Culture: Theatre
 

FRINGE BENEFITS: your essential guide to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival



Confronted by a tsunami of hung-over students plying their drama society’s latest Glee-ridden take on Medea or a gay men’s choir from Connecticut doing an abridged falsetto of Abigail’s Party, it is easy to see the Edinburgh Fringe as an impenetrable busking behemoth. It is indeed a massive tapestry of arts and culture. It is not the world’s biggest festival for nothing. But is the best. So here are some basics from a veteran for any newcomer to bask in a veritable Fringe binge.

Beige_Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Image © Mark O'Connell

1. Get the official Fringe guide. It is online, but the Argos catalogue-sized bible to artistic expression is easier to navigate. Get a pen and circle everything you want to see. Or better still everything you would never normally see. The odds of catching a ropey 45 minute shadow puppet take on The Company of Wolves are going to be high but go with your instincts. If something looks fun and it’s near to another better stand up you fancy seeing then do it. The Fringe is a sly mistress of a behemoth. It can beguile and surprise, confuse and enhance.

Beige_Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Image © Mark O'Connell

2. Get your tickets online. Don’t waste time in box office queues when you could be seeing some Free Fringe over lunch in a pub basement instead.

Beige_Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Image © Mark O'Connell

3. Check your locations. Again, the Fringe guide has a great map and the abundant venues are lovingly laid out for good reason. Don’t ping yourself far and wide. It will waste your time jumping in taxis, sides-stepping banal buskers and asking foreign tourists where the Ladyboys of Bangkok’s tent is (they are always laying siege to the Meadows and the local paper’s comfort zones). Good venues to aim for are the Pleasance Courtyard, the Gilded Balloon, Assembly Halls on the Mound (for your high end drama and Simon Callow one-man bursts of luvvyness), the Udderbelly pasture (which is on London’s South Bank to try and share its success with London folk) and the Pleasance Dome are busy comedy hubs awash with good value shows all roughly an hour and a tenner each. If you stay close to one venue you can nip into another gig immediately. And then do so again in an hour’s time. The plastic beers flow plentifully, the venues are flanked by good and bad quick food options and your resolve to not have a crepe with your cider will last as long as Frankie Boyle’s Willo The Wisp On Ice (only Edinburgh would permit a show like that to work…one day).

Beige_Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Image © Mark O'Connell

4. Tell everyone who tries to offer you a flyer that you are going home in an hour so are sadly unable to see a guy wrapping himself in cling film all in the name of modern opera. If you don’t you will end up with a wedge of carbon footprint bursting leaflets that the bins are already crippled by. Though if a beautiful eyed blonde student lovely nabs you then show interest in his obviously awful comedy sketch show so you can mentally swim in those eyes whilst ignoring the news his show does not involve nudity. Trust me – I have been a pamphlet whore.

Beige_Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Image © Mark O'Connell

5. See some great acts. Current must-see lists should include La Gateau Chocolat, Craig Hill, Scott Agnew, Barb Jungr, Kerry Godliman, Hazel O’Connor, Zoe Lyons, the Boy With Tape On His Face, Milton Jones, Daniel Sloss, Phil Nichols, Wit Tank, Pete Firman, Nicholas Parsons Happy Hour, Susan Calman, Daniel Simonsen, Briefs – Second Coming, Tom Rosenthal, Scott Capurro and Tom Stade for solid laughery and musical intimacy.

Beige_Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Image © Mark O'Connell

6. A repeat instruction to see Briefs – Second Coming. They should (and often are) on any Fringe’s Best lists right now and are crackingly brilliant.

Words: Mark O’Connell

Mark O’Connell is a comedy writer and author of Polari First Prize Book nominated Catching Bullets – Memoirs of a Bond Fan and an Edinburgh Fringe veteran.

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