Edinburgh Fringe Round-Up
It’s common knowledge that I feel about Edinburgh Fringe the way most men feel about Kelly Brook: I just want to be in it all the time. We all know what I took away from Edfringe this year. (And if you don’t know what I’m on about, you clearly don’t visit me enough so WELCOME, pull up a pew, TAKE YA TOP OFF and pour a large gin! I’m thrilled ta see ya pal!) But that was all about feelings and shit. Some people have enquired about Edinburgh itself. The shows! The drinks! The food! and so on. So here it is, slightly tardy in it’s arrival, but three Edfringe Survival Guides, one pair of wellies, 26 shows and one bazillion* pints of cider and black later, here’s the Bloody Hell Brennan Edfringe Round-Up.
I’ve flown, I’ve driven and I’ve railed as transport to the mighty ‘Burgh before and the only way to travel for me, is a first class rail service from Kings Cross St Spankras to Edinburgh Waverley. Those who are quivering in fear at the price of first class, REST ON YOUR LAURELS. If you book early enough it’s about 1p* cheaper than normal. And I like to play the game ‘How much free shit can I blag from East Coast Trains?’ Each time that buffet trolley comes round, YEAH I’LL HAVE IT. SHORTBREAD, DIET COKES, BOTTLED WATER, YEAH I’LL HAVE MORE COFFEE BABE (note to self, when you start bleeding caffeine out of your eyeballs I think this game can stop. You’ve clearly shown East Coast Trains you are the winner…). Comfy seats, free wifi and a half decent butty. However, do make sure you load a cool bag full of what my family call ‘travellers’ (not the channel 4 big wedding cake style). This basically means beer for the train. GIN IN A TIN AHOY AND WE’RE OFF!
I’ve stayed all over Edinburgh in the past, but these days I am lucky enough to count a gorgeous flat right off Grassmarket as home during the Fringe. Tucked away behind the blue walls of the Mussel and Steak Bar, this place is close enough to be able to run out and join chums for drinks late at night, and isolated enough to be away from the noise of revellers should you be trying to catch a rare 40 winks. It was ace. Slept six people comfortably with plenty of sofa space for any waifs and strays (read: MY MATES) to come and crash should they find themselves giddy after a few glasses of fizzy pop. A THEATRICAL REFUGE. Visit here for more details.
Oh the shows. The lols, the tears, the heartbreak and the glee. Accompanied by my HANDY NOTEBOOK OF JOY at all times I managed to squeeze in a decent amount of shows in my 6 and a bit days. Here’s some chat about some of the best bits.
Upon arrival we ventured over to George Square to see acrobats, Berlin cabaret singers, death defying corkscrew roller-skaters, contortionists, a chihuahua masquerading as a dragon and the campest blue bunny dressed in PVC I’ve ever seen- it can only be La Clique. We gasped, gaped and afterwards we stayed and jived as the house band swung us into the early hours of the morning.
The next day, me and Ma wandered over to Pleasance Courtyard to catch Gecko Theatre‘s Missing. A physical theatre treat for the senses. I can imagine everyone took something different away from this show. For me, it was about identity and letting go of painful pieces of the past that have shaped who you are today. Flawless company energy, beautiful intricate choreography and huge ideas visually displayed.
A trip I’ve made three times in the past is to cobble down the mile to the Scottish Storytelling Centre to see the utterly charming The Man Who Planted Trees by Puppet State Theatre. If you’ve never seen this show, oh I beg you do! It’s funny, poignant, and if you don’t come away with your cockles positively BAKED they’ve been so warmed I’ll eat all my hats. (p.s London folk- it’s at The Southbank Centre Thursday 22nd August- Sunday 1st September. DO GO!)
Perhaps my biggest hit of the fringe this year was Mischief Theatre‘s The Play That Goes Wrong. For anyone who’s ever done Am-Dram (or anyone who likes laughing for that matter) this is a must see. I laughed until I my internal organs cried out for mercy as I watched the disastrous events of the Cornley Polytechnic Society’s production of ‘The Murder at Havisham Manor’ go, as promised, spectacularly wrong (don’t be fooled. These guys are actually shit hot comedy actors with gleaming LAMDA degrees behind them). This, their debut full length play has received a plethora of five-star reviews in the West End and in Edinburgh alike. Could another West End run be on the cards? Fingers crossed London.
More laughter came in the form of The Boy With Tape on His Face (like a modern Chaplain/Marcel Marceau. The staple gun/balloon/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly showdown was a particular highlight), Mark Smith in his show Mark Smith- The Most Original Name In Comedy with his explanation of why he’s had Christina Aguilera’s ‘Come On Over’ stuck in his head for years (I bet you have too now), Jimeoin discussing how Beyonce puts the bins out and The Pajama Men with their thoroughly side-splittingly committed and skilled storytelling. Alex Horne wove a DEEPLY FUNNY set of lies and mime with the help of Cherie Blair, Michael Caine and Andre Agassi, Adam Hess proved he is as funny on stage as his tweets are on screen in AAA Comedy and the guy that everyone is talking about, Bo Burnham wiggled his way around the stage like he was born there, moving seamlessly between song, piano, dance, poetry and jokes.
