Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thoughts on the Fringe

Some of you may have noticed that we haven’t quite thrown ourselves into the spirit of the Fringe as much as we have in previous years. There are a number of reasons why this is the case. Some are circumstances particular to us in 2009 while others are potentially of wider interest...

Returning from a two week trip to Japan at the start of August was energy sapping and it’s taken a bit of time to shake off the jetlag. And with another trip planned for September it’s left us limited in taking leave from our day jobs and conscious of the cost of our Fringe trips. Despite receiving Fringe Press Accreditation we’ve stuck to our year round policy of paying for all tickets – although as anyone attending Edinburgh knows, the ticket costs are just a small part of the overall expense.

But costs aren’t what has limited our trips – at least not directly. The trouble is we just haven’t found enough shows to really 'grab' us this year and frustratingly many of the ones that did pique our interest seemed to take place at the same time. In previous years we’ve happily filled days with four shows booked in advance and if time permits picked another one or two on the day. But this year we would have been coming through for two shows we really wanted to see and having to take chances on another three or four. Or we could have wasted time and money by coming through day after day for a single show in the afternoon or evening but that isn’t really a viable option especially as the T***works and parking problems make an after-work drive through a risk for any show starting before 8.30.

And I’ll be honest, I’m a bit tentative about putting this next bit in writing but I’m going to say it. I found Edinburgh rather unpleasant this year. Perhaps it’s the contrast from spending time in the restrained atmosphere of Tokyo but the drunkenness of Edinburgh on Saturday night at 9pm was troubling – it felt more like Glasgow at closing time. Walking around the Cowgate there was a feeling that areas of the city were a powderkeg that could go off – and the frequency of passing police vehicles with their blue lights flashing and sirens wailing did little to suggest otherwise. Depressingly I felt the need to advise a work colleague that if she was thinking about heading through for a show or two it might be best to go midweek.

It certainly felt more drunken than previously but perhaps it’s down to a change in the balance of those wandering the streets that has made the less welcoming elements more visible. Despite talk of increased ticket sales, on the days I’ve been in Edinburgh this year venues have felt quiet. Underbelly on Saturday night is the only time I’ve felt a place to be busy in the way that it has in previous years. There aren’t the same numbers of groups handing out flyers – even the Royal Mile and the drag outside the Pleasance haven’t been their usual nightmare to walk through.

And though I’ve seen some brilliant shows (Ae Fond Kiss, Certain Dark Things and The Unravelling) I’m really struggling to build enthusiasm for our next trip through on Sunday. So is it just me or are things different in Edinburgh this year?

1 Heckle

Anonymous said...


we have just returned from our annual one week visit to Edinburgh. I cannot say that I noticed anything different. Friday and Saturday nights have always been on the rowdy side in certain areas ... possibly the Underbelly had more alcohol-fuelled people than usual. The atmosphere was about average - although less street theatre - and audience sizes roughly similar, possibly a bit up here and there. Our overall visit was about "average".

Edinburgh Festival Punter