Fringe benefits

As promised, I bring you news hot from the Edinburgh Fringe. On the plane up I heard a young girl excitedly telling her friend that “Apparently it’s like Bath only nicer!” “I can’t imagine how that could be” answered her companion.

Architecturally there are many similarities, but that’s where it stops. The bus service is fantastic for a start, though we did have to inaugurate a subtle campaign to get those dour Scots to thank the driver on alighting, as is the habit in our own dear city (where I once heard some Japanese tourists struggling with the phrase “Cheers drive!”)

And as for knowing a festival is on, well, the place was heaving, with major thoroughfares closed off and filled with classy al fresco bars, bonkers buskers, leaflet-thrusters by the thousand, half-price ticket booths, posters on every lamppost and pop-up venues in every possible available space, from huge deconsecrated churches to the back of a camper van.

And everybody seems to be into it. My taxi driver waxed lyrical about the school production of Les Miserable he’d seen the night before. And a pal overheard two old ladies on the number 29 discussing whether to go to a dubstep or a beatbox event. “I’m not too bothered about the dubstep” opined one, “I think I’d prefer the beatbox. I’ll see what Emily thinks.”

My show choices were up on last time, when practically everything I saw ranged from the dull down to the outright cringeworthy. This time?  Good to brilliant. The West was well represented too, with the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School’s lively Romeo and Juliet gaining five stars, Widcombe crooner James Lambeth delivering smooth Gershwin backed by some highly accomplished musicians, ex-Natural Seymour Mace rolling them in the aisles with a show that proved that audience participation can be a hoot and Frome’s Pip Utton packing them in for his Churchill tour de force.

My vow to avoid any of the many versions of Coriolanus on offer was thwarted at a pick of the Fringe showcase, where an all-women troupe showed that substituting swords and stage blood with paintbrushes and red emulsion can have a highly dramatic if messy result. The sight of Coriolanus him/herself mopping the stage after the excerpt was the highlight of my trip!

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