The Edinburgh Fringe Festival starts in less than a month. There will be about 3,200 different shows across about 300 venues. They come under the categories of theater, comedy, spoken word, music and dance, physical theater and circus. To make things more complicated, there are a few other festivals going on at the same time.
PLANNING FOR THE FRINGE
This is my first time at the Fringe Festival and I searched high and wide on the internet for tips, guides, advice, anything on how best to attack the festival. When during the festival should I go (the festival is 25 days long, and I was planning to go for a week)? Should I buy tickets for shows in advance? What part of town is the best to stay in? How long does it take to get from venue ABC to venue DEF? How many shows should I try to see each day. Which shows are best bets? hot tickets? When do I eat? Is there free wi-fi at the venues? Anywhere else?
There doesn’t seem to be anyone writing about these things. I found the site fringeguru.com which had some general info. In terms of which shows might be of interest, I saw a couple of articles in newspapers giving their picks–two in The Guardian– one focused on theater and the other on comedy– one in The Scotsman and one on a website called Giggle Beats. But not much more.
DECIDING WHEN TO GO
I knew that the shows will start to get reviewed at the beginning of the festival and that many people wait and rely on those early reviews to help them decide what to see. I knew that for that reason many people go later in the festival. Also the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Book Festival are towards the latter half of the festival, so people who want to go to all of the festivals will also go later.
Always the contrarian, I decided to go at the beginning of the festival–I thought this way I would be able to avoid some of the crowds and take advantage of preview- and 2 for 1- priced tickets and lower hotel rates. This means I have had to pick shows and make my schedule without the benefit of any reviews.
DECIDING WHERE TO STAY
In terms of where to stay, I decided I wanted to be as close to the hub of the venue map as possible. I started booking hotels in September 2013. I couldn’t find the exact place I wanted at a price I wanted–so I triple booked. Three hotels, all prepaid, but cancelable. They were all a little further out than I wanted–one above Queen Street and two in New Town. Since I don’t know Edinburgh, it is hard for me to judge how long it would take to walk from those hotels to some of the venues towards the south, like Assembly and Zoo. Instead of deciding between the three hotels, I took another look and yesterday found something right smack in the center at a reasonable price. I was ready to lock in my reservation–and cancel the others.
DECIDING WHAT TO SEE
I decided to go to the Fringe Festival early last summer–so last year I monitored the festival website to get a sense of how quickly things began to sell out. It seemed like there weren’t a lot of sellouts at the beginning of the festival, so I wasn’t too worried about buying tickets in advance. I did want to have a base schedule though to make the most of my time. I also wanted to co-ordinate the list with the friend I am going with. This year, I’ve noticed a number of shows already selling out certain days–so I started to get panicky about purchasing tickets. I decided to focus on the principal theater venues. My friend and I came up with lists of our top choices and our second choices and then merged our lists. Today, I purchased tickets for 24 shows. All of our top picks and some of our seconds:
Theatre on a Long Thin Wire
Anatomy of the Piano
Leaving Home Party
The Object Lesson
The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland
SmallWar (I saw Valentijn Dhaenens do his one man show BigMouth at the Under the Radar festival in January and was blown away. I hoping for more of the same)
Assembly (George Square)
Hannah Gadsby: The Exhibitionist
White Rabbit Red Rabbit
Title and Deed by Will Eno (I saw two plays by Eno this year–Open House and The Realistic Joneses and wanted to see another)
Every Brilliant Thing
Forgotten Voices (Though not generally interested in war history or anniversaries, I thought that it would be interesting to attend the special performance of this on the eve of the 100th Anniv. of the UK’s entry into WWI. The show is timed to end at midnight)
After I purchased the tickets, I downloaded the Edinburgh Fringe app onto my iPhone. At first I was impressed. There is an easy way to look up a venue and show it on a map. There is a list of all the shows–which you can filter by date and time. But when I logged in to see the shows that I purchased, only 11 of the 24 are showing up–even though most of them were in the same order. I deleted the app and reloaded it, thinking that maybe the sync got interrupted, but I had the same result! Oh well . . .
GOING TO THE FRINGE? DO YOU BUY YOUR TICKETS IN ADVANCE? WHAT ARE YOU SEEING?