Fringe Dance

Mary Brennan


Assembly Hall (The Mound)

Four Stars

Moscow Boys

Zoo Southside

Four Stars

Snow Charm, Spring Scenery

Theatre Big Tops, Fountainbridge

Four Stars

I DOUBT if we have a Western equivalent to put alongside Binari, part of this year’s Korean showcase on the Fringe. We mourn the loss of loved ones, find ways to mark their passing, but our rituals tend towards formality and restraint whereas Binari makes a song and dance – and a broad-strokes comedy caper – out of an old woman’s death and funeral. Rest assured:even at its most graphic moments of clowning around, Binari isn’t mocking a hapless wife and mother. Instead, in a vivid mixture of drumming, singing, mask-work and dancing – much of it rooted in folk and shamanistic traditions – the seven-strong company delves into the prayers and symbolism that will bring eternal peace to an unhappy soul. Just why the soul is so troubled is portrayed in a central section that has a commedia del arte flourish – and enough, by way of English asides, to ensure we understand the limbo misery of a swaggeringly unfaithful husband, two selfish sons and an undeservedly violent death. Surely a painful comeuppance for the family who so abused her would be in order? Nothing so petty or vengeful gets in the way of the Ohgugut practices that Busan’s Mac Theatre has linked together to help the soul’s journey from this world to the next.The final emblematic imagery, the melancholy and acceptance that pervades the singing easily overtake the tomfoolery – Binari’s lingering appeal is in its striking visuals, its spirituality and air of cultural authenticity.

Runs until August 29

NO category in the Fringe brochure really describes what the Moscow Boys get up to onstage – but let’s settle on Dance, since they do a lot of it. Tap-dancing, salsa, high-kicks hoofing – to say nothing of a spot of nifty roller-blading – are some of the styles that find the four lads up and prancing with smiles on their faces and an accomplished twinkle in their toes. All of which is a tad unexpected, given that the Moscow Boys are actually a classically trained string quartet. The frame-work for their sashays from musician’s chair onto the dance floor is a basic one: as soon as their conductor’s back is’s break out time. Who cares that this scenario is repeated over and over – it allows the lads to dip off-stage for costume changes before returning for another sequence of musical lollipops, familiar film and TV themes, versions of Shakira and Timberlake numbers that bring out the bootylicious hip sway in them. And even in the cellist who carries his instrument in a body harness throughout. What’s out of step, however, is the sound balance: the amplified backing track is prone to swamp the live playing – and if you’re near the front, you’ll be able to hear how astoundingly good the Moscow Boys are. Snatches of comedy sketches add another goofy string to all four bows, meanwhile the quartet seem to have a routine for every time signature, every key shift from major to minor, every mood from romantic to funk. They end up drenched in sweat – we leave, still grinning and amazed by their energy and versatility.

Runs until August 29

AS Fringe titles go, Snow Charm and Spring Scenery is one of the prettiest and most intriguing in the brochure’s four hundred or so pages. On-stage, the artists from China’s Jilin Province bring the words to life with a cavalcade of music and movement that provides a spectacular sampler of the region’s culture, old and new. Themed around seasons – with gorgeous costuming echoing the contrasting temperaments of icy winter and blossoming spring – there is a picture-book feel to sequences like the lakeside choreography where the all-female company of dancers aren’t the swans we might expect, but China’s more emblematic cranes. Sleeves - several feet long, and dexterously uncoiled and re-wound at speed by an elegantly gowned dancer – conjured up a sense of antique courtly art forms while the acrobat in tutu and pointe-shoes who balanced on her partner’s shoulders was a modern amalgum of East and West, circus and ballet – and, like the entire production, consummately skilled and charming too.

Run ended