Edinburgh: Ten Insights from the Fringe

The Edinburgh Fringe is a beautiful beast. During the month of August, every nook and cranny of the historical old town is transformed into a temporary theatre: old parliament buildings, lecture theatres and broom closets alike play host to a gamut of international performers. Working at the festival is a crucible of delights. For a whole month, the Fringe raves from 11am to 5am. It’s theatre, comedy and cabaret; drag, spoken word and musicals. It is exhausting, exhilarating and enchanting. It utterly impossible to reduce to a sequence of anecdotes. Here are ten things that I learnt during the Fringe in 2018…

  1. The tide is turning. The reign of the straight white male is dwindling. Even compared to last time I worked at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015,  the amount of drag shows, LGBT theatre shows and female-lead content was extraordinary.  I kept a diary of all the shows that I went to see (I managed 56 in total) and my favourites were productions about identity and difference.‘Briefs’ was an exceptional drag/burlesque/strip show that championed freedom of expression and argued ‘silence is guilty’ while chiselled gay men did arabesques in tiny briefs. ‘To Skin a Cat’ was a heartfelt play about a girl with sexual trauma. It said so much about contemporary womanhood with honesty and warmth despite pain and hardship. ‘Hot Brown Honeys’ was a cabaret full of feminist fury that explored intersectional links between the patriarchy and colonialism. Steen Raskopoulos was a comic whose light-hearted impersonations gave way to a searing exploration of mental health and suicide. Given the state of politics, many of the conversations I have about the future nowadays tend to be pessimistic. However, based on the conversations I had in Edinburgh and the number of performers advocating radical action, there are many reasons to be hopeful.
  2. It is so exhilarating to be surrounded by people who want to talk about culture, books, art and theatre all day long. I love my Edinburgh family! You can’t replace the joy of spending long evenings going to cabaret and drag shows before going drinking and dancing. It is also amazing to see shows written by and starring your friends.
  3. The coffee in Edinburgh is not exceptional (especially due to the watery oat milk obsession?) but the Scots do hot chocolate exceedingly well. Lovecrumbs serves a delicious rose and cardamom hot chocolate and the winter spice hot chocolate at Fieldwork is pretty special too. With its huge window seat and free wifi, Lovecrumbs was my go-to spot for laptop admin.
  4. I’m partial to the odd technical glitch. Briefs was one of the shows at the theatre I was working. Sometimes, I would have to stand inside the door to stop audience members using flash photography. I became quite grateful for the odd lighting glitches. At the end of a saucy striptease, once one of the beautiful boys had stripped down to a latex thong, he would remove his final garment at the exact second the lights blacked-out. However, there was often a small but lovely delay. Oops…
  5. When a Grammy-award-winning cabaret artist asks you to vacuum her dressing room, be careful not to go too close under her costume rack. It is a terrifying experience to slowly pull the hem of an embroidered silk dress out of the nozzle of a Henry Hoover. (Side-note: look up Lady Rizo, her whiskey soaked vocals are Nina Simone meets Gin Wigmore. In person, she is so kickass, intelligent and politically conscious. I am a big fan-girl).
  6. Gin and hummus are always a good idea. Even when work throws a wine and cheese party, bring gin and hummus.
  7. The term ‘shit-faced’ originated in Scotland. Before modern plumbing, each household would have a bucket for their daily business. At the end of the night, the bucket would be emptied out the window, into the alleyways below. The only people stumbling through the streets at this time of night were drunks, and if they lost their balance, they would become ‘shit-faced’. Luckily for my face, public hygiene is a little better these days…
  8. The canals in Edinburgh are beautiful. On a morning run, I discovered that my student flat sat less than a minute from the mouth of the canals. Serendipitously, there was a cute canal-boat-coffee-shop just 100 metres along. It became one of my regular spots for Skype calling friends and family. The Waters of Leith Walkway, which snakes throughout the New Town is also charming, with its stone walls, viaducts and small waterfalls. It’s the best way to wander to the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art.
  9. Edinburgh has some cool galleries, none more fabulous than Ingleby Gallery. When you arrive, you need to ring a buzzer to be let inside, like an exclusive designer store. Personally greeted on the threshold, you are free to explore the exhibition, which is scattered throughout the two-storey townhouse. It has stunning high ceilings and light oak floors. The art continues into the offices of the gallery curators and administrators, where you are welcome to nosey at the collection as they work behind their desks. Dovecot Studios is also quirky. From a balcony, you can watch weavers as they construction wall-sized tapestries on old-fashioned looms.
  10. The weather in Edinburgh is absurd. Have you ever sweated in the rain? Try a hike up Arthur’s Seat…

1 thought on “Edinburgh: Ten Insights from the Fringe”

  1. I’ve just added the Edinburgh Fringe to my bucket list. What a brilliant time you’ve had, 56 shows – impressive. So glad you’ve started blogging again! X

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