Edinburgh Fringe: A night at the Museum of Scotland

Picture: Dan Phillips
Picture: Dan Phillips
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The lights are low. Nobody is home. Your tiny voice echoes around the soaring heights of the Grand Gallery before your mind starts playing tricks . . . did that giant lion just give you a wink?

Just what would you do if you could spend a night at the National Museum of Scotland after closing? The public away home, just a world of fascinating artefacts to keep you company.

It is wishful thinking for some, an eerie thought perhaps for others. But tonight it will be a dream come true for many museum fans. Well, almost.

Tonight sees the first of two exclusive evenings at the Chambers Street attraction whereby museum staff will be firmly locking the doors at closing time, only to reopen them to a select group for an evening’s entertainment extravaganza as part of the Fringe.

It has never been done before, but organisers hope that Museum After Hours – as it is called – will more than take off, appealing to residents who already know and love the venue, and visitors spellbound by their first encounter. “It’s so exciting that the best loved museum in Edinburgh has decided to commit to being involved with the world’s biggest arts festival,” says Sheridan Humphreys of C Venues, which is collaborating with the National Museum for the venture.

So what is involved?

Instead of thousands of people cramming themselves into the museum – as is common in peak summer season – a select number of visitors will be able to browse the collections with huge amounts of space and less noise, while also enjoying performances from Fringe acts, music in the Grand Gallery, and food and drink.

The event is expected to draw in several hundreds – with some tickets still remaining – and is open strictly to over-18s only.

The programme for tonight includes access to the Mary, Queen of Scots exhibition, Russian mime act Confused in Syracuse, Japanese circus troupe Company Man, Oxford’s female a cappella singers In The Pink, and the Korean physical theatre group A Romance, pictured above. Further theatrical entertainment will also be supplied by Shakespeare for Breakfast and there will be live music from clarsach player Jennifer Port, while soprano and piano duo Emma Vergsteeg and Colin Dundas will perform at next Saturday’s event.

“We’re essentially trying to bring the Fringe into the museum,” explains Craig Fletcher, the venue’s learning manager. “We are working with acts from across the world, all of whom are very flexible and can basically give a snapshot of their show in a small time slot.”

The venture has been a year in the making, with talks between the museum and C Venues – both based on Chambers Street – beginning at last year’s Fringe.

The event follows in the footsteps of the RBS Museum Lates events which have been held over the last couple of years, allowing visitors a relaxing chance to explore the museum out of hours.

But never before has the historic building opened its doors to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

“Since we reopened [in July 2011] we have looked at ways to bring in new audiences,” says Craig. “It will feel very

exclusive on the night.”

• If you are keen to grab a ticket for either tonight’s Museum After Hours, or next Saturday’s, tickets cost £12/£15 and can be booked online, in person at the museum, or by calling 0300 123 6789. The event runs from 7pm to 10.30pm. For more details, visit www.nms.ac.uk.