Edinburgh Fringe 2014- The Round-Up
Well, I’ve shaken off my tartan, emptied my rucksack of one bazillion flyers and started the inevitable liver healing process- it can only mean one thing. Edfringe is over again for another year. This year was (as ever) totally riotous, and provided me with much to laugh, think and wonder about. It gave me all manner of performance to slam my eyes onto, pints to quaff with so many great people and heralded the end of another summer. Here’s what we got up to.
Head to Armstrong’s Vintage to marvel in absolute wonder at the Aladdin’s cave of wonders they have there, The Black Box Boutique and The Red Door Gallery on West Bow for independently crafted jewellery and design focused one-offs, Demijohn for bulbous bottles of flavoured gin and vodka and Miss Katie Cupcake for all manner of whimsical treats and delights!
This year we were so jam-packed with dawn (well, okay, midday is practically dawn in Edfringe time) until dusk shows, so we grabbed wherever we could. We DID however, find time to visit Buffalo Grill, a no frills, bloody great BYOB joint on Chapel St for big old juicy steaks (I can thoroughly recommend The CarpetBag- Steak with Pan-fried Oysters YEH BOI). You may have to sit rubbing knees with the chum next to you, but the no-fuss food is definitely worth it. We made the most of a bitching lunch deal at the new outpost of the hallowed Mussel and Steak Bar, letting haggis wellington and vats of mussels help aid our sore, sorry heads.
Also worth a shout is Tangs on Candlemaker Row- after a few days I was suffering from Fringe Fever- too much alcohol and only eating beige food, so I groaned in delight when the lovely waiters brought out delicately delicious trays of sushi and gyoza. WAGAMAMAS THIS AIN’T PALS. Whilst talking about beige food however, I can also thoroughly recommend Castle Rock chippy on the Grassmarket. Bloody great deep fried haggis.
Only one joint around can take the crown for best bar this year, and that is (cue fanfare) BREWDOG. Seems like the craft beer revolution of the South has made its way beyond the border, for this joint is serving up some of the best brew I ever did sup. With a keg menu which changes daily, they also offer a tasting board so you can have a quaff of their faves (Punk and Dead Pony Club came up top for us.) Though we did try our hand at the 15.1% stout that was on offer too….
Oh yeah, and they also do bitching home-made haggis pizza. STOP THE FILTH IMMEDIATELY BUT ALSO NEVER STOP IT BECAUSE IT IS DEEP YUM.
For a morning fix of caffeine to help shake away the Fringe Hangovers (Frangovers) head to Brewlab on South College Street on your way up to Pleasance Dome and that Big Old Purple Cow for the very best espresso and brewing methods around. It’s like being in Shoreditch, but friendlier.
Hot. Dub. Time. Machine.
Three more words:
And it was. Oh it really was. Playing music in chronological order from 1954-2014, this is like hearing every song you love all in order with videos and balloons and all kind of stuff happening. It’s dancey, not intimidating (important, for I j’deteste le clubs) and huggy. Though, because every single song they play is GREAT it makes it super hard to nip off to go to the loo. VIVA HOT DUB TIME MACHINE (cut to me holding my head against the side of the bed “because it was cold” the next morning, holding my wristband aloft like a drunk statue of liberty.)
I also thought it was a super good idea to pop down to the Cow Cafe at Underbelly to indulge in some sweet sweet karaoke. Until 4am. When I had to get up and catch a train to Brighton for a Hen Do the next morning. #WISE.
Just a few, mind.
Our Sunday of laughter began with some hearty, gung ho, social media themed improv from all-lady troupe All Made Up. Improv troupes are always a stalwart feature of the fringe and my personal highlights were two full length improvised plays- the Austentacious Gang bonnetting their way through CSI Pemberley and Lights, Camera, Improvise giving us a musical/sci-fi/action adventure titled, The Forbidden Nebula. Both these troupes manage to sustain a thoroughly entertaining full narrative through improv- deeply impressive and giggle inducing.
