I arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland on a Saturday night around half past seven (that’s how they tell time here, cute eh?). It was a little drizzly out, but that did not stop the crowds of people out in the streets from queuing up, drinking pints, and having a jolly good time. It is The Fringe here in Edinburgh and all hell is breaking loose, in the best way!
I did not plan my trip around The Fringe; it was just a perfect happenstance. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew it wasn’t what I was experiencing. Walking to my hostel there were mobs of people in the street, all in line for something going on around the other side of what is known as “The Hub“. I later came to find out (by the fireworks, singing, and drums) that this was the military tattoo. It is not, as I originally thought, part of The Fringe but instead is something entirely separate. How convenient that two of the most major attractions brining people to this beautiful city would be happening at the same time! Needless to say, getting from one place to the other was a bit like herding cats.
But through all the chaos, I have to say that without a doubt, this is the most amazing festival I have ever seen! It was well worth all the fuss and the raised rates just to be able to experience this phantasmagorical theater haven for four short nights.
As I’ve already said, I didn’t plan my trip to Edinburgh around The Fringe, but it made its way into my plans nonetheless. Actually, it took over my plans to be perfectly honest. Originally, when I looked at what to do in Edinburgh, I had planned on checking out some of the city’s best museums, parks, castles, and attractions. But, I must confess that I never stepped a baby toe into any museum, gallery, or otherwise. I was consumed by The Fringe and I was loving every minute of it!
All of Edinburgh had become like the neighborhood telephone poll; only instead of pitiful pictures of lost pets and garage sale signs, it’s all about the shows, shows, shows! Walking out of my hostel, it was only a short jaunt to the famous Royal Mile, but in this quick 5-minute journey, I must’ve collected five to ten different flyers for every possible performing arts compilation imaginable! One-man shows, stand-up, improv, dance, circus, spoken-word, cabaret, drag; you name it, The Fringe has got it!
To exasperate my point, has anyone ever heard of a little thing called “Shit-Faced Shakespeare“? No? Well then, let me fill you in!
A rather adventurous production company has come up with the glorious idea to inebriate a professional Shakespeare actor/actress and then stick the poor drunkard onstage with the rest of his/her cast members, at which point they attempt to perform a Shakespeare play. Hilarious? I think so! We were lucky enough to go on the night when the director was the victim and it was clear that the rest of the group was having way too much fun “taking the piss out of him”. By the end of a seemingly short hour, I was more than convinced that this theater troupe had pioneered something unforgettably amazing, and of course, hysterical!
But this wasn’t the only show I saw, mind you. I was also swayed by the Thrones! The Musical, another fabulous display of talent and creativity. Of course this musical comedy is not endorsed by the show itself but it does an amazing job of combining the series’ plot with a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor. Very well done! And on the way out from Thrones! we were flyered again to attend another show with the same cast (who were all absolutely fantastic!).
The second show, entitled Baby Wants Candy, is an improv musical who’s actual title is not given until some lucky audience member shouts it out in the first two minutes. We were very fortunate in our showing as it had been give the name Al Capone, the Transvestite. Yes, that was the actual name. And it turned out to be the most gut-splitting, laugh-out-loud comedy I have ever experienced. And this isn’t my first improv musical rodeo!
Aside from the cornucopia of Broadway-level shows you can attend for a fee, there are double that amount in free shows. So, even though I had planned to go to the national museum and the national gallery, it’s needless to say these things never happened. Everytime you would be on your way to one show, you would get a flyer for something going on directly after. And more often than not, it is the performer that is out marketing their own show so you get the real-deal-spiel (and you can say you met that person when they become famous, since they all will with that talent!).
Of the free comedy, stand-up, cabarets and musicals I saw, I was blown away by the quality of the performances. In any other setting, the actors/comedians/singers what have you could’ve charged at least $10 a ticket and it still would’ve been worth every penny!
The even more mind-blowing fact about what you see at the Fringe is that more often than not, especially with the free shows, the actors you see on stage also wrote, directed, produced, choreographed and marketed their own shows. It is not a big theater company coming in the get all your money; it is a bunch of real artists competing for one hour of your time to prove themselves to you and subsequently the world. I have never been more impressed with the performing arts industry as I was in those four short nights. I hope the opportunity to return to the Fringe will arise again. Because I would go back in a heartbeat!