EDINBURGH-based comedian Jo Caulfield shares her experiences of the Fringe Festival along with her pick of the shows and events
Ah – Edinburgh during the Festival. It’s hot, it’s cold. It’s wet, it’s dry. It’s like the whole city is going through the menopause. Perfect weather for flips-flops and an umbrella.
As an Edinburgh resident (Yes, I’ve got my papers and had my injections) I’m excited that the greatest arts festival in the world is in my town.
I love exploring bars and venues I don’t usually visit. The Counting House (West Nicholson Street) is an excellent venue, as is The Canons’ Gate (Canongate). Or maybe I’m just using the Festival as an excuse to drink in the afternoon. Or maybe it’s nosiness? I keep telling my neighbour she should put on a one-woman show in her flat. I don’t actually think she’s that talented, but I know she’s had workmen in and I’m curious to see her new kitchen.
The Royal Mile is starting to get busy. Especially when the crowds are coming out of the Royal Military Tattoo. Last night I spent 40 minutes watching hundreds of pensioners fight their way down Johnston Terrace as they tried to find their coaches. It was like watching a feature-length episode of Walking With Dinosaurs.
I’ve already seen several shows. I’d highly recommend both Lucy Porter at The Stand and Barry Castagnola at the Gilded Balloon. I also caught local sketch group The Colour Ham down at The Caves. This is another show definitely worth catching, with one of the best surprise endings I’ve ever seen! By-the-way, the staff at The Caves deserve a special mention. They were pleasant, smiling and helpful. Like supermarket staff hopped on happy pills.
Here’s a question – what do you think is the main topic of discussion between performers at the Fringe? Are they debating the narrative arcs of their shows? Are they arguing about the relationship between artist and audience? No – the big talking point is how much they’re paying for their accommodation. One bedroom flats are being rented out for between £800 and £1900 per month. Oh Edinburgh, you love Art, but not as much as you love making a quick buck.
Which reminds me – the first time I visited the Festival I shared a flat with a mime artist and a fire eater. It was very quiet, but very warm.
Rising ticket prices are always a issue. So hats off to the Stand Comedy Club (York Place) who’ve kept the bulk of their shows at £10 or less. If they can do it why can’t other venues follow suit? £10 to see Mark Thomas must be of the Fringe’s best deals.
Anyway, the BIG SHOW for all comedy fans is on Sunday 4th August (today), and it will be happening in your very own living room, as it’s the start of my new radio series, “Jo Caulfield’s Speakeasy”, on Radio 4. The whole series was conceived and recorded here in Auld Reekie. We have some of the finest international and local comedians telling true embarrassing stories, and I’m excited to say we have crime writer Ian Rankin’s comedy debut (August 11th), so I expect every show in town to have empty seats between 7.15pm and 7.45pm as you sit back and enjoy The Speakeasy, along with a wee dram of whisky and a deep-fried Mars bar. As per normal.
I know I’m being flippant but I am incredibly proud of what The Speakeasy achieved here in Edinburgh – and proud to have given air-time to Scottish acts who, more-often-than-not, are cruelly ignored by the media.
And remember – because it’s on radio and it’s free to listen, that means I am actually doing a FREE show, so please give generously on the way out. Yes, give money to yourself. That surely qualifies me as one of the greatest Fringe shows of all time – I’m asking my audience to financially reward themselves.
Next week I’ll be telling you how to glue an old passport photo onto a small piece of cardboard, get it laminated at Pace Print (19 South Clerk Street), flash it at the door-staff, say “I’m a journalist” and walk into any show for free.
Jo Caulfield’s Speakeasy – 7.15pm, Sunday 4th August, Radio 4