I am starting to consider when I will be going to the Fringe this August. I have been for the past two years and am now hooked as a yearly tradition. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest art festival and has everything any creative could want – music, poetry, theatre, dance, musicals, opera, plays, comedy, spoken word, drama… the list goes on.
Some of my highlights from last year’s fringe included:
Seeing many shows for free*
*Catch – although the shows are advertised as free there is always a collection bucket presented at the end, a ‘pay what you feel the show is worth’ ethos. Some of the best, and worst, shows I saw were free – it really is a gamble. I saw a hypnotist, multiple comedy acts, a magician, an improvised show, and many more shows.
Watching jazz shows at The Jazz Bar
I went to The Jazz Bar, a venue at the Fringe entirely dedicated to Jazz, Funk, Soul and Blues bands. I particularly enjoyed watching James Lambeth, and saw him two years in a row – he has a show where he performs a tribute to a songwriter, along with a bassist and pianist who were great musicians. The shows I saw respectively in 2015 and 2016 were Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered: James Lambeth Sings Rodgers and Hart! and I Remember You: James Lambeth Sings Johnny Mercer.
Going to weird and wacky shows
A personal favourite was a hypnotist show – Ben Dali. Now whether I have been hypnotised to mention this show is another matter, but I found it thoroughly entertaining. At one point he managed to convince an audience volunteer that the balloon that she was struggling to lift was a weight in the Olympics Weightlifting competition. When she finally lifted it, ‘winning the olympics’ as told by the hypnotist, she burst into happy tears, thanking the audience for supporting her, and how all her training had finally paid off. This is the beauty of the fringe – you never know what you’re going to get.
Another great one was Get Your Own Back! Live. This brought back memories of the 90s tv programme and culminated in of course the gunge tank!
I really enjoyed a comedy show which had 10 minute segments of different comedians. One comedian cracked me up – Michel McCabe, who took on the persona of a rather camp, posh man. I have never really been into character comedy acts, however this show led me to believe that can be changed.
I loved walking along the Royal Mile, despite the constant nagging from different groups trying to get your attention to come to their show, and choosing which show to go to next. It was great being spontaneous and not having too much of a schedule – just going from one different show to the next. The city itself is great, with loads of landmarks to see such as Edinburgh Castle.
You’ve got to treat yourself – one of my favourite paid shows was ‘Shit-faced Showtime’. A cast performed Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance with one catch – one member of the cast is totally inebriated. Ensues – a hilarious enaction of the show, with the actor yelling out his lines in the wrong places, mouthing others’ lines like a stroppy teenager, and blundering onto the stage in the wrong scenes. It was hilarious to watch, and made me want to watch it again, as the drunk member of the cast is rotated each night.
Some of the not so great bits:
Walking along the crowded streets can infuriate people who do not like slow walkers – the crowds do get a bit testing especially if you are rushing to catch a show.
Some not so great shows
It is great that the Fringe has so much free comedy to watch. However, it comes with a catch – you don’t know what you’re going to get until you’re sat in an underground dingy bar in the depths of Edinburgh, with little subtlety when planning your escape exit from a terrible show. Although bad comedy can be an entertainment in itself, sometimes the shows really don’t resonate with you. But this is fine – it’s all part of the experience. With comedy at the fringe it is worth paying for a few acts, the calibre of acts went up highly once you were forking out a bit to see them – although I did enjoy some free comedy acts.
I would highly recommend anyone to go to the Fringe – whatever your passion is, you will be able to find a show that represents it. The entire city gets turned into a festival – venues are everywhere for acts at the Fringe – pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants and more. It truly is a unique experience that I believe anyone could enjoy in some form.