I first went to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August 2009. I went by myself as the lady I was seeing at the time dumped my ass (ahhhh) in the month before we were supposed to go together, but I had a mega time anyway (yaaaay!). After that weekend I promised that I would do my best to get there every year such was the awesomeness of the place.
Edinburgh itself is one of my favourite ever cities! I first went for a friend’s stag do and remains the only place I have been to on a stag and wanted to come back to without the promise of alcohol fuelled debauchery!
I arrived in the city on the Thursday 5th and quickly ambled up to the Royal Mile and picked up the tickets that I had reserved. Whilst there I took a stroll up to the castle like a true tourist and took pictures of all of the fixtures and fittings as well as the obese American families on group waddling sessions. I went to meet my friend Tammy and her boyfriend Piotr on Princes Street and took an ace street performance of a man on a huge unicycle. I would be staying at Tammy’s awesome pad over the weekend so much love to her and her flatmate Anita for the accommodation!
I only managed to make it to one show that day and that was one of my old time favourite comedians Stewart Lee who used to partner Richard Herring on TV shows such as “Fist of Fun” and “This Morning with Richard not Judy”. Stewart was there in a show called “Vegetable Stew” and was using the fringe as a testing ground for material that he is developing for a new TV show. The venue was the Stand up comedy club and is the kind of place that I thought only existed on TV where there are small round tables in a small room that would have been filled with smoke 6 years ago. The stage was a semi circle of just over a meter in diameter and raised half a foot off the ground with tables and chairs pressed up against it. I already knowing his acerbic and biting nature, somewhat masochistically, took one of these seats. Wearing a Superman hoody…. I was expecting and waiting for abuse!
Stewart takes to the stage and rather frankly and honestly lays into a lot of things including his own set but doesn’t attack any of the audience, damn! He talks initially about doing his bit for charity and working charity gigs “for packets of crisps” before cutting into the Conservative/ Lib Dem amalgam government and getting his guitar out to finish on a song “that would make everyone feel awkward”. The set is quality and the kind of cutting remarks that I hoped for a great way to start off the festival! Warning to David Cameron, however, if you happen to be reading this (I know you’re a fan of Kobestarr) I wouldn’t go to that gig. I don’t think he likes you!
The next day, Friday 6th, was a big day, I’d secured last minute tickets to see Kevin Eldon “Titting About” but had a few hours to kill and was wandering aimlessly like the second sperm to the egg. During this time a man forced a leaflet into my hand and in-spite of the fact that I had my headphones on with music blaring started to talk about his show. This caused me to miss the salient points of his pitch but I did manage to see the key word on the flyer “Free”.
That flyer lead me to a show run by an improvisation troupe called “Q-fusion” that was upstairs in a pub where I made up one eight of the audience. I nearly turned around but I’m glad I didn’t! It was really good, asking for audience input to create scenarios such as a daughter and wicked stepmother in “Jurassic Park” and the invention of a Crème Egg filling machine through to a murder mystery revenge ghost story set in Edinburgh Castle. As part of the free fringe you’re supposed to give a donation at the end based on what you think the show was worth. I’m really sorry to say that I only gave 80p but that was honestly and genuinely all the change that I had on me! Honest!
After Q-fusion I bombed it all the way across town to where Kevin Eldon was playing (the same place I had seen Stewart Lee) and took up residence front and centre of the semi circle stage. Kevin is a stalwart of UK comedy but someone who has never branched out by himself. He is a classically trained actor and a character comedian so you may recognise the face but not the name. I remember him from appearing regularly with Stewart Lee and Richard Herring on “This Morning with Richard not Judy” as “The actor Kevin Eldon” and playing a green jelly loving caricature of the late Rod Hull. He also was one of the main guys behind my favourite ever sketch show “Big Train” along with Simon Pegg and appeared in Hot Fuzz and most recently Osama Bin Laden baiting film “4 Lions”. Kevin steps into the stage as political poet “Paul Hamilton” for a short period before stepping out as “himself” lamenting on issues such as people, notably Australians, who put an inflexion at the end of sentences? So that everything they say ends up being a question? Kevin continues his show with a merry-go-round of characters and comedy songs with my personal favourites being the “rapping door to door pensions salesman” and the “stuck CD” song.
Despite running as fast as I my little legs could take back across town I was late for the start of my next show “Lady Garden’s Secret Gig”. They were recommended to me by Hannah in the days before coming to the festival and I’m soo glad she did. How can I explain this to you all? Lady Garden are so fucking funny, it’s absurd!
There I said it and I mean it! They are six young ladies that all met whilst at Manchester University and seem to be having a laugh since day one. They take to the stage wearing costumes that are all styled differently but made from the same costume, kinda what “Girls Aloud” do but with curtain fabric. The variety of sketches is overwhelming and surreal including the morning after the night before a corned beef binge, the Olympic Flame in a bag, helicopter crashes, the Maeve Binchy football chant, the perils of dating the behooked Abu Hamza and possibly my favourite, the “Russian Doll” sketch. Each one smoothly executed, designed to have you creased up in laughter and punctuated with hip-hop interludes that keeps the tempo up during changeovers. Its been a long time since we’ve had a quality sketch show on TV and if I was a commissioning editor I would sign them up quick sharp.
PS: to the Lady Garden ladies. I you do get a TV contract please don’t go to the ITV! They only know how to kill comedy. It’s strange but true …think about it!