7 Things You Absolutely Must/Must Not Do At #EdFringe (Which You Were/Weren’t Going to Do Anyway)
So you’re heading up the Edinburgh Fringe to watch some comedy? That’s brilliant! But there’s no need to rub it in. This is the first year I won’t be going to the Fringe in 5 years (not because I don’t want to, but due to a wider issue of generalised life derailment). In the past I’ve attended just to watch or to work on shows, and one year I even performed in my own sketch show. Through these experiences I’ve accrued a small handful of painfully obvious tips which I’d like to share with you now. These will give you an almost negligible head start when visiting the biggest arts festival in the world.
1. Be Brave!
Don’t just stick to the big venues, give the Free Fringe a try as well. Yes, it’s possible you’ll encounter some quirky venues. Yes, The Caves are actual caves, and yes, they will be damp and chilly and smell a bit. But that’s to be expected — they are caves after all! Sometimes a bizarre location can really make a show special. Police boxes, rickshaws, a former brewery and a beach have all been used as Fringe venues in the past — it could make the show a bit weird, or it make it wonderful! Keep an open mind and you’ll get so much more out of the Fringe.
Plus, you’ll be encouraging some newbie comedians who couldn’t afford to be in the bigger venues. The venue for my sketch show was in the basement of a (now defunct) pub. I could tell it was a bit off the beaten path because when the owner opened it up for me, instead of reaching for a key she picked up a blunt instrument and nonchalantly hammered the door inwards. So, a big thanks to the audience members who braved that venue to see my show!
2. Cash money
Normally the last thing I would recommend is carrying actual physical cash around like some sort of Victorian banker. But having lots of low denomination cash on your person will enable you to pop into a Free Fringe show on a whim and actually contribute some money at the end. Sadly, Free Fringe venues haven’t caught up with the modern world and installed chip and pin payment, let alone contactless. They utilize the time-old method of passing around a bucket. Tip: don’t drop your debit card into the bucket like you would at a restaurant, it isn’t as cute as you think it is and can lead to extreme anxiety (that bucket moves quickly).
3. Know your Pleasance
For God’s sake, you’d think I’d learn, but it seems to be inevitable that I’ll get this wrong at least one time each Fringe. There is more than one Pleasance venue (same for Underbelly & The Assembly) and the two venues are about a 10min walk away from each other. Thinking you are in the right place only to realise you need to dash across town is the Edinburgh equivalent of being RickRolled, except without the consolation of getting to listen to 80s music. Double check the venue of your next show with more than 10 minutes to spare, and don’t click on hyperlinks you aren’t sure about. Then you should be absolutely fine. On a related note, wear comfy shoes and take a map with you at ALL times. Edinburgh is beautiful, but you’ll soon find that the maze of roads and their varying height levels make it more like a Tomb Raider level than a festival campus.
4. Drive Bys
If you hear a loud bang each night at about 10pm, the chances are that it is cannons firing during the Edinburgh Tattoo rather than gang warfare. Just to put your mind at rest…
5. The Royal Mile
There will be lots (and I mean lots) and lots of flyerers and people doing strange things to publicize their shows on The Royal Mile. There may also be a man dressed as Predator — do not be alarmed by this. He’s usually there. If you don’t like large crowds, it may be best to avoid this bit of the Festival. Back when I was publicising my show we had the mad idea of giving out rubber ducks and Duplo with our flyers. The ducks and Duplo were show-appropriate, but I soon realised they would only attract an audience of 5-year-olds (not show-appropriate). Needless to say, a crowd of children reluctantly being given rubber ducks will not be the strangest thing you’ll encounter on the Royal Mile or in the Meadows.
6. When it goes wrong
Ok, so you don’t like the show you’re seeing. In fact, you think it’s crap. You’re probably right. It is rushed and under-written, and it lacks energy. You are probably tempted to walk out… but please don’t. The performers will inevitably be a little distracted at this stage of the festival by an internal voice constantly questioning all of their life choices. You probably didn’t pay too much to see this show and hey — you got to see the inside of a cave, didn’t you? That was fun. Imagine if you stormed out of the show now and then later found out that the performance was being filmed? There’s nothing worse for a performer to watch back than an audience member running away. (With the possible exception of when I filmed my sketch show and managed to place the camera right next to the projector. All that can be heard on the playback is a terrifying, loud engine noise drowning everything else out. Historians may well look back on the footage and wonder why someone was performing a no-budget sketch show inside a rocket to the moon).
7. See the Castle!
I’ve never been to the bloody castle. Can you believe it? Unless you are trying to see as many shows as possible for work-related reasons, be careful not to pack too many shows in. It can be surprisingly exhausting seeing too much comedy. Take care of yourselves.
Enjoy comedy responsibly. And have a brilliant Fringe! x