Edinburgh Fringe 2022: See a show or soak up the Festival buzz in a pavement cafe?
There's a buzz beginning to build ahead of this year's Edinburgh Fringe and associated festivals - I know, it should be the other way around but, be honest, it’s the Fringe that makes the Capital what it is come August.
Expectations are certainly high after last year's compromised event and the pandemic enforced hiatus of 2020, but are we expecting too much?
With show numbers almost back at the unworkable level of 2019 - unworkable on a number of levels, the impact on everyday life in the city and the financial toll it takes on so many companies and performers, all vying for a limited audience in an over-saturated market place.
Certainly there are productions that will do very well, my ever-growing hit list of #MustSee shows coming to the Fringe can be found pinned to the top of my Twitter feed, follow me @Liam Rudden, but they are a mere fraction of the 3,000+ productions heading to the city.
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Whether it's a reflection of our times, and I pretty sure it is, a swathe of the press releases currently dropping for August highlight solo shows, single performers exploring a series of fairly angst ridden topics it has to be said, but then then the 'art' as therapy trend is something the Fringe has championed for a while now.
What are not as evident this year, yet, are bigger productions, riskier endeavours at a time when Covid can yet force the cancellation of a show if a cast member contracts the virus or even the closure of an entire venue; just last month both the King's Theatre and Royal Lyceum were forced to cancel numerous performances when casts became infected and that was performing in proper, well ventilated theatre, not a makeshift, 50-seat black box affair.
The risk for the participating companies doesn't end there either, while many of the major venues have benefited through financial support from the public purse, funding many have argued, included at least one of the newer major venues, that should have been used to support participants instead by waiving the registration fee for a year - a fee that already dictates that the Fringe is not as inclusive as it might claim.
But then, the focus of the Fringe has changed beyond anything its founders could have imagined - I doubt they would ever have foreseen the day their edgy, break-away event would align its performers’ centre to a label-driven shopping centre far removed from the heart of the Fringe.
That said, I predict that for many heading to Edinburgh to soak up the Fringe this year, it won’t be about the shows but the atmosphere. You can understand why too. When the weather holds, there is nothing finer than sitting on an open-air terrace or street cafe, soaking up the sun and ambience that the Festival Fringe brings, that the street theatre offerings are to be spread across the Capital this year can only enhance the buzz while hopefully bringing business to many more long-suffering local bars and restaurants.
I do worry about all the hopefuls heading here to 'do Edinburgh', however. Full houses seem less likely than ever this year.