Thursday, 6 August 2015

The Madness Begins Again

The Festival begins late this year. Technically its first day is today (Friday, I'm publishing this so late at night that I have entered tomorrow, like a cider-fuelled Dr. Who) but in reality the Wednesday and Thursday beforehand are full of 'preview' shows.

Nevertheless the insanity starts even earlier for those of us who live here. Last weekend I was out dancing until 5am, an unusual situation because : I was dancing, I was out on a weekend (a grim thought for anyone who does not work Mon-Fri and so doesn't actually HAVE to do that every week like ritual flagellation) and the club I was in was open until 5am. The latter is one of the advantages of living here - the clubs get their August late-licence at least a few days before the Festival hordes arrive. I think this is an attempt to placate the young and drive the old so far into despair that they are beyond complaining.

As always happens with the Festival Edinburgh's cultural gravitational pull becomes unstoppable and one or another of my old friends will be dragged in. In this case my friends who got married at the start of last year, though as the female half of the coupling only stayed a few days they have decided to celebrate their one year anniversary by spending a month apart. If only all marriages were conducted at such a sensible distance.

Disaster struck, though, when the Powers-That-Be on his production went insane and threw his wife out onto the street. How fortunate that myself and The Moose have forsaked bohemian convention and do have a sofa and not just a string of bean-bags - she found safe haven with us. This is indicitive of another thing that always happens at the Festival - minor crises. I guarantee that almost every show you see will have a crisis somewhere behind the scenes. Maybe a major player is suffering from a bout of flu so bad they might succumb to zombification at any moment, maybe someone is in the middle of a crisis of faith while performing a show about how great/awful God is, maybe - as is happening to a show on euthanasia - Edinburgh City Council have taken an unreasonable dislike and are trying to censor it. Whatever the case may be, at least 50% of the shows you see have as much drama off the stage as they do on it. Maybe more in the case of particularly bad but particularly chaotic actors.

Visiting friends dispatched into the ether and embracing the chaos of the Festival, The Moose and I went to see John Hannah in 'Titanic Orchestra'. I can tell you that it is a wonderful show, while not wanting to give away too much it is as though Godot turns up in 'Waiting for Godot'. John Hannah also does some magic tricks, including a magical ability to make an American accent sound Scottish. Or maybe the opposite. Accents abound, in fact, in this highly entertaining piece of knowing Fringe theatre. Also, when and where else are you going to get to see a genuine A-list star pretend to be a drunk Harry Houdini? Nowhere, obviously. This is what the Fringe is for and what it does it does exceedingly well.

This post has, of necessity, been frenetic. Leaping from drunken dancing to friends in crisis to Holywood stars pulling eggs from their mouth (yes, yes he does). That is what the start of the Fringe is like for those who live within its maelstrom. From the outside, especially those outside Edinburgh, it purrs and sputters into life like a motorbike. For us it flashes intensely like a nuclear bomb and  before you know it you're reduced to ash. Ash and witty one-liners. This is the spirit of the Fringe, a burning sacrifice of sanity made every year in some sort of Dionysian fervor. I wouldn't have it any other way. I couldn't have it any other way. I'm not allowed to have it any other way.

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