Theatre in Wales

Commentary and extended critical writing on theatre, dance and performance in Wales

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Report 2002

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Report 2002

Visiting Edinburgh for just four days during this year's Fringe made me realise just how spoilt I was whilst working for C-Venues Box Office last summer. They may only pay 200 quid for the whole month (about 79pence an hour) for some serious hard work and long shifts, but having a free roof over your head, discounts in some cafes, free tickets for certain shows and that imperative concessionary gem the NUS card, makes it possible to stay for the duration and come away with a rich Fringe experience. Unless you're an excellent blag artist or prepared to work just to be able to stay, chances are you'll need more than a few pounds in your pocket, and also plenty of time.

This year I managed to catch just two shows in between moving from hostel to hostel, carrying half of my partner Phenomenon Anon's bulky street performance costumes, and becoming increasingly exhausted from walking amongst the slow moving tourist-cattle on the Royal Mile, a lot of whom were seemingly unaware of the unspoken street etiquette ''photographs equal donations''. Much to the annoyance of some buskers, this was probably due in part to the confusing set-up with some pre-paid acts, leaflet-laden folks advertising their shows with excerpts from the performance and the buskers all being on the same street. Particularly irritating are those touting for audiences with irrepressible energy - the louder they get the more desperate they sound and onlookers such as myself reciprocate by becoming increasingly turned off the idea of seeing their show altogether.

Ironically, perhaps, the first act I bought a ticket for was sharp tongued, gay American comic Scott Capurro, who has the highest rate of people walking out of his gigs on the Fringe, yet certainly doesn’t need to tout for ticket sales. His comedy is undeniably confrontational, and after announcing that I ''could pass for a gay guy, which is kinda cute'' he proceeded to demonstrate the practice of 'tea-bagging' (ahem, dunking one's testicles into the mouth of one's lover) on my boyfriend (trousers on of course!), who had bravely and/or foolishly insisted that we sat in the front row. It was the story he told about having sex with a man with 'flippers' for arms as a result of his mother taking thalidomide during her pregnancy that caused two men who happened to be carers to leave that evening. Their female friend, a carer for the blind (who had also had a comedic slating from Capurro) stayed, claiming not to have the guts to leave. When Capurro tried to make it easier for her by! Inviting her to leave she said, ‘‘you're making me feel bad now'', to which he replied, instantly redeeming himself without apologising, ''I'm making YOU feel bad?!''. It really was harsh but fantastic and she stayed to the end because she realised that he was not laughing at the disabled but at how we live in a ''P.C. Prison'' (quoted from 'disabled' actor Matt Fraser's 2001 show 'SealBoy Freak') and cannot deal with disability, let alone the idea of the disabled having consenting, non-exploitational sex.

Noel Fielding offered a very different evening, indvidual and fluffy, the comparative 'easy listening' of comedy. His lively, youthful and excitable performance explored childhood ways and memories, with the kind of imagination so many of lose upon reaching adulthood. His hand-decorated paper plate mobiles served well as The Woods wherein the Shadow Bumming Wolf lived, and his home-made-aesthetic props and costumes worked surprisingly well with a slickly presented video projection of The Moon who, concerned about the yellowness of his teeth compared with his white complexion told us ''I don't pay for fuckin nuffin, I'm der Moon'' after receiving a bill from the dentist. Oh and a delightful animation story featuring all of the show's characters, narrated by The Moon in his hilarious bunged-up-nose-voice, made it a definite winner.

The Edinburgh Fringe is undoubtedly a bit of a rat race, and I did wonder if it has reached saturation point - some seasoned regulars might well say that happened years ago, and liken it to the enormous and overcrowded beast the Glastonbury Festival has become. But despite all the people getting in the way when you're trying to enjoy the smiles of the visitors being entertained by the buskers, and the irritatingly inescapable all-singing, all-dancing yoof theatre groups performing their hearts out everywhere, I just can't imagine the Fringe being half as much fun without all the hustle and bustle that makes it the vibrant and addictive mad-'house' it is.

author:Zoe Hewett

original source:
16 August 2002


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