The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has kicked off for another year and with more than 2400 shows on offer throughout the month of August, including comedy, theatre, dance, musicals, exhibitions and events, one can easily feel both blessed and overwhelmed by the largest arts festival in the world.
As always, the Fringe attracts some of the biggest names in the field while offering opportunities for newer performers to showcase their art form or simply workshop their ideas. The diversity of the program is reflected in the diversity of the audiences that flock to Edinburgh this time every year.
To truly get the Fringe experience, the most important thing to remember as a visitor is to take risks. Try out shows whose names are less familiar. Or better yet, venture into a genre you wouldn’t normally see. With affordable tickets and a plethora of shows to choose from, you could very well discover something new in the arts or about yourself.
While Edinburgh’s offerings allow visitors to line up one show after another, don’t forget to take the time to simply wander the streets, soaking up the atmosphere of the festival. Street performers, human statues and even the people handing out flyers in their droves (many get quite creative in their bid to win attention) all add to the colour, vibrancy and noise of the city and the experience.
It’s hard to ignore that the city of Edinburgh itself is on show, audaciously refusing to get lost amidst the frenzy of the festival. How can it, with such a dramatic landscape and, not to mention, imposing castle dominating the city? If ever you need a break from the bustle or from the rain, simply duck into the National Galleries of Scotland and perhaps spend an hour with the Impressionists. A number of guided walks of the city – from costumed to historic – also feature in this year’s Fringe program and are well worth checking out. Many are free to join.
One of my favourite shows at this year’s Fringe is Spontaneous Broadway. An Australian improvisation group, the seasoned cast and orchestra (ok, piano and percussion, but they’re very good) perform musical numbers on the spot based on song titles suggested by the audience. What takes place over the next hour are unpredictable plots, clever songs, and hilarious antics that will have you begging for more. On opening night, we heard about a check-out chick’s lost panties and entered the world of weight loss camp “Chubbyland”. I simply had to return to see the show again later in the week and was, subsequently, convinced that this quick-thinking team of artists really do improvise EVERYTHING on the spot, as the audience that night was transported to a circus love triangle, a musical about optometry and a rather awkward moment in the bedroom. The cast of Spontaneous Broadway are versatile, talented and a lot of fun, and indeed set the bar for the calibre of talent at this year’s Fringe Festival.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs from 6 to 30 August 2010.
Spontaneous Broadway is showing until 29 August, 5pm at The Famous Spiegeltent (not Mondays).