Prognosis 5

AGEING, DEATH AND TRANSFORMATION

by Lewis Church

Age pulls us further apart than it once did. It’s one of the many fragmentations we’re living through right now. Like race, gender and the place where you live age has become another wedge to divide us, and it takes effort to subvert it. Although that doesn’t mean there aren’t important acknowledgments to make about the gaps that do exist between generations. A life still to be lived certainly looks different from what might have gone before, as the goalposts have shifted for the young. Houses are too few and too expensive, at the same moment old models of permanent employment crumble. Whilst every group of young adults lives through their own struggles, it wasn’t ‘harder’ for previous generations. And as many shows diagnosed by Sick of the Fringe writers at Edinburgh in 2016 confronted, from Cuncrete to Heads Up, the old narratives of an ever-increasing quality of life are less secure than they were before.

But that can’t be used to justify the split in politics, in outlook, in optimism and cultural priorities between people in opposite halves of their life. Comparing hardships is ultimately pointless. Those arguments are familiar and well-rehearsed; younger and older are entrenched in a media-framed dismissal of each other’s problems. The young are lazy, the young are precious, the young are coddled. The old are rigid, or patronizing and selfish. Neither of these trite illustrations help explain how this happened, or what might be done to bridge this new gulf. We will all age and so will our opinions, our language and our life goals. Eventually the same jokes about not understanding, cultural dislocation, better days and nostalgia will be made of you. It’s as important for the young to recognise this inevitability as it is for the eldest to recognise that longevity itself is no justification for disengagement. Communication is needed to oppose the increasingly dysfunctional isolation of generations from each other.

Both older and younger people benefit from intergenerational relationships, allowing them to live lives supported by both experience and innovation. New spaces and models of interaction are vital to developing greater empathy, and at The Sick of the Fringe intergenerational art and activity is essential to the program. Lyn Ruth Miller, the ‘oldest performing female stand-up in the UK’, bridges generations at the London festival through her multi-age showcase, The Fringe is Turning 70. It’s an event which reinforces the promise contained in the title of Miller’s Edinburgh performance This Is Your Future for a group of comedians aged 14 to 80. Seven comedians spanning seven decades (one for each of the Edinburgh Fringe) will perform side by side, in reference to the both the Fringe as a platform for new voices and to show the importance of different generational perspectives. An affirmative declaration that to age is to develop, a maturation that can have a positive impact on the world, whilst to be young is to have a unique perspective and fresh potential.

 

There is evidence to suggest that anxiety around ageing is related inextricably to an anxiety about death. Like the division between age groups, where the problems of others seem remote, the problem of death might not seem relevant until the experience arrives. But to think about ageing is to think about death, although it is probably rare to put it so bluntly. Ageing is important because it is a finite process. We’re All going to Die! as Kathryn Mannix and Claire Nolan’s London Sick of the Fringe commission declares. In this reflection on death, Dr Mannix asks how culture has prepared us for our end, and how that expectation might relate to the reality. In Edinburgh too several artists asked this same question, of what death is like as an experience, whether first-hand or at a far remove. These conversations about death are essential for negotiating the complicated social interactions and emotions that go along with it, as Kat Arney noted in her diagnosis of Liz Rothschild’s Outside the Box. Like spaces for intergenerational discussion, spaces for these conversations are rarer than they might appear. The Sick of the Fringe hosts a Death Café during the London festival, a place for exactly those discussions about this last taboo. 

