Edinburgh: Day the third

a shredded £5 note

It’s late now, and I’ve run out of jokes. Sorry. Or not. Depending on how much you like my jokes.

I didn’t even get a little bit rained on on this day. No even a little bit. I did, however, sit on a bench with the faint whiff of chlorine hanging in the air, wearing goggles and a water polo hat. Enter:

The Time Out – Non Zero One

Part of the Forest Fringe. A piece for 8-12 people (but it has to be an even number) who are informed by a shouty man with quite a magnificent moustache that they are 9 minutes away from a potential glorious victory. The water polo hats that you don at his instructions have discretely hidden headphones, and as the lights fade and the shouty-moustache man slows, a voice begins to speak in your ear. It begins to talk to you, about how strange a situation this is, but that the shouty-man seems so real, maybe we should just go along with it. As time passes this same voice asks you to do or say small things, make eye contact with others around you, reveal simple details about yourselves, shake hands, touch foreheads. To try and understand yourself as a group, as team mates.

The Time Out is a gentle, self-aware and intimate examination of what it takes to be more than the sum of your parts, that carefully weaves the responses of the participants back into the fabric of the work. This is the point where I normally end on a slightly unnecessary flourish, but you’re going to have to make do with: ‘I liked it.’

Alma Mater – Fish & Game

An iPad show. 20 minutes, and a kind of fairy tale for an empty room. You’re instructed to use the iPad ‘like a camera’ – so as the display moves its angle on the room, you move the screen so that it aligns, filling the room with characters, objects, a tale about a little girl, growing up. Another thing that I’d heard a lot of people respond quite favourably to, but that I found a tad underwhelming. An interesting story, but not really a visual language that worked for me. It felt like it should respond like a video game viewpoint – using the point of view of a player-character made me crave more responsivity; at least a navigational level of interaction.

Also, at a certain point or two you’re asked to open and close a door. A hand on screen from ‘first person’ perspective invites you to do this. A really, really hairy one. That immediately knocked me out of suspension of disbelief. This could have been so easily dealt with; an early ‘look’ at the player’s feet and hands to cast you in the role of the hairy man, a male or female hand version with just those (20 seconds max) different, or an at least androgynous looking arm.

Still interesting, though.

Hinterland Hide&Seek and Ross Sutherland

Despite repeatedly losing the little booklets that contain all of the vital information, have been enjoying playing this game from Hide&Seek and Ross Sutherland. ‘A piece of poetry that you play’, is how they’ve described it, I would add that you play and write with strangers. I like the way it has me listening out for certain voices, accents, walking around without my headphones on and looking at passerby like they could help me, rather than get in my way. I should be onto level (canto) 2 as soon as I phone in my last answers. An enjoyable intervention. Do pick it up.

Doris Day can Fuck off Greg McLaren

What would happen if you sang everything for 3 months? Well, your workmates would get pretty pissed off, and you’ll lose your voiceover work; “Greg, no, we, we need you to speak this please”. Greg McLaren sang in shopping centres, at work, to car park wardens, buskers, and talked to language specialists and opera singers. Out of this he has built a journey where he looks at singing, language, and (mis)communication. Incredibly exuberant, and although the act of singing comes across as an exposing and lonely thing to keep doing for so long, right towards the end you catch a glimpse of a different piece, one you get the feeling that the person you see is trying his hardest not to show you, something much further back, something that his mind can’t quite bear to settle on. Fascinating.

Crunch Gary McNair

The picture at the top of this post is approximately 3.2 pence*. The little strips of paper are the remnants of a shredded £5 note. That’s one day’s food budget while I’m here. Or it could be malaria inoculations for almost 2 children. Or several thousand Zimbabwean Dollars. Money is a funny thing, really, isn’t it? Actually if you think about it, and the ways it works, forget Christianity, Judaism, Islam; money is the biggest belief system in the world. Gary McNair certainly thinks so. And he’s here (with a 5 step system) to help you break the habit.

Crunch is a piece about the machinations of capitalism’s abstraction of money. But much funnier than that sounds. As you reach step 5, you are asked to ‘know the value in yourself’… and shred your money.

On the night I did it 2 people shredded their money. One of those people was me. ‘Why?’ I hear you cry faintly at your laptop screen so as not to sound A Bit Weird…

Because I thought about it. And my first thought was ‘I can’t, if I shred this I can’t eat tomorrow’. And then I thought ‘actually, I am among friends here. I hate asking for help. I don’t like accepting drinks and the offers of free food, because it feels like a transaction, I don’t like to be in people’s debt. But actually, if I really needed it, plenty of people here would buy me dinner. Not because they want something in return. But because, well, actually I am worth it. I’m sure I’m worth £5. And I was surprised, when it was put like that, that I had thought I wasn’t.

It felt quite empty to shred the note. Kind of how it should, if you think about it. Though I’m sure Gary’s aware of how ironic it is that he and his more than slightly irresistible Glaswegian accent make an excellent salesman, and I don’t need much persuasion about the ills of capitalism, I’m keeping the remnants of that note. Because it means more to me, worthless.

*I worked that out using AREAS** and things.

** 135mm x 70mm = 9450mm^2. 500p/9450mm^2 = 0.053p/mm. Approx 60mm^2 of £5 note. 0.053*60=3.2p (rounding up)

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