AT 19 I took part in my first Fringe. A life-time ago now.
34 consecutive Fringes later, I’m set for another three weeks in which I hope I’ll stumble on a new favourite play, performer, star of the future, or face from the past.
Back in the 80s, my first dalliance with ‘the biggest arts event in the world’ was as an actor. It was fun and I’m told I was quite good at it, whatever that might mean.
The thing was, I never really wanted to do it. To be a successful actor you have to be driven, have an innate need to do it. That was never me.
So, one year, after particularly troubled rehearsals, when I found myself throwing up with nerves before going on, I vowed never to do act again.
I turned my attention to writing and producing. Hint: only produce if you can afford to loose money... or with other people’s money.
Reviewing came next, and for many years the Fringe was a whirlwind of darkened makeshift theatres, watching four or five shows a day.
Having once tried to write all my reviews at the end of the day (suddenly all five merged into one), I quickly grasped the need to write each review as I went along.
It was while reviewing I developed a dislike of ‘energy’ drinks - this particular brand (I’ll let you guess) was sponsoring the Fringe’s Press Centre and free cans tempted on each visit.
Consequently, for three weeks I lived on two or three tins of the vile stuff a day. By the end of the Fringe sleep was a stranger and the palpitations unwelcome.
But then life on the Fringe has never been a particularly healthy affair. Long hours, snatching a bite to eat when the opportunity arises and a tendency to burn the candle at both ends due to the sheer array of entertainment on offer has never been conducive to staying fit.
These days, though, the opposite is true. Desk-bound for much of August, the chance of seeing numerous shows every day are long gone. But there are a few I’ve pencilled into the diary as ‘must sees’, Curse of the Mummy from the guys at Last Chance Saloon for one.
‘Clever, sleek and utterly fantastic’ is how I described a previous Fringe show of theirs. If you like your drama Gothic and laced with laughter, check them out at Just the Tonic at The Caves, nightly at 7.30pm.
Also on my hit list in the Dad’s Army Radio Hour, performed by the brilliant David Benson and Jack Lane. The pair rotate a pair of classic radio episodes at the Pleasance Dome, 2.40pm daily.
Over at the Pleasance Courtyard meanwhile, The Toxic Avenger promises to be a late night treat at 10.30pm, while comedians I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with include Andrew Lawrence at The Assembly Rooms (until 13 August only) and John Shuttleworth in My Last Will and Tasty Mint, at Gilded Balloon Teviot, Debating Hall, on 12 and 13 August.
And, of course, there are the old favourites always worth revisiting, acts like the enchanting Camille O’Sullivan, see her in Where Are We Now? at Underbelly’s Circus Hub at the Meadows, and The Faulty Towers Dining Experience, who, in their 10th anniversary year have moved home to The Principal Hotel. All worth a look.