Recipe for awesome

1 wife
2 best friends
4 beds
5 days in Edinburgh in August
1 Edinburgh Fringe Festival show guide
Tickets to as many shows as you can afford
A good list of free shows around the place, to fill in the gaps.

James and MikiI spent 5 days of the week before last in Edinburgh having a complete blast at the fringe festival with Jaime and 2 of my friends from high school – James and Miki. I really can’t recommend the fringe festival highly enough – if you haven’t been, put it on your list of things to do before you die. I want to go back next year for longer, if I can just figure out how.

We saw a bunch of awesome shows, and some hilariously bad stuff that I still enjoyed immensely. I think the pot luck aspect of picking a few shows at random is an important part of the fun. I’ve been trying to choose a Pick of the Fest since we got back, but failed. In the end, I’m calling it a draw between 3 shows: The Expert at the Card Table, Dead Cat Bounce Late Night Radio and Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams. If you get a chance to see any of them somewhere else in the world, jump at it!

The Expert at the Card Table is a one man show by Guy Hollingworth. Guy tells a compelling and wonderfully choreographed story of the origin of card tricks, while demonstrating a range of tricks and techniques.

Dead Cat Bounce, Late Night Radio is a show done by 4 guys out of Trinity College recreating a golden-age radio show, complete with foley, songs and a bunch of great jokes. Impressive stuff from some quite young guys that I’m keen to catch again elsewhere.

Sammy J is an Australian comedian that I hadn’t seen before. We picked the show purely on the basis of it mentioning puppets in the description. A fantastic 2-man show (Sammy J, and the puppeteer) with some good laughs. It’s fun to see an adult show featuring puppets.

We were really lucky with our accomodation choice. Jaime spent hours compiling a list of hotels and hostel options for us to choose. By the time we actually went to pick one 3 days later, all those options had booked out or doubled in price! Luckily, a new hostel had just opened up, and it worked out really well – University dorm accomodation vacated by the students for the summer break, right in the middle of town, at a great price.

Wednesday: Arrived in Edinburgh. Found hostel. Picked up a nice stack of tickets to shows from the ticket office. Hung out in the hostel until James & Miki arrived, and then kicked off our festival experience with Frank Woodley‘s one man show Possessed, which was hilarious despite (because of) him dropping out of character and ad-libbing quite a bit. In the evening, the La Clique circus in the lovely Spiegeltent venue. La Clique was a great show, as we’d expected from the reviews.

Ginger and BlackThursday: Ate a hearty Scottish breakfast at a local pub. Explored the city a bit, and went to some free shows at the Counting House. Marcel Lucont, Ginger & Black and Dean Scurry were the best of. Met up with Miki’s friends for dinner, and then went to a random choice: “Meli Melo 2”, which turned out to be 4 french men parodying about 50 different dancing styles in a dizzying array of costumes. Afterward, met some of James’ work colleagues (in town for the night) for drinks, and then braved the 2am Late-Night standup – back at the Counting House. The atmosphere was strained – only about 10 of us in the room, and 6 of those drunk and abusive. Headed back to the hostel about 3am.

Taming Of The ShrewFriday: Slept in ’til midday, and then off to Shakespeare in the park – The Taming of the Shrew, performed by the Pantaloons. Some more exploring of the city and enjoying the myriad of street performances. We took another punt on a random show and bought half price tickets to Happyland. It turned out to be an enthusiastic musical with a somewhat disappointing storyline, but still worth the 4£ to see 🙂 Jaime arrived in the night, just in time to go to The Best Of The Fest and see Phil Nichol, Neil Delamere, Matt Kirshen, Jimeoin (who Australians will know) and Gamarjobat make us laugh ourselves silly for 2 hours.

Moonlight over the cathedralAfterward, we wandered back up the hill toward the hostel, and I tried unsuccessfully to capture the lovely effect of the moon through the clouds without a tripod.

Military TattooSaturday: Started quite late with Rich Hall‘s “50 cent words” – reading pieces from some of his books and short stories. It got a few lukewarm reviews, but I enjoyed listening to him vocalise his writing. After, Clive James In Conversation, interviewing Armando Iannucci about his life, British television, the evolution of comedy on TV and some random questions from the audience (Organic or GM, anyone?). A really quick dinner, and then Jaime and I went to the last night of the Military Tattoo at the castle.

After that, The Axis of Awesome (quite good Australian musical comedy trio) and Dead Cat Bounce Late Night Radio – one of my Best of Show picks 🙂 Rather than head straight back to bed at 1am, we decided to try the Late Night Stand-up again, which turned out to be a good choice. The room was a lot livelier (and therefore funnier) than Thursday night, with a mostly-different set of comedians and jokes 🙂

Sunday: Last day. Miki got up early and left us all sleeping to catch her flight back to Sweden. Jaime, James and I checked out about 10am, and went to Back To The Future: The Pantomime, which was thoroughly pantomimical and had plenty of Back To The Future as promised, but I still can’t decide if I liked it or not. James had to leave us at that point too, which was a bit of a shame because 2 of the best shows were yet to come.

To be honest, we originally picked The Expert At The Card Table on the basis that it was directed by Neil Patrick Harris, who we both find hilarious (Dr Horrible, anyone?). I’m really glad we did, because it turns out that not only is he a really good director, but Guy Hollingworth is a great actor and one of a select group of people on the planet who could pull this show off. The drama was built really well, and the card tricks blended perfectly to create a really nice piece of magical theatre.

After that, it was off to our final show – Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams, which I mentioned above. A great way to finish our trip to the Edinburgh Fringe.

I can’t wait for next year 🙂