By: Lydia Crow
The Cast and Crew
Well, actually they’re one and the same group of people. Before we set off on our adventures tomorrow, I thought you might like to know which of your contributors are heading up north, and for how long. It’s a select group of three (at present), or, I suppose, really two if we’re talking in contributor-terms: myself and Vague. The third member of our trio is the inimitable Timity. Some of you may recall his appearance on these pages before.
As for how long, the plan is that we stay there for three nights. Timity and I are heading up on the train at lunchtime tomorrow, complete with an exciting Famous-Five-esque picnic, and Vague is following late in the afternoon. Upon arriving, Vague has approximately thirty-five minutes tomorrow evening to chuck his bag and get ready for Smoke and Mirrors, which starts at 10pm in the Spiegeltent in George Square Gardens.
Though we have a couple of vague (no relation) ideas about what we want to do, the only other show we’re booked in to see so far is Kevin Eldon’s short but sweet (so we’re told) standup on Monday.
So there you go: that’s the essence of the plan so far. We’ll be in touch again tomorrow. Needless to say, given my love for Edinburgh, I’m just a little excited…
Hurrah for Adventures!
Well today is finally here, the first day of this year’s Edinburgh Festival-ivities. Just a brief note for those following ShiverWriggle on Twitter: further to the cast list below, you’ll be able to tell who’s tweeting by the intitial at the end of the post. Happy Friday, one and all!
The First Day
Well, that’s the first day done. I’m currently curled up with my second cup of tea of the morning, having finished off my cheese on toast, and trying to remember all of yesterday’s delights. There were plenty.
I always enjoy train journeys, and yesterday’s was no exception. It helped that I’d packed an awesome picnic for Timity and I to tuck into. In best Famous Five style, there was ginger beer (alcoholic, though – which possibly isn’t quite like the Famous Five), fresh bread packed with tangy cheese and deliciously ripe tomatoes (seasoned with a dash of salt, naturally), cocktail sausages, mozzarella and sun-ripened tomatoes, marinated Greek olives and followed by a bar of white chocolate and fresh fruit salad. Along with the delicious picnic, we met several interesting people on the train, including a stag party heading for Newcastle who charmed the carriage with a twenty-minute bout of impromptu karaoke (well, I found it charming anyway).
On arrival at Edinburgh we headed to our apartment (I’ll pass judgement on that at the end of our stay, but we’ve stayed before and it hasn’t disappointed yet), chucked the bags, had a rather delicious and much needed cup of tea, and then headed out to collect our tickets for the shows from The Fringe Box Office. Along the way we deliberately sauntered down The Royal Mile, grabbing every flyer going and chatting to the performers, quizzing them and anyone we spoke to for recommendations.
After a brief shop and return to the flat, Timity and I headed out to see Richard Dawkins Does Not Exist. All in all, it was enjoyable; the performers were quite engaging and humorous, and the script (for it was definitely a script-led show, something the performers themselves acknowledged on more than one occasion) was mostly well-structured. There were clearly some friends of the performers in the audience to our left, laughing before some of the most humorous points had even been delivered; and there were also some hardcore mathematicians in the audience, picking holes in the arguments. Mostly though, everyone seemed to enjoy it. The venue, the Ballroom in the Voodoo Rooms, was packed and fine for the performance (even though the world’s thinnest chairs had been laced together so each audience member was rather close to their neighbour(s)). Timity particularly enjoyed overhearing an audience member after the show exclaim ‘Man! There was some seriously messed up maths in there!’
And so to Waverley Station for a brief whisky (or beer, for Timity) prior to meeting Vague; and then a brief return to the flat before heading out to the Spiegeltent for Smoke and Mirrors.
Smoke and Mirrors. Wow. Absolutely fantastic, the venue was brilliant and almost surreal. As Vague pointed out, you could feel the history. The audience was great, really getting into the show from the very start. And the show was quite simply amazing. The acrobats were phenomenal, and carried off their act with confident charm, the trapeze artist certainly attracted the attention of the two men in our group, the tapdancer was entertaining, and the magician left us desperately trying to figure out one or two parts of his act. The music was fantastic. The Bearded Lady’s solo in the second half quite rightly gained a stunned but huge round of applause, and the host was brilliant throughout, flipping from bawdy comedy through to the other extreme: the final song pretty much had me staring wide-eyed, mouth partly open in surprise. Throughout the whole performance I only noticed one mistake. It was all phenomenal. It was odd stepping outside, returning to the every-day (as much as the Spiegel Garden counts as the every-day).
And so we finished off the night dancing away quite happily in The Jamhouse, or at least as much as our feet could manage, and chatting with an old friend. And then it was time for a burger and bed.
