As always, Edinburgh in August was a blast; loads of events and shows which are never less than interesting. I especially like the fairly run of the mill productions on the Fringe, often late at night, often with a small audience, where you know you’re not watching anything great but you also know that the actors have cared enough to come to Edinburgh to perform. Nobody’s going to make any money to speak of – in the paper the other day, an actor from Wardrobe Ensemble, who had a hit show at this year’s Fringe (1972 – The Future of Sex) estimated that the troupe would have made about £100 each for three weeks work. And that’s a show that had great reviews and sell-outs. So it’s all the more delicious that, to give an example from my experience, an RSC actor would come to Edinburgh to do a one man show that he had originated at 10pm to an audience of eight.
Some observations from this year’s festivals;
The monologue or one man show is very much in vogue.
A lot of the Fringe shows I saw by school or otherwise young companies started with fairly spectacular “opening numbers,” encompassing music, dancing and physical theatre and then fizzled out with the actual acting being pretty ordinary, a kind of theatrical front-loading which made me wonder if the emphasis in theatrical training has changed.
For the first time in Edinburgh in August, I often saw people queuing to get in to restaurants. And by that I don’t mean super-hip restaurants but fairly ordinary ones in areas where there are plenty similar places to eat. Must be a London thing, or maybe people are now more influenced by what is said on social media.
On the upside, I only had to shoosh somebody once (git playing with a plastic bag on his lap during first act of Lanark,) although I would have murdered the bum whose phone went off in the quiet, intense last stretch of Antigone. In general, thoughtless mis-use of phones during performances was less prevalent this year. I also wasn’t aware of anyone skipping into queues before me (never a wise move,) the dread “merging.”
Getting about on public transport seemed easier this year, I think it is an unintended consequence of the traffic routing in the city centre to accommodate the trams. Travelling on foot still takes twice as long as normal though.
Dynamic pricing has a field day. Some bars hike their prices in their own festival of taking the piss, as do the hotel chains; some display current prices for rooms outside on displays like on the stock exchange, which is just flaunting greed. It would be great if the massive profits which must be made from this could be taxed for redistribution among the performers who are coming out with very little, while being the attraction that allows Ibis et al to wallow in lucre.
It was great to see Kirsty Bushell again in Antigone (one of the International Festival’s big deals this year) having seen her years ago in Filter’s Twelfth Night at The Caves, which I always remember as being a production which summed up everything that is possible on The Fringe.
Finally…although the magnificent Story Shakespeare did not appear at this year’s Fringe due to circumstances affecting their rehearsal time, they did tip me off to the existence of Popinjay Productions, who are alumni of that project and whose show I got to see.