By Imogen Sarre
Now that youve negotiated the Edinburgh Festival pre-planning packing conundrums and accomodatory nightmares (presumably entirely thanks to the trusty aid of our handy Edinburgh Festival planning hints), its time to work out what to do while youre up there.
If youre anything like most people, despite spending an
inordinate amount of time on the boring logistical elements of your trip,
youve barely given a second thought to how youre actually going to
fill your days.
The Fringe programme will become your bible (albeit a rather sodden and dog-eared one: paper and rain dont mix so well). Get ready to spend hours poring over the pull out map of Edinburgh and its venues at the back of the guide book. Free copies can be found in all good UK theatres/outlets in the months running up to the Fringe, you can get them delivered in advance (P&P prices apply), or you can download a copy. Alternatively you can wait to trip over the stacks of free copies to be found in every shop and venue all over Edinburgh.
2) The official EdFringe website is invaluable, listing the most up to date show and venue information available. You can book tickets in advance online via this as well. Booking fees are very reasonable.
3) EdFringe authorities in red jumpers scatter themselves across the Royal Mile and parts of the city so you can always approach them in person if in need.
| PBH Free Fringe is as the title doth say
freeeee. Free, but with the disclaimer that at the shows conclusion you
will be asked for donations to help with the purchase of food etc. Its a
liberating experience to Pay What You Can / Pay What You Think Its Worth.
Putting on a Free Fringe show is often the most financially viable way to do
the Fringe, so dont dismiss it as an indicator of quality.|
|For a cheapo show (student/amateur or the like)
youll be looking at approx £5-6. A number
of shows have discounts too, with reduced prices during their previews, and 2 for 1
deals on 5 and 6 August. Theres also a lovely Virgin
Money Half Price Hut that sells last minute tickets on the day of
performance for certain shows (you have to go in person). Group discounts and
family tickets are also available, as are general concession prices. |
The average ticket is probably about £10, so youll want to be reasonably sure of quality before forking out £15 plus.
|The biggest and most established shows do reach
up to £50 and have the large auditoriums and high production values to reflect
Getting a full flavour of the Fringe means leaving yourself a fair amount of time to be spontaneous theres always something you can join in on last minute. However, to make the most of your time, it is worth doing some planning. Timetable has connotations of school and excessively organised administrative fiends, but for all that I beg you not to dismiss it. Bear in mind the following:
Most shows at the Fringe are an hour long. All listings and most reviews put running times down. Shows start at about 10am and go on until midnight.
A word of warning: most peoples eyes are bigger than their legs. The city of Edinburgh is quite a bit bigger than it seems on the Ed Fringe guide map. Its also much more difficult to navigate than youd have thought, with cheeky labyrinths of streets that arent accessible from streets they totally seem to be connected to. Leaving twice as long as you think (on average 45 minutes) to get to each venue is recommended. Walking is the standard mode of transport and so much is pedestrianised that Im not sure taxis or buses save you that much time.
Theres obviously no right or wrong answer here, but its probably fair to say that performers generally see a show a day (on top of flyering and performing in their own), that the average punter will take in three, and that the hard core will aim for five (possibly moving up to the dizzy heights of six or seven if they are inordinately organised and have an insatiable theatrical appetite).
How long is a piece of string? It depends what you want
from your Fringe experience, but Id say that if you know theres something
specific youre desperate to see, definitely book it up. NB: as the Fringe
progresses, it becomes more necessary to book in advance.
When you go up there youll be besieged by people giving
you recommendations of amazing finds and its really pretty gutting if you
cant go and see something because your schedule is too choc a bloc. Theres
also something very exhilarating about wandering down the Royal Mile, being
given a flyer or seeing an awesome snippet from a show being performed live,
and using that to determine what youre going to see.
The general feeling about the Fringe experience is that its all about taking the good with the bad. Its this openness to seeing new things that makes it such a special place to be. So, if youre able to (retrospectively at least) laugh about the totally horrendous moment when you were privy to something horribly unsuitable, when you were bored to tears, or when you sat for a whole hour with your mouth actually wide open in disbelief that anything could be that bad, you might find those moments are some of the most memorable from your trip.
Join us on twitter to find out our daily EdFringe recommendations. Share your top tips too.
To really make the most of the Fringe, Id recommend taking tips from some of the most trusted reviewing authorities, but also taking a punt and taking the advice of some smaller ones. Variety is the spice of life and nowhere is this more true than at the Fringe. The Fringe programme and edfringe website has sections dedicated to Cabaret, Childrens Shows, Comedy, Dance and Physical Theatre, Events, Exhibitions, Music, Musicals and Operas, Spoken Word as well as Theatre, so dont limit yourself. Youll find different reviewing bodies focus on certain sections of these, so to ensure you get your quota for variety, take advice from lots of them.
Generally speaking, the reviewing big dogs cover shows that fall into the Festival part of the month, rather than the Fringe. Edinburghs Scotsman, the Metro, Three Weeks, Whats On Stage, The Guardian, Independent and Stage all focus on covering professional, bigger-budget productions, though they may also get round to some smaller productions that have a buzz going. The shows reviewed by these publications are often in larger venues and are more expensive.
Lyn Gardner (Guardian theatre critic) is especially good at dipping more than a toe into the Fringes talent pool, so look out for anything she recommends. The smaller websites and papers will also focus on seeking out the up and coming talent that's less well established. These smaller-scale productions are often tucked away in Edinburghs cubbyholes but showcase much more exciting writing, directorial and acting talent than anything in the big shows. Because they're in intimate spaces and a bit cheaper, these are normally the most exhilirating and powerful experiences. Broadway Baby, The List, Fest Magazine, Fringe Review and Fringe Guru are all worth checking out, and EdFringeReview does a sterling job focusing on all those shows (student, amateur and free) that are often marginalised, but can show talent at its very rawest.
Leave yourself a good few hours to wander the Royal Mile, a fully pedestrianised street in the very heart of Edinburgh that encompasses the variety and spirit of the Fringe. You will be besieged by cast members handing out flyers, so if you need to get from A to B in any other speed than 'amble' choose a different route. Marketing approaches range from the bizarre to the fabulous: some perform excerpts from their shows; others use innovative shock-factor tactics. Flyerers will be costumed up to the nines and street artists line the pavement. Its something of a spectacle.
A hill with panoramic views of the city of Edinburgh, this is a short walk away from the centre of the city and a lovely way to get a bit of fresh (and windy) Scottish air.
Radio Forth on the Fringe (the largest showcase event of Fringe entertainment during the Festival) and Edinburgh's largest comedy event the Comedy Gala. It also has its own Fringe events: Sean Lock comes to the main stage 4-5 August and The Boards welcomes Michael Griffiths as he performs Madonna: In Vogue, 8-17 August - a timely little number considering that it's now 30 years since Madonna released her first album.
Based only a stones throw from Princes Street, the International Book Festival with its family-friendly programme, cheaper tickets and the promise of a gentle escape from the mania of the Fringe is well worth making time for.
This hour and a half event takes place between the 2-24 August. Music, dancing, marching military and an epic firework display makes for quite the experience.