Five short hours after leaving the door of my Bristol flat, I arrive in the centre of Edinburgh. Deposited by the Airlink bus from Edinburgh airport outside Waverley train station. Knowing my flight would land me in Edinburgh at around 11.30pm I opted to save myself for a long day of shows on Saturday although I could have easily got tickets to one or two late night comedy shows. I had arrived in Edinburgh; a very lively city full of character at the best of times but truly enchanting during the annual Fringe Festival of comedy, music, theatre and all things performance related. I rushed across town to where I was to spend the weekend, a trendy area known as Stockbridge which is in the New Town.
Rising at a comfortable time the first show I caught on Saturday was at 12:20, giving me time for a good breakfast and a leisurely walk through the cobbled streets past tall Georgian buildings, and in to the medieval Old Town and towards the Castle. The show was Crunch the News, in the Voodoo rooms, tucked on a small backstreet off Princes street. It was a satirical, part stand-up, part news based show that had the feel of mock the week meets have I got news for you. Hosted by a fictional MP, a witty Tory Boy who came very close to tipping the balance between comedy and bad taste. It was a polished and professional performance with a lot of original material that was incredibly funny and entertaining. The most impressive part was that it was actually a free show, as part of the PBH Free Fringe.
Following a pleasant and reasonably priced lunch in a pub on Rose Street, the next show I caught was Mitch Benn, star of Radio 4. Benn is a stand-up comedian and musician who has created an hour long mix of both relaxed comedy that flowed naturally and didn’t feel too scripted, interspersed with his catchy, ingenious songs. Loosely around the theme of his not so recent weight loss but also including other subjects including the Olympic opening ceremony and closing on one of his more famous songs ‘I’m Proud of the BBC’. Well woven lyrics, sung well resulting in something I would highly recommend and even parted with £10 for a CD having already spent £10 for the ticket in the first place I still feel it is money well spent to show appreciation of someone with clear talent.
Still humming Benn’s song I found my way over at the Pleasance Courtyard, the Pleasance is the Edinburgh students union for most of the year but during the festival in August turns in to a rabbits warren of venue’s hosting a wide range of shows, as well as plenty of places to buy food and drinks. I was there to see One Rogue Reporter. This was back in the realms of political satire but a true an honest (at times almost too honest!) tale of Rich Peppiatt, written and told by Peppiatt of his resignation from the Daily Starr and subsequent events in the wake of the phone hacking scandal and Leveson. Again this show was bold and pushed the audience to the edge of our comfort zone, and included naked footage of one of Peppiatts ex-colleagues trying to win a scoop on a naturists B&B. Showed footage of the Leveson enquiry, and told it from the side of someone who knows the inner workings of the tabloids exposing deeper levels of corruption than I had previously been aware existed. And yet still managed to end on the statement – without journalism and the tabloids the story of the phone hacking would not have been uncovered.
Back out in to a sunny Edinburgh afternoon and time for a pit stop and chance to soak up the buzzing atmosphere, and some street theatre on the Royal Mile, before my fourth show of the day. This show was pure self indulgence at a more prominent venue – the Assembly Hall which stands proudly on the mound looking down over the National Gallery of Scotland and the high street shops on Princes Street. Frisky and Mannish are a double act, one female with bright red hair and an incredible voice, and a male with a passion for kohl eyeliner and a talent for singing and playing the keyboard. Together they are Pop educators, taking lyrics and tunes and taking songs to genres the songs didn’t really want to go to. Creating something more beautiful and (in my humble opinion) often better then the original. Mostly for the visionary insight in to the minds of these two highly gifted and incredibly able individuals. I normally hate audience participation, as i pay good money to be entertained and don’t feel the need to help the performers with their jobs, but I find the atmosphere Frisky and Mannish create too infectious to resist.
Afterwards I found time to pick up some fish and chips, and was almost tempted by a deep fried Mars bar. Then I dashed back over to the Pleasance to catch Late Night Gimp Fight. A group of four men, whose title gives some idea as to the nature of their comedy sketch show. Mostly smutty, but not quite as explicit as you may think. Over all funny, with use of multimedia, song and good old fashioned fancy dress. A couple of sketches were a little too unusual for me, and I found myself unsure what I was laughing at. But the quartet managed to keep the energy high, and given that the show started at 10pm and was fairly late in to a long day for most people I left in very good spirits.
The final show of the day was named Guardian Reader and was a one man show about belief and morals, from the point of view of a Guardian Reader. It was a little slow, and now one of the funniest shows of the day but was a good way of winding down, and reflecting on my own beliefs and morals. Including where your boundaries are when it comes to what is acceptable to laugh out loud at in front of a room of strangers.
The final show started at 11:45 and by the time I was home and in bed, I was glad to have another mid day start on Sunday. Not wanting to arrive back in Bristol too late. I had decided to just catch 2 shows. I started the day with another Free Fringe show called Domestic Science. A duo who also admitted to being a real life couple went through their passion for science with some basic experiment and easy humour. This was not just a stand up, but an educational performance with some history of science thrown in with sketch shows of famous scientific couples and fluid use of sound effects and more audience participation. The were also guest appearances from 2 other fringe performers promoting their act by show casing a snippet to whet the appetite.
My final show of the weekend was in the E4 Udderbelly, The Early Edition, created by Marcus Brigstocke and Andre Vincent. Along with two guests and the Sunday papers Brigstocke lead an semi-improvised act that used the days story’s as fodder. Informing the audience of headlines, and also educating with smaller news stories just for the sake of comedy. Humorous, and satirical but showing that some rehearsing, scripting and editing is necessary to create the sort of material we are more accustomed to on television. None the less fascinating to watch ‘comedy gold’ being mined before our eyes.
A short walk back from Bristo Square across South Bridge, over the Royal Mile and on to North Bridge surrounded by breath taking views a a wonderful and historic city in the throws of a world famous festival left me on a high as I boarded the Bus to go back to the Airport and return to Bristol.
Even without the Fringe Festival Edinburgh is an enchanting city and well worth the visit. For those of you who have never experienced the Fringe festival, start planning your trip for next August.