I hope everyone managed to get away, or to get into something interesting here in the UK, over Bank Holiday weekend. I just stepped off a plane from Edinburgh—it was my second weekend trip up to the Fringe Festival this year, and I had an absolutely amazing time. I wish that I could paint you a detailed picture of the museums, architecture and natural scenery that characterize this beautiful city (= next trip!), but I spent most of my time watching comedy, theatre, musicals and working on a show that I helped to put on (as choreographer). I got to meet talented and interesting young people from all over the world (and I even got to see some tele stars in person – ooh la la…)
Some Fringe Highlights:
- The Udder Belly
This local watering hole is the place to be during the month of August. With hundreds of performers, directors, producers and spectators running around at all hours of the night, you are bound to strike up some interesting banter; however, should awkward conversational pauses ensue, the venue has provided you with the ultimate chat-worthy icon—an enormous, inflated, upside down purple cow. I would pay someone for an Udder Belly t-shirt: this is the one thing I forgot to get before leaving. Seriously, get in touch if you have one (I mean it!).
- Comedy, Comedy, Comedy
The selection of stand up comedy acts in Edinburgh was HUGE: I am now, officially, convinced that trying to “make it” as a stand up comedian is perhaps the most trying (and humbling!) of paths within the performing arts industries. I saw dozens of stand up acts…from young, transatlantic favourite Matt Kirshen (you may have seen him on the American reality TV talent show Last Comic Standing) to Fringe regular Reginald D. Hunter, who delivered his signature, philosophical American wit. I was, overall, entertained, amused and satisfied.
Important to note: lots of people that I talk to think that the “Fringe Festival” is primarily a theatre-focused event, full of avant garde one acts and student-quality productions. Yes, you can certainly find these things; however, there are 7 big festivals occurring in Edinburgh during the month of August (13 in total throughout the year), including the International Book Festival, the Art Festival, the Mela Festival and the Military Tattoo Festival. The Festival Fringe is just one of many events to explore, within which comedy seems to be the entertainment category with the widest audience appeal.
- The Forest Café
We stumbled across this quirky little gem of a venue on our last night at the festival and ended up in a loft/attic-style room, full of eclectic pieces of furniture and oh-so-stylish hipsters. Only one type of local brew on sale at a little corner bar, served up by a man with a mini acoustic guitar. On stage was a freestyle rap group with a live percussion ensemble to complement their superb “beat boxing” skillz. A cultural experience, to say the least!
- Putting on a show.
Being a part of a Fringe production involves a lot of hard work, no to negative (monetary) compensation, shameless company promotion, and, if you are a performer, 20 + straight days of delivering the goods…sometimes to empty chairs. So then why do, literally, thousands of young artists flock to the cloudy little city every year to return home as paupers? Because the Fringe is fun, fun, fun, fun (did I mention FUN?). If you are lucky enough to get involved with a quality new writing project that has a solid cast + creative/marketing team, you are bound to draw some good, responsive crowds and supportive fellow artists (who you will, of course, join afterwards at the bars (which stay open until 5am…every night…for a month = FUN)).
Cheers to another UK cultural adventure!