Taking the Edge off the Fringe

1 October 2009

Edinburgh for me this year was all about the running. Well every year it is about the running- dashing like a headless-chicken for the next show, but this year it was on another level.

With over 2,100 shows, including all the separate festivals, and over 30,000 performances for public delectation it was bigger-and I’d say-better than ever before. I was reviewing for ThreeWeeks; a newspaper of reviews by students and young reviewers. Of those 2,000 odd shows I only saw 60; but 60 in 20 days is enough to keep you running all day and night long.

As usual there’s a lot of total, utter crap at the Fringe. I’m relatively ashamed to admit that I started one review “Burn your money, you’d be putting it to better use” and I didn’t get much kinder. Harsh though that was, I genuinely felt angry after finding that the show’s concession tickets cost £12.00!

Sadly so much of the Fringe is now about big names milking a cash cow; with soaring ticket sales handing a recession busting pay cheque to those stars. Even more sadly these big names are killing off the middle ground of semi-pro performers who can’t afford to lose money on the Fringe unlike the subsidised schools and universities. That’s why the ‘£5 Fringe’ is so amazing. Finally you can sample the Fringe properly without having to go near the dreaded ‘Free Fringe’ (Free for a reason.)

The Festival should be about taking a punt on something and occasionally being blown away by it and not really minding too much if it’s complete bollocks because it only cost you a fiver.

University-wise Cambridge had the biggest showing this year with over a dozen affiliated productions. The two ADC shows did tremendously with the black unitards (I kid you not) of Metamorphosis being a particular hit on the Royal Mile, aka Flyering Alley, and wicked female weasels forever skipping about promoting The Wind in the Willows.

Eerie scaffolding and slickly stylised acting successfully drew in the crowds for Kafka’s story and the new adaptation, fantastic set and the wonderful Badger, Toad, Mole and Ratty did likewise for those mucking about with motor cars in the woods.

Baby brought impassioned musical performances to the rather odd George 2 venue which was made up of huge portacabins whilst the Footlights’ Tour show, Wishful Thinking become one of the hottest tickets in town. Freddy Syborn’s Re_ was certainly different, Cardenio was well received, as was Daran Johnson’s Barry Pull Your Finger Out  and The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) was riotously funny.

Of course, anyone who goes to Edinburgh soon realises it is not only about theatre. There is an amazing night out to be had every evening, amazingly interesting individuals in nearly every pub/club/pink bus and about a million amazingly sweet cider pints to be drunk. The silent disco though fun indeed was not the place to be. Edinburgh is about meeting new people, getting new ideas and perhaps spending the odd night away from your own bed; if you get my drift.

Every venue has a bar and the performers flock there to meet each other and the crowds. In those fine establishments this year I met dozens of fantastically talented people from across the world who did everything from fire breathing to Rubik’s cubes behind their backs.

August is not a month for thousands of people from all over the globe, it is a place; it is Edinburgh. It is the biggest cultural festival on earth and this year it was absolutely fantastic.

Tadgh Barwell O’Connor

Tadgh is Actor’s Representative of the ADC Theatre.