Feel the vibe, follow the buzz of Edinburgh's Fringe

22:35, Sep 22 2009
Feel the vibe and buzz of the Edinburgh Fringe
TUBULAR: Performers from The Aluminum Show are seen in the Royal Mile during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Imagine a play that has only five audience members – and five actors.

The hint comes in the blurb – five actors looking for a partner.

Internal is a conceptual piece by the Belgian company, Ontroerend Goed, and the second part in a proposed trilogy playing with ideas of intimacy. Smile Off Your Face was the first instalment.

I won't say anything more – it would ruin it for future audiences. But let's just say some have found it confronting, while others liberating and even romantic.

It was one of the shows I most enjoyed at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which running concurrently with the International Festival, is a mad time of rushing from one show to the next from early in the morning till early the next morning.

At one point I actually ran up the hill to get from the premiere of the Traverse Theatre production of The Last Witch to a cabaret show by Irish singer Camille O'Sullivan. It was worth it.


Edinburgh audiences very politely do what they're told and queue outside for every show – giving me a few more panting minutes to get there.

My weekend started with the Best of Scottish Comedy at the Stand Comedy Club, then continued on the Saturday morning with a poetry reading at the Book Festival – much more refined than the night before.

The poets reading their work and answering questions from poetry fans were Australian Peter Porter, New Zealander CK Stead and Englishman Hugo Williams.

Australians featured heavily at the Fringe, including comedians Wil Anderson, Felicity Ward and Dave Thornton, and rock and roll comedy band Axis of Awesome, who perform original comedy songs and pop parodies with a high-energy rock theme to the show.

Their show Infinity Rock Explosion almost sold out its 25-show season. They also had guest spots at comedy venues in Edinburgh.

Another Aussie hit was dance and physical theatre group Circa, which was both funny and beautiful.

Others included Tom Tom Crew, Mikelangelo and The Black Seed Gentlemen and This Side Up's Controlled Falling Project.

Award winners included Little Gem at the Traverse which won a Carol Tambor Award for a run in New York. Horizon Arts, one of the UK's most dynamic young theatre companies is bringing Heroin(e) for Breakfast to Adelaide next year, while the main comedy award went to a comedian

oet Tim Key.

Booked out for weeks ahead but worth it just for the splendour of the show is the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, held on the forecourt of the dramatic Edinburgh Castle.

It runs for six nights a week for three weeks during the summer and was conceived in 1950 as the Army in Scotland's contribution to Edinburgh's festivals. Now each year around 217,000 people come to see the Tattoo and it has a television audience of around 100 million worldwide.

The show also has international bands and performers. This year they included the Australian Federal Police from Canberra, Royal Corps of Musicians from Tonga, the 90-strong She Huo cultural troupe from Edinburgh's twin city of Xi'an and the Top Secret Drum Corps from the Swiss city of Basel.

The Tattoo paid tribute to the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scottish poet Robert Burns – most well known here for Auld Lang Syne.

Scottish writer Rona Munro's new play, The Last Witch, is based on the true story of the last woman to be burned as a witch in Scotland.

The harrowing but poetic play had its world premiere as part of the International Festival, as a co-production with the Traverse Theatre.

Not quite as mainstream but extremely popular this year were The Chippendales at the Gilded Balloon – male strippers from Las Vegas. But the audience was more entertaining – all women dressed in pink feather boas, wigs and even masks, who can deafen you with their screaming.

There's also exhibitions, free shows, music in the pubs and VIP bars and a wonderful, friendly atmosphere.

You don't need to book for shows before you go to Edinburgh (except for the Tattoo). It's better to listen to the buzz when you get there, peruse the daily guide or take a chance at one of the thousands of shows advertised in flyers handed out to you as you roam the Golden Mile, enjoying the buskers and party vibe.

Some tips for the Fringe:

Assembly Rooms is an upmarket venue with lots of interesting theatre pieces and big comedy names.

Underbelly is mainly comedy.

Pleasance usually has some great up-and-coming theatre pieces and comedy.

Gilded Balloon has lots of comedy, children's theatre and cabaret.

The Traverse company is an absolute must with the best theatre every year (including this year's Internal).

Best festival bars:

Underbelly – go and have a drink underground there and sit in an old bank vault.

Assembly Rooms Members Bar or Gilded Balloon VIP Loft Bar – if you can get passes – lots of the celebs hang out there.

Any Edinburgh pub – ask the locals and performers for tips for best music.


Edinburgh International Festival

Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Edinburgh International Book Festival

BritRail Pass products – which are not available in the UK – must be purchased from BritRail.

The passes are a convenient and economical way to explore Britain where the rail network, with over 19,000 daily train departures, allows access to 2500 destinations in England, Scotland and Wales.

For holiday information visit Edinburgh.orgor Visitscotland.com.

* The writer was a guest of Visit Scotland and Singapore Airlines.