The laughs continued when we had a wiggle over to the den of iniquity that is The Hive to guffaw at Adam Hess‘s mile-a-minute, frantic whizz through his show Mustard, a side-achingly hysterical hour of lovably self-deprecating tales. Sara Pascoe revealed the truth about why women make more noise during sex and the general sexual evolution of humankind- sounds dry, was actually HIGHLY FUNNY (and also super interesting). Tell you what, Edinburgh is so saturated with funny stuff, even the blooming pavements are cracking gags:
More comic delights came in the form of James Acaster (or was it just an undercover cop the whole time?), endearingly mumbley Jimeoin, the always sublimely BRILLIANT and bemused Tim Key who also cropped up on the night we paid a visit to the always slick and delightful Horne Section, delighting their audience with well honed musical comedy. V.G.
Sketch comedy seemed in fine fettle this year, with particularly silly hours being provided by Giraffe‘s Let’s Talk About Sketch Baby and Beasts which was…utterly bonkers. But teeming with brilliance. And a lot of bum cheek.
Rhys James gave a fantastic debut solo show at The Pleasance, blending personal tales of school bullies with tongue-trippingly brilliant pieces of poetry. Another stellar spoken word gem came with teacher-turned-battle rapper Mark Grist and his pal MC Mixy’s show, Dead Poets, who pitched some of our most beloved poets in head to head literary combat against each other (anyone that thinks poetry is either ‘gay’ or ‘for pussies’ should go see this.) Also, Mark Grist is the man responsible for this, which will forever make my heart beat and swoon:
Theatre-wise I wept at Spine by Clara Brennan, which took a long look at an unlikely friendship between a lost teenager and an elderly woman bonded together by books, had my cockles warmed by withWings Theatre’s charmingly heartbreaking interpretation of Swan Lake in The Duck Pond and rediscovered a long-forgotten Selkie myth and marvelled at how an epic story can be told so beautifully simply with the Bucket Club‘s Lorraine and Alan. Slightly disappointing was the over-hyped Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare from Magnificent Bastard Productions– a Shakespeare performed with a different cast member being totally blottoed every night whilst the other attempt to carry on around them. Though in places it was genuinely funny, it’s a one-joke show that begins to wear thin, especially if you’re not sh*t-faced yourself. A hiddent little gem presented itself with a highly physical, sizzingly energetic look at modern masculinity in Going Out West from Asa Nisi Masa.
I got my fix of musicals by seeing TwentySomething‘s production of a new American musical 6, innovatively performed by a cast with stand-out voices and getting all glittery and camp at Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens– glitter boots actually did save my life. However, the most magnificent MT moment was without doubt, Christina Bianco and Velma Celli starring together in Divalusion. Totally camp, totally in-jokey, totally ball-breakingly belty and with the most phenomenal voices I’ve heard in a while, if this show comes to London, you’d better hope you can get tickets!
More musical delights came in the form of Camille O’Sullivan, queen of the fringe. Rasping and rocking her way through her eclectic set, she is one of the most courageous and gifted interpreters of song I e’er did see. I also paid homage to my old university stomping ground, and went to see the Sons of Pitches, the University of Birmingham’s male acapella gang, who I’m pleased to say were stonking and could give that smug Out Of The Blue a run for their money anyday. BIG UP THE BRUM.(Youtube them, they are literally good.)
We also managed to wedge in a bit of circusy burlesquey type affairs, and caught Gravity & Other Myths gasp-inducing offering A Simple Space and saw death defying roller skating, magic, contortionists, pole-dance acrobats, capoeira and an eye-watching burlesque act involving pulling a handkerchief from, ahem, seemingly nowhere at La Clique.
PHEW. Cor blimey guvnor, no wonder I’m blooming knackered.
As always, I came home exhausted, battered, covered in bruises I don’t know how I got, my nails were broken, my throat was sore, my purse was empty and my liver took a long, hard, stern look at me, wagged its finger and said, “Mate, you can’t keep like, doing this.” But forever and a day, I think Edinburgh Fringe will be the place I am happiest. There, I sup with family and pals both close and long lost, there, I still dance until the dawn cracks the horizon and there my mind and my heart are both challenged, invigorated and warmed. Edinburgh Fringe, you’re one of the best friends I’ve ever had. Already ticking off the days until next year. Get the round in would you, I won’t be long? Mine’s a cider. In a plastic cup.