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* * Update * * In response to some of the comments on this review I feel I should just explain that it would be an impossibility to review the entire Festival, there is just simply far too much going on. I also work there so I don't get to go see anything else except the pieces I work on. I had really only intended this to be a light hearted look at Festival life from the eyes of someone who has to work there and doesn't get to experience the fun side of it, but I will endeavour to add some more information as requested.
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For those of you who don't know me, I work in the theatre industry (please read my other review entitled "Keeping Me In The Dark", shameless plug I know) my company, Scottish Opera, perform in Edinburgh on a regular basis, usually around 6 times a year so we get to enjoy Edinburgh without the insanity of the Festival. However, every August and September, the city is over-run with people flocking to see some fantastic theatre (and some truly bad theatre). I feel I am, therefore, quite qualified to hand out some quality advice on attending the Edinburgh International (and Fringe) Festivals.
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The first Edinburgh International Festival (EIF)was held in 1947 with the aim to enrich the cultural life of Scotland. This aim now travels wordwide with audiences travelling from all over to experience this unique festival. The EIF is responsible for providing the classical
music, opera, theatre and dance programmes provided by companies from all over the world.
Over the years many other festivals have grown up and now provide an even greater range of cultural input. From the Fringe Festival which supports comedy and small theatre, to the Book Festival (no prizes for guessing what goes on there) and likewise the Film and Jazz Festivals. Together all these different (and seperately managed) Festivals help to create the full experience and ensure that there is never a dull moment in Edinburgh throughout those months.
Looking for tickets for an EIF show? Head to The Hub on the Royal Mile. This is a beautiful old building an old tollbooth which now serves as the home of the EIF. There is a cafe which is well worth a look as the food is usually really good. (Tickets for the Fringe, Book, Jazz and Film Festivals are available elsewhere. Look in the local press for ticket deals on a dialy basis)
I'm just freshly escaped from the 2005 Fezzie so here is a little advice to those who are thinking about attending the next one...
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Expect to pay ridiculously inflated prices for everything as businesses strive to earn as much profit in those two short months as they do for the rest of the year by fleecing their captive audience. Prices of accomodation, food, drink and even the basics soar at this time of year, marked up especially for the arrival of the Festival fanatics. Travel off the main streets and you might still find the odd bargain.
Be prepared to book accommodation months in advance as you will be the luckiest person alive if you turn up on spec and get something that isn't flea-ridden or damp or is in a doorway on Princes Street.
Wear your anti-leaflet jacket as it is almost impossible to spend more than 10 minutes outside without having at least 5 leaflets for dodgy shows thrust forcibly on your person.
Watch out for rickshaws! You can't hear them coming and they seem to exempt from normal traffic regulations. Watch your back!
Expect to spend most of the time walking on the roads as the pavements are mobbed. Fine if you aren't in a hurry but if you are working, you are better off risking a run in with a bus.
Buy tickets for popular shows in advance or else you'll end up going to see something really bad or spending the entire night in the Speigal tent and your bank balance (or your body) won't like that the next day.
Keep all children on leads, you'll lose them otherwise. In fact. leave them at home, they'll cramp your style and preclude you from experiencing the true essence of the Festival... BEAUTIFUL BEER!
Don't look like a tourist, you'll get fleeced for even more money. Look like you know where you are going, walk with a purpose and, when it rains, don't under any circumstances, wear one of those plastic poncho things! That spells tourist more than the tartan trousers.
Don't go to the Tattoo, it's for tourists only. If you really have to see it, watch it on telly.
Make sure you are there till the end of the Festival so that you can enjoy the firework display. Best watched from Princes Street Gardens (if you are lucky enough to get a ticket) or from the Bridges if you aren't, but don't you dare stand in front of me if you are taller than 5'.
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Every year the Festivals (International, Fringe, Book and Film) get bigger and more popular, great for all you guys but a hard work for us theatre people (the guys at the theatre we perform in pulled a 23 hour shift on saturday). We might work hard but there is always time for a little play and the Fezzie is a great place to meet up with folk we haven't seen since last year and also to make new contacts over a glass of Hoegaarden in the Speigal tent.
The highlight of my Festival this year was meeting Bill Bailey, I love that man and, if he weren't already married..... sigh I got to hand him his microphone as I did a bit of moonlighting on my night off by helping out on a comedy gala. That's where I got my new nickname "Bertha the Lesbian" (don't ask) from Julian Clary. It was a great fun night and made a pleasant change from opera.
There is still another week to go at this years Fezzie but, for me, it is all over for another year. I have to say I won't miss queuing for my lunch for 30 mins, or being run over by rickshaws, nor will I miss kipping on my mates floor after a 13 hour day. But I will miss the energy, enthusiasm and atmosphere of a crowded Edinburgh, burning the candle at both ends and re-kindling old friendships over a glass of something cool.
It won't be long till the next one, better get some sleep......