There are so many crazy and curious things happening out on the street in Edinburgh during the sweltering month of August. Enough to keep you occupied, to cloud your mind and make you lose track of time. Beware if you have other Fringe shows to go to!
Accommodation is plentiful, but booked up months in advance and mostly expensive. A good example of dry, cheapish & clean accommodation includes the Kenneth Mackenzie Suite (3.5 from 5 rating on Tripadvisor). Even though upon arrival, some guests talk of the University Halls of Residence having no record of the room booking being made (through Expedia), the night security Porter is more than happy to help people who find themselves in this situation. He’s reported to give you a room and leave it for the day staff to sort out. Staff are reputedly fantastic – helpful and always happy. With just a 5 minute walk from the Royal Mile, on-suite double rooms cost £67per night, inclusive of a lovely breakfast buffet. Be warned that Kenneth Mackenzie is not disabled friendly – there is no lift, only stairs to the four floors of rooms which themselves have impossibly tiny bathrooms.
Travel Tip # If travelling in summer to cities that have universities, check to see if there are rooms in university halls of residence for hire. These are cheap and sometimes include meals.
It’s not like a tent festival in the sense that one wristband gives access to many different things, tickets are brought for individual shows. The brochure itself with listings for the 2,453 show festival comes out in June. One could sit there with the laptop open, Gantt Chart blossoming – rigorously and militarily plotting, making sure shows don’t clash and that there is enough time to walk between venues.
Travel Tip # If attending the Fringe during the first week do not plan an air-tight schedule. Performances will over-run as the performers tweek and fiddle with their routines.
But do remember it’s a Holiday. Although it’s tempting to plot and plan to the max because all your pub and television heroes are together in one place, just take a deep breath and relax. It’s also worth listening to what other people are saying about shows. This year a show called ‘Dark Side of the Poon’ took the prize for hilariously being the worst show. Something to do with it being a bit sexist and having a massive model of some ladies private parts that squirted liquid everywhere…… See – an airtight schedule wouldn’t allow for visits to other delights like this!
Travel Tip # When buying souvenir goods, don’t buy anything on the Royal Mile. Instead, walk further downhill away from the castle and onto Canongate where many goods will be about 40% cheaper compared to the Royal Mile.
As well as the street performers there are a number of shows for free. It would be feasible to buy cheap presents for people back home, watch the street art, attend these shows and not put any money in the hat that is passed around afterwards. Can you imagine if that was the way to make your wages? Seems pretty nerve-wracking!
Travel Tip # Label several jars and fill them with spare cash collected over several weeks that can be used to thank performers on the street and after free shows.
This festival has been running since 1947. It attracts 20,000 people from 60 different countries right around the world. With 2,453 shows over three weeks, Edinburgh becomes a very busy city. The festival organisers do not vet or censor anything that goes into the festival programme. The city also becomes a little crazy.
It becomes an adventure just walking down the street. There could be a man walking along carrying a plant – or it could turn out to be someone promoting a show who actually has lots of plant leaves just stapled to his clothing.
Edinburgh is still a nice city to be in. Although it gets busy, it is jam packed full of tourists. All are either wondering around with an expression on amazement, wonderment, confusion or fear from the shows that they’ve just seen. If people bump into each other then there are mumbled whiffs of sorry and everyone moves on their way.
Here are a few reviews of some 2010 Fringe Shows:
Barry Cryer – Butterfly Brain
The gentleman sits in a comfortable leather bound chair, his legs crossed, elbow resting on the oak chair propping up his arm sipping from a three quarter full beer glass. He tells tales, he smiles and sighs. The projectionist prompts Barry by changing slides. Pleasant, dreamy smiling.
Barry & Stuart – 98% Séance
I can vouch that (at least at the 2009 Edinburgh warm-up gigs in London) the people selected from the audience to participate in the show are genuinely randomly selected. They are not plants. The shiny lads set about telling the audience how spiritualism is a load of rubbish while simultaneously performing perfect and sometimes gruesome tricks that look like ghosts are helping them to perform.
Collins & Herring – Podcast Live
The duo who would probably have sold cigarettes to other kids at school, but would sell chocolate cigarettes to the younger kids as a joke. The duo are (‘mostly’) wholesome, naughty and very very fun. When they are naughty – Andrew is very tutty and Richard is very giggly.
Comedy In The Dark
I did catch some jokes from the 4 comedians in this show, but I was asleep for most it (it started late & it had been a busy day!). Woke up to hear a joke about a dog that was having sex with itself and the noises that were emanating from within.
Reginald D Hunter – Trophy Nigga.
The most expensive ticket brought for this festival at £16 a pop, he spends the show talking about his cultural identity including a tale about living in America, discovering irony through BBC television and the subsequent beatings from his mother for using his new discovery.
Richard Herring – Christ on A Bike: The Second Coming
This man is truly a genius. Herring might insult you to the core but you’d probably thank him for making you think about things you might be uncomfortable with. There was a whipped up energy to his performance, with him looking like he was really enjoying what he was doing.
Robin Ince & Michael Legge – Righteous Ire or Pointless Anger?
Two friendly blokes who would probably still try to give you directions even if they didn’t know where the location in question was. Great audience interaction, great energy and lots of focus. Intelligent and stimulating with a fantastic ending to the show.
Stewart Lee – Vegetable Stew.
Spent the entire show sauntering and slouching. Saying yeah a lot. Huffing. Apparently this man was the 41st best standup ever and some people do say he’s a genius. But repeating the punchline of a joke until the audience starts to laugh?
Tim Key – The Slutcracker
With showings at 15 minutes past midnight, an hour is spent listening to calming and surreal poetry, being made dizzy by moments which are beyond madness and getting very melancholy while wetting yourself laughing.
Andy Zaltzman Swears to tell the truth, half the truth and everything but the truth (4/5)
Kevin Eldon It Titting About (5/5)
Ricardo Garcia – Flamenco Hip-Hop (5/5)
Robin Ince – Free Show on Canongate (4/5)
Sara Millican – Chatterbox (5/5)
Plus many others, I could go on and on and on. It can be a tiring festival, but a very exciting one. Some amazing memories and ideas gathered in such a short time.