So, after a train journey of immense excitement and rising panic, I’ve arrived at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe! I’m a Fringe virgin so these next few posts are as much about reviewing my Fringe experience – and shamelessly promoting the website I’m working for, edfringereview.com (plug no. 1) – as reviewing the shows I see here.
The first evening brought immediate problems. Now, I have a very good friend who is Scottish. I’ve been to Scotland before. I figured I could handle the accent. Oh no. A phone call from a Tesco delivery man ranked in difficulty levels approximately equally with one of my finals. Confusion ensued. Luckily, confusion was solved mainly through me pretending to understand what he was saying, adding the odd “Yes” and “Sure” into the conversation and then guessing afterwards what we’d actually been talking about. This is not meant disrespectfully in any way – I’m 100% sure it was my own incompetence – but it was hardly an encouraging start to a month in Scotland.
Meanwhile, it turns out one day trip to Edinburgh at the age of 8 is definitely not enough to enable me to know my way around. My first trip into the city centre the following day therefore brought another milestone: the first time I got lost in Edinburgh. I still don’t know where The Voodoo Rooms are, but I had “fun” negotiating roadworks and dead-ends and alleys that lead nowhere… (Seriously, where ARE they?! If anyone knows, please let me know!) Another good start. The ‘magic’ of the Fringe had so far eluded me; up to this point I’d failed to understand the natives, failed to find one venue, found another whose entire system had crashed five minutes into the festival, and generally got pretty hot and bothered and unprofessional-looking.
But then… then I finally emerged onto the Royal Mile. And Toto, we were not in Kansas any more. We were in bizarre, absurd, heavenly theatre land. All niggling problems aside, I’m in love with the Fringe already. A magician swallowing a balloon, a girl group singing Lady Gaga, a couple of drag queens tottering past in stacked high heels, a pair of Victorian gentlemen giving me a flyer… even some free sweets! Not to mention the more traditional shows like As You Like It or Bugsy Malone. This is my kind of thing – I’m already dreading the day I have to leave.
And so my Fringe adventure kicked off for real. After an afternoon of flyer-collecting and e-mailing (So. Many. Emails.), the night brought around my first taste of a show. I was familiar with the comedy of I Am, I Am stars Lowell Belfield and Harry Michell from their work with the Cambridge Footlights, but this was my first taste of their musical comedy. The two performers worked perfectly as a duo, harmonious in both their singing and their not-at-all staged (ahem) conversation between numbers. Playing on awkward social situations with girls and traumatic school experiences is perhaps not an original or difficult line of comedy, but these guys brought their own fresh sense of fun, wit, charm and occasional grossness to the material. The performance wasn’t without its faults – you could tell this was a preview – but the audience lapped it up and even the unsuccessful moments were dealt with in a funny and unembarrassed way. Lowell melted the audience’s hearts by milking his “adorable” qualities, but it was Harry Michell who gave me my own personal serenade – however “platonically” it was intended. Ah well, I still felt special. The song of the night for me however was their ditty based around puns on London Tube stops, which had the whole audience in fits of giggles.
So, the improv was sharp, the patter with the audience was charming, the atmosphere was fun: and we forgave them for all the small mistakes. The boys were unaware they were carrying the pressure of setting the standard for me as far as Fringe productions go – but if I’m going on this show, I’m going to have a great Fringe!
And so I go back to the emails….