Survivor's Guide to the Edinburgh Fringe
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, like Christmas and Beano annuals, comes but once a year, and it is not a time to be squandered. With over 2,500 shows there’s no time to see everything, even with the festival running for an entire month, so here are some tips to help you make the most of your Fringe.
1. Go Early
With preview shows being around half the price of regular shows it’s an easy way to see some top names with low price tags, but it gets better than that. In the first two weeks of the festival plenty of shows will be vying for your attention, but not necessarily your money. Free tickets are often handed out just to build a crowd and it’s not too bad a situation to take advantage of. Simply hang around the venue with the show you want to see and you may be whisked off, free of charge, to that show. Don’t get cocky though, if you expect to see Stewart Lee or Marcus Brigstocke for nothing you can think again, but for some smaller names like Peacock and Gamble or Thom Tuck you might get lucky.
2. Sit at the Front
It might seem like dangerous advice, but it is advice I value; sitting at the front is the best thing you can do. It gives you a fantastic view, plenty of leg room and it might get you involved. Now I know you don’t want to be picked on during a show, but often comics don’t so much bully the front row as play with it. Nobody wants to alienate their audience, least of all the most visible people in the crowd, and the front row has some of my best Fringe memories tied to it. I’ve had free donuts from McNeil and Pamphalon, held Mitch Benn’s guitar and won tickets to shows from Richard Herring. Sitting at the front is where the performer’s favourites are. Even mean comics who humiliate their audience like The Boy with Tape on His Face and _Doctor Brown _ don’t attack their front rows; they’ll be looking for you nervous guys in row 8 trying not to make eye contact.
3. Mix it Up
The Fringe Festival is primarily a comedy one, but with theatre, musicals, dance and even a little cabaret at the Fringe you should make an effort to switch things up a bit. Whether it’s seeing the beat box acapella band The Magnets blow you away with sensational renditions of modern classics or the creepy Carnival of Crows keeping you up at night with haunting tales told through puppetry, there’s always something other to do than laugh at the festival and you might surprise yourself by discovering something new.
4. Take Measured Risks
The Fringe is filled with some of the best comedy in the world, a lot of it undiscovered. Seeing new acts and supporting upcoming artists is what the Fringe is all about, but do take care of yourself. Some acts are, unfortunately, horrific and you’ll come across them if you dive into the murkier waters of the unheard. But fear not, because there is a way to avoid such calamities. Firstly, reviews get published at the festival every day, and it’s worth reading them to keep abreast of developments, I discovered the sensational Doctor Brown last year thanks to reviews. Some shows, however, won’t get any press and for these shows you’ve got to go with your gut. If you don’t think new age cabaret with ukuleles are your thing then probably don’t go to the full paid show, but if you like the sound of an improvised musical go right ahead!
5. Compilation Shows
Compilation shows like Best of the Fest and Chortle’s Fast Fringe give you a great buffet of the festival’s offerings to select from later. These compilations are packed with variety and often also house big names like Reginald D Hunter and Greg Proops for a fraction of the price. It’s a great way to essentially do all of the above, and it’s where a Fringe should start. Who knows, you might end up seeing a comic that was sold out for half the price!
What are your top Fringe survival tips?