Many artists at Edinburgh were concerned with these experiences of grieving and the transforming qualities of loss.When someone dies, it enforces the reality of your own finitude, and the transformations that occur when confronted with it. In a strange way, familiarity with death is a hallmark of ageing, a marker of how long you have lived. Natural Shock’s My World Has Exploded a Little Bit explored the deaths of parents through autobiography and song, beginning with a group affirmation of the audience’s universal end. Tim Rowling’s Team Viking documented the endurance of friendship beyond early and unexpected death, and the fulfilment of childhood promises into adulthood. Rowling staged an internal generational gap: the one between who he was and promises he made then and who he is now, and how he confronts the difference. To experience this disconnect is to change, and to find a new equilibrium after being knocked off course. The grieving shown through these shows is dealing with someone lost, but also the loss of the person who existed before that loss. When grieving, you look longingly forward to the time when you will return to normal, only to recognise later that you will never be what you once were again. Such moments change you for ever. The knockabout title of How We Lost It in Edinburgh referred to virginity, but could easily have referred to any life change. Sex, death, triumph and effort are ageing at its most transformative.

Art has an important empathetic value when thinking about both aging and death. Life is fragile, and so are our communities. Understanding our relationship to ageing, and the points where generations can unite to address the problems of those at different stages of their lives is a crucial requisite for us to come together in the face of a changing world. It may prove essential. In Third Angel’s 600 People we learned that humanity was once reduced to just 600 individuals, on the brink of extinction. The end of not just the individual but the species was at hand. In light of the politics we are living through, that possibility might seem closer again right now. Intergenerational solidarity is as essential as it has ever been.

 

DIAGNOSES RELATING TO THESE THEMES FROM EDINBURGH 2016:

CuncreteHeads UpThis Is Your FutureOutside the BoxMy World Has Exploded A Little BitHow We Lost It600 People.

Prognosis 4

DISABILITY AND EMPOWERMENT THROUGH PERFORMANCE

by Lucy Orr

Those dealing with disability or chronic illness on a day to day basis might never get used to the personal prognoses delivered by doctors and healthcare professionals. I have psoriasis, and even the struggle of explaining how a non-life threatening chronic skin disorder can have such a negative impact on my quality of life to GPs and specialists can often feel insurmountable as I itch and scratch my way around waiting rooms and hospitals. It’s common to also come across faceless bureaucracies, the red-tape threatening to grind down those already in vulnerable positions. The systems meant to help people often lack common sense and compassion as they are overstretched by the financial restrictions imposed by an impossibly cruel austerity budget.  A recent United Nations’ report on disability concluded that the UK government’s austerity policies “systematically violated” the rights of disabled people across the board. 

I, Daniel Blake (the Palme d'Or winning film by acclaimed director Ken Loach) detailed with documentary clarity and precision how those of us who aren’t fit and healthy enough to earn a living wage bear these indignities and frustrations. Hours spent waiting on the phone. Being subjected to medical assessments carried out by people who have no clue what they are talking about. People who are told by their GPs that returning to work would be bad for their health, or possibly even fatal, are being forced under threat of benefit sanctions to look for a job because they are a point short on an ATOS score sheet. In Edinburgh, Laurence Clark’s show, Laurence Clark: Independence, looked at the meaning of what it is to live an independent life with cerebral palsy. His performance highlights that almost no one is truly independent, and points out the dark irony in the mandatory, often humiliating tests he is subjected to in order to justify the amount of support he requires to live as independently as he can.

I, Daniel Blake is a tragic portrait of modern day England’s systemic healthcare crisis. At its core, it is a film about the people vs. the state. By exposing this national raw nerve Ken Loach has highlighted an urgent discourse around how those with disabilities can fall through the gaps of an uncaring and target focused benefits system which is continually and consistently subject to ruthless cuts by an austerity driven conservative government. In direct response to this hardline ministerial misanthropy the London festival has commissioned Austerity Cu ts, which will dissect the Work Capability Assessment, questioning how society might work if disability was seen as positive rather than a burden. The autonomy or empowerment of people in Clark’s position may be at risk, as within the last month it has been revealed that 37 NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in England are introducing rules that would see people with disabilities being forced inappropriately into care homes if they lack the financial means to pay for homecare. Disabled People Against Cuts believe this is legitimizing institutionalization, and a clear case of “warehousing”, the mass storing of people with care needs in one place as a way to decrease the costs of providing them with the support they need.  

