Monday, August 16, 2010

The Festival Season is Upon Us

So I've been absent for the past two weeks, mainly due to the fact that I am having a wonderful time. It is festival season in Edinburgh, which for those of you who don't know means 250,000 people from all over converge on the city for a month to take part in what must be one of the most unique events in the world: the Edinburgh Festivals.

There are actually several festivals. The first is the International Festival, the original festival that brings in twenty(ish) incredible international performances from all over the world, including opera, ballet, theater, and modern dance.

But it's what has grown up around the International Festival that is truly amazing: the Fringe Festival. Basically, anyone from anywhere can put on any type of show they want. They just have to find a venue, pay a small fee, and bam, they're in the program. The program this year is 350 pages long. There are 2,450 performances. Let me just say that again: There are 2,450 performances. In something like 368 venues, including large playhouses, churches, community centers, pubs, street corners, schools--wherever. One show takes place on a bus that travels around the city. A show can happen anywhere, and there is a show happening basically at all times. Pick up the brochure, and you'll find something to see even at two in the morning.

Many of the shows are standard productions like plays, musicals, ballet numbers, stand-up comedian acts, etc. But a lot of them are not. One performance that ran for the first week was a one-on-one show (as in one performer, one audience member) that took place in a busy coffee shop. Another performance outfits the viewer with an ipod and sends him or her out into the city with a series of directions, ending up with the viewer unsure whether passersby are just people walking down the street or part of the performance.

Basically, it's a breeding ground for experimental, avant garde theater, and there's nothing quite like it. Performers typically put on one show a day, then spend the rest of the day advertising, so that when you walk down the Royal Mile, it is heaving with people in elaborate costumes passing out flyers, musicians busking to the crowd, mini-performances being put on everywhere in order to get people interested in a show. The atmosphere is electric.

So far I have seen a music-and-dance show from Zimbabwe with a cast of thirty extremely talented, extremely energetic singers and dancers; an early morning comedic interpretation of King Lear; four different stand up comedians; the meditative chants and dances of the Tashi Lhunpo monks of Tibet, and a few other random things for good measure.

So yeah, I've been busy. To top it off, the Edinburgh International Book Festival (the largest in the world) also kicked off last weekend, so 750 authors from all over the globe are traipsing across the city in between giving talks and signing books at Charlotte Square. The Literati Glitterari, you might say. Philip Pullman, Tess Gerritsen, Jeanette Winterson, Fay Weldon, Alexander McCall Smith, Louis de Bernières, Ian Rankin, Andrea Levy, Zadie Smith, Jasper Fforde--the list goes on and on.

So my days are full at the moment, and I'm happier than I've been in months. The activity and the happiness have been inspiring me: As of last week I've got 80,000 words in my novel. Only two scenes left to go. So please excuse me if my posting is sporadic. For the first time in a long, long time I'm too busy living life to actually write about it, and while it couldn't last (I'd burn out!), it feels really good right now.


Annje said...

That sounds so fun and exciting! Inspired to write is an extra bonus. I love Jeanette Winterson, I would love to see her.

Marie-Ève said...

Great to hear (er, read) that. I thought this change of scenery might do you good! I'm a little jealous, lady... Have fun!

Jessica said...

so happy that you are happy. :)

Trista said...

I'm so jealous - and so thrilled for you that you are having a wonderful time and that the fresh surroundings are doing good things!

mrs.notouching said...

Glad to hear things are looking up and you are enjoying your new place!

Anonymous said...

i'm a month late, and i understand the fact that the festivals are likely long gone. but what fun it sounded like!!

miss you mucho.