First, a warning:
A lot of what you read here may surprise you. On the surface, it sounds unbelievable. How could something so traditional as a historic church surprise anyone? It is easy to walk by, you know the scenario.
A show with heavy marketing, laden down with posters, guided me South.
Especially during the Edinburgh Festival with so much information to take in, this is a score. In such a buyers’ market the theatregoer is often asking what is the value of this experience to me? I just wasn’t sure I was going to find it in a Church.
I am in a rush to pack in more in my last full day here.
It was my last fling before I take the tram back to the airport. There was something on the walls of the Theatre space that is not always there. This was seen differently because things viewed during the Edinburgh Fringe scan differently to year round use.
Different text shows me that here was something different
Opening up to a different me, I let go of the ‘festival goer’ mentality where I take things literally and become wise to the blurb behind the big letters on the wall and consider a wider community. In spite of the performers’ need to entertain, an engaged audience is the best evangelist of ideas. They converse with others, influence the success of the words and are the best interpreter of literature with meaning inside it.
Having enjoyed a few plays already at ‘C South’ Theatre something holds me back from leaving it.
Even in the cold evening it is worth putting on a thick layer on, as I see others do, and just enjoy the calm of the courtyard. There is a special moment with a great view of Arthur’s seat behind the church. It is a part of Holyrood Park that is less visited.
‘And Abraham ran to the herd, and brought a calf tender and good, and gave it to the young man then hastened to prepare it.’
Genesis 18, 7
The posters on the notice boards began to tell a different story.
The images were of stories from the bible and this was compelling. Around me the venue being used as C South theatre is a thriving church and the synergy worked in an unexpected way. The promise of a donation from a wealthy benefactor inspired the design of marble pillars. There is an incredible uplifting feeling in the building. The Church has a garden which invites tranquillity and references the green meditation lawns of Physic Gardens. Magic is brought to the garden this Summer as it used as a canvas for staging ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ easing us out of our modern day consciousness. Inside the Church the Choir sings Tudor compositions as part of their service.
‘Above all else guard your heart’
Proverbs 4, 26
I found my audience, I just didn’t imagine I would be part of it and it would be a congregation.
Progress links the story of the Church to the growth of the Fringe. As the number of companies coming to Edinburgh increase in size, the boundaries of the Fringe circuit grows with 3 other venues setting up this year in close distance to the Church. St Peter’s was founded to provide a place of worship for the growing parishioners of St Paul’s Episcopal Church of Edinburgh’s city centre.
I consider the bumpy tram ride home.
With the high volume of new shows sold at the door of Edinburgh venues there are a lot of posters on the road side to catch the attention; it can feel like a lottery. It is great to be a fresh pair of eyes finding an unexpected treasure of a Church and finding a hall housing new stories. As I am ushered out of my final show I learn how a flowing warm community is moving. Unlike a traditional performance space it does not feel empty after the final curtain.
Aspirational buildings of faith shake visitors out of disconnectedness by sharing beauty.
The South of the city offers a better chance of reflection and a close connection to Scottish history during the busy Festival. The Geometric church is by William Slater 1857-65 and the organ is by Frederick Holt 1865. There are stained glass windows in the chancel windows by Clayton & Bell 1865. The spire is 80ft, the wooden panels are detailed with patterns and the light fades from the stained glass window. The bold use of red with a stencilled decoration of golden keys in a diamond pattern gives back richness to the inside of the building as darkness falls. What holds you back keeps you strong, even when it’s time to go.
“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun.”
Edinburgh Fringe hits a brand new direction every year.
In being transported by classical architecture whilst seeking entertainment I have seen the power of the secular use of religious buildings to further the cause of contemplation and community and I am curious about your views. Whilst heading home and seeing Edinburgh in the rear view mirror is often sad, it is suddenly good news to be heading South. Next year I will bring a friend.
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