 

The performances highlighted by TSOTF in Edinburgh and now London, draw attention to various issues surrounding the understandably emotive discourse of exploring disability through performance, dissecting the numerous social barriers faced by those living with disabilities. For those living in poverty without funds for the internet in their home or a mobile phone, finding suitable job postings and contacting employers can be almost impossibly mentally and physically exhausting. Imagine how scary and distressing this can be if you are also disabled. This fear is acutely magnified in the youngest members of society, with recent research by the disability charity Scope into the experiences of disabled young people, finding that millennials are increasingly likely to experience barriers to living independently. All too often the disabled person is told what’s best for them, what they need, what’s going to happen to them. They are disenfranchised by the system that is supposed to be there to help them.

The diagnosis of performances dealing with disability at Edinburgh was a prominent platform for engaging audiences and performers in debates around social and bio-ethical issues. As The Doug Anthony All Stars (DAAS) Live On Stage! sought to remind us, it’s unacceptable for those who have a different body to be allowed to become invisible in society. It reflects the increasing urgency for a progressive discourse surrounding the idea that people matter above their physical condition. Being more that your physical presence was also visited in Chains On Sink Plugs by David Nicol, who has cerebral palsy and explores how even with his disability was brought up by his parents to think of himself as no different. The performance explores how it might be possible to get society to act in the same way.

 

Workshops like the upcoming London festival’s Tickets to my Trauma are essential in embracing the rigorous discourse surrounding how artists making work addressing their health, illness and disability can be marketed and supported and provide a community safe space for sharing ideas, strategies and conversations around these past and upcoming performances. As Romina Puma suggest in her show Cook It How You Like, It’s Still a Potato. It is long past time to reclaim the establishments’ outdated language that has historically devalued disabled people and use it instead to celebrate, enrich and empower their lives.

Last month Google celebrated the work of life long disability activist Ed Roberts by giving him his own Google Doodle. It was a reminder that it is essential that we try to force the government to examine ways to invest appropriate money and time in tackling disabled people’s real barriers to work, rather than punishing them for not “getting better”. The penny-pinching agenda of successive governments has proven this doesn’t work. It only aggravates and intensifies illness and disability through the weight of stress put upon those already vulnerable, and can result in sometimes fatal conclusions.

 

DIAGNOSES RELATING TO THESE THEMES FROM EDINBURGH 2016:

Chains On Sink PlugsDoug Anthony AllstarsCook It How You Like, It's Still a PotatoIndependenceThe One Legged Man Show.

Prognosis 3

WAYS OF THINKING

by Michael Regnier

Just as there are trends in fashion, architecture and the arts, so science goes through periods where one field rises above the others for a time. It finds a place in the wider culture, and becomes the go-to framework for explaining just about anything. Neuroscience had an early dash - in the mid-19th century many thoughtful people thought this burgeoning science of the brain would reveal everything there was to know about human behaviour. It was not to be.

In the early 20th century, Freudian psychoanalysis took over the popular imagination, driving the plot of Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945), for example, complete with a dream sequence designed by Salvador Dalí. Later, it was the turn of genetics, culminating in the Human Genome Project, which many thoughtful people again thought would reveal everything there was to know about human behaviour. Again, it was not to be.

Genetics remains a fundamental part of understanding life, but for the past few years, neuroscience seems to have again taken centre stage as our popular explainer of choice. There’s even a Human Connectome Project, mapping every cell, synapse and connection in our heads. For most of us, however, the lens of neuroscience has most usually been evident in lurid images accompanying news reports of MRI brain-scanning studies. Are men and women different? Let’s scan them. Why do teenagers take risks? Scan. What is love? Scan. Does my dog really love me? Scan the dog.

Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether these scans reveal anything new (it might be more remarkable if we didn’t see brain differences associated with physical and behavioural differences), does this approach suggest that your brain defines you? Controls you, even? And does that mean it is not really part of ‘you’? The brain does seem to get pitched as something separate, something the rest of you is either with or against, and this tension has been explored in research studies and in works of art.