Musical delights came firstly in the form of Sell A Door‘s Sincerely Mr Toad, a lovely chamber musical examining the relationship between ‘Wind in the Willows’ creator Kenneth Grahame and son Alastair. It was a shame with this show that the beautiful voices on display were often upstaged by the odd choice of blaring, ‘midi-sounding’ backing tracks. If this show was performed with a small chamber band, I imagine the songs would be given the stellar outing they truly deserve. The Showstoppers proved they still do ‘the improvised musical’ best, though a tiny part of me having seen them for a few years in a row, started to notice a few formulaic tricks which slightly distracted me from their genius. Still well worth a watch though at any rate. Late-night musical comedy was brilliantly provided, as always, by the unstoppable Horne Section . Following a HIT Radio 4 series, this confident and excellently charismatic band blend music and comedy like they’ve always been stitched together. They gave us guffaw-worthy songs, and on our visit, were joined by Schlomo, beatboxing and looping to huge cheers and whoops and Lee Nelson who ad-libbed his way round the audience to huge chuckling success. Perhaps my favourite musical treat of the Fringe was Patch Of Blue Theatre’s staging of the Meta-Theatre-Musical [title of show]. Very funny, classy performances and achingly self-aware, this show is well worth a viewing. Londoners, you can catch The Landor Theatre serving up their version of this lesser performed gem up until Saturday 14th September.
I got my portion of Shakespeare with Year Out Drama‘s energetic and punchy retelling of Pericles (seriously- any school leaver wanting a career in theatre should one hundred million percent check these guys and this course out. Absolutely life-changing). I had my perceptions challenged and watched a grown man legitimately fall in love with a florescent office lamp in Blam! Moments like that are why I LIEBE theatre so much. I wept silent tears and felt my heart burst watching Tucked In Productions with their detailed and whimsical examining of grief and bereavement, Sam Rose in the Shadows, accompanied by sensitive and tender puppetry. In amongst so much clever theatre and arrogantly laugh out loud jokes, it’s sometimes a big breath of fresh air to just see some wonderfully simple and heart-warming storytelling on the fringe. I saw a woman talk to her husband who conversed with her cat who wittily word-played with her imaginary boyfriend who cooed to their imaginary lost child in a new piece of writing by Matatabi Productions entitled Family Tree. And finally, I had my heart broken, strengthened and my feminist fire relighted by the incredible Bryony Kimmings, (and her alter-ego Popstar Paleontologist Catherine Bennett), her 9-year-old niece Taylor and their show Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model. Awe-inspiring. I have a huge new girl crush.
This year we found good munch at the five following places:
- Jamie’s Italian- Laugh all you want, it’s the second Jamie’s I’ve been to and the food and service has been TOP NOTCH both times. For a chain, I think this could be the best of the bunch.
- Buffalo Grill – Big thick steaks and BYOB. I love BYOB Restaurants pretty much as much as I love Judy Garland. I.e A LOT.
- The Mosque Kitchen– teeming plates of curry all for no more than £4.50 a portion. Probably the only time I could afford to pick up the bill for six people.
- The Assembly Gardens- STREET FOOD MY EYES. More than our tummies could handle. We went for pork belly Vietnamese Bahn Mi rolls. Sweet, sticky and hot on the tongue. Just like I like my men. (Too much? Probably.)
- It’s not a restaurant or anything, but special mention has to go to Scotland for creating THESE:
This year I found myself mainly flitting between the two big Pleasance Venues for drinks, Courtyard and Dome. Courtyard for cobbles, hidden bars and outdoor larks, Dome for free wifi, big tables and the halfway party. Ah the Halfway Party. Snuck into with a stolen* Pleasance Pass, we drank big pints of cider and black and did too many shots of Bucca (my fresher self would have been proud) whilst Cassetteboy spun comedy sounds and people danced and kissed under the fairy lights hanging from the Dome skylights and GUYS I definitely DIDN’T get so drunk that I threw up into a pint glass on my way to the ladies so can everyone stop saying I did? hahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa THE FOLLY OF YOUTH.**
*BORROWED. NOT STOLEN. I HAD CONSENT.
** I use the term youth with a pinch of salt. I’m 26. I should be ashamed of myself. Let’s just be clear though; I should be, but I’m so not. hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaa.
It’s also always a huge pleasure to sit people-watching and listening to the various busking bands (who are all excellent) in any of the pubs along the Grassmarket of a lunchtime. This year the Underbelly Cowbarn proved good hay-bale based banter, as did the real ale bar at the Gilded Balloon Garden, the Bunker Bar at Pleasance Courtyard and the Aperol Spritz bar at the Speigelgarden. On our last evening, we schlepped over to Ghillie Dhu for a ceilidh (I love the Scots, seriously I do, I’m a fucking sucker for a sporran mate, but SURELY that should be spelled KALEY?!) Guys, I Stripped the fuck out of the Willow and my Gordons were so Gay even the Flying Scotsman couldn’t keep it in his pants. JIGGING HELL that was fun. I also got really excited when I saw a pub selling a beer on tap called ‘Gladness’ which was brewed by the guys from Madness. As in a BAGGY TROUSERS BEER!
All in all, I think it’s fair to say, we partied hard, and good. I’ve just about got rid of the cider and black fangs on my top lip.
Edfringe is cobbles, lanyards, rucksacks, pints in plastic, banners, puppets, complex carbohydrates, eyebags, thrown together black boxes, buskers, piemaker, hog roast rolls, laughter, turrets, steps, steep hills, walking, three sisters, face paint, sausage and mash at Mums, tourists taking pictures of a small dog statue, ticket stubs, threeweeks, huge glass domes, busloads of silver haired excitable folk about to feast on pipe bands at the castle (which, at this time of year could pass for a Quidditch pitch), broadway baby and the Scotsman, shreds of stars stapled onto posters, queues full of smiling people with hearts beating, eager at what their eyes are about to witness and what the blood in their veins is about to feel. So if all this hasn’t convinced you to go next year, then you’re dead inside and I hope you enjoy your time in Benidorm. Everyone else, SEE YOU THERE NEXT YEAR. FLYERS AND LAUGHTER AND CIDER OH MY! LAST ONE TO THE DOME IS A ROTTEN EGG.
Until next year Edfringe, you filthy, incredible, mind-blowing mistress. You just might be my one true love.