The Worldly’s James Hill spent the last few days at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is one of the few events that can boast such a vast range of incredibly different acts, with its strength as a festival deriving from the sheer diversity of performance offered in its three week long running time.
As a newcomer to the festival, my expectations were, essentially, non-existent. Of course, I had a certain idea of what the festival would entail – political satire, improvisational comedy and off the wall performances– but even the sheer number of acts took me aback. This year’s estimation was 2000 shows, which I endeavoured to see as much as possible in the brief, yet intense, weekend I spent there.
Students and the Fringe have been synonymous since its inception
My first show was touted as ‘All Star American Standup’ at the brilliantly named ‘Whistlebinkies’, and I was not disappointed. The comedians, from a wide range of nationalities including Indian, Antipodean and American, had the whole crowd in stiches, providing an excellent icebreaker that helped me to gauge the mood of the festival as euphoric enjoyment and celebration of the arts. This euphoria translates into a tangible sense of excitement whenever one ventured out onto the streets by the Golden Mile, where the number of people hawking their unique productions was further testament to the popularity of the festival. It is also important to note that whilst it draws a range of different ages, it is primarily students who flock to the Fringe in droves. Is this a new phenomenon? Certainly not, students and the Fringe have been synonymous since its inception but it is only in the last few years, as social media has grown, that the number of productions becoming popularised via Facebook, Twitter and other media platforms, has increased exponentially; for example, the University of Birmingham was represented by five different drama groups this year. Consequently, a lot of the information I received on the location of acts and niche shows came through the medium of Facebook, which proved especially helpful, particularly as it made the times of my friends’ productions more easily available.
As I’m sure you will be able to appreciate, to fully experience the festival you have to jump right into the mix, which meant my itinerary for the festival comprised of seeing as much as possible. After catching UOB’s Improvabunga, I saw a number of standup comedy acts and a riveting musical/satire called Vampire Hospital Waiting Room, which for me was the standout performance of the Fringe; a show which not only boasted hilarious writing, but was also a clever take on the slightly overdone Vampire meets girl trope. Subsequently, this led to me advertising my mutual friends’ standup shows along the Mile, capturing the true spirit of the Fringe of going with the metaphorical flow, even if you wouldn’t normally do so. Essentially, the method for assailing the Fringe is two–fold: firstly, abandon all hope of remaining organised and secondly, experience as much as possible. The Fringe is a collection of people celebrating the unique power of the Arts and, on a more social level, a testament of the endurance of people’s love for it.
A must on any would-be traveller’s checklist…the true culmination of my travels
Ultimately, having spent the weekend experimenting and delving into all that the Fringe has to offer, I can safely assure you that it is worth the effort to haul yourself up to the capital of our Scottish neighbours. Steeped in the history that precedes it and imbued with fresh energetic artistic expression, the Edinburgh Fringe is a must on any would-be traveller’s checklist. As a keen traveller myself, having seen London, Paris and Barcelona in the last few months, the Fringe was most certainly the true culmination of my travels. A place of freedom, the Arts and unadulterated enthusiasm, as my train pulled away from Edinburgh Waverley in the warm Scottish dusk, I pledged to return.