of them can change color and shape at will, which makes them masters of disguise. Want to have your mind blown? Check out the PBS documentary below for more information about cuttlefish camouflage.
I’ve collected just a sampling of the Steampunk art featuring our many-legged friends out there on the interwebs. In most cases you can get the artist’s name by simply hovering over each image and you can open a gallery of larger images by clicking on any thumbnail. If you see something that is mislabeled or you know who is behind one of my unlabeled entries please let me know so I can give the artist the credit s/he deserves.
Click on any thumbnail to open the gallery of larger images.