Thursday, July 2, 2009

Top 5 reasons to visit the Edinburgh Festival

Everyone else is doing these lists, so I feel compelled to do the same. Rather than being a rundown of shows I'm interested in seeing (I'm doing that separately), this is instead a compendium of things you have to do to get the full-on Edinburgh Festival Fringe experience:

Queue up, at least once, for tickets at the Edinburgh Fringe box office in the High Street (ideally at peak times)

Unless you have a severe aversion to queuing, this is actually a good way to hear about those word-of-mouth shows, to swap tips with the people in front and behind you, to be entertained by performers who know they have a captive audience - perhaps you'll even be given free tickets to something. Queue with a positive attitude and it's actually quite good fun.

Spend at least two hours outside the purple upside-down cow at Bristo Square

As a local, I relish the chance to spend any time here and not be surrounded by skateboarders and winos, but this space tends to become the hub of the Fringe during August. Big-name shows take place inside the cow, and big-name celebrities hang around to be spotted. If the sun's out (or if it's at least not raining), this is a great place to have a drink, a bite to eat and to watch the kind of people you only over see at this time of year.

Why at least two hours? As the shows in the cow run to a regimented order, you'll very likely see the stars of a performance spill out and mingle with the crowds, which all adds to the mashup-style atmosphere.

Do the Book Festival

Even if you've never read a book in your life and don't attend any of the events, the Book Festival in Charlotte Square Gardens is a real oasis of calm (i.e. the polar opposite of Bristo Square above). If it's sunny, sitting outside sipping a glass of wine amongst a rather more sedate crowd can be a great chance to unwind and relax.

Plus, it's the only place this year with a Spiegeltent.

Join in

If you're watching a street performer at the Mound or on the Royal Mile and they pick you as a "willing" volunteer, don't shuffle your feet and / or run away. Swallow your pride and go for it. Sure, you'll probably spend half an hour of your life as a figure of fun with a bucket on your head, but just think of the Facebook photos your friends will gleefully post later.

Another top opportunity to become part of proceedings is to attend a show and sit on an aisle seat near the front. Performers don't have time to scan the assembled throng for a likely candidate: instead they'll grab the closest thing to hand. That could be you.

If you don't want to join in, do not sit there thinking "don't pick me, don't pick me". It is a little-known fact all performers possess an uncanny psychic ability to pick up on this...


Even when:

  • it's raining (it will rain: this is Edinburgh we're talking about)
  • you've turned up late for a show and been refused admission
  • you're standing at 3am waiting for a taxi that never arrives
  • the show you're watching makes your toes curl backwards so far they rip your socks
  • the queue for the bar is 15-deep and you have 3 minutes before your next show
  • your bodyclock has yet to readjust to the Edinburgh Fringe timezone

This is the Edinburgh Festival. Where else would you rather be?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Festival highlight #2 - One Man Lord of the Rings

Although I'm not a huge fan of comedy routines at the Fringe (I'm of the view that you can switch on E4 most nights and see that kind of stuff for free), I caught Charlie Ross's One Man Star Wars show a couple of years back and loved it.

Appealing both to my inner geek and my outer critic, Ross achieved a remarkable feat: cramming all 3 Star Wars movies, characters and special effects into a frantic, frenetic and funny 60 minute show. On his own. With no props.

He was back last year with the same show but I gave it a miss, reasoning it wouldn't be as impressive as the first viewing. Whether that's true or not, I'll definitely be catching his 2009 return, with his One Man Lord of the Rings show. Obviously of a very similar ilk, if it's half as irreverent and accomlished as its predecessor, it'll be a winner.

My outer critic is cautiously optimistic.

My inner geek is very excited and looking forward to the one-man re-enactment of the battle of Helm's Deep...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Twittering the Festival

Around this time last year, I started scouring the web for any Edinburgh Festival and Fringe tidbits I could find. Using a combination of the usual suspects (the Fringe website's message boards, The Scotsman, etc) and some more "webby2.0" ones (saved Google news searches, RSS aggregators, etc), I was able to glean some nuggets from the mass of internet noise out there.

This year, although the same sources are there, it's different. I've been alerted to news about shows I may never have considered, arranged some photoshoots I'd probably never had the chance to do otherwise - heck, I've even won a limited edition EIF cloth bag.

And the source of this endless stream of topical and inside news?


Quite simply, the Edinburgh Festival and all its associated chums have embraced Twitter as the method of advertising and PR this year. Whether it's the "official" tweets of @EdinburghFringe, @edintfest and @TheFringeThing; the twitterings of venues such as @lyceumtheatre and @Universalarts; the performers like @falsettosocks and @tomfoolery09; or the review sites and blogs such as @FringeReview and @allthefestivals. Even the tweets from people excitedly discussing Edinburgh Festival and Fringe shows that turn up just because their posts mention the words.

The internet has long been a great leveller, allowing people to be able to get their message out there with the minimum costs and hassle, but the Twitter explosion seems to have stepped this up a gear. I'm finding it a fantastically rich source of all things Festival and am already experiencing that slight panic when I'm not able to check my feeds for anything longer than a couple of hours. So keep on tweeting, Festival twitterers, you're doing a great job.

Heck, even a link to this blog entry will probably end up there before the day's out.