The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has been running for 64 years now and just keeps getting bigger and bigger. As it stands, it is the world’s biggest art’s festival, with over 2,500 different shows in 2011. Over four weeks every August actors, comedians, dancers, singers and musicians flock to Scotland’s capital to showcase their talents.
Edinburgh’s Royal Mile becomes an obstacle course. Interested first timers will happily accept flyers for shows being flung at them from every direction, but by the second day they have all learnt to dodge and weave their way through the crowds in order to avoid collecting huge amounts of propaganda.
Groups would do whatever they could in order to catch your attention. Some actors handing out their flyers pretended to be dead in the middle of the street, some screamed at the top of their voices, some walked around on stilts, and nearly all wore intriguing costumes. Even though it rained the entire time my friends and I were there, the spirits of the performers were not dampened, and they persevered with as many attention-grabbing antics as possible.
We employed a very complicated system in order to decide which shows we actually wanted to see and which weren’t worth watching. We made a ‘yes’ pile, a ‘no’ pile and a ‘maybe later’ pile. OK, so it wasn’t so complicated but it did take a while to sort through all our hundreds of flyers. We decided, based on whether or not we liked the look of the flyers, if we liked what the show was about, or if we actually liked the look of the people who had so forcibly handed us their flyers. In the end, we decided on four shows: Body of Water, Commencement, Roar and A Clockwork Orange.
From these plays we saw, the unanimous favourite was A Clockwork Orange, performed by an all-male cast. The horror imposed upon those who watch the Kubrick film version was diluted in this play, as the graphic fight scenes were replaced with well choreographed dance movements, which portrayed the story accurately but with less raw brutality. The audience learns to empathise with Alex, the protagonist. Unlike in the film, Alex is strangely likeable (no doubt because he, actor Martin McCreadie, was incredibly good looking… sorry, I had to put that in there). The theatre was packed, and we left feeling that we wanted to watch the play all over again.
In general, the Fringe is a very bizarre and eccentric experience. This year there were performances going on 24 hours of the day. Most plays had student prices ranging from about £8 – £10, but for the really skint ones among us there are also hundreds of easy-to-find free performances, which can be equally entertaining, but tended to be less well attended. Also, there are plenty of hostels just off the Royal Mile, which are affordable if booked in advance.
If you want to experience something different, and see performances which you wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity to see, then Edinburgh Festival Fringe is for you. However, if you want to see the famous comedians you’ve seen on television, then this may not be the right place, as their prices are quite high and their events sell out well in advance. Stick to the amateurs and you’ll have a great time.