Edinburgh, we hardly knew ye

Edinburgh sees the final weekend of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival - Edinburgh, Scotland, UK - 29th August 2009.

EDINBURGH is often considered to be Europe’s most haunted capital, but after nearly three weeks there with Exploding Fish’s own Knights Of Improvalot I am led to believe that the ghosts are the wails of rejected flyerers. In terms of cities, you would be hard pressed to find anywhere quite as beautiful in the United Kingdom, with its unorthodox city structure, surrounding countryside views and the architecture, which is a fascinating mix combining everything from Medieval tenements to ultra-modern apartment complexes (you can tell they’re ultra-modern because they label themselves as apartments, not flats). Outside of the Fringe, Edinburgh is still a fantastic city, full of life and other clichés, but it is those four weeks that truly display what makes Edinburgh special.

Now I feel inclined to point out that so far everything I’ve said isn’t as special as people think. Many cities have beautiful buildings, many cities have a lively and varied population and heck even many cities have Fringe festivals and book festivals, and as I’m sure everyone’s aware, Edinburgh is not the only place with a film festival. I think maybe the problem is I’m analysing too broadly, let’s pull back and return to why I’m writing this: Edinburgh from the performer’s perspective.

You will be surprised to hear that to begin with, student productions and free shows are at the bottom- there are no late night cocktail parties with Dara O’Brien and Russell Howard, but it is a massively rewarding experience. You are normally out on the street for hours before your show trying to drum up attention, and obviously if you look at it as a numbers game more people will reject than accept fliers and more people will not turn up to the shows than will, but flyering is personally gratifying; every person you manage to persuade to attend, every family in the audience become a minor victory.

With so many shows at the fringe, it’s another cliché, but once again an applicable one, that there is a show for everyone. From the sublime to the absurd- and often both at once, you can be in a venue watching a stand-up then a magician and rounding it off with a post-apocalyptic cabaret show. It is easier to see the Free Fringe as keeping the ‘Spirit of the Fringe’ alive. Where most of the paying shows are more polished or planned (Knights Of Improvalot probably not included) the Free Fringe honesty bucket system allows for a more spontaneous air of development. Just because the shows are free that doesn’t mean they’re all terrible, though a lot are (here’s looking at you, Luck Frederick’s In Pursuit of Cool). There are an equal number of paid terrible shows (here’s looking at you also, Axis of Awesome’s Benny Silver: Human Jukebox). Yet as with life, the terrible moments serve to make the brilliant ones brighter and more beautiful.

I could continue to list great shows I’ve seen but in many ways that defeats the point of Fringe. Go along, see some shows, take a risk, heck maybe even bring your own show- just experience it and do it for yourself. You will find out things you never knew and there are few better cities to do it in.