Mick Gordon’s 2005 play On Ego, a production of which was diagnosed for The Sick of the Fringe in 2016, draws explicitly on neuroscience. It concerns a time-travelling neurologist who gets stuck in a philosophical dilemma. His wife, meanwhile, is experiencing a loss of words, memories and identity because of a brain tumour. Both characters offer perspectives on the role of the brain in selfhood and selfishness, but the show starts with the scientist lecturing the audience, covering the academic groundwork we perhaps need in order to appreciate the action to follow.

The staged lecture has become a common trope in plays dealing with science, and while it can be abused as an easy way to try and incorporate ‘the science bit’, it can also be done effectively and elegantly as in this case. However, a consequence in On Ego is that it privileges the ‘expert’ when it is a ‘non-expert’ character who is experiencing the most dramatic tension between brain and body. But the voice of experience brings its own expertise. Even if we feel we are living in the gap between body and brain, we nevertheless somehow hold all the parts of ourselves together, and I think we generally want to know how we each manage to do that. This is where questions about the relationship between us and our brains become intensely personal. If your brain controls you, what happens when it doesn’t do its job properly? Is it up to you to ‘take back control’?

 

Performances dealing with mental health often mine that same tension between the brain and the body it purports to control. Spearhead Theatre’s production of Joe Penhall’s 1994 play Some Voicesat the 2016 Fringe reminded us that powerful dramas based around experiences of mental health conditions have been around for a while. The play was originally a topical critique of the UK’s policy to shift further away from institutional care towards care in the community, and the risks to which that exposed many people with mental illnesses. It still resonates today as a portrayal of a young man searching for a safe place in society. But whereas in the past, specific mental health conditions might have been present in the subtext, I think as we continue to chip away at the stigmas around mental illness, we will see more plays dealing with these issues more overtly.

New shows at the Fringe last year critiqued different aspects of mental healthcare. The Magnetic Diaries was based on the story of Madame Bovary, with Emma now receiving transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy to treat her severe depression. The treatment seems to work, until she returns home and back into her downward spiral. In Empty Beds, we saw how sending people hundreds of miles away for treatment can be devastating for them and their families.

We also heard experiences of mental health first-hand as performers shared their own stories - a rising trend. Some of these shows were upfront about advocating for better understanding and support. In Sacre Blue, Zoe Murtagh told us about her anxiety and how cognitive behavioural therapy helps her to cope better with it; she even demonstrated the breathing techniques she uses. Other performers challenged the language and imagery generally used to negotiate mental health. In Declaration, Sarah Emmott used a pair of red shoes as a metaphor to show the impact of ADHD on her daily life, while Annie Siddons introduced us to a flatulent walrus that represented her suffocating loneliness in How (Not) to Live in Suburbia.

In the Times Literary Supplement recently, Brian Dillon wrote that one of the vexations of depression is “a feeling of being made to live, and express oneself, wholly in cliche”. Winston Churchill described his depression as a black dog, but his dog has been so widely appropriated since that it has lost almost any sense of monstrous horror that he might have been trying to convey. Brigitte Aphrodite - performing at The Sick of the Fringe London - has a black dog too, but hers is beautiful and called Creshendorious. Her show, My Beautiful Black Dog, explores depression with joy, humour and hope rather than horror and despair.

Different language will encourage different stories. In The Castle Builder, which was in Edinburgh and will also be in London in February, Kid Carpet and Vic Llewellyn tell the stories of people who created extraordinary structures while living in psychiatric institutions, often working alone and in secret. Such works are termed “outsider art” in English – defined again by separation, but in this case it is a physical separation from society as well as any possible internal separation between body and brain. What would it take to bring the “outsiders” in? Or can we instead try to find our way outside to meet them?

