Anyone who has ever attended the Edinburgh Fringe Festival will know that the amount of choice is both staggering and overwhelming; to the unenlightened few who may be sceptical about this, remember it is only the biggest arts festival in the world. Of course, the sheer number of shows inevitably leads to agonising over making the “right” choice when being bombarded with flyers on the Royal Mile. We landed in Edinburgh and resolved to see as much as we could in only two and a half days, whilst making the most of Edinburgh’s raucous nightlife (we do host a show called ‘Talk of Shame’ after all.)
On our first night in Edinburgh we arrived at 10pm and decided to opt for the latest show we could find: a late-night cabaret at the Voodoo rooms venue, promising to go on to the early hours of the morning. After a few glasses of wine at our hostel we ventured out into the streets of Edinburgh, with no clue what to expect. The ‘Lock in Cabaret’ was a small taste of the weird and wonderful that Edinburgh had to offer: featuring stand-up, burlesque and some questionable acts involving puppets. A somewhat inebriated late-night crowd meant that the jokes got dirtier as the night went on, with plenty of audience participation. After the show we headed up to the award winning Voodoo rooms bar, where we continued the party into the small hours.
The next day, we nursed our predictably sore heads with a full Scottish breakfast, and then headed out hoping to find some theatre to cure our hangover. Luckily, we were able to stumble across some gems including Fox and Hound’s gorgeous stripped back production of Tennessee Williams’ ’27 Wagons Full of Cotton’. The most memorable element of the performance was the extremely strong performances from the small cast, including a stunning turn from Helen Fox, who played the part of Flora with shattering conviction up to the devastating final scene. That evening, we saw ‘The Ark’ by Fourth Monkey Theatre Company. The play was undoubtedly of professional standard and the talented young cast were unflinching in their delivery. Noah was portrayed as a conflicted Libyan coast guard and the Ark as the only hope for refugees fleeing conflict, who were portrayed by the ensemble and told a stark and often brutal tale of human suffering. These scenes of survival were juxtaposed with the bourgeois elite who proved themselves as utterly grotesque characters; none more so than Ben Salmon’s ferocious performance as the heavy drinking, drug snorting British ambassador who displayed a terrifying lack of empathy. Salmon’s acerbic delivery and increasingly insane antics also provided many moments of comedy throughout. A change of pace ensued again, as we were lucky enough to get a ticket to see University of Birmingham’s Watch This society’s ‘Improvabunga!’. The show was gloriously random, and the pace was feverish throughout despite the added task of improvisation. The audience shouted out suggestions, which lead to the show being a biblical epic set in a petrol station, with Marcus Paragpury hilarious as the hapless hero.
Our final night out was at Bar Bados, where the concoction of cocktails and R&B tunes meant for a full dance floor all night long. After a slightly later start ,and yet another Scottish breakfast, we were back treading the mile on our last day. We were lucky enough to watch the stand up show ‘Cat Call’ by Catherine Bohart and Cally Beaton, which was a highlight of our trip. The show included Catherine’s glorious takedown of cat calling, and her Irish Catholic upbringing as a bisexual woman. Whereas Cally had the audience roaring with laughter as she spoke about her sex life in her forties, leaving nothing to the imagination! The show was current, life affirming and triumphant celebration of womanhood and comedy.
Our final night saw us being lucky enough to witness Post-It theatre’s production of the well-loved rock opera ‘Rent’. The singing was of an extremely high standard and the poignant relationships between characters made certain moments of the show utterly heart breaking – such as the relationships between Angel and Collins and Roger and Mimi. Lizzie Lister and Kieran Parrott as Mimi and Roger had excellent chemistry, and made for a formidable match with their powerful yet soulful voices. The ensemble was formidably strong, carrying the bohemian energy of the first act to a staggeringly high energy and memorable conclusion with the rendition of ‘La Vie Boehme’.
Ultimately, two and a half days is nowhere near long enough to experience all the incredible shows the Edinburgh has to offer, and the longer you can spend at the Fringe the better. Although some amount of planning can help de-stress your experience, there is a certain element of fun to just turning up to what catches your fancy on the day, and simply enjoying this brilliant festival in all of its madness.