Edinburgh Festivals Diary – Day 1
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world and takes place every August for three weeks in Scotland’s capital city: this year 3,841 shows feature in 323 venues.
It is one of the the most important events in the theatre calendar.
I arrived in town and headed for Fringe Central and bumped into West End Producer flyering near Pleasance Dome.
‘Did you miss me, dear?’ I asked.
‘Yes, dear! I’ve been looking for my Willy.’ he laughed.
WEP, as he is known in theatrical circles, is making his Edinburgh Fringe debut with West End Producer (and Guests) – Free Willy!
‘How has it been?’ I asked.
‘Well, numbers are low and the competition is huge. But, finally, I’m beginning to enjoy myself, dear.’ WEP explained.
I arrive at Fringe Central: a resource developed for Fringe participants. During the festive they offer well over 100 free events designed to help participants and performers make the most out of their Fringe experience.
Anyway, having collected my media pass, I dash across the meadows to Church Hill Theatre to see Roots. An International Festival show blending early cinema techniques, animation and live performance by 1927, the theatre company behind Golem.
This is a fresh take on 13 folk tales, or “folk jokes” as the company calls them. This is a charming, challenging and very memorable show, thanks to a combination of offbeat humour, stunning music and emotion.
Kitchen brawls don’t tend to end well for women. Crocodile Fever – presented in association with the Lyric Theatre – at Traverse, wipes the floor with the patriarchy, though.
Meghan Tyler’s gruesome play is set during the 1980’s in rural Northern Ireland and focuses on a reunion of two sisters. The snapping, crackling script whizzes by and the whole thing is kind of absurd, but also, truly unmissable.
One of the lovelier things about returning to the festival is catching up with old friends, bumping into former acquaintances and saluting the hardworking people that keep the city firing on all cylinders; bar staff, taxi drivers, cafe owners, and more.
I head for coffee and read newspapers at my favourite hotel.
I spot the manager
‘Welcome back’ he said.
‘It’s good to be back,’ I said, ‘you having fun?’
‘Thanks, Mr Woodward! I’m absolutely loving it!’ he replied. He catches me reading The Daily Mirror.
‘Oh dear…’ he said.
‘Don’t judge, I read them all.’ I replied.
‘Do you know what, I often see many, many people walk in here for breakfast with a Financial Times…. and a Daily Mirror inside!’ He laughed.
The rest of the day was spent with Stephen Fry. Fry brings the nine-hour epic cut into three stage shows of his Greek legends book Mythos to the EIF as the opening dates of a UK tour – his first since hitting the road with Hugh Laurie forty years ago.
Basically, Men focuses on the Trojan War and Odysseus’s journey home. Heroes explores the legends of Hercules, Theseus and Perseus and, finally, Gods takes us back to the origins of the Greek pantheon.
I’m not saying Mr Fry’s decision to perform three shows about the same topic go on a bit – but good grief. There are 20 minute intervals, thankfully. And light relief in this well structured lecture-slash-performance-slash-seminar come when things get interactive when the audience play ‘Mythical Pursuits’ and pose questions to his ‘oracle’. Absolutely ideal.
To be fair, the man is a walking encyclopaedia and a national treasure, (Fun fact: the Milky Way is derived from when Hera woke and realised that she was breastfeeding an infant that wasn’t her own, she shoved him off and the spurting milk became the Milky Way.)
The Fringe and the International Festival both run until 26 August.