The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is my favourite time of year. There is so much to do in the city that by the end of the month you’re completely burnt out – which is self-inflicted but I wouldn’t have it any other way! This year has been a new experience as I was working in the Press Office of one of the biggest producers venues. Being right in the (literal) belly of the festival has meant a couple things; firstly I’m well exhausted because I’ve been working 50+ hour weeks on top of enjoying the festival, and secondly I have been able to see so many more shows for work and thanks to work!
This year I saw a mental 37 shows (two of which were International Festival shows so can’t really join the Fringe count but whatever). I know you might now be thinking ‘Jesus Christ Katie that is a lot‘ and it is, but that all happened because I’m in the unique position of being able to affordably see that volume of theatre in this one month in Edinburgh – there’s nowhere else in the world I could manage that. It also helps that a large portion of those shows were free thanks to work. A lot of the shows I went to see were also in support of my incredibly talented friends who were doing their thing all month!
I love watching theatre so when that opportunity presents itself for only one month – how can I say no? It’s like binge watching a bunch of programmes (like you’ve never binge-watched 30+ hours of Netflix in a month before) and it’s even better because it’s live.
My Fringe hits
- SIX – Musical Theatre
Without a doubt this is my solid festival highlight. Proven by the fact that it’s the only show I went back to see a second time because it’s just so damn good. Six tells us what happened to Henry VIII’s six wives but in a sassy and clever pop princess way. These queens have some incredible pipes on them and the choreography was super slick, and a shout out to the costume designer cause they are beautiful.
It was really nice to see something in the Fringe that is so slick and fully realised. The music (by Marlow and Moss) is so catchy and fun and I just want to listen to the songs on repeat – luckily some have started being uploaded to Apple Music/Spotify, with more coming!
With things like Hamilton in its canon I think it’s clear to see that people enjoy a modern retelling of historic events because it puts stories that can seem so dry and distant into a fun and almost relatable tone that we can recognise, and Six do that in the most beautiful way. They are absolute stars.
What I’m most impressed by is that it’s not only my Festival favourite but could probably be ranked up in some of my all time favourite MT music. Rightfully so, the queens have been raking in some incredible press and being a smash hit of the Festival is setting them off well for a West End transfer to the Arts Theatre before a wee tour – I urge you to try and catch it (it’s coming to Glasgow in December!)
- Little Death Club – Cabaret
This was the best cabaret I’ve ever been to with a beautiful mixture of sexiness, humour, amazement and excitement. Little Death Club is led by the captivating Bernie Dieter who leads us through the spectrum of emotions with her cast of performers – there was a lack-lustre hula hoopist, a mime artist having a reality crisis, a drag queen, a fire eater (seriously how does she not burn herself??) and a stunning trapeze act that was super emotional. I went from tearing up to cackling with laughter to gasping in amazement – what more could you want from a cabaret?
- Underbelly’s Circus Hub – Circus
Over the course of the month I have made my way to just about every show that has been programmed down at the Circus Hub on the Meadows and everything has been incredible. Circus is not something that you get to see very often but what I love about Fringe circus is that it is usually quite artistic with more of a narrative or just a sheer display of skill rather than the garish bravado of a travelling big top circus. I was so amazed by the acts down there that I refuse to actually pick a favourite but I will discuss some of my highlights. Circus Abyssinia‘s Ethiopian Dreams shared the story of two brother’s creating the first ever circus in Ethiopia and it was so energetic and joyful I couldn’t help but smile the entire time. Shift was a smaller piece with just four acrobats from Barely Methodical Troupe but they were outstanding – there was a relaxed personality to the show and somehow casual despite the superhuman moves – I also really loved their music. Tabarnak was Cirque Alfonse’s piece based on community and it made me feel so fuzzy and warm – they were hilarious and unbelievable. My final circus show was the outstanding Circolombia who are ridiculous. They probably had the acts that shocked/scared/amazed me the most – I felt so tense watching them (in a good way) and then their live singers and rapper would loosen me up with their great music. Absolutely loved it.
Circus Hub was my standing recommendation for absolutely everyone and anyone who asked me what they should see in the festival because there’s no doubt that you’ll be amazed. Keep your eyes peeled next year.
- The End of Eddy – Theatre – Edinburgh International Festival
My final show of the Festival season was this really lovely play based on Édouard Louis’ autobiographic novel of the same title. It is the coming of age tale of a boy in a rural French village and his challenges with school, poverty, sex, masculinity and discovering his homosexuality. The play took the structure of two actors narrating the story to us with the help of four screens that seamlessly interacted as any additional characters. Hats off to the Stage Manager whose technical timing was absolutely spot on. The whole piece felt incredibly natural, despite the breaks from the narrative to explain what was going on, it just felt genuine and unscripted. From the off they have you empathising and invested in Eddy and as he get through his adversities had me smiling with pride of his triumphs. The novel has definitely been bumped up to the top of my TBR list and I only wish the show ran longer so I could have recommended it to more people (although it will be at the Unicorn Theatre in London this Autumn, so if you can, do it!).
I’m also going to talk about my food faves because all of the street food is one of my favourite things about festival time. I’m going to split these highlights into a couple categories because there is just so much good food!
We sell dumplings – savoury food truck
For me, I haven’t achieved peak Fringe until I’ve picked up some vietnamese dumplings from their stand in Assembly’s George Square Gardens. They sell veggie fried dumplings with vietnamese dipping sauce and it’s so! damn! good! You get a whole bunch of ’em for just £3.
The Crema Caravan – Sweet food truck
They sell the most amazing crème brûlée! I think I appreciate it a lot because it’s not a snack you expect to have often and certainly not on the go but it is a thing. They are also really cool because they can add a bunch of different flavours or toppings – my highlight was their crème brûlée with butterscotch flavoured crème. It’s also crazy satisfying to tap and crack the top of the caramelised sugar so you gotta savour those little things.
Union of Genius – Permanent café
This isn’t necessarily a Fringe specific fave but I don’t know how I would have gotten through this festival if it weren’t for soup café Union of Genius which was a frequent visit for lunch at work. Keeping me cosy and feeling soothed through a Fringe flu and tonsillitis! They have really great options and it’s not always your usual soups (although they do the classics well too). Think this one has to make it into my my favourite city spots!
It’s been an intense but great month that I’m leaving as an exhausted shell of a human full of new memories and feeling quite creatively overstimulated. Now it’s time to sleep for a few days before starting back into uni for the final time!
Until next year Fringe!