Edinburgh Fringe, pt. 1: Politics and feminist history

Today at the Fringe festival, I went to see the theatre play simply called ‘Brexit’, and the ‘Six’ musical that tells the story of Henry VIII’s wives. The atmosphere at the festival is socially and politically aware – much like in Edinburgh more generally -, and these two performances are a good example why.

Juuso on his way to see the Brexit play at Edinburgh Fringe

The Brexit play was set in the future where the transition agreement had been going on for a long while, and the Conservative Prime Minister had to finally decide whether to make the transition agreement permanent, or to leave the Customs Union. The underlying message of the play was quite clear: nobody could handle Brexit well, so maybe we should just stop it.

The culmination point of the play was when the Prime Minister decided to opt for the plan to effectively stay in the EU but without the right to vote, but realised the plan had no majority in the Parliament. Maybe it’s indicative of what’s going to happen when the Brexit deal (or lack thereof) is finally brought to the House of Commons sooner or later. The Prime Minister in the play was offered a post as the EU High Representative for Climate Change, which was a convenient escape for him from the impossible Prime Minister position – we’ll need to see what Theresa May’s next job will be!

Underbelly (George Square) at Edinburgh Fringe
For Fringe, George Square in the university campus has been turned into ‘Underbelly’.

In the evening, Caitlin and I went to see Six. As opposed to telling ‘history’, the musical was about ‘herstory’: empowerment of female voices in history, and removing the six queens from the shadow of the male character, constituted the ethos of the musical. The songs themselves told the stories of the queens, featuring references to millennial culture. As Henry VIII turned to looking for a spouse from another country, he “changed his location settings”, Anne of Cleves didn’t look like her profile picture, and Catherine Howard called herself ‘a 10 among all these 3’s’.

Glitter, dance pop and strong female characters with sass was very much a 21st-century version of the story. The audience clearly enjoyed the surprises and the festive spirit, and the musical got a standing ovation in the end. ‘Six’ was refreshing and perceptive – what you might expect to see at an Edinburgh festival!

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