If there’s one thing I learnt at the Edinburgh Fringe it’s that comedy is really, really hard to get right and a small Pinot will set you back around £4.60. And you should take comfy shoes with you. If there’s three things I learnt at the Edinburgh fringe…….
Anyway, this year was our first experience of the festival and, in fact, our first visit to Edinburgh. What a beautiful city (if you overlook the disruption the building of the tram is causing)! It had a great party atmosphere, loads of fabulous traditional pubs (try Rose Street if you’re up for a challenge) and a wonderful variety of people.
Our purpose was to see some live shows, comedy in particular, and we spent a lot of time at the free fringe as it’s important to support up and coming acts. This had absolutely nothing to do with the ticket part of our holiday budget being accidentally subsumed into the alcohol one (yes, I’d subdivided the budget, what’s your point?).
If, like me, you’ve not been to the fringe before, you will need to take a bag with you which is the perfect size to store one hundred A5 pieces of card in until you come across a handy filing receptacle, otherwise known as a bin. These cards are circulated by performers and students who live in The Royal Mile in dwellings constructed out of discarded wet wipes and misplaced dreams.
Our first day of the free fringe saw us hustled into the underground cavern that is the Kasbar at Espionage (Victoria Street) to watch ‘Pandora’s Box‘ performed by Joanne Jollie. It’s midday and I sit there, glass of wine in hand, ready to be ‘Fringed’. I have to say this wasn’t a bad start to my experience. The hour passes as Pandora tells you her story of how she became one of Barnsley’s premier strippers, punctuated by well known songs adapted to suit each chapter of her life. While the delivery of the spoken sections of her performance could have been smoother, her humorous reworking the songs to fit the story was clever and powerfully performed.
Although we saw some truly awful acts (you have to admire their determination), there are some gems to be found in the back streets of the city.
In a nutshell, it’s a sketch show about an ordinary girl who finds herself in the unenviable position of having to save the earth from certain destruction. This may sound weird (of course it is, it’s the Fringe) but it works brilliantly well and you’ll enjoy the whole hour as she takes on the persona of a small child, a soviet space dog and even Cheryl Cole. An absolute gift on the free fringe!
The other gem we found hidden within Dr Ettrick-Hogg’s Manly Stand-Ups at Espionage was James Hately. His fifteen minute journey that was ‘The Name Train’ had us (and others) crying with laughter and I will definitely be seeking him out in future.
Back on The Royal Mile, we stood and watched a workman for ten minutes before realising he wasn’t a street performer and then we made fifty quid after falling asleep on a bench for half an hour.
However, we couldn’t go to to the Fringe without having some established performers show us how it should be done. We needed to be choosy, as we’d blown the ticket budget on healthy food, educational trips and yoga classes.
Our first choice was Jo Caulfield, who is playing at The Stand in York Street with her show ‘Thinking Bad Thoughts‘. We’ve seen Jo perform before and I wondered whether we’d be seeing the same act with a couple of new jokes thrown in. Not the case. An hour of new material had the whole room LoLing out loud in stark contrast to the acts we’d spent the day watching.
The Stand is a great venue with an intimate feel allowing you to connect with the performer and Jo was keen to take advantage of this; only the confident (or late) sit at the front.
Jo relates her stories to the audience in relaxed conversational way which can only come from experience and confidence in the quality of your material. Described as ‘waspish’ and ‘a stalwart of the circuit’, Ms Caulfield is definitely worth an hour of your precious Fringe time so you can make your own mind up.
The other show we made the financial effort to see was Josh Widdicombe’s ‘The Further Adventures Of..’ . I booked this later in the week because Jeff was getting fed up of being dragged (by me) into dubious venues because ‘this might be funny’.
Josh had put on on an extra date at The Pleasance Dome as his other shows were sold out (if there’s someone you really want to see, book before you go as good shows do sell out quickly). Crossing my fingers that Jeff would find at least one joke funny, we were led into what can only be described as an oven on a medium heat and took our seats at the back (thus avoiding any ‘where are you from?’ confrontation). We weren’t disappointed as Josh presented an hour of witty observational stand up that had everyone roaring. The buttercup joke is either my favourite or the only one I can remember, but it was a fantastically funny act and I lost two stones!
I left Edinburgh with many happy memories, disfigured feet and an enlarged liver – you should do the same!