Belfast Telegraph

Way out, wacky and full of freaks ... I'm loving the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh

By Nuala McKeever

An Irish woman, an American and a posh English bloke go into a kitchen... no, it's not the start of a joke, just a description of the flat I'm sharing here in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival month.

What a place, what an event, what a LOT of people! With two-and-a-half thousand shows a day, I've still no idea how anyone chooses what to see.

From a performer's viewpoint, it throws up some very interesting challenges. What's the protocol of sharing a bathroom with Bill Clinton and a whiteface clown called Scaramouche Jones?

They're the flat mates, in character.

Thankfully, Bill Clinton becomes Bob Paisley in real life and I haven't had to hover in agony round the bathroom door worrying that if I knock and he's in there, he might have me taken out by the Secret Service. Or worse, by himself.

And the clown is a father of four in reality so he knows how to keep a sink area clean and there's been no having to mime: "Would you mind not putting wet teabags in the washing up basin?" while juggling several sharp kitchen knives (though if he could teach me that skill, it would always come in handy).

Already there's a daily routine. Get up, faff around getting nervous and ready and nervous again, walk to venue through crowds of tourists in shorts and T-shirts or waterproof see-through plastic capes, depending on the weather that's in it, trying not to make eye contact with the hundreds of young enthusiastic festival "angels" desperate to hand out flyers for shows you've never heard of. Songs of Madonna, in Balinese.

Balinese Dancing in Russian. 50 Shades, the Musical. 50 Musicals in 50 Minutes. Lady Boys, funny women, braying, floppy-fringed Oxbridge, trust-funded students who challenge your pacifism ideals every time they assault you with their cheery "I'm up here being like, totally crazy, before settling into life as a millionaire in Daddy's organisation", and loads and loads of stand-up comedians, all mostly lying down sleeping off the night before, as I stride to my show at lunchtime.

What a way to (not) earn a living. If people-watching is your thing, then this, the largest arts festival in the world, is hard to beat.

Where else would you have outrageously costumed performers strolling nonchalantly through city streets en route to or from their gigs?

A man dressed as a medieval pig or a 7ft tall woman in a tutu? Whatever! Par for the course here.

In fact it's the people with hatchet faces, just TRYING TO GET OUT FOR A SANDWICH AT LUNCHTIME FROM THEIR ORDINARY OFFICE JOBS AND NO I DON'T WANT TO SEE YOUR INTERPRETATION OF WWI THROUGH STAR WARS CHARACTERS, NOW WOULD YOU GET OUT OF MY WAY I BLOODY LIVE HERE!!!!, who actually stand out in the crowd.

When way out and wacky is the order of the day, grey-suited and slightly p***** off, is so refreshingly different.

There's buskers and beggars, all showing what they've got, asking for money.

Whether it's a smoochy saxaphone solo, or a tired, life-lined face and shaking, bottle-clutching hands, every presentation tells a story.

It's just that some are easier to listen to.

And then there's Edinburgh itself.

The place, the architecture, the history – everywhere you turn, the view is a drama in itself.

From the big castle up on the hill to the mysterious narrow passageways and steep stone steps, to the distant glimpses of green hill or blue sea, it's like living on a film set – with everyone hoping for a happy ending.

Let's face it, slebs are like rest of us

D'y'ever feel you'll never amount to much, that other, famous people, have such glamorous lives compared to yours? Me too. So imagine my delight to discover I can actually hold my own with the big fish. The news that Tulisa Contostavlos admitted she's "had work done" was so reassuring, wasn't it?

I never dreamed I'd have anything in common with her yet here we are, both happy to say, "I've had work done". Okay, hers was trout pout lip injections and cheek fillers whereas mine was the bathroom walls tiled and polyfillers, but still. That's me, up with the A-listers. Phew!

Wars show we've learned nothing

As people pause to mark the start of the First World War one hundred years ago, the silence will be filled with the noise of all the wars still going on around the world right now.

A century is a short time in evolutionary terms, I know, but it still seems unbelievable that as a species, we haven't developed a more sophisticated way to acknowledge and accommodate our sense of separateness.

Never mind the wheel, we keep re-inventing the crash and, sadly, perpetuating the "old lie" of Wilfred Owen – Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. What a waste.

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