Edinburgh Fringe Festival Update

August 15th, 2011


If one wanted to, they could be busy with Fringe events from sunrise until sunset. Well, not quite. This is Scotland and nothing seems to happen before 10:00 at the earliest. At any one time during the day though, there are hundreds of productions, musical shows, comedic skits or events you could take part in. Its been a wonderful distraction from writing my masters dissertation, I just wish I didn't have the dissertation to distract me from the fun!

In the past two weeks, I've attended a number of events, most on a whim because, like I said earlier, the acts are not vetted so you just never know what you are in for. For the most part, I have been pleasantly surprised. About a week ago, I signed up for a Fringe dance class at the premier dance studio in Edinburgh, Dance Base. Each day, a guest professional dancer teaches a class and each day is different. I signed up without looking at the schedule and turned up to find I would be doing acrobatics. That struck a bit of fear in my soul, especially as I watched a room full of trained dancers stretching their legs in an impossible range of motion. I was excited as well though, and decided I'd give it my best shot. For the next hour and a half, we learned a routine that involved complicated movements requiring an upper body strength I do not have, moving (somewhat) gracefully from the floor into a head stand, followed by ballet leaps and barrel kicks. As the other amateur dancers began dropping like flies, I was determined to stick it out until the end, regardless of how much I flailed. In the days after, I have never been so sore but it was a unique and enlivening experience in the least.

The rest of my Fringe activities have been a bit more average and a bit less participatory. I have attended three comedy shows, of which I enjoyed Andrew Maxwell most. His comedy was very current, making world politics and recent news stories funny in a way I had never looked at them. He ripped into Americans a bit, recalling his visit to the Bible Belt region and that population's affinity to the phrase 'My Jesus?' 'Are you talking about my Lord and Savior?' He took the piss out of his own countrymen as well of course, mocking the crowds that protested the Queen's arrival while wearing a Manchester United jersey. Eejits. One irate man called into a local Dublin radio station saying they wanted the Queen out and they wanted the 6 counties back. The radio host just said, 'You want the 6 counties back? Name them.' There was a silence on the line, then the caller hung up. I wish I could remember more, but I suppose that is a sign of a good comedian if you're laughing too hard to remember all of it.


Aside from the big name performers and events, the streets are filled with artisans, pop-up shops, beer gardens, and street performers. Yesterday, I caught a performance by two men on extremely tall unicycles who juggled flaming sticks between the two of them. Just before, I stopped to watch a duo comedic hoola-hoop aerobic skit. After catching a show by comedian Mitch Benn, I went to the City Art Centre to see the 'Precious Light' exhibition by David Mach. Working with a team of assistants, Mach creates huge collages out of real photographs of people. The collages are ironic, cynical and evocative with an incredible depth and minute attention to detail. This year's exhibitionc critiques the Bible and various passages within. One sequence of collages depicts four scenes of heaven and four scenes of hell. One hell is located at the Cinderella Castle at Disney World, but the atmosphere is far from enjoyable. The images are thought provoking but unsettling. The pictures he cuts out are from real events, real catastrophes and show real human pain.  

This coming week, I hope to attend a cabaret show by the Lady Boys of Bangkok (yes, the title says it all), a 'behind-the-scenes' photographic exhibition of the red light district of Edinburgh, a few more comedy acts, the Auld Reekie Roller Girls Derby, the current exhibitions at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and whatever else I stumble upon. Check back for more updates on the one and only Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Caroline Engel for Danish Teak Classics

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