Banging on about the Edinburgh Fringe

Photograph by Andrew Morley-Hall

Photograph by Andrew Morley-Hall

In August this year, I experienced my first Edinburgh Festival Fringe. After a giddy Wellington Town Hall show and still jittery from a few quakes in the capital that week, we flew 24 hours from Wellington, New Zealand, to Edinburgh, Scotland, hit the ground running with a technical rehearsal, and plunged into 24 shows in 27 days at the Gilded Balloon (plus extra media appearances, charity events and street performances).

It’s an intense time, and though I had put most of my other jobs on hold and had barely enough time to sleep, I nevertheless pitched a story to Metro magazine halfway through the festival. My brain was brimming over with thoughts about the whole affair, so I jammed as many moments as I could into the piece.

Click here for the story: Fringe Dwellers

What’s not in the story are details of the months of research, planning and fundraising we did to get there. My one word of advice for anyone thinking of heading to a Fringe is: Research.

Ask questions, read up, think seriously and clearly about why you want to go and what you want to get out of it. Once you have answered those questions, you will be much closer to your Edinburgh Fringe goals. You’re going just to have a great time? Wonderful – get out there! Drink every night, see every show! You’re going in a very considered attempt to get your show booked around the world? Also wonderful – sleep! Rest! Look after the vocal folds! See only the shows that matter in the context of your show. Compare, contrast, make contacts.

Everyone says “expect to lose money at Edinburgh”. I hate that. I say “expect to invest money”. Edinburgh Fringe is nothing if not the ultimate Research & Development opportunity for performing artists. Like all businesses, you have to invest to get ahead. If you see it as losing money, you’re coming at it wrong.

What’s also not in the story, because of space and, you know, personal stuff, are the other things that made Edinburgh totes amazeballs for me.

Things like:

– Edinburgh itself. Wondrous, mystical, magical city! Cobbles and corners and staircases. Ghosts and characters. Whiskey and haggis. Kindness and straight-talk. Misty mornings and hazy nights.

– sharing a room, and therefore a wardrobe, with my birthday BFF and former Wellington flatmate Karen. Like the mid-2000s all over again. The bliss of what can go unsaid thanks to long, deep friendship. And, someone with whom to bitch about the horrendous roadworks that started up at 6.00am every day outside our bedroom window.

– teaming up with bandmates Megan and Sam to buy secondhand wheels from The Bike Station. Their operation is fantastic, and our bike gang was too much fun. Edinburgh’s emerging bike culture is super positive (and super helpful on Twitter), and it made all the difference being able to load the bike basket up with instruments, costume changes and whiskey, and get between shows quickly.

– swimming pools! As I always do on tour, I visited all of Edinburgh’s pools, and while I expected to love the old Victorian baths the best, it was actually the Commies I adored above all others. This facility is astounding – clean, calm, beautiful. I will never forget carving up the pool with that picture-perfect view of Arthur’s Seat during backstroke lengths.

Artisan Roast. Like all good Wellingtonians, we sussed out the best coffee early on. Artisan Roast’s Broughton Street cafe was just two blocks from each of our Edinburgh accommodations, making it the perfect midway morning meeting point. The baristas become fast friends, invited us to parties, sorted out haircuts, kept us caffeinated. At festival’s end, I swapped my bicycle for a piece of art from Cheryl, one of the lovely Artisan staffers.

– running into Michael Hurst on North Bridge one afternoon. I love that guy. He is one of New Zealand’s best, best, best theatre directors, and here he was, slumming it in Edinburgh with everyone else, beating the shit out of himself every midday in his intense, fantastic, Shakespearean solo show and smiling, smiling, smiling.

– the friends we made, and re-made: Ian and the gang from The Jive Aces; Tom and Pete from New Art Club; Jonty and Ian from Eric and Little Ern, with whom we did a madly wonderful rendition of Bring Me Sunshine for our last Edinburgh show. Here is the Jive Aces’ fab version.

– the haar. We were so fortunate with the weather. It rained the first day we were there and one other afternoon, but mostly it was mild and calm. Towards the end there were a few cool mornings, and my favourite was the morning the haar rolled up from the Leith, enveloping the gardens beneath Edinburgh Castle. I contorted myself beneath a park bench to get this photograph. Of all the photographs I took, it’s the one that transports me back to that perfect month of full immersion in the artist’s lifestyle. Happy sigh.

Rose and Castle

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