Perhaps the most revolutionary plays about mental health in Edinburgh last year were the ones in which it reached a level of almost banality. In Bit of Sunshine, while the extremes of anxiety were on stage - tics, physical tension, unkempt hair and wild eyes - there was also a place for its less obvious, everyday manifestations. In House, one of the characters had a mental health issue in their past but was now being treated successfully: it was just another facet of her character. When mental health can be part of a drama without being the focus, we will know we have reached a point of acceptance. A point where art and science are integrated on stage, and the brain and body are not so estranged as a result.

 

DIAGNOSES RELATING TO THESE THEMES FROM EDINBURGH 2016:

On EgoSome VoicesThe Magnetic DiariesEmpty BedsSacre BlueDeclarationHow (Not) to Live in SuburbiaThe Castle BuilderBit of SunshineHouse.

Prognosis 2

SEXUALITY/BODIES

by Lucy Orr

It’s easy to suppose that, with the rise of the alt-right in North America and an increasingly divided Europe the prognosis for an intelligent, informed and forward thinking discourse surrounding sexuality and bodies is poor.  Watching recent bounds forward in legal and societal liberalism come under real and seemingly unopposed threat is no comfort for the artistic soul.  Luckily there are those performers like Amada Palmer who, in a recent article, echoed what many of the marginalised in the world’s artistic communities are thinking and hoping: that there will, after the shock and awe, be a creative backlash bound to produce a new wave of subversive aesthetics and responses as we saw in response to the Reagan, Bush and Thatcher administrations.

The mainstream media portends the Trump administration with the release of the newest TV adaptation of Margret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Though unsurprisingly helmed by a white male, there’s hope that it may jump start a painful discourse and critique of a white, heterosexual society dominated by men: those hounding and objectifying women and non-binary people through social media. The dystopian future depicted in Atwood’s novel, and in the recent HBO series Westworld (where sentient female robots are raped and murdered for pleasure), feels at this moment closer than ever with the disenfranchisement of women’s sexuality and the potential erosion of Roe vs. Wade in America. There’s about to be a war on every woman’s body, a war that will be fought on the fringes of society. Universal female foreboding has been unified and channeled into the March for Women which took place throughout the US, UK and around the world on January 21st, dwarfing the turn out for Trump’s inauguration the previous day. There was a tangible sense that those in attendance were bridging the continental divide, a show of international feminine solidarity totaling 670 marches worldwide with over 2 million in attendance. In the US these were the largest numbers seen at protests since the Vietnam War.

In Edinburgh The Sick of the Fringe highlighted the vast range of performers addressing sexuality and a discourse of the body through performance. Romana Soutus’ performance of Hyena highlighted the caged and rabid female form, one which will now have to fight even harder for freedom and expression, the dissonant feminine howl a call to arms for a frightened female populous ultimately ready to resist this right-wing populist onslaught. In her recent book Tranny and interview in The Guardian Laura Jane Grace, lead singer of punk band Against Me! details her struggle with gender dysphoria and transphobia, but also suggests that now is not a time to panic. In the radical act of not losing hope, she is a hugely positive presence oozing self-esteem and unrepentant sexuality just like Christeene and her Edinburgh show Trigger, a “sex-positive pro-dirty celebration”. This artistic embracing of non-binary genders and the rejection of cisnormativity is something that the trolls on the alt-right seem terrified of. The hysterical closure of gender-neutral bathrooms under the suspicious auspices of female safety produces an atmosphere light years away from the Queer utopia imagined at Edinburgh in Callisto: A Queer Epic.

 

John Berger’s death acts as a timely reminder of his fundamental writings on the male gaze. The language of images are more relevant than ever as we now have the prospect of a societal norm where is that male gaze magnified and transmitted across a variety of social media platforms. Be sure these are no longer safe spaces, with many women such as Lindy West and Leslie Jones opting to leave twitter under barrages of racist and misogynist fat shaming abuse. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Twitter has now become the communication tool of choice by Trump, as it favors the short angry sexist snarl. In Edinburgh, I saw the male gaze unwittingly undermined for a female one. John Berger suggested “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at.” Bea Roberts performance of Infinity Pool, where she used multimedia and found objects to unravel one woman’s desires and dysphoria with the mundane, in retrospect offers a telling insight into how those swathes of female Trump voters felt as they walked into the polling booths, fooling themselves that somehow different was better.

