The Fringe Diaries

Alice Ratcliffe, an ‘Ed Fringe Go-er, Do-er and Live-er’, shares her record of Fringe events, including endless shower queues and show-stopping warm ups.

I’m up here with The Hand-Me-Down People, one of The New Theatre’s contributions to the Edinburgh Fringe this year and two weeks into our month-long run the days are beginning to merge into one…in a good way, like one long, happy day. Every morning we get up slightly too early and spend the best part of an hour moping around in varied states of bleariness clinging to towels and hoping to get into the shower next. One shower between twelve thespians causes time and smell-related issues.

We leave the house at 9.30am covered in stash and armed with flyers ready to take on The Royal Mile. At this hour the only people about are those “covered in stash and armed with flyers” and we wander about in the poetic Scottish mist like lost souls for a little while. That said, by 11am the place has soon livened up and is in fact crammed with actors, dancers, singers, caricaturists, jugglers, flame throwers, musicians, acrobats as well as just about anything else you can think of. It is a jungle of ‘the Arts’ and in amongst it all weave the streams of helpless tourists collecting or ‘receiving’ too-many-flyers-to-handle and the seasoned fringe-goers, with their days already planned, artfully dodging everything and everyone.

And for four hours we stand and chirp: “The Hand-Me-Down People, 4.25pm every day at C Nova, it’s on Victoria Street so just up there, turn left and then right at the Bank of Scotland, yeah every day until the end of the fringe… yeah it would be great to see you there, thank you, have a lovely day.” Time for costume at about half past three and then we warm up outside, attracting as much attention as possible by singing about the penguin who came round for tea and shouting about Betty’s butter. It sometimes sells a ticket or two.

The venue is a typical Edinburgh venue, too small, too hot and often susceptible to the reverb of the microphones from other shows. But we would expect nothing less. After all, as many people say with a shrug, “It’s the Fringe!”. The show has been doing well – our intense flyering must be working – and with steady audiences and positive reviews we leave the venue covered in smiles… and sweat.

Then there’s the best part about the fringe: the sheer quantity, quality and variety of shows on offer. There really is something for everyone. We cram our evenings full with abstract plays, physical theatre, musicals, stand-up comedians, circuses, improv groups, spoken word artists and swing bands. I’ve seen something amazing every day I’ve been here, from a street performer playing a saw on the Mile, to an entire play improvised in iambic pentameter, to a silent stand-up comedian, to three men hanging from a trapeze by their feet to the sound of a whole New Orleans jazz band created from the sole voice of a beat-boxer.

I have never been anywhere quite like Edinburgh. The city is alive with excitement, the streets sparkle with the magic of the Fringe and although it is stressful and hectic and considerably exhausting, we are loving being a part of “The Greatest Show On Earth™” and don’t want this month to end!

Alice Ratcliffe

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