9 things to tick off at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (4-28 August) turns 70 this year. Every year, the city becomes awash with actors, comedians, dancers, students, tourists, circus clowns, professional statues, bookworms, party animals and TV producers.
All there to be entertained, the combination of them trebles the population of the city for the month of August. If you’ve been, you know what a heady concoction is on offer at the biggest arts festival in the world. If you haven’t, here's a handy list of things you can expect to see during your stay. Tick them off as you go.
A panoramic view of the city
Looming more than 800ft above the city is Arthur’s Seat - the impressive hill that looks down on the heaving throngs. Just a kilometre from Edinburgh Castle, it can be ascended from any side, and after a few days of intoxication at the hands of great theatre (and possibly booze), a 30-minute uphill hike is just what you need. The festival-goer’s Everest.
An untold number of human statues
There’s something about the promise of an endless mooching crowd that attracts human statues to the Royal Mile in Edinburgh like moths to a flame. They’re the kind of people who wake up in the morning and think nothing of painting themselves entirely silver and heading off for a motionless day of standing perfectly still. For them, this is their Woodstock. Their everything. Your sole job is to make them corpse.
Gigantic queues for gourmet cheeseburgers
With the city suddenly bursting at the seams, getting a good seat for a languid lunch can be tricky. Thankfully, you’ll find vans galore at George Square (home also to the excellent Underbelly), St Andrew Square, and Bristo Square, all serving up treats from all over the world. From knockout burritos, to treats from Southeast Asia, to the ubiquitous “dirty burgers” that can perform miracles when you’re a few sheets to the wind.
Some of the busiest drinking spots known to man
During the Festival, Edinburgh becomes a city that literally doesn’t sleep. You’ll find bars open for breakfast, and you’ll notice that they also never seem to close. You can enjoy some of the finest whiskies known to man in The Devil’s Advocate, or knock a few back at The Royal Dick, the onsite pub at Summerhall Courtyard. Or if you fancy joining the masses for a Festival knees-up, the seven bars at the Pleasance Courtyard will see you right.
A host of wholly unorthodox venues
Aside from well-trodden hotspots like the Gilded Balloon or the Underbelly, with tens of thousands of performances to get through, you’ll notice that every nook, cranny, and patch of pavement becomes a stage. Over the years there have been hairdressers that push style boundaries during the day, and cultural ones by night. Buses that double up as theatres, phone boxes, bedrooms. As a general rule, if there’s two molecules in the atmosphere, one of them becomes an audience.
Some very recognisable faces
Without much in the way of baking to worry about, you might spot Sue Perkins in Edinburgh this year, as she continues her return to the single mic with her show “Live! In Spectacles” at the Pleasance Courtyard. Alexei Sayle and Ruby Wax are both performing at the Underbelly, as is the ever-popular everyman John Bishop.
The next big things
Many a big name jumpstarted their career with a defining turn in Edinburgh - Billy Connolly, Fry and Laurie, Frank Skinner, Harry Hill, Steve Coogan, The Mighty Boosh, The League of Gentlemen. So don’t be surprised if the act that makes you die laughing ends up being anointed onstage at one of Michael McIntyre’s roadshows before too long.
Top quality circus performances FOR FREE
If you wanted, you could easily go up to Edinburgh in August and not pay for a single show and still be entertained. The street theatre around the city is at a whole new level. You’ll see acrobats, clowns, maniacs in stilts attempting impossible feats. It’s not so much a case of the circus coming to town, as the whole town becoming a circus. Also, look out for cheap daytime tickets to shows, they’re everywhere.
A diverse, passionate crowd
There is so much going on in Edinburgh during August - not just the Fringe, but also the International Festival (celebrating theatre, music, and dance), the International Book Festival, and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Hence you’ll find that this is a crowd passionate about everything that is going on in the city. Chances are, you’ll return home determined to pen a play. For about a week.