The world’s largest arts and media festival, the Edinburgh Fringe, needs no introduction. Every year budding performance troupes flock, desperate for their time in the spotlight. Maybe they’ll become the next Fleabag; maybe they’ll flop – who knows? My time at the Fringe, however, was quite different. Instead of biding my time in backstage corridors, dressing rooms, and rehearsal studios, my festival experience was characterised by large auditoriums and notepads, coffee shop venues and writer’s rooms.
Writing for Ed Fringe Review, a student-led reviewing organisation that focuses on amateur, free and student theatre, was both an honour and a privilege. Twelve reviewers, from all around the country, are throw together in a student house with nothing but notepads and laptop screens. In five days time they will have seen ten performances, and reviewed each of them. But not only that, they will also have formed life-long friendships.
There is something to be said about spending time with like-minded people. United by a common love of the arts, reviewing at the Fringe didn’t feel like work at all. Even when confronted with the occasional one star show (it’s the Fringe after all, you will experience your fare share of tripe), it didn’t seem to matter. Lulled by copious amounts of caffeine, and a mutual support system, I felt a genuine, insatiable desire to write. But beyond that, my time with Ed Fringe Review was characterised by a work / life balance. In the past I have tended to oscillate between intense hyper fixation or debilitating procrastination. Working at the Fringe, however, shattered this unhealthy dichotomy. Writing by day, socialising by night, I had learned to structure my time, compartmentalising my day into, essentially, writing and after-work pub trips.
And what better way to blow off the cobwebs than with a stand-up comedy routine, watered down with a much-needed pint of iced americano? Whilst there were, in truth, some painfully unfunny acts (the so-called ‘improvised comedy’ being a particular low point), on the whole comedy at the Fringe made for a thoroughly entertaining experience. From drag queen wine tasting, to pithy one liners, awkward audience interaction and more — the sky was certainly the limit for this year’s lineup.
Extending beyond comedy, I was particularly impressed by the sheer variety available at the festival. There really was something for everyone. One night I found myself attending a hip hop orchestra, something all rather quite baffling but fulfilling, nonetheless. Another night I was thrown into the weird and wonderful world of Kafka, with an adaptation of The Trial by Young Pleasance theatre company. Then there came a plethora of musicals (some better than others), from ‘Alan Turing: A Musical Biography’ to ‘Americana’, a murder ballad. At first the plethora of talent at the Fringe might seem daunting. But for any avid theatregoer, the initial trepidation is well worth it.
Every year Edinburgh hosts thousands (yes, thousands) of shows, each one more bizarre than the next. From alphabetical guide books, to the bustle of the Royal Mile, there are many ways of deciding what shows to see. But, I argue, the whole charm of the Fringe is it’s randomness. Popping arbitrarily into venues, whimsically dashing from one place to the next, is what makes the Fringe so delightful. And whilst I did, in fact, have certain performances scheduled as a reviewer, what really made my time in Edinburgh were those frantic evenings dashing around street corners, with no plan other than to see something.
The Fringe has, and always will have a special place in my heart. With quarantine and distancing measures rendering last year’s Fringe at significantly reduced capacity, it was refreshing to see the festival at its full glory once again. In fact, visiting the Fringe may become an annual tradition of mine. And I think it should be yours too.
Feature Image: Anna Urlapova on Pexels.