The Edinburgh Fringe Festival

I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to many different film, music and arts festivals, whether it be with a film, a family member, to volunteer or just for fun. I recently attended the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland and it was one of the most phenomenal things I've been able to experience. There is no doubt that the festival lives up to its' title as "The largest arts festival in the world." There were thousands of talented acts all around, from the buskers out in the open on the Royal Mile, to theatre groups performing in hotel conference rooms, to musicians filling up concert venues and blowing everyone away with their wonderful sounds. 

I was at the festival for a week and saw four or five shows each day. The coolest thing about the Fringe is that all of the talent filled performers hang out on the Royal Mile to promote their shows and they also see many shows. They're so lovely and happy to talk to you, which makes the experience that much better.

Each show was great in one way or another, but there were some that really stood out to me. One of the first shows I saw was The Odyssey: An Epic Musical Epic, performed by kids between the ages of twelve and sixteen. They did a really good job. Most of them were onstage the entire time and they kept the show going with humour, high amounts of energy and good musical numbers. How To Succeed In Business Without Even Trying was another musical I really enjoyed. All the actors were extremely talented, not only at acting, but they were also great vocalists and dancers. This was a very cute play with the perfect blend of comedy and drama which made the entire thing enjoyable to watch. I also saw Agamemnon, which was performed in a bunker by a trio who was also putting on the productions Macbeth and Morgana. That was really good.

Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb story, base on a a true story of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, nicknamed the "thrill killers" who committed the murder of a boy in 1924 with the reasoning of committing the perfect crime. The story starts out with the brilliant Danny Colligan playing Leopold, facing the Parole Board once again, telling the details of the tragic crime. The rest of the story is told through flashbacks. The actors did a magnificent job portraying a sick, manipulative couple, each getting their thrills from one habit or another and willing to do whatever it takes to get those thrills. Danny Colligan did a great job of making me cringe in my seat at the end of it.

Another musical I thoroughly enjoyed was based off of one of my favorite books, The Picture of Dorian Gray. It was such a cool and well put together production. We were taken up to a hotel conference room and we stood in the middle of the room as the actors moved around and through the audience, interacting with us as part of their performance. Each side of the wall was a different room in the story and there were live musicians scoring the entire thing. For those of you who aren't familiar with the book, there is a censored and an uncensored version. In the censored version, all the the homophobic content has been removed. One reason I really liked this production was because they did the uncensored version of the book which took me and many others by surprise. Each character was played by the perfect actor for the part. Each, exactly how I had pictured them while reading the book. Henry was just as troublesome and slimy as I had imagined, Basil just as fragile, Sibyl Vane with the same exact beauty and innocence, and Dorian Gray just as mysterious. Another amazing thing was how close the actual portrait resembled the actor who played Dorian. It was an incredible work of art. Everything about this play was fantastic.

I saw some pretty great comedians at the Fringe as well. I saw Henry Paker who had me in tears during his bit about the sex appeal of someone who plays the flute vs. someone who playes the guitar. Cal Wilson was another hilarious comedian who encorporated her feminism into her skits. She did her act on her alter egos which she could have turne out to be today, one being an uptight feminist librarian who writes poetry about men. "Men. Beautiful. But I don't want one in my mouth" - a quote from one of her lovely poems. She was pretty great. I also saw Barbara Nice whose show was based on squirrels. She was a character, super funny and bizarre woman and definitely worth seeing.

Now onto the music side of things, I saw some amazing shows and performers at the Fringe, starting with buskers. My first day at the festival, I stood and listened to Tom Ward play his classical guitar for about a half an hour with a crowd of people. His fingers moved around the frets so smoothly and created such beautiful melodies I could have stood and listened to for hours on end. Simeon Baker was another busker I could have stood and listened to for hours and hours. He laid his acoustic guitar on his lap, tapping and playing it like a slide guitar. He had taken songs from artists like Michael Jackson and arranged them for his instrument remarkebly and entertained a big group of us on the Royal Mile. I was quite disappointed when his set ended.

One show I saw and was impressed with was Joe Stilgoe: Songs on Film. Joe Stilgoe took the stage in an awesome venue which was completely packed and played the piano whilst singing songs from films for almost two hours. He played songs from movies like Toy Story 2 to Footloose to Melody in May. He was accompanied by a bassist and a drummer. The bassist was absolutely killer. He played upright bass for most of the show and switched to electric bass at the end. He was so so good and just rocked out at both without missing a note. Joe belted out his show tune perfect voice beautifully. He sounded like he could belong in The Rat Pack with Sinatra back in the 60s. I said hello to Joe and the bassist after and bought a cd, they were so lovely. My favorite part of the show was when the three gentlemen came to the front of the stage and sang "It Had To Be You" with just the bassist playing his instrument. It was great.

The coolest show I saw was probably Glen Matlock, who talked about his time working as a Sex Pistol and touring with Iggy Pop. He had some incredible stories, my favorite being that while he was rehearsing with Iggy, someone would always be missing to go and drink, so Iggy just stocked the rehearsal space with so much alcohol that none of the musicians had to leave anymore. He also played songs he wrote with The Sex Pistols, Iggy, and his own songs. He played "God Save The Queen" with just his acoustic guitar and his voice which rocked. I met him after as well and bought a cd. I was amazing.

I saw one puppet show, Boris and Sergey's Astonishing Freakatorium, which was probably the funniest and most entertaining puppet show I've ever seen.

The Fringe was really awesome and I would definitely recommend anyone who has never been to go next year. It is something everyone should experience at least once.

August 31, 2014