Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Festival time in Edinburgh

August is the month of the Fringe Festival. This basically means that over the course of the month, there are 5,000 shows going on in the city in over 300 venues (from playhouses to cathedrals to bars to hilltops to the back of some guy's van) at every hour of the day. The city doubles in population. Basically, there are people EVERYWHERE. And many of them are performers, and many of them are performing in the streets, and many of them don't speak English, and many of them are lost, and many of them are just drunk (but these ones are usually Scottish, to be fair).

There is something to see or do at all times. Should I suddenly be overcome with the desire to see Shakespeare in Rosslyn Chapel (remember the Da Vinci code?), I can. Should I feel the need, at one o'clock in the morning, to catch some sketch comedy from Finland, I can. Should I be frantic to watch a hundred other people dancing soundlessly to different music on a hundred different headsets, there's a spot in Edinburgh for me. 

I spend a lot of time scouring the city for free comedy shows, as I can't afford to pay the 7 to 15 pounds most shows charge. I have seen some really great, and some violently awful (indescribably so) stuff in the past few days. I have been to a few "real" (read: you gotta pay for it) shows as well, though. I saw Hemingway's Cuba, in which his daughter-in-law told stories about Hemingway between sets of Cuban music and dancing (awesome!). A funny note: She told us how she had married Hemingway's son Gregory. But she left out the bit where, later in life, they divorced and Gregory became Gloria. An anatomically correct Gloria, no less. Fascinating. I also saw a Jewish singer/songwriter from London who performed in a classroom at the Royal College of Surgeons and looked genuinely shocked when real people turned up. He was very good, actually, but his greatest show at the Fringe (and by that I mean the show where he had an audience) was semi-ruined by the old lady who became overheated and started moaning during his last song. Ah well, that's showbiz!