Every August, Edinburgh plays host to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We didn’t know it when we planned our trip but it certainly made for an entertaining few days in Edinburgh. They called it the Edinburgh Festival Fringe but this year it went from August 7th – 31st.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with something for everyone: theatre, comedy, music, dance, exhibitions and much more. In fact, we are the number-one tourist attraction in Britain.
We were there the 9th of August. The first week of the Festival is when the acts try to pack the stands so that they can get as favorable a review as possible from critics. There are a mix of paid and free acts over the course of the festival and they fill over three hundred venues.
Royal Mile: Fringe Festival
As we walked around the famed Royal Mile, which starts at Edinburgh Castle, we were accosted by what seemed like a hundred acts. As we dodged into and out of pubs, stores, and other sights, we managed to pick up about a hundred different flyers, cards, and pamphlets describing a variety of acts.
During the Fringe Festival, the Royal Mall is a zoo of people. All the performers are dressed up, trying to get your attention and handing out loads of flyers for their shows. You can easily grab a hundred flyers before you get a hundred feet. Also lining the streets will be the performers, on stages, giving you a little taste of their abilities.
There are also tons of street performers. There are people dressed up like statues, bag pipers, singers, jugglers, etc. Any type of street performer you can think of will be there, here’s a picture of a guy getting crushed by a bed of nails – his name is “Spikey” Mike!
The Shows We Saw
For our only full day in Edinburgh, we took advantage of some of the free shows and paid to see comedian Wil Anderson. For the Fringe Festival, there are over three hundred venues where people perform. Many of the venues are simply rooms in pubs and many of those shows are absolutely free, part of the “Free Fringe.”
Jekyll & Hyde
We went to a cool pub named Jekyll & Hyde to see an early afternoon show featuring two comedians, Nik Coppin and some other dude (I remember what he looks like but I don’t remember his name). We thought Nik Coppin was great, there are some videos on Youtube of his bits. Here’s one about shark attacks:
Jekyll & Hyde is a themed pub where the decor is gothic, haunted mansion/lightweight horror-movie-esq. The restrooms are hard to find because to get into them you have to push what looks like a bookcase! The shows themselves take place in The Crypt, which is a room located in the lowermost floor. The room seats approximately 50 people and we got seats right up near the front. The Crypt is a fun place to see a comedy act because you can get really close to the comedian. It’s both a good and a bad thing. It’s good if you like to interact and it’s bad if you hate to interact. 🙂
The only downside to the Crypt is that it can get really really hot down there.
Tickets to see Wil Anderson cost about £11 a piece and were totally worth it. The show took place near The Underbelly, which is, no joke, an enormous purple cow lying on its back.
We enjoyed Anderson because his comedian was very intelligent. It was good political satire, but not too political, and really made you think about the ironies of the world. With all the free shows, we felt that any show you had to pay for really had to knock your socks off – for me, Anderson delivered. Our group of four found him really funny but there were a few girls in front of us who, inexplicably, walked out about 15 minutes into the program.
The headline act for the show at the Jekyll & Hyde pub was playing MC to a show later that night called “Shaggers.” As you can imagine, it’s a free sex themed comedy show that was kind of disappointing. Martha and our friends stayed for the whole thing but about three acts in I left to grab a pint and sort of never came back.
We went because he was hilarious at Jekyll & Hyde, not realizing he was only MC’ing the show, and figured it to be a good time. Too bad we were wrong! But it too was free so no big loss!
We saw two free shows, one paid and liked two out of the three. We got to see some cool bars, drink a few pints, and enjoyed our first, and only, day of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. If you ever have a chance to come, I recommending doing so during the Fringe because it’s an amazing festival.