The infamous footage of an unrepentant Trump’s physical mocking of a disabled journalist Serge Kovaleski and the rising death rate as ATOS unethically dismisses the claims of the sick, disabled and mentally venerable in the UK, might indicate an escalation of uncaring.  We have every right to feel sad about this increasing emotional austerity. During the London festival performances the rise in hopelessness and depression will be addressed by the poignant but uplifting Black, by Le Gateau Chocolat & Psappha Ensemble, combatting feelings of despair at the future told in news of half-truths and dismal sound bites with love songs and harmonies. London will also play host to Brigitte Aphrodite’s My Beautiful Black Dog, dealing with mental health with a hopeful swagger. As was evident in Dancer at Edinburgh, a collaborative performance exploring the movement of able and disabled performers, it’s important not just to hear disabled voices talk about everyday limitations but life and art. Let’s hope these voices aren’t subdued in a daily struggle for subsistence.

The arts are undeniably quick to respond to any form of political turmoil. The discourse surrounding the rise of populism and backlash against the establishment has been met by shock and cynicism by many on the liberal left, but this will quickly change and the prognosis for The Sick of the Fringe and its continuing encouragement of discourse and collaboration is bound to highlight how these troubling times can provoke performance and creativity, continuing an increasingly angry and passionate discourse around sexuality and the body. It is up to these emerging discourses to interrogate the new right-wing norms and never let them rest. We will undoubtedly be forced to fight for the fundamental human rights our current governments would take from us. It’s up to us to make this fight ours and grab it by the pussy!

 

DIAGNOSES RELATING TO THESE THEMES FROM EDINBURGH 2016:

HyenaBlushInfinity PoolDancerTrigger, Spill: A Verbatim Show About SexCallisto: A Queer Epic

Prognosis 1

THE SICK OF THE FRINGE IN LONDON

by Lewis Church

The writers working with The Sick of the Fringe are here to produce rich texts that provide expanded context for artistic work engaged with issues around medicine, mental health and the junction between art and science. At Edinburgh in 2015 and 2016 a diverse group of writers produced over 200 ‘Diagnoses’ for performances at the Edinburgh Fringe: critical engagements with shows that avoid judging success and instead expand their context, offer links and suggest supplementary ideas. At the London festival, we are looking to consolidate and open up this body of work further, charting themes and connections across multiple events within the program, in the arts and sciences more generally, and across everyday life.

Another medical term, ‘Prognosis’, has been adapted to describe the new writing being released in advance of and alongside the London festival. Diagnoses suggest an analysis that examines the content of a show and identifies its key characteristics, just as in a medical context a diagnosis refers to identifying what is going on with a particular patient. Prognosis, however, is a term that refers to the ultimate outcome of those issues: the potential course of an illness or injury. A prognosis is a longer-term assessment of significance and a potential outline for subsequent developments. Sick of the Fringe Prognoses offer deeper analysis than the Diagnoses, but are still committed to the same core purpose – offering new ways of writing about art and performance that illuminates the links between the strategies and concerns of artists, scientists and medical professionals.

Prognoses like this one will therefore identify and interrogate the broader themes of the festival, linking to relevant Diagnoses from our Edinburgh archive and offering new perspectives on broader issues and trends that the shows and events in the program relate to. The program in London includes performance events originally seen and developed for Edinburgh, and the new writing here allows us to interrogate the significance of their presentation in a different context. This first Prognosis is intended as an overview of the London festival, pointing to ideas and concerns that remerge throughout the program. Like a Sick of the Fringe Diagnosis, links to supplementary material are included throughout, and some of the most relevant Diagnoses from Edinburgh are listed and linked to below to encourage further engagement with the archive as a resource for those interested in performance, science and society.

