On the Fringe of Madness

It’s hard to describe the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to someone who hasn’t experienced it firsthand. The question is usually met with a long intake of breath, a sigh, a puzzled look of contemplation ending with the phrase: “It’s… just… madness”. From someone who has lived in Edinburgh for many years, I’ve got a soft spot for the festival that swings around every August. Although it’s like a shockwave, a tornado, that hurtles in overnight. One minute everything is normal, then overnight. the streets are laden with posters and billboards for the forthcoming acts that year, covered in star ratings and rave reviews – “Dan from the Guardian, thinks it’s genius”, apparently.

There seem to be no rules when it comes to performances, that’s why it’s always so unpredictable and crazy. Just walking to work the last few weeks I’ve already seen posters for one man dressed up as a balloon in comedy shows, a musical titled: “5 Mistakes that Changed the World”, a one-woman monologue about sex workers, a circus trapeze show, and a 6-foot-tall image of Gyles Brandreth’s face staring at me as I walk down Princess Street. I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the best live performances I’ve ever seen in my life at the Fringe over the course of many shows, over the years. There are a few that really stick out in my

Briefs”: A burlesque drag Cirque du Soleil visual extravaganza in a tent in Assembly Gardens. I saw these people more than 10 years ago, and I still tell people about it. It was one of the first-ever shows I went to, I was a bit skeptical, to be honest, however, my jaw didn’t close throughout the whole thing, and I left in awe about what I’d just seen. A ripped group of 6-foot Australian drag queens dancing, swinging, singing, and performing ariel gymnastics. At one point asking a volunteer to have a Tequila slammer off one of their bodies. The crowd lapped it up. As did the giddy volunteer!

“Abandoman”: A regular stalwart at the Fringe, someone I’ve seen twice, and will absolutely see again this year. A comedian, singer, performer, and freestyle rapper to boot, who spontaneously makes up songs about the audience on the spot. Every year is themed differently, one styled on Coachella with the man himself using nothing but effects and a loop board around his neck to singlehandedly create a beat, ask questions about members of the audience he pulls on stage, and then freestyles a catchy, rhythmic, hilarious song about them. It will leave you speechless, by his inventiveness.

“Sh*t Faced Shakespeare”: I’ve included this one to give you an idea of how varied these shows can be. A group of actors performs a well-known Shakespeare play, that’s not that strange, now is it? Now add some musical instruments to the audience, then every time they play them, one of the actors takes a shot of tequila. There are no rules to how often you can honk the horn. What followed was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. The drunken actor changes every night, by the way, to avoid the same person getting liver poisoning, and the show ends in blue lighting someone to A&E. The beauty of the festival is that those three acts don’t even scratch the surface of what the Fringe can offer. Your imagination can’t even fathom some of the acts that perform. If you try and think up the wackiest live show possible… guess what. It’s been done or will happen.

A question any Edinburgh local will be asked is “What’s the best way to experience the Fringe?” The answer is… there is no right answer. My advice is to just get stuck in. Walk down the Royal Mile. Take a flyer. Go to the show that looks rubbish. Go to the show with 5-star reviews. Wander in off the street. Watch the busker. Give them a tip. Watch the fire-breather. Give them a tip. Speak to people. Ask for recommendations. Tell people what shows you liked. The point of The Fringe is not that every show is a mind-blowing world-class performance. Some of these guys will be just starting out. But almost every household comedian selling out stadiums once has performed at the Fringe and started out telling jokes in a basement to a group of 3 people, (including the doorperson). Students that are performing on the street now for spare change might be on Broadway, or Hollywood, in 5 years, who knows? There are also some terrible shows. I’ve sat through my fair share of awkward one-liners, audience reactions like the vacuum of space, and witnessed unrehearsed car crashes. But THAT’S the point of the Fringe. There is no judgment here. Only fun, diversity, and experimentation.

Spare a thought for hospitality in all of this. The bars, restaurants, and hotels in the city. It doesn’t just ‘get busier’. Some venues double, triple, or even quadruple their weekly revenue for the month. Think about it. Christmas, Summer, and student return you can plan based on previous years. But August is an anomaly. There is just no way to predict what will happen. Logistically going from normal revenue in July to triple overnight is a nightmare, and unless you start planning in January you are pretty much destined for the month from hell. If you do have a good team around, you and great leaders in your business, then it can be just as fun as going out as a punter. I have fond memories of finishing work at three in the morning, then heading down the road for some drinks with the team until five, which is when most of the city shuts down for a measly two hours until the morning commute starts, and we all start over again. Eat, drink, perform, party, sleep, repeat!

What is Global Talent 2020’s role in all of this? We support local hospitality businesses all year round and many already have used our services to find fantastic candidates to put in place months before the festival starts in preparation for the month. Things do ramp up and it’s all systems go for August; we love getting out and about meeting prospective and existing clients and helping them out when things do unfortunately go wrong at a crucial time of year. Hospitality is about helping each other out when things get tough, and we’re only a phone call, email, or LinkedIn message away.

Written by Ben Jones

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *