The Pleasance Opening Gala - Edfringe 2019

A spectacle of some of the finest talent Pleasance is offering this summer, with a well written and comedically delivered welcome from Anthony Alderson, Pleasance’s director.

The Pleasance Opening Gala - Edfringe 2019

The curtains open to reveal three spaces - a white-clean bathroom, a dishevelled kitchen, and a barber shop. No words are spoken, but within seconds the audience are laughing. The opening act of this gala was full of ingenious set building, excellent acting (expression and body language are vital) and all in all a hilarious set that really makes you want to go see Fishbowl, showing at 1pm most days in Pleasance Courtyard.


Up next was our host, the wonderful Suzi Ruffell — who we just awarded five stars! Her set included quips about her family, her impending nuptials and an especially intelligent joke tackling homophobia. She was simply awesome. Throughout the show in her compere capacity she continued a great interaction with the audience, responded to the happenings around her as sets were changed over and kept the crowd chuckling away. You can see more from Suzi most days at Pleasance Courtyard from 8.30pm (but it seems pretty sold out til 13th). 


Read our ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ review of Suzi Ruffell here.

The next act was stand-up comedian Nigel NG who had a great set about the British Influences on Malaysia and his adjustment to his life in the UK; what with our luxuries like drinkable tap water and “a vacuum with a nice disposition” (Henry the Hoover). Catch him at 6.45pm most days in Pleasance Courtyard. 


Read our ⭐⭐⭐⭐ review of Nigel Ng here

War of the Worlds came next. And this was a cracking display of physical theatre, movement, dramaturgy and excellent design in lighting and sound - including lights held and operated by the cast. It created a level of intensity in the room that was in stark contrast to the comedy of the gala so far; a really appreciated change of pace and excellently executed. See the full show at 3.20pm in Pleasance Courtyard on all but the 14th. 


Read our ⭐⭐⭐⭐ review of War of the Worlds here.

Switching tack again, Catherine Cohen takes the stage for some musical comedy. She definitely has a good voice, presents a cynical view of the world and does so in a somewhat uncomfortable and awkward inducing way for the audience. Her full set might need a certain appreciation - but if you enjoy cabaret like I do, this feels a promising combination. Watch it at 10:45pm most days in Pleasance Courtyard. 


Read our ⭐⭐⭐⭐review of Catherine Cohen here.

Another curve ball in the programme - we are treated to ‘Des’ from ISH Dance Collective with a small part of the Elements of Freestyle. He displayed mighty skill on a BMX with great tricks, spins and what I will classify as nothing short of spellbinding acro-balance (on wheels). Enjoy the full spectacle at Pleasance EICC from 4pm most days.


From bike to bike, Anthony Alderson rides on stage, with an opening quip about having the same PR as Boris Johnson. This was a start to an informative but humorous welcome speech to what is their 35th festival. They are presenting 270 shows and expect an audience of 70,000+ in the kid zone alone. Pleasance is much more than just shows though. They have been supporting artists in many ways — providing technical training sessions and are offering drop-ins about offstage skills and careers all festival. 

It was heartwarming to hear multiple mentions of the wonderful Pleasance Futures and friend of Voice, Associate Producer Ellie Simpson who runs this body of work. He said Pleasance Futures is central to what Pleasance does, and who it is. He also made a call for creativity in schools, greater recognition of the arts alongside Science, and further offered some comments informed by his daughter about how young people are looking for action on the environment. As he rode off-stage; the parting words of “The one thing better than to cycle is to recycle” really emphasises what is on many people’s minds.

Bryony Kimmings followed the welcome speech. She has a brilliant voice and a real talent for storytelling through song. Raw emotion is clear from her excerpt, and the explanation of themes was well received from audiences. Bryony is performing most days in Pleasance Courtyard at 5.30pm: 


Sara Barron became our penultimate act and presented more comedy. She focussed on relationships; specifically her marriage of 8 years, and the relations of her friends. Comedically observational, clearly relatable to the audience and not afraid to tackle adult themes with intimate jokes. Sara is performing most days in Pleasance Courtyard at 8.30pm.


Read our ⭐⭐⭐⭐review of Sara Barron here.  

Ending on a high was a romp from Nearly Human. A nine-piece brass band who seemed to inventively dance around playing their instruments - in a sort of mash-up, make lots of noise way that just simply worked. It looked and felt natural, and it was entertaining. The talented musicians put on a great show supported by the lighting. They’re performing at Pleasance Dome most days from 11.50am. 


There were a few tech hiccups throughout the presentation; ill timed curtain movements, repositioning kit in changeovers that just took too long and shaky follow-spots which all point to it being early and a rush to be ready - but when you realise how much tech has been squeezed in to just a few days these can be forgiven (I’m picky about these things). They followed the show with a range of yummy canapés and some drinks, a very celebratory spirit and a wonderful way to use the courtyard setting.

All in all an enjoyable start to the day, and the acts set the scene for what the quality of the coming month will entail. 

Do take a look at the full Pleasance line up and find something for you at:


Emrys Green

Emrys Green Voice Team

Emrys is the Business & Projects manager at Upstart who runs Voice.

Alongside managing Voice and its related programmes of work Emrys manages web builds and live events through his own pursuits - with a wide encapsulation of the arts sector. Theatre, Dance, Circus, Spoken Word and a combination of contemporary and shakespearean work would all be in his wheelhouse.

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