Singing Puppets, Baboon Operas and Men in Tights: The Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Singing puppets, baboon operas and men in tights: This is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013.

Picture the scene: I am sitting in the corner of a Starbucks just outside the centre of Edinburgh with a small decaf Mocha Frappechino, an (as of yet) untouched Rocky Road and my iPad, waiting for my friends to return from their seventh hour long performance at the fringe and I’m trying really hard not to get marshmallow on the screen (the rocky road didn’t stay untouched for long). All around me I can hear similar conversations repeating phrases such as ‘we have to see that, it got four stars from Broadway baby’, and ‘we’ve got flyering at ten’ or ‘that show was really weird’. All over Edinburgh people are discussing the shows they’ve seen, from theatre to comedy to spoken word, and it’s hard to imagine this place without the fringe because, for these few weeks in August, it seems to be the only thing happening in the world. The only thing I can compare it to is the university bubble…but bigger…and more exciting.

I’m staying quite far out. The company I tagged along with (my friends and boyfriend are putting on Jim Cartwright’s ‘Road’ for two weeks. #shamelessplug) are staying at Queen Margaret Univerisity in Musselburgh, a short, but frustratingly infrequent, eight minute train journey away from central Edinburgh. The temptation of the late shows at the fringe has caused, more often than not, the necessity to take the night bus in the early hours of the morning, leading to an unfortunate occasion near the beginning of my stay. After realising we didn’t actually know where to get off the bus, an hour long walk at one o’clock in the morning through empty parks and alleyways with two dead phone batteries was not exactly what I pictured when imagining the Fringe experience. But the rest of my short week and three days here has more than proved that the fringe experience was definitely worth the £80, five hour long train journey up here.


 “The only thing I can compare it to is the university bubble…but bigger…and more exciting.” 

It is expensive. Unless you already live close by, it’s going to cost you a lot to get here, so book well in advance to avoid pricey last minute train fares. Accommodation isn’t too hard to find. I know plenty of people that have found excellent accommodation just a few weeks ahead of their performance dates, but be prepared to fork out for anything good. It’s costing me £80 for just over a week staying in student accommodation outside of Edinburgh, which is nothing really, but rumour has it that the luxury of an ensuite, or even just having your own room is hard to come by during the fringe, particularly at such low prices. The best advice I could give you would be to try and get some kind of student accommodation, as this pretty much guarantees a fairly large kitchen and at least a room to yourself. Another piece of advice is to avoid the temptation to eat out all the time. Edinburgh has some wonderful restaurants and, believe me, I’ve sampled too many to mention considering my short stay, but I have also spent about three times the amount of money I had planned to spend when a quick trip to Tescos and some careful time planning could save you a small fortune.


But enough about money, the fringe is about the shows, and boy have I seen some shows. You just need to have a flick through the fringe guide to get an idea for the extensiveness and variety at the fringe. In just over a week, to name just a few, I have seen a restoration comedy, a burlesque show, the Cambridge Footlights, a musical about some interns, the amazing ‘Avenue Q’, several famous stand-up comedians and an opera Macbeth set in Africa starring a tribe of baboons. You can’t get much better than that. It’s exhausting, I’ll give you that, and sometimes it’s just a little bit tempting to have a lie in, but when your choice of things to do in a day includes award winning comedians and acclaimed theatrical productions, it’s hard to stay in bed.


Last night I saw a film noir spoof and an amazing but grueling production of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’. Tonight I will be seeing an improvised silent ‘movie’ and Rich Hall’s stand up show (yay 2 for 1 tickets!), which I’m staying an extra night just to see. This really has been one of the best weeks ever, and I absolutely cannot wait to come again next year. (I’m already planning which shows to see!) All in all, I can’t recommend it highly enough. So see you next year!


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Copyright of The Student Wordsmith, Kathryn King and Sophie-Louise Hyde, 2013.