Sunday, 4 August 2013

Edinburgh Festival Recommendations Pt. 2 By Jane

To quote the Coop ads/Christmas, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Or at least I think it is, in Edinburgh anyway: whilst some residents sharpen their elbows and hunker down for the month, I’m out there swimming in the beer-soused, crowd-milling, flyer-bombing carnival that is the Edinburgh Fringe, which kicked off for another year last week. You would think that such wholehearted marinating in the festival – supplemented by 5 summers’ experience as a Fringe employee – would equip me with a good suite of tips for how best to pan for festival gold – but alas, presented with the tome that is the Fringe programme, like Katey, I’m as clueless as anybody as to how to spend my money and my time wisely.

But I’ve had a crack at some recommendations – mainly stuff I’ve seen in previous years that has come up trumps, or well-reviewed past shows back for another year. Of course this kind of thing is incredibly subjective, so make sure you keep your eyes and ears keenly trained for reviews and word-of-mouth too. Edinburgh Spotlight, The List and Weird Fringe are all good ways to keep your finger on the pulse.

Let’s kick off with comedy, the trickiest beast of them all: I like it silly and non-PC (though not too crass) with the occasional dose of wackiness. The very clever Jim Henson’s Alternative Puppet Up fits the bill nicely – this is the Muppets uncensored, effing and blinding, and almost entirely improvised from audience suggestions. The show I saw featured an X-rated James Bond theme. and a dog and two ear-flipping rabbits doing an off-the-cuff rap on the Edinburgh trams. At £20+ a ticket it is steeeeeeeep but is, dare I say it, worth the hefty price tag– it left me utterly helpless. The Pajama Men are back for another year with their brand of quirky sketch show comedy, as always, masters of timing and delivery. Another tip is the Horne Section, in which comedian Alex Horne and guests create random comedic mayhem, raucously soundtracked by a jazz band. Also on my to do list is Claudia O’Doherty’s Pioneer – I haven’t seen her before, but she comes highly recommended and was nominated for an Edinburgh Comedy Award last year. I’m also hoping to check out he much-lauded improv rap group Abandoman for the first time. And my final nod in this HIGHLY COMPREHENSIVE rundown has to go to ace Canadian stand up Tom Stade, king of taking a joke and running and running with it. He’s one of the only “droll” comedians I’ve seen who actually manages to deliver genuine belly laughs.

I’m keeping this post pretty theatre-lite as it’s something I sadly do very little of during the Fringe, but I’ll be trying out the Shawshank Redemption for sure. It stars Omid Djalili and is written by Owen O’Neill, who has worked with theatre Fringe great Guy Masterson, so it’s likely to be a winner for even the uncultured likes of me.

Those on the hunt for dance and physical theatre will be advised to get their paws on tickets for Bianco, the latest acrobatic offering from the award-winning (and gravity-defying) NoFit State. I was also lucky enough to see a short preview of Knee Deep, and if their show features more incredible stunts like their three person headstand – as in, three people standing on each other’s heads (whilst holding an egg) – then I think I’d be a very merry ticketholder indeed. Don’t forget to also check out the programme of the Edinburgh International Festival ( the Fringe’s posh “highbrow” older sibling though there's a lot of overlap nowadays) - I saw terrific dance performances there last year.

Beyond shows, there’s a boatload of other exciting events taking place during this heady festival month. I am shamelessly doing Pomeranian-style excited whirls on the spot in anticipation of the utterly joyous-sounding Hot Dub Time Machine club night, a time-travelling countdown of some of history’s greatest CHOONS, one from every year, beginning with 1954. Expect to dance the gauntlet from rock and roll to disco to hip hip to indie. Insouciant hipsters and party poopers need not apply; lovers of life, get your tickets quick.

If you’re in the mood for something a mite classier, then try out the Wine Tasting evenings on at the Bon Vivant Companion (where you can say clever things about bouquets smelling like dusky summer evenings and red fruits) or sample gin cocktails a-go-go at the Hendricks Gin Parlour popping up on fair Edinburgh’s cobbles between the 8th and 11th of August.

The HMV Garden is a new pop-up arts, event and exhibition space on Princes Street, with delish coffee from local caffeine purveyors Castello, and looks to be a very nice port in the storm for those in need of a breather from the festival hoards. Make sure you also keep an eye out for “Hello” flags flying from a number of the city's famous buildings, a welcome-to-Auld-Reekie project from Peter Liversidge that’s part of the Edinburgh Art Festival. Being rather sartorially-inclined I'll also be heading along to the Conde Nast exhibition at Summerhall which showcases a century of photographs from the company's most famous titles such as Vanity Fair and Vogue.

Don't forget, if you’re a Fringe first timer, then have a gander at our own Fringe Survival Guide too.

We’d also LOVE to hear your recommendations so if you’ve seen anything that’s great, or not so great, please do leave us a comment below.

Finally, let me also extend a very warm welcome to any visitors to Edinburgh this August - you help to make the Fringe what it is, and whilst those of us who live here all year round may grumble about tourist traffic, Katey and I certainly wish you a very merry Fringe. Go, see, make memories, and enjoy!


  1. The Hot Dub event looks AMAZING. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!