A Different Kind Of Edinburgh Fringe

A few years ago I wrote a short piece for the blog of New Perspectives, the theatre company that I was Executive Director of at the time. I described in it, my changing relationship with The Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

I pointed out that, having worked in theatre and the arts for over twenty years, it wasn’t until 2010 that I first made the trip up here. That year, New Perspectives’ production of Farm Boy achieved sell out laurels at Assembly on George Street. However, I didn’t enjoy my time in Edinburgh. I felt isolated, ill prepared for what the Festival was. I hated the crowds, the constant shoving of flyers in your face and quite frankly couldn’t wait to get home.

Other than last year I’ve been back every year since, sometimes as a producer and sometimes more recently as a programmer. My love for the festival and what it offers has grown, even in the year where I got scammed on my accommodation booking (along it appears with a number of others).  I’ve discovered a routine, know my way around better, realised that there will always be colleagues and friends here to meet up with for a coffee and to discuss things we’ve seen. I find myself getting jealous when reading my Twitter feed and I’m not there. The Festival can get its claws into you pretty easily and when it does it’s virtually impossible to remove them.

So this year I’m writing from a lovely apartment in Stockbridge, able to see the performers entrance to Momentum Theatres at St Stephens from our living room window. And it’s a different experience again as we’ve come as a family. This makes logistical planning a little different. We’re making choices of show to see that cater for 10 years olds and teenagers as well as me and my wife. There is not as much need to cram as many shows as possible into each day as we’re here for a longer period of time.

I’m choosing shows for more than one reason. There are still those shows, artists and performers whose work might be perfect for Lincoln Drill Hall. I’ve booked to see a number of shows with digital content, with half an eye on the Frequency Festival happening in October. Thumbing through the Fringe brochure I’m proud to see at least three shows, The 56 by FYSA,  Blind Man’s Song by Theatre Re and Dreaming In Code by 2Faced Dance Company all playing the festival and each having already performed at our venue. Ockham’s Razor are here. They’re performing two existing pieces of work and in the autumn they’ll be with us for a week, putting together their brand new show Tipping Point. Daniel Bye is performing Going Viral here, a show he’s bringing to us in September. There are probably more, but with over 2500 shows to choose from, forgive me for not spotting everything.

Anyone who came to see Broke by Paper Birds at the Drill Hall in February should note. We booked it after our young programmers group saw the show at the festival last year. And it was a charming, thought provoking production of real quality. As was Lorraine and Alan, which we had in April, an undoubted Edinburgh hit.

There are also choices made because I know my kids will love the spectacle – BLAM! for example, that I saw here in 2013. It’ll never fit into our auditorium, but my kids will have a blast.  And then there is the simple nourishment of the soul that live performance can bring. Some choices are made simply because it’s enriching to see live performance. I might even go and watch Phill Jupitus sketching and chatting at one of the galleries during the week. There’ll also be a couple of days when (whisper it quietly), we don’t do any shows at all, but go and do the tourist things. It is my summer holiday after all.

There is nothing quite like the experience of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It can entice you and infuriate you, it can be awe inspiring (Mies Julie a couple of years ago springs to mind), it can be desperate, but there’ll be all sorts to draw you in. I’m off now as our first show is at 11, The Biggest Marionette Circus In The World to take the kids to see.