There you go. After all that excitement, my body also decided at eight this morning that three and a half hours sleep is plenty for now, so I’m heading out for more fun.
The Second Day
I thank the late-night burger for ensuring at least not all of us had hangovers on Saturday morning. After a leisurely(ish) morning, we set sail for Pizza Hut (yes, I know – we should have gone somewhere unique to Edinburgh, but when you’ve been drinking you just crave certain things) for a tasty brunch of, erm, pizza, obviously.
We then tripped along to Dirty Dicks, a delightful little place on Rose Street that, due to circumstances relating to a previous visit, has been labelled by some The Anger Bar. Given this, Vague was particularly delighted to discover they were serving a beer entitled Bitter and Twisted. It’s the small things.
After a disco nap, we went to see Continent by Cava, a Japanese comedy mime troop who were absolutely fantastic. It had been recommended by some ladies Vague became briefly acquainted with at the Spiegeltent the night before, and I have to say it might not have drawn our eyes otherwise amidst the huge array of festival delights. But it was well worth the ticket price, being all-round fabulous and a lot of fun. Above all else, though, the most impressive part was the relentless activity. One of the actors never stopped somersaulting/dancing throughout the entire routine. Amazing.
And so to The Beautiful People Bar which was, predictably, full of the Beautiful People. Some delicious wine was drunk by all before an early night (or morning, in truth) in anticipation of the next day’s events (but not until the second burger of the weekend had been consumed).
The Third Day
Sunday morning saw us all refreshed and tucking into a rather delicious breakfast at The Filling Station before heading to The Abbotsford on Rose Street (which houses a rather fabulous whisky collection), where Timity inquired as to which of the ales the barman recommended. The poor guy launched into a ten minute spiel of the pros, cons and taste of each before Timity replied, without the slightest irony, ‘I’ll have the Festival Frolics please; it’s got the word ‘festival’ in the title’. Our stay in that pub also resulted in some rather amusing and predictably bawdy limerick writing, some of the results of which are perhaps better never mentioned again.
Nerds of a Feather was next, Chris Stokes and Graham Goring both telling their tales of geekdom in rather different, if both amusing, ways. Stokes was more the traditional stand-up, and did have me in stitches with his Edward Jones / Edward John Smith skit, amongst other gags. It was all delivered in that almost-deadpan-but-still-engaging manner which some comedians have, and he managed to pull it off without being too condescending. Graham Goring, on the other hand, did make you feel a little more like he was judging every single person there – but that fitted with his routine which was so cleverly peppered with visual images, all very amusing. He did cover religion in a nearly-predictable manner, but that can be forgiven if only for the impressive extent of his amusing slideshow presentation.
After a drink or two at Bannerman’s we set off for Lewis Barlow’s magic show, which was all in all fairly fun. It was very impressive to see close-up magic done so well and so (um) close-up, and for that alone it was worth the ticket price. There weren’t, however, too many surprises – though it was clearly impressive enough that some in the audience were returning visitors.
Dinner was at the delightful Itchycoo, one of my favourite ever restaurants. The savouries were as sublime as ever (we had stir fries and curry), but the desserts, particularly the cheesecake, surpassed even them. The undoubted highlight of the meal, however, was the fabulous waiter. He is possibly one of my highlights of the entire weekend – you won’t understand if you weren’t there, but you’ll just have to take my word for how funny and engaging he was. A star all round.
After dinner we decided to return to The Beautiful People Bar, but it was fairly subdued (a mood that permeated our party) so we ditched that for Whistlebinkies, a place which I can never decide whether I truly and unashamedly love, or whether it’s a guilty pleasure. Needless to say it delighted as always. The introduction of a huge beast of a Swedish-Real-Life-Viking who Timity persuaded to arm wrestle Vague definitely added to the hilarity. The evening passed with new friends and giggles, and most of the early hours of the morning did too – in fact enough hours that even the burger joint we’d frequented the previous two nights was closed by the time we each respectively made it back to the apartment.
The Last Day
And so it was, with too little sleep and too many aches and pains, that we woke on Monday morning. Our final day, for which we had reserved the pleasure of Kevin Eldon (so to speak). And a pleasure it was – at times I laughed so hard I almost cried (yes, clichéd, but appropriate). He was fabulous, his impressions were brilliant and the loose themes were entertaining: the highlight, however, was definitely the amusing songs with which he regaled his audience. The songs, and perhaps also his fabulous poet-warm-up-act. The perfect way to finish off the Festival-ivities…
…though technically we did also partake in a drink in The Newsroom, sipped in knackered but friendly silence, as we waited for the train down south.
All in all, one of the best weekends of my life for one reason or another. Fabulous company, fabulous atmosphere and fabulous entertainment – all in my very favourite city. I can’t wait to go back. It never disappoints.