Saturday, 15 August 2015

ON LEAVING EDINBURGH

This was my tenth year in a row covering the Edinburgh Fringe in a professional/‘professional’ capacity, something I realised about a week in with marked ambivalence. I’m a father now (DON'T KNOW IF YOU MISSED THAT BUT I'M A FATHER NOW) and without pretending it’s some sort of one-man tragedy, leaving little Janek for over a week has been one of the more emotionally gruelling parts of the whole process of fatherhood – aside from just missing him, then there’s also the sense I’m missing out – so much happens to a baby week-on-week, and I was absent for the entire twenty-first week of his life. Plus there’s nothing like THEATRE to make you think dark thoughts about the awful things that could happen to your only child in the future. (NB I miss my wife too, but what’s a week between adults etc).

At the same time, it’s interesting that the extreme settled down-ness of my ‘real’ life – I live in Zone 4, I get up at whatever ungodly hour my son declares to be ‘morning’, and two nights out at the theatre per week is currently the extent of my non-family-related social life – has in some ways exacerbated the allure of the Fringe this year. The Fringe is, I guess, an idealised world, a world of round-the-clock theatre and parties, where everyone is young and hopeful and creative, all the time, where everyone stays up late in a strikingly beautiful city that few of them are actually from, a summer holiday of sorts. It might not be real, but it’s real for three-and-a-half-weeks, which is a bloody impressive achievement. And though I have sort of given myself a couple of early nights, I have largely reverted to being an effusively sociable person who stays up late and goes to parties after a day of excessive theatre-watching. Which is great, but I suppose a decade in and I wonder when the switch point will come – I’m probably the most senior theatre writer who goes for the parties, and the partier to be married with a child, but then I am still the youngest senior theatre. I daresay I’ll still be coming to Edinburgh in another decade, when I’m 44, but will I just revert to my student-y Edinburgh life then, or will I make some conscious decision to become an adult up here? Will the fact Edinburgh coincides with the school holidays change the festival for me?

Is this all a bit ‘Dawson’s Creek? Possibly it isn’t something I particularly needed to share with the wider world, I'm basically just indulging myself by trying to keep some record of my current feelings, a sort of weird cocktail of relief and extreme wistfulness as I leave the city. I don’t really think about the Fringe that much for swathes of the year, and I know that at some point in the next fortnight I will have the thought ‘the Fringe is still going? That’s hilarious’. And in a way my wistfulness is only increased by knowing that. So there you go, dear reader, I am wistful, whoop de do. Still, better than another bloody blog about the Labour Party, eh? Oh, I wrote a top five shows of Edinburgh on Facebook, maybe I'll post it here as 'bonus content' 1. The Encounter – Probably not even a perfect show (yet), but when a piece of theatre makes you genuinely feel like reality is disintegrating around you, you probably shouldn't nitpick.

2. Stewart Lee – obviously this is terribly passe, but he really is SO GOOD. His new urine routine is probably one of the most technically impressive, audacious things I've ever seen in any medium, and is also extremely funny (and not about urine).

3. Ross & Rachel – lots and lots of monologues and work from young 'uns this year, but something about how meta this is really worked for me, it's a really strong show in its own right that uses this ambiguous relationship with the TV show Friends to kind of add another layer, it's sort of tragic and funny at the same time a really sort of doublethink way.

4. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing – luv a good monologue

5. My Birthday without You – I probably did see better shows that I haven't mentioned, but (possibly because it was my last show) I just thought this really committed parody of confessional poetry/live art solo shows really hit the spot. About half the audience were in hysterics and the other half were completely baffled.

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