Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Beyond the Fringe - the Edinburgh Festival

When I was in the 6th form in the early 196o's our excellent English teacher, bent on exposing us to as many interesting experiences as possible, brought the vinyl LP (long playing record to the uninitiated) of "Beyond the Fringe" for us to listen to and learn from. At that point in my sheltered life, I'd never heard of the Edinburgh Fringe, part of the Edinburgh Festival, let alone heard a recording of a comedy revue with slightly risque jokes in it. It starred Peter Cook and Dudley Moore who had performed at the Fringe and had taken their show on to the West End stage. We 6th formers loved it, shutting ourselves in the 6th form room, which was in a separate building to the rest of the school, and listening to it at break times. It could be that this early exposure to these mildly suggestive but hugely entertaining jokes whetted my appetite for stand up comedy, now very sharp and a lot more edgy than anything that was heard in the early 60's (especially at school!).

Street theatre, Edinburgh Festival
I've recently been to the Edinburgh Fringe as daughter requested a trip there for her birthday weekend. It turned out to be a "girls only" trip and yes, we did we have a lot of fun! Edinburgh at Festival time is packed and heaving. Free street theatre events take place in Princes Street Gardens, along the Royal Mile and on just about every street corner in the city centre. Promotional leaflets are thrust into your hand as you amble along enjoying the ambience and absolutely anything goes, from men 12 feet high on stilts, to fire jugglers, wild African drumming, bagpipes playing traditional Scottish melodies, Vietnamese musical groups, barber shop quartets singing and near-naked men performing stunts and balancing acts.

We enjoyed everything from the sacred to the profane! Harking back to the influence of my English teacher, I noticed that "Murder in the Cathedral" by T.S.Eliot was being performed in one of the churches, so we went to see this. Daughter, who has done a 2 year drama foundation course, loved it and having always liked it when I was studying it for A level, I enjoyed and appreciated the poetry of the language and the sheer drama of the story all over again.

Sitting room on Britannia
Something not to be missed was a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia, now decomissioned and a great tourist attraction. Amazing to see how modestly it was furnished, with lots of chintz and a very 1950's feel to it. The sailors, many of them the band of the Royal Marines who provided the music on State visits abroad, had less living space than wardrobe space; their bandsman's uniforms had to be immaculate at all times.

We went to the FREE all-day event on the Sunday where at the Meadows (large green open space in the city) you can sample many of the acts on offer. There are marquees for music, theatre and comedy, plus many spontaneous events taking place wherever you look.

Staring off in the theatre marquee, we saw an extract from a very amusing one-woman show which we'd have gone to had we not already booked for something else (timing and choice of events to go to can prove difficult). We moved on the comedy marquee, hung around in the standing part for a while then when seats became free we nabbed them. They were on the front row so we did get a bit of gentle ribbing thrown our way from time to time, but we also had nearly 3 hours of laughter too! We also learned a bit of method-style acting from one of the acts - how to look/be intense and irresistible. See the slide show below for pics of us that evening trying this out when we were in the Pleasance courtyard queueing to get into the show we'd booked for!

By some fluke also ended up on the front row for this show with comedian Michael McIntyre. This time we were spared - he picked on the woman sitting next to Abby as she'd brought her young sons aged 9 and 12 to see his show (an adult show, starting at 9pm - had she really thought this one through??) He had to to trim his act a bit and resorted to euphemisms in a couple of jokes, but I've since heard him on BBC Radio 4 at 6.30 pm presenting acts from the Fringe, and he's told several of the gags we heard, which on TV would not pass the 9pm watershed.

To balance things out and lace our trip with some culture, we did go to the Impressionists exhibition at the National Gallery of Scotland, and back to the church where we saw "Murder in the Cathedral" for Evensong on Sunday for the music that was being performed. Daughter enjoyed a birthday lunch and we took pot luck that day and went to the Half Price Hut, where you can buy reduced tickets for a show that's being performed that day. We chose "Elvis Hates Me", a drama. Weird was the word! But it's all part of the Festival experience to go to something totally unknown and see what you get. In its favour, there was some good acting involved. Then it was time for a quick dash back to Waverley Station to get the train back home, happy, exhausted and still aching slightly from all the laughing.


Jackie H said...

I was lucky enough to see 'Beyond the Fringe' live and it was the political nature of it that really struck me. It seemed daring then to make fun of well known political figures.

I would love to go to the Edinburgh Festival. We went to see the Klimt exhibition in Liverpool, for their year of culture and really enjoyed that, as we love Art Noveau, although I know it is not everyone's taste. If you do love it Barcelona is the place to visit for the wonderful Gaudi buildings. Another ambition is to see the Mackintosh buildings and art in Glasgow, so it looks like Scotland beckons!

Sandyboots said...

Never been to the Fringe or to Edinburg but have been to Glasgow school of art and seen all the original mackintosh stuff...mind blowing and a very emotional experience as I love CRM.. furniture architecture and design. I love art nouveau in any shape size or form. Also the seccsessionists (?) Love Klimpt. Do you know Hunderwasser?

Jackie H said...

Sandra, I am really jealous that you have seen the Glasgow school of art. Do you mean the Hunderwasser building in Vienna? Have just looked it up on the internet and it looks marvellous and has the same feel as the Gaudi buildings in Barcellona. Now that is on my list of things to see!

We went to the art noveau exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a few years ago. It had everything from furniture, jewellry, art to book illustrations and ceramics and I just wanted it all! We also went to the Art Deco exhibition but although I liked some of the stuff, it doesn't appeal to me as much as Art Noveau. Although I do like Art Deco buildings, a la the Poirot series!

Mellow Yellow said...

What a cultured lot we are! I've not seen the Klimt but have been to the Glasgow School of Art & Barcelona, and I also love Art Nouveau. How about we all go to the Fringe together next year...?!