Liam Rudden: Elusive spirit of Fringe still there if you look hard enough

The Six Wives of Henry VIII Fring musical show.
The Six Wives of Henry VIII Fring musical show.
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IT’S been a quiet Fringe. You just have to look at the queues, or rather lack of them at the big venue box offices and bars to realise that - even the Half Price Hut, where you’re normally guaranteed a lively line of bargain hunters, is frequently deserted.

Of course, the usual spin will be applied ensuring that, as always, this year’s Fringe is hailed ‘the busiest ever’.

There’s actually no doubting that’s true show-wise, although I’d argue that with more than 4,000 performances in an day an already saturated market, that market finally popped this year. I’ve never heard of so many ‘big names’ giving away tickets to put bums on seats.

In doing so they create a knock on effect for the independents trying to make an impact - the ones that can’t afford to pay between £2000 and £7000 to a publicist to get them noticed, or to stump up the £5000 required to secure a minimal presence on the makeshift advertising hoardings around town.

The good old spirit of the Fringe appeared to be in short supply too at times; blocking views of the Gardens with the ‘Great Wall of Princes Street’ was just churlish; accusations of heavy-handed security more worrying; and reports of venues charging £1 for a plastic glass when asked for water just plain mean-spirited.

Thankfully, there have been success stories too

A musical that last year was just another hopeful transformed into the hit of the Fringe, selling more than 10,000 tickets over the month. Yes, 2018 was the year that Six The Musical came of age.

Making history ‘pop’ular in a way school lessons never did, don’t miss these six Queens, reigning supreme at Underbelly’s Purple Cow until Monday.

Telling the story of the wives of Henry VIII - divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived - Six reinvents the Tudor wives club as rocking, girl-power pop band.

A pulsating concert-style musical spectacular with faultless cast, tight band and deliciously wicked script and lyrics, Six is undoubtedly this year’s Hit of the Fringe.

Another success story is Glenn Chandler’s Kid’s Play, at The Space on the Royal Mile - ends 25 August.

There’s so much humanity at the heart of this beautifully layered new play. Clement Charles and Gareth Watkins give heartfelt natural performances that are emotional, personal and real.

An enthralling piece of theatre then, that keeps you on the edge of your seat as it twists and turns... but would you really expect anything less from the creator of Taggart.

Another show that embraces the true spirit of the Fringe is Martin Kent’s hilarious Slipstick at C Venues until Sunday.

Watching the well-loved Benidorm mime/drag act took me back to evenings at the Vauxhall Tavern in the 80s watching Lily, Adrella and Regina Fong. An hour of high camp old-school drag; grotesque parodies, crude humour and glorious abandon rule, while all the time acknowledging the empowering traditions of the art form.

So, maybe not the most phrenetic Fringe ever, but certainly one with a few gems just waiting to be discovered.

@LiamRudden