Institut Francais d'Ecosse at Edinburgh Fringe

Creatively hitting back at the isolationist political current of post-Brexit Britain, the Institut Français d’Ecosse has programmed its most culturally and linguistically diverse and eclectic season at the Fringe to date, Vive le Fringe!

Feature by Rachel Bowles | 03 Aug 2016

Brimming with French and francophonic works from not only France but Germany, Turkey and the UK, the French Institut’s programme is a tour de force of cultural dialogue and a celebration of our common European heritage through theatre, dance and literature.

The Institut kick off their 2016 season with a dreamy, ethereal awakening in Chiffonnade, French dance company Carré Blanc Cie’s endearing, gentle tale of childhood and growing up, suitable for one year olds and over. Emerging from a chrysalis on stage, a snail brings out pieces of fabric to dance with, starting a whimsical and beautifully choreographed transformative journey to becoming a mermaid.

Elsewhere for children and big kids alike, Berlin-based company Shake Shake Theatre have installed a giant pop-up book in the Institut’s studio and twice a day Swiss-Australian artistic duo Pierre Filliez and Jessica Nicholls will tell The Story of Mr B. using puppetry, animated objects and shadow theatre. This magical, humorous tale unravels around the adorable curmudgeon Mr Bumblegrum, who grumpily wanders through the year’s seasons before realising all he’s ever wanted is a friend.

French-Brazilian performer Gael Le Cornec, known for her acclaimed shows Frida Kahlo: Viva la Vida! and Camille Claudel, returns to the Fringe with her topical and original one woman play The Other based on actual refugee accounts.

Displacing the action from real geopolitical crises onto the cosmos, The Other tells the story of Mana, a little girl from the alien red-yellow planet desperately journeying to our “beautiful blue” world. It’s a fantastical and darkly comic coming of age story that explores the pressing, timely issues that refugees face in a sensitive, engaging manner through the lens of a poetic fairy tale retelling.

Following a successful run at the Avignon Festival and Guichet Montparnasse Theatre in Paris, French theatre company Compagnie des Perspectives premieres its new production in English of Nikolaï Gogol's infamously dark and farcical masterpiece Diary of a Madman.

Our unlikely hero, the underachieving Arksenty Ivanovich Poprishchin is a low ranking civil servant in the Tsarist bureaucracy, who becomes unstuck as he records his insanity in his journals. Poprishchin discovers he can speak dog fluently, prevent stellar collisions and through his deranged diary entries discovers he is destined for the Spanish throne in this comic and biting satire.

Always popular with students of French culture, Boris Vian’s arcane and absurdist play The Empire Builders makes for a riotous and darkly comedic finale for the Institut’s Vive le Fringe! season, having won much acclaim for Turkish company Theatre Hayal Perdesi and award-winning director Aleksandar Popovski with their lauded production at the Avignon Festival in France.

Performed in Turkish with English subtitles, Popovski’s adaptation features the Dupont family who, rattled by an indefinable terror, the noise, flee ever upward from apartment to apartment, becoming more and more trapped with each floor and increasingly and insanely afraid.  With their world ever narrowing, the Duponts repeatedly come across a mysterious figure, the Schmürz.

Continually maltreated, refused and ignored by the Duponts, the Schmürz appears everywhere they go and refuses to die. A meditation on fear, The Empire Builders is brilliantly realised in Popovski’s imaginative interpretation and through Selin İşcan’s claustrophobic and minimalist set design, adding some delightfully absurd and surreal Turkish flavour to the Edinburgh festival.

Chiffonnade / Carré Blanc Cie, 5-28 Aug (not 10 & 15 & 22), 10.30 & 11:30am £6-8
The Story of Mr B. / Shake Shake Theatre, 5-28 Aug (not 15 & 22), 11.15am & 2.30pm, £6-8
The Other / Gael Le Cornec, 5-28 Aug (not 15 & 22), 2pm, £8-10
Diary of a Madman / Compagnie des Perspectives, 5-28 Aug (not 15 & 22), 4pm, £8-10
The Empire Builders / Theatre Hayal Perdesi, 5-21 Aug (not 15), 6.30pm, £10-12