I arrived home from Edinburgh late on Monday evening. Despite severely lacking in sleep and not having had a proper meal in a week, I came home feeling nourished with theatre and alive with experience.
Edinburgh Fringe isn’t just a theatre festival, it is quite literally another world. You become immersed in the lifestyle and the culture, it is a truly beautiful place to forget about real life. It seems strange to say, but I feel as if I went to Edinburgh as one person and left as someone else.
Theatre is a form of empathy, particularly at the fringe. I saw many shows that exposed parts of people’s lives and more importantly people’s minds. I saw an array of shows, from one woman performances about a woman who sits in a toilet cubicle of a club and speaks honestly about her life and how she lost her way, to plays about 19th century Persian feminists that paved the way for women.
As an arts writer, I am used to the glamorous side of theatre and I am quite ashamed to admit it. Of course I have reviewed gritty performances in smaller venues, but most of my press nights come with a few glasses of free wine, plush seating, and an all round elegant evening.
The fringe is a completely different experience. I found myself sprinting from show to show, just about finding my way to each venue with google maps. I’d arrive as the lights were going down, seconds before the show was about to start, trying to catch my breath and settle down. There was no glitzy facade, it was just myself, my notebook and the performance.
The most interesting thing about the Fringe are the venues in which the shows are performed. They will find any place burrowed away in Edinburgh and create a performance space. I saw shows in churches, nightclubs, basements and university lecture halls. I was captivated by this, it proved how theatre doesn’t need all the flashy lights, extravagant set and jazz hands. All theatre needs to be alive is performers who bring their heart and soul to the stage.
The theatre you see at the Fringe is honest.
“Over the course of a month in Edinburgh, your eyes adjust. Your tastes change and, at the very least, you come to value different things. No one goes to the fringe to see polish or spectacle – or Shakespeare. You want heart and invention, rigour and feeling, risk and vulnerability. Something unexpected. Something, perhaps, that’s not sure of itself. What’s more, you find all that time and again in shows that surpass themselves. The best fringe shows come from nowhere. They’re made from next to nothing. And that’s thrilling. That’s theatre.” – Matt Truman, The Stage
I spent the week living with writers, but we were constantly in and out that we never found too much time for socialising. I’ve always classed myself as someone who is very independent but this trip enhanced that. I discovered a lot about myself and it put a lot of things in my life into perspective. I realised how grateful I am for the friends and family I have, but most importantly I learnt how in love I am with what I do. I’ve worked so hard over the past few years with my writing to get to where I am today and there is nothing that means more to me in the world.
Despite getting home just before midnight and writing until the early hours, I would still drag myself out of bed and wander down to my favourite coffee shop Brew Lab Coffee. Weary eyed and tired, I would shelter in the coffee shop for a few hours and submerge myself into my writing. Re-living all of the feelings I had whilst watching the performances and translating them into words. This allowed me to delve deeply into the characters, the scripts, the ideas and imaginations.
I was moved by the language in Exactly Like You, touched by the raw emotion of Torch and struck by the storytelling in The Life Of Saki. I found myself reflecting on my life in Brain Matter(s) and feeling sassy and empowered in Amelia Ryan Is Lady Liberty.
I saw 23 shows during my time at the fringe and they were all incredibly diverse. It has widened my experience of theatre in terms of different theatrical conventions, the way in which narrative can be used and the effect language has on a piece.
My stay in Edinburgh was with the Network Of Independent Critics, a scheme that helped us as writers to live and review at the festival. They are an excellent support system, and without them none of this would have been possible. I hope I can join them and do it all over again next August.
Aside from the theatre I was stunned by the beauty of Edinburgh itself, it is a city that has a warmth to it. The multitude of independent coffee shops, book shops and restaurants feels homely and I loved strolling around the streets admiring the traditional architecture. Edinburgh is a city bursting with culture and art, it a huge bubble of creativity.
I never expected to fall in love with the city, but I did.
Edinburgh Fringe was a time in my life that I will treasure forever, and I will hold fond memories of it until I return to do it all over again next year.