 

Mental health in a variety of forms is a key concern of the London festival, as it was in many of the shows diagnosed at Edinburgh in both 2015 and 2016. This is hardly surprising as awareness of issues around mental health increases, even in the face of governmental cuts to clinical provision and social care. Almost certainly the neglect of these services has contributed to the current epidemic of mental health issues, whether amongst students in higher education, young children or elders. Artists too are struggling in the face of austerity and neoliberalism, that ceaseless fetishizing of competition and economic achievement that makes success seem more important even as it is further out of reach. As they become squeezed by the same pressures of living affecting everybody, limited space, resources and time, and the drift towards measurable impact as a requirement for arts funding limits support for new forms of creativity.

The Sick of the Fringe is committed to engaging with artists around these issues, knowing that art never exists in a vacuum but reflects the lives of those both making and consuming it. Tickets to My Trauma examines techniques and strategies for artists as they approach making work which relates to their own lives, just as Starring Your Pain questions the responsibilities and difficulties of critical responses to that work. Many of the artists at the London festival are also offering deeply personal narratives within their performances. Le Gateau Chocolat’s Black at Conway Hall and Brigitte Aphrodite’s My Beautiful Black Dog at the Wellcome Collection both offer powerful affirmations of the performer’s experiences with clinical depression. Sharing stories such as these can help by breaking taboos and offering solidarity to other artists and the audiences who attend. As we are reminded by activists, when government fails to act, it is up to the public to demand action, and the breaking of the silence around mental health is a vital action in which artists have an important role to play.

The sharing of stories extends throughout the program, many other artists also offering their individual experiences and personal history to their audiences. By sharing personal experiences collective understanding is generated and nurtured, around the subjectivity of our own positions as much as the universal. This attitude of generosity holds true whether it is stories of lived illness being performed, as in The Conker Group’s Gutted or Malachi’s I’ve Got a Problem with My Thingy, or in the invitation to reflect on how you treat yourself in Sheila Ghelani’s installation Nurse Knows Best and FK Alexander’s Recovery. Throughout the 2016 Edinburgh festival too, the sharing of personal stories of health and self-care was a pervasive concern that emerged across several Diagnoses, reflecting its urgency at our current moment.

Bodies, the physical reality of living is another key theme of The Sick of the Fringe in London, and here again there are points of connection with the concerns of many of the shows diagnosed by writers in Edinburgh. Mamoru Iriguchi’s Eaten interrogates a universal experience: the processes of eating and food. These common processes of eating are taken to their logical conclusion in the conversation Life is Shit, Shit is Life, discussing digestion, shit and its place in everyday existence. The younger audience intended for Iriguchi’s performance also points to another ubiquitous process similarly central to the festival program, that of aging. Lynn Ruth Miller’s showcase of intergenerational comedians, The Fringe is Turning 70, commemorates both the maturation of the Edinburgh Fringe and the differing experiences of age of some of the most exciting comedians in the UK.

The work being presented at The Sick of the Fringe London covers many ages, genders and identities and as many topics, stories and experiences. The artists, whether performing for The Sick of the Fringe for the first time or veterans of the Edinburgh Fringe, are all engaging with newly urgent concerns in the synthesis between art and science. In an increasingly technical world of virtual echo chambers and digital loneliness, artists of all forms and genres are more able to access research and more devoted to the personal, unique experience of direct engagement that comes from being in an audience. In the forthcoming Prognoses, writers from will put forth concerns, questions and extrapolations that encourage deeper thinking, new connections and articulations of the experience of enjoying the scientifically adventurous art (and artistic science) at The Sick of the Fringe in London.

 

DIAGNOSES RELATING TO THESE THEMES FROM EDINBURGH 2016:

House and Amongst the ReedsBit of SunshineEvery Brilliant ThingI’m Doing This For YouSacre BleuThis Is Your Future