The Fringe is over.
Descending in a fury of light and sound, like a fever-dream, it faded away to leave only a tangled web of incoherent images.
Come to think of it, exactly like a fever-dream I once had as a child.
As I lay in bed, I saw the wall before me split open, and a horde of ravenous animals poured down upon me, armed with archaic weaponry and shrieking in an incomprehensible tongue.
Replace the archaic weaponry with brightly-coloured flyers, and this is exactly what you see when you walk down the Royal Mile every August.
This year, the Fringe was larger than ever before, with a belly-busting line-up of three thousand, two hundred shows. I was privileged enough to be in one of those shows.
It began in St Andrews. I was cast in a show directed by a beautifully insane genius. As we shared accommodation, I was awoken every day by his radiant face, and madness would ensue. Happily, this was a production where the cast was allowed, nay, encouraged to be insane onstage, and so the inevitable eccentricities that develop when you spend every day with the same people could be easily incorporated into the performance.
The intensity of the rehearsal process is much more akin to a professional production, which is one of the great things about the Fringe. It gives you a taste of what it might be like to do theatre for a living.
There are some side effects to this. I had a vivid dream in which I was woken up by the director to begin a day of rehearsal, but, after some time, I would again be awoken by the director to begin a day of rehearsal, then again and again. After “waking up” for the eighth time, I finally woke up for real. I think.
All this work would be for nothing without an audience to witness the fruits of your labours.
If there was ever a study into the relationship between the number of flyers handed out and the number of strangers who attended the show, I suspect that every printing company in Edinburgh would close down.
In our case, we handed out flyers in thousands and attracted audiences in tens. The vast majority of those audience members were individuals who we knew and had already convinced to see the show.
Now, this isn’t to say that flyering is a futile activity. Far from it. It encourages the cast to find new perspectives on the production, identifying which aspects of the show would be appealing to a passer-by. They can hand out flyers in character, perform small vignettes, do little dances, engage in genuine conversation about the show’s content – the list goes on.
Even so, the default option for many a performer is the ‘fish-market’ technique. This consists of loudly proclaiming the name of the show and waving the flyer under the noses of the punters.
Owing to my appearance – the guise of a demonic clown – I had to find alternative ways to persuade people to take the flyer. Sometimes I would recite the title in an increasingly high and shrill voice until someone would take a flyer, likely out of pity. Often I would dance to the music from the street performers. Occasionally, when the weather was clement, we could use the puppets from our show as a proxy between the passers-by and us. For some reason, people were more willing to take a flyer from an inanimate object than from me. I don’t take it personally.
After all, I myself have turned down many a flyer in my time.
I saw very few shows while I was Edinburgh. This was due in part to general fatigue and an overwhelming desire to sleep, but largely because of something very stupid I did.
I read the entirety of the Fringe Guide in one sitting. This is not something that I recommend to anyone. At the time it seemed like the most rational way to ensure that an intriguing show would not escape my notice.
The Fringe Guide includes a list of each show, along with a small image and a very brief description. This typically included a two-line synopsis and a couple of reviews.
It’s hard to describe the effects of reading three thousand, two hundred of show descriptions over the course of a few hours, but, by the end, I was thoroughly sickened by the idea of theatre and never wanted to see a production again.
Despite that exercise in masochism, I did see a few shows, all of them part of the Free Fringe. These shows operate on a ‘pay-what-you-want’ system, and considering how expensive food and accommodation in Edinburgh can be, this system is very appealing. These shows were all one-person productions.
A series of intertwining folk tales about the devil, told as part of a larger narrative about a man who finds Satan in his local supermarket. Tim Ralphs is a phenomenal storyteller, whose engaging style hearkens back to the days when children would gather at their grandparents’ feet and listen intently to the tales of yore.
Oberon White: I, Pierrot:
It began with a clown entering the stage with his head wrapped in bandages. He then proceeded to pull about five metres of coloured cloth from his throat. Suffice to say, I was hooked immediately.
Although the rest of the show never quite lived up to that initial thrill, I was still close to tears for much of it. It largely consisted of sublime German opera and a bizarre impression of Nigella Lawson, thus it was listed in the ‘Cabaret’ section of the Fringe Guide.
Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic:
A couple of years ago I saw a flyer for a previous show by the same performer entitled ‘Dandy Darkly’s Gory Hole’, and having seen the follow-up, I deeply regret missing the original.
The description of ‘DDPP’ includes the phrase “more tales of sex and death’, and this is precisely what the show was. A well-crafted series of hilarious and insightful stories about people, sexual organs, and the crazy things that people do because of their sexual organs – all set to music!
For all my irrationality, performing the Fringe remains one of the most enjoyable experiences that anyone could undergo without the use of questionable psychological manipulation. I would recommend it to all.
The Fringe is over.
So is this article.
Photo Credit: Amanda Hollinger