Do you get the picture?
Go to a Fringe theatre this year and chances are you'll end up watching something by George Lucas or Quentin Tarantino. Which may be no bad thing, says Robert Hanks
The number of celluloid rip-offs is, it's true, dwarfed by the massed legions of Beckett, Ionesco, John Godber and William Shakespeare. But even the traditional Fringe shows are starting to tart themselves up to sound like movies: there's a Coriolanus that picks up on the "Natural Born Killer" quip which the RSC used on posters for last year's production with Toby Stephens, and a Macbeth described as "this violent psychological thriller". And then there's Alibi Attractions' The Killer in You, advertised as bringing to the stage "a powerful Tarantino effect", and the "Nineties Tartan Tarantino mix" of Bouncers.
In what's generally agreed to be a disappointing year on the Fringe - no really outstanding plays, a dearth of youth theatre, the usual glut of stand-up comedy - it's tempting to read this resort to film as part of the pattern of decline: a sign of theatre losing confidence in its ability to attract audiences, losing its grip on the things that make it unique, losing its imagination. But behind that line of thinking lies the assumption that films are somehow naturally unsuited to adaptation to the stage - and certainly there have been disastrous examples of films- into-plays, instances where imagination really does seem to have failed: in the last year, we've seen the RSC's universally panned production of Les Enfants du Paradis, the David Glass Ensemble's tacky musical version of La Dolce Vita. Perhaps, too, there's the old worry about the decline of literary culture, a sense that, when we turn to the cinema for ideas, we've given up on words. Most of this feeling was summed up by the reaction of a serious actor I was talking to just after I'd been to see Reservoir Dogs: he sighed deeply, rolled his eyes and said: "What is the point?"
The answer to that is that there are various points. For the sprinkling of 14-year-olds in Drummond Community Theatre on Wednesday night to watch the student actors of the University of Southern California doing Tarantino, you guess that the point was to see a film that they couldn't see at the cinema (and which Edinburgh's scrupulous video-shop owners won't let them rent). For other members of the audience, Patrick T Gorman's adaptation worked as a rather neat piece of criticism - it shows you that, for all the hype about him learning his craft by watching videos, Tarantino has a profoundly theatrical cast of mind: the flashbacks and shifts in narrative stance, the heavy stylisation of speech and action which seem remarkable in the cinema are all very much part of the furniture on the stage.
Something similar comes through in Rough Magic Theatre Company Scotland's staging of Surviving Desire, a bleak comedy about a literature professor obsessed both with Dostoyevsky and with one of his female students: a sense that theatre is the natural place for Hal Hartley's stripped-down, conscientiously non-naturalistic style of writing.
A different set of ideas comes out of Phill Jupitus's entertaining hour- long dissection of what Star Wars means to modern man and USC's 30-minute warp-speed run through the entire trilogy. Both work on the assumption that cinema is the place that supplies the modern myths - that Star Wars is the Iliad and the Odyssey of the late 20th century. At any rate, when Jupitus conducted a straw poll, everybody in the audience had seen Star Wars, and knew exactly what he was getting at when he complained about, say, the absurdities of Jedi mind control (try getting a Jedi to buy his round): this is our common currency, and for theatre to ignore it would be for theatre to cut itself off from the rest of the world.
The main point, though, is that all these are rather enjoyable evenings out. Student actors don't match up to Harvey Keitel and Steve Buscemi, maybe (though they aren't far off matching up to Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford), and you lose something in terms of pace. But by and large, in turning to the cinema, these companies have found sources for shows with sharp dialogue, streamlined stories and great opportunities for visual invention. It's arguably an improvement on the trend for adapting classic novels - theatre and cinema both do the same thing, putting a story in front of you, but with different technologies. Novels are after something different: playing the story inside your head, letting you give it your own inflections. This way, you lose so much less in the translation. So please, bring more films into the Fringe. This way, I may never have to go to the cinema again.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Game of Thrones season 5: Emilia Clarke praises characters who 'accept their femininity'
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Glastonbury 2015 tickets: How to make sure you’re successful in Sunday's re-sale
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate