The Edinburgh Fringe: Where you can be a transvestite vampire that sings accapella covers of the entirety of Britney spears’ Oops! I did it again LP and still won’t be the oddest thing that’s on that day. Leicester’s Dan Nicholas was at the festival performing his show ‘Scripted’ this year. We asked him to write a little about the experience, and to talk to the many other Leicester based performers making the journey north of the border this year.

If you’ve never heard of Edinburgh (it’s the capital of Scotland) or the Fringe Festival (not about haircuts), think of it as the world’s largest arts festival/trade show. Every year thousands of entertainers flock here to pursue their hopes and dreams – and with many venues, producers, agents and general big wigs coming to see what’s on the horizon for the future this really is a place where if you dream big it could all come true.

Some comedians do just that, and really do dream of performing their elegantly crafted show about Brexit at midday to two people, one of whom is the bar staff (who doesn’t want to be there anyway), and the other is an indifferent cockroach.

Such glamour.  Such Fame.  Such insecurities. Of course that’s just one example. In many cases, it’s much worse.

IMG_0216Sounds great – where do I sign up?

For what? Just a casual visit? Make sure you plan exactly how casual it is. This isn’t going to be another one of those articles telling you all the things that you should check out while you’re in Edinburgh. Fuck that; you can do it yourself.

If you really can’t be assed to sift through the whole brochure then feel free to just go stand in different areas of the city, open up the Edinburgh app and constantly hit refresh to see what’s on next near you. A casual (but risky) way to experience the fringe.

You could also look at the (web) sites, get some food, watch desperate performers try to haggle for your free time so that you come to their show. You can come up for a full weekend and still not have time to see everything you want. I was there for the full month and even that wasn’t long enough to see everything. It was, however, long enough to eventually be living exclusively on cheese toasties and Papa John’s pizza.

…But the atmosphere is amazing – whether it’s the theatre goers, the comedy fans all excited and inspired, or the miserable Edinburgh locals who are finding that “the Fringe is fucking up my business”. Everyone knows what’s going on and it’s hard not to get stuck in with the fun.

you’ve just watched a transvestite vampire  – Dragula – absolutely nail a stonking version of ‘toxic’, and you’re going to need a pint after that, however much you enjoyed it.

IMG_0226What’s it like performing then?

Have you ever run a marathon, but whilst you’re running it you have to tell everyone around you that you’re running a marathon, and that they should watch you run it? Then every five minutes you down three pints?

It’s exactly like that.

As comedian Jack Campbell noted recently “It’s really easy to stay out until five am”. Imagine you watch (or are performing) a show at quarter to one in the morning, followed by a couple of bevvys – partly because you love the novelty of this pub being the most haunted in the whole of Scotland but also because you’ve just watched a transvestite vampire  – Dragula – absolutely nail a stonking version of ‘toxic’, and you’re going to need a pint after that, however much you enjoyed it.

IMG_0220The pints keep coming as you meet more and more of the cast. They keep coming to sit next to you because you pretended you were from The Scotsman (extremely credible reviewers) and all they’ve had are reviews from Broadway baby (students who don’t know how to write)*. Suddenly, before you know it, its 5am. It’s a massive party, and as such an incredible amount of fun – that’s if the Fringe doesn’t wear you down.

Of course it’s difficult. Most shows hit an average of 5-10 audience members (if you’re lucky), and upon leaving your venue you’ll invariably find a massive A1 poster (pasted all over the exact spot you had put yours up the day before) of a young upstart whose been photoshopped to fuck with a beaming smile, a piece of paper added that says ‘Sold Out’ and 25 stars from different publications including the Scotsman and Broadway Baby. You’ve seen the show. You thought the lead characters rendition of ‘….baby one more time’ was a heinous crime at best, and you look up at the sky but suddenly the sky isn’t there anymore – It’s been replaced with a glass ceiling. You’ve got to deal with that for three weeks… how’re you gonna do it?

IMG_0224Here are 4 things that I do to make myself feel better about my career and Edinburgh while I’m there:

  • Watch stuff that you wouldn’t usually watch.
  • Go with a load of mates who can consistently reassure you everything’s alright.
  • Not compare your insides with someone’s outside – everyone is there for a different reason.
  • Go watch people who are doing worse than you.

Because ultimately it’s up there with the best experiences you can dream of. As a performer it’s rigorous training to do a show day-in day-out and as a punter it’s extremely inspiring to watch as people constantly try to break down boundaries and find new frontiers. Or they’re doing none of those things and just making high quality shows. Edinburgh is the cultural hub of the country, probably even the continent, perhaps even the world. Being here and riding that rollercoaster definitely beats not being here, but in full control of your emotions.

A crop of performers from Leicester were also up in Edinburgh doing their shows at the Fringe. Here are some quick interviews with them:

DOUGLAS DEANS

Douglas has his debut play Mine being performed at the Space Venues, receiving critical acclaim across the board.

What show are you doing in Edinburgh?

I’m here with my first play “Mine”. It’s written by me, directed by Thomas Carter and performed by Maisie Barlow.

Best experiences of Edinburgh so far?

Receiving our first review, 4 Stars from the Scotsman… Then seeing they had listed us as one of the “top shows of the Edinburgh Festivals”.

Worst experiences of Edinburgh so far?

My diet.

What’s your walk on/walk in music?

I have the twisted and distorted audio of an interview between Jool’s Holland and Paul McCartney. Why? Artistic licence.

What show/project of yours should we look out for in the next year?

Well, I’ll be taking this play “Mine” a little further over the next year. There’s a likelihood it’ll be touring, so look out for that. Also I’ve got the idea set for the next play “Stay Down”, so I’ll be working on that.

What shows would you recommend looking out for in the next year?

Joan. A one woman retelling of the story of Joan of Arc as a male drag act. Sounds corny, sounds fun. It’s exciting, it’s invigorating, it’s funny, and it does what all good theatre is supposed to do. Most of all, it’s brilliant!

JASON NEALE

Host of Leicester’s famous ‘Proper Funny’ comedy night Jason Neale brings his second to the Fringe, visiting and performing for a full run for the first time.

What show are you doing in Edinburgh?

Jason Neale’s Footprint. It’s a show questioning the footprint I’ll leave when I’m gone

 Best experiences of Edinburgh so far?

The gig that was abandoned after 2 mins; they were too rowdy to listen to the show. I ditched it and talked to the crowd for an hour. Certainly a tough time but to get something from it, and some really good feedback from those who came, felt like an achievement (and I quite enjoyed it!).

Worst experiences of Edinburgh so far?

The rain – my show’s late so I walk in around 4pm and sit in wet-clothes for the rest of the day!!!

What’s your walk on/walk in music?

“Go” by the Chemical Brothers featuring Q-Tip

What show/project of yours should we look out for in the next year?

I’ll be doing a new show ready for Leicester Comedy Festival which will be less structured – I’m enjoying doing gigs that are unique for the audience in front of me on that day.

 What shows would you recommend looking out for in the next year?

The new shows by Spencer Jones, Pat Cahill, Matt Ewins and Paul Currie are great. Plus Carl Donnelly as always

JACK CAMPBELL

Previous winner of English Comedian of the Year Jack Campbell brought his second hour of stand up to the fringe this year.

What show are you doing in Edinburgh?

Boy Girl Brain. My tricky second hour, all totally brand new material. 2pm at Banshee Labyrinth.

Best experiences of Edinburgh so far?

My lovely girlfriend showing up earlier than planned to surprise me really made my month. Having packed shows at the weekend and actually being proud of my own work.

Worst experiences of Edinburgh so far?

Can’t really think of any, it was a very good month all round. Had very few bad gigs. Probably the accommodation was the worst.

What’s your walk on/walk in music?

I have a playlist before I start the show, and turn it off then introduce myself. The playlist has lots of different stuff from Two Door Cinema Club, Drake, Deftones, The Maccabees, Thin Lizzy, Regina Spektor

What show/project of yours should we look out for in the next year?

I’m hoping to do a whole new hour next year. Unsure as to what it’ll be. I’ve got a few ideas but need to really start thinking of something. May also do some different things on the side as well.

What shows would you recommend looking out for in the next year?

There’s so many quality acts. Off the top of head (totally depending if they are doing it after the festival of course) Jordan Brookes, Tom Toal, Brennan Reece, Jenny Collier, David Anthony Wood, Peter Brush, Tamar Broadbent, Pierre Novellie) and all of the wonderful Leicester folks!

JACK BRITTON

Theatre maker and co-founder of Tetrad Jack Britton brought his first show to the fringe this year.

What show are you doing in Edinburgh?

‘I used to hear footsteps’- a documentary theatre show about my haunted childhood home.

Best experiences of Edinburgh so far?

I always love climbing Arthur’s seat, and I find it a necessary and wholesome tradition. I had a great night out at summerhall’s rhythm machine, a club night decked out with installations and performances. Playing on the kid’s park near our flat at 3am. Getting a 4 star review in Scotsman for my show. I guess these are all my highlights.

Worst experiences of Edinburgh so far?

My OHP (overhead projector for anyone who was born after the 90s) konking out 3 minutes before opening the doors to my show was a real ‘Oh Fuck…’ Moment.

What’s your walk on/walk in music?

Hickory dickory dock – played from an old children’s mechanical record player as the audience walk in. This was no charity shop gem either; the creepy toy is genuinely from my childhood.

What show/project of yours should we look out for in the next year?

‘MIGHTY’ A show about height prejudice, masculinity and mental health.

What shows would you recommend looking out for in the next year?

Comedy wise keep an eye on Jordan Brookes and The Travelling Sisters. Theatre wise Eurohouse by Fellswoop Theatre was a personal favourite. Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons Lemons is an incredible play that really parallels some of the ‘off the scale’ political frustrations of this year, catch all that if you can.

LEWYS HOLT

Dancer , comedian and another co-founder of Tetrad; Lewys Holt also brings his first show to the fringe this year.

What show are you doing in Edinburgh?

Of, Or At, A Fairly Low Temperature – a comedy/dance/theatre piece about being cool.

Best experiences of Edinburgh so far?

When I realized that my Feta Vergas pastry from piemaker Ltd wasn’t just going to be some little bits of feta with other stuff inside the pastry, in fact it was an enormous lump of semi-melted feta and nothing else. Gorgeous. Also, when the lights came up after I got naked in the audience during one of the acts at comedy in the dark, which felt great.

Worst experiences of Edinburgh so far?

When Pat Monahan asked for a spotlight on me when the lights came up after I got naked in the audience during one of the acts at comedy in the dark. Also I saw some terrible shows for the awards panel I was on. Just terrible.

What’s your walk on/walk in music?

You’re Not Good Enough – Blood Orange

What show/project of yours should we look out for in the next year?

It may well be the new solo piece I’m working on, Phrases and possibly will include a critical look at reviews…through performance….ooooooh.

What shows would you recommend looking out for in the next year?

Comedy: Jordan Brookes, hell yeah, awesome physical comedy, throws narrative around like it’s his own personal chew toy.

David Elms, heartfelt wonderful quiet comedian who keeps everyone in the palm of his hand.

Goose, brilliant as always.

Dance: Happy Hour by Wooshing Machine. Amazing two man dance piece, beautifully intricate and politically vital. Plus irreverently charming.

Theatre: Eurohouse, two guys hanging out subtly developing a metaphor for the Eurozone. Amazing.

Us/Them a Belgian dance theatre show for kids about a tragic school siege. Where it sounds like it might fail it succeeds triumphantly.

As for me, I’ll be working on new solo shows and reassessing my life, as I always do after fringe (more now than ever though) keep a look out for the various projects I’m producing, including D.A.N.C.E – a show where comedians do their sets and dancers improvise and react to them on stage with them!

* FYI I had no reviews for my show, so fuck both of them.

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Daniel Nicholas is a comedian, producer and co-founder of arts collective Tetrad. He can be found putting on a variety of unique combining comedy with other art forms, or shouting and playing games with people on stage.

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