Edinburgh Fringe Round Up

Monday, 25 August 2014

Being an Edinburgh local I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Fringe Festival. On the one hand I love the fact that there's so much to do in August that you could go out every night (bank balance permitting) and see something completely different. 

I also love that the city becomes a hive of activity and there's such a great atmosphere about the place. What I don't particularly enjoy though is having an increased journey time to and from work due to SO MANY TOURISTS WHO APPARANTLY HAVE NEVER USED A BUS BEFORE. Oh and that "great atmosphere" can also very quickly become "THERE ARE TOO MANY PEOPLE HERE GETTING IN MY F*CKING WAY" depending on what sort of mood I'm in.

Ahhh I love it really.

With the Fringe pretty much over now I've left it a bit late to give show recommendations, but I thought I'd sum up what I've seen over the last few weeks.  This year I've seen a wider variety of shows than usual - normally I just go to see comedy acts but this year I actually ended up going to see more theatre than comedy, and I've had one of my best years' at the fringe yet!


My first outing at the festival was Simon Amstell who was back at the Fringe this year previewing a show he's taking on tour.  This show had a great raw feel to it, with Amstell even taking occasional notes when a joke didn't go as expected (although that might have just been for comedic effect).  

Next up was Josie Long who has been one of my favourite comedians at the festival the last few years.   She is a really endearing performer and I always leave her shows feeling like I desperately want to be her pal. It's been nice seeing her on TV quite a bit recently, as she's a regular on Stewart Lee's Alternative Comedy Experience which Blair and I have been watching. 

Another regular on that show is David Kay, if you've watched it then he's the one with the very
slooooow Scottish voice who talks a bit like your granny.   Being a Scottish comedian performing at the fringe the month before the referendum there was a bit of political thread throughout - I particularly enjoyed the imagined conversation with David Cameron (DC: "We're better together", DK: "In what way?", DC: "We're just….better….when we're together") and the question of whether or not an independent Scotland would still have tattie scones.

One of my favourite comedy shows this year was One Man Breaking Bad, which as the name would suggest, was a one man show….about Breaking Bad. Miles Allen is a brilliant impressionist and he expertly guided the audience through all 5 seasons of the show whilst playing each of the different characters.  He also included a couple of other characters from his repertoire, like the cast of Family Guy, which wasn't quite as cheesy as it sounds.

Another one man show was Joseph Murpugo: Odessa which was definitely one of the weirdest shows I saw this year.  A police investigation based around a couple of old 60's American TV clips, featuring a warped Santa,  a mysogynist police chief, STATIC in human form, and a smarmy diamond salesman.  Mental doesn't quite cover it.

Another odd show was The Umbilical Brothers.  My friend Colin had organised for a group of us to go, and I'll be honest in the first 20 minutes or so I was thinking "what. the. F. is. this" but it actually ended up being one of the funniest things I saw this year.  The show stars two Australian comedians with elements of mime throughout which ranged from Mickey Mouse fighting an imaginary small child, to the entire Brady Bunch family being murdered in increasingly violent circumstances (funnier than it sounds).

My last show of the fringe was a Doctor Who themed comedy musical - I Need a Doctor: The Whosical.  Friends Jamie and Jess put together a show within a show whilst having to navigate tricky BBC copyright laws which mean they have to face foes such as "The Exterminators" and "Cybergents".  Geeky lols all round.


I kind of went into most of the theatre shows not knowing a thing about what I was about to see, and The Man Who Would Be King is a perfect example of that, all I knew was the title.  It turned out to be a two man show about soldiers who end up kings of an area in Northern Afghanistan commanding an army of locals who believe that they are God's.  The actors were both great, with one of them actually playing the part of two characters.  A really interesting and powerful story, with quite a shocking ending.

God's Own Country is a story of a young farmer who falls in love with the girl next door, or at least it starts out like that but it turns into something much more disturbing.  Despite this being a one man show with limited props, the story was so vivid that it was easy to imagine the story playing out in your head. In fact on the journey home Blair and I discussed the fact that it would make an awesome one-off TV drama.

Another one man, well one woman show was Sanitise - a brilliantly silly silent show set in a bathroom. Melanie Jordan's facial expressions just killed me, she was completely captivating for the whole hour.  One of the quirkiest things I've ever seen at the fringe, and one I probably would have missed out on if I didn't hear about it through my friend Lianne who was the show producer (so proud!).

