Friday, 6 August 2010

Festivals 2010: And so it begins...

Although the Edinburgh Fringe didn't officially kick off until August 6th this year, most of the venues were open and flyers a-flying a day or two before that. I first went for a wander on what I shall call Fringe Eve.


The High Street (aka the Royal Mile) is not a useful thoroughfare for the duration of the Fringe as it is overwhelmed by the casts of various shows doing turns, street performers with the associated crowds and a multitude of tourists - with the occasional busker or irate local thrown in.



I was pleased to see that the Belt Up Theatre crowd are back and out on the street. They always manage to have a slightly better class of absurd makeup.



The High Street is filled with people trying to look eyecatching; in recent years this is not just to entice potential audiences but also to attract the attention of the many photographers prowling the festivals presumably in the hope that this will attract media attention.



The challenge I see here is to take the pictures that most of the photographers aren't taking. There are two overused gimmicks for groups these days; people walking slowly up and down the street are probably the most eyecatching; I spent about an hour shadowing a couple of these groups, watching the cycle of movements and trying to spot the shot I wanted amidst the flurry of other people snapping away. This one came pretty close to what I was aiming for...



The other group cliche is people in leotards/catsuits and facepaint writhing and cavorting like some sort of elemental spirits. I have to say, when I see a dozen people all taking pictures of the same deliberate pose it makes me a little bit sad; this bunch were far more interesting from afar.



By far my favourite bunch to look at so far, though, are the group doing A Clockwork Orange. Men with eyemakeup, well made yet grungey outfits and the occasional shock of coloured hair is totally in my idiom.



And nothing satisfies more than a cute cardboard robot puppet. At least not if, like me, you've lost count of the number of times you've watched WALL-E.


After a hard day (ahem) of wandering the streets I discovered that I was going to the List Magazine Festival Party. It's not the most exclusive event in the world, but in the past I've enjoyed myself and it seemed sure to be a good photo op.


This year the party was in the giant Assembly Spiegeltent by the Ross Banstand in Princes Street Gardens. Mercifully it was a lovely warm, dry night for it, as much of the proceedings went on outside the tent.



There was a limited free bar, further limited by the fact that the only bar to be found was about 40ft long with little space around it to queue. Average wait seemed to be 20 minutes.



The whole event is more about seeing and being seen than anything Fringe-ey. For me, it was lovely to bump into unexpected people, some of whom I hadn't seen since working the Fringe eight years ago and barely recognised!



Since the Tattoo was on just upstairs, we were treated to some small fireworks overhead, prompting much cooing from those who'd managed to get to the bar a few times.



Eventually they gave in and let some perfomers on stage. After a teutonic group of tightly-clad high energy dancers who made us all think we were at Eurovision (girls in plasticky outtfits out front) and some remarkably well built dancers from Brazil (buff topless men out front) - both of which I eschewed taking pictures of out of principle, being all a bit too much like tittilation - the inevitable ukuleles came out.



And after the unavoidable burlesque girls with feathers and fans we came to an interesting cabaret show with a very charismatic MC.



Here we had some further, albeit more imaginative, striptease, a dandy with a remarkable 'tache and specs rapping like a true gentleman, a lady with wayyy too many hula hoops:



And eventually some sexercise, which required a couple of volunteers from the, by now very tipsy, audience.



And after this it all started to wind down. Understandable, since it was fast approaching 2am. Most of the remaining punters retreated into the Spiegeltent, leaving the unusual furniture visible for the first time.



We arrived at the door of the tent just as the last song finished. Apparently we missed the campest tunes and queeniest dancing of the festival, so I'm not too upset. Gradually we were turfed out of here, leaving a stream of exhausted revellers slowly making their way out of the gardens.



Next time: Zombies and Americans (no, they're not the same thing)

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