Cutting the Fringe
With a full complement of tickets and hope, Helen Owen headed for the Edinburgh Fringe to see just how far performers can go before the audience walks out.
On the Royal Mile with the Fringe festival in full flow
Festival-goers collect a few more flyers
Strange hair… stranger trousers… hour spent in front of the mirror practising how to look effortlessly cool… No, it’s not a school disco – it’s the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Every year gazillions of ‘cultured’ folk strut into the city in the hope of trading their pouts and poses for all the theatre, comedy and post-modern minimalist expressions of the current socio-cultural climate through the medium of dance that they can handle. And every year I say, “Um… maybe next time.” Finally though, I have succumbed to the Fringe’s artsy-fartsy lure and Done The Fringe Thing.
Well, I went to one show, some free comedy and a matinee performance of a play that my uncle wrote the music for. But I was there! Soaking up the atmosphere, checking out the other punters, reeling from the ticket-prices (jovial, touristy and extortionate respectively) and, if I’m being honest, having a bloody marvellous time.
My first Fringe Experience was the walk from Waverly Station to my aunt’s car. In just ten minutes I had seen a man breathing fire, a girl on a unicycle and a very dangerous-looking demonstration of a samurai sword, and collected enough promotional leaflets to wallpaper the Taj Mahal, inside and out. Twice.
The play Whiskey Kisses was passable; well written and fairly well acted but many of the directorial decisions left a lot to be desired. At least that’s what the woman in front of me on the way out said. I thought it was alright, not as funny as it thought it was, and the music was, of course, completely and utterly fantastic. I especially liked the bit when a dry-ice machine popped out from under a table centre-stage, spluttered a bit and then vanished again.
The highlight of my time in Edinburgh, however, was most definitely the Jim Rose Circus in Stairway To Hell. As it was the only event I paid to go to, you would expect it to be a cut above. And by golly it was.
Led by the eponymous ring-master, the show followed the tenuous plot of a heavy-metal cover band trying to prove to Satan (Rose) that they deserve to be let into Hell. Over roughly an hour, the band are shown the delights (and horrors) of life in Hell and are subjected to various tests of their strength. These include racoon traps on fingers, mouse traps on tongues and the setting alight of the drummer’s crotch with lighter fluid.
The band merely serve as a side-line, however, to the real point of the show: skinny girls in their underwear performing a variety of toe-curling stunts. The mildest of these was dangling a live scorpion into her mouth. The most shocking – I won’t go into in detail – finished with a cry of, “Don’t worry folks, it’s not real blood! It is, however, a real knife and a real vagina!” and had eight people walking out in disgust. Jim Rose himself was the real star though, delivering his consistently hilarious spiel at break-neck speed and dealing with hecklers with a whip-like wit and a tongue so cutting it could draw blood.
I will admit that the show is most definitely not for everyone; it is absolutely shock for shock’s sake, obscene, over-the-top and full of needless gore and gross-outs. Should that happen to be exactly your cup of tea – as it is mine – then I cannot recommend the Jim Rose Circus enough. If not, however, then steer well clear; you’ll only be offended and you’ll be taking up space for the depraved individuals such as myself who want to see the whole gloriously repulsive thing again and again and again.
Before I go, one more word of warning to future Fringe-goers: if a sign says, “Free ‘Comedy’ ”, rest assured that the inverted commas around ‘comedy’ are no accident. Never again…
Helen Owen is currently pursuing her studies
The Leisure Review, September 2008
© Copyright of all material on this site is retained by The Leisure Review or the individual contributors where stated. Contact The Leisure Review for details.