Continuing the trend of talented ladies at the helm of a one-woman show, another great piece of theatre was Spine which told the story of Amy, a teenager who has just been kicked out of her parents house and ends up at the door of an old lady called Glenda.  A lovely friendship develops in her dusty old house, surrounded by piles of books that Glenda has pilfered from libraries that were closing down in the area.  It's a really powerful story and Clara Brennan does such a brilliant job at drawing you in to the tale, I really hope she goes far.

Two of my favourite books are George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm, so I was pretty excited to hear that Blair had picked us up tickets for a production of Animal Farm this year.  The show was performed in Georgian with English subtitles, which was an interesting experience watching a show with a little screen hanging from the ceiling.  The actors conveyed the story really well, they did a brilliant job of acting as animals (particularly the horses).  With a cast of 20 or so there was a real choir-like feel to it when they sang together which was really powerful.

My sister was up for a brief time during the festival and she took me to see Alba: A New Scottish Musical which was the touching tale of one mans journey to scatter his fathers' ashes in the far North of Scotland.  With four actors who all sang and played various instruments throughout this was a rousing piece of theatre that left you with a real sense of Scottish pride (vote yes, ha!).

Afterwards my sister had to shoot off back down South and I had a bit of time to kill as I was meeting Kirsty at 4:30 (will explain why in a bit) so I decided to go see a show by myself.  It was a bit of an awkward time as there aren't a lot of shows on in the middle of the day, but after perusing the listings board I settled on a show called Swimming which was described as a story about three teenagers working in a cafe on the Isle of Wight over the summer.

It turned out that the male actor in the cast is Grayson from that Jack Whitehall BBC3 comedy Bad Education, or, as I know him best - the burglar that Mark apprehended in Peep Show (alright clean shirt?).  This ended up being a brilliant choice, all three actors were fantastic, and the story of love and loss had some really dark undertones, ending with a superb monologue from Jack Bence which genuinely left me choked up.

And the rest….

After winning tickets through Laura's blog I got to go to the Foodies Festival earlier this month.  I've always fancied going to this but never actually got round to buying tickets, so I was pretty excited to head along with some pals and stuff my face.  We spent the afternoon walking around Inverleith Park drinking pink lemonade and mojitos trying to decide what to eat, which isn't easy when you're surrounded by about 50 delicious smelling stalls all selling something different.

I ended up having some bbq chicken noodles followed by a wild boar burger.  I also bought some amazing brownies and macarons to take home.  It was a fun afternoon, although if I'm honest I was kind of expecting there to be a lot of free samples going about, as you did have to buy a ticket to enter but the only freebie I came away with was a bottle of Yakult, haha.  Given the massive queues to get in though, I imagine if it wasn't ticketed it would be even worse so I guess they have to sell tickets as there is limited capacity inside.  If you decide to go next year then I'd advise going as early as possible so you can beat the queues.

A definite highlight from the last month was the Doctor Who premiere which I saw at the Filmhouse as part of the TV Festival. When I saw that the episode was going to be shown in Edinburgh a few days before TV I literally set an alarm so I made sure I got tickets when they went on sale.  I then woke Kirsty up with a cryptic "can you make it into town for 4.30 on a weekday?" text before breaking the news that I'd got us tickets, such a tease!  We were both ridiculously excited, being the little Who geeks that we are, and we were really hoping that Peter Capaldi would make a surprise appearance but alas he did not.

You will all have hopefully seen the episode now, since it aired over the weekend, I absolutely loved it - I think Capaldi's debut just highlighted how amazing an actor he is, I was utterly convinced by him as the Doctor within like the first 5 minutes.  Kirsty and I had a much needed debrief at Illegal Jacks afterwards where we basically just raved about how much we loved it and went through the best bits and the questions we had (who was that woman at the end?  Did he jump or was he pushed?).  So many favourite bits….."don't look in that mirror, it's furious"…."we will burn him with aciiid".

I'm so glad I got to see it on the big screen, and to experience it surrounded by Who fans.  There's something really heart warming about a room full of people erupting with laughter at the in-jokes.  Can the Filmhouse show the whole series please??

So that was my festival experience.  I'm so glad that I went to a wide range of shows this year as I normally limit myself to stand-up comedians but some of my favourite parts were actually the theatre shows.  I'd definitely recommend taking in some theatre next year if you haven't already, there's so much talent on offer during the festival that it seems a shame to miss out.

Did you spend any time at the Edinburgh Fringe this year?  What were your favourite shows?

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