“The Edinburgh Fringe is stupid. It’s too tough. It’s too brutal and bloody ridiculously expensive and in spite of occasional successes I’m never doing Edinburgh again.” So said one Edinburgh Fringe veteran to me in 2013. I won’t name him here. But then he said the same to me the next year. And the year after. And the year after that…! You get the idea.
“Ignore him,” says his wife. “He’ll be back. He always comes back. Edinburgh is like a drug.”
And as the train pulls slowly out of Waverley Station, I feel an unfathomable sorrow. Maybe it’s because there’s still some of the Fringe left to go and I’m suffering FOMO. (Fear of Missing Out!) which I often do, but it’s not just that. It’s not even been the sort of Edinburgh festival fringe I’m used to. Last time I was here I had two productions of my own and there were nearly 4,000 shows. This time it’s around 180!
So in spite of travelling light to the 2021 Fringe Light, with only two bags, at the end of my stay at Fringe ‘21, I walk very heavily out of my not very cheap budget hotel, past the Waverley Pub, over the Royal Mile, past The End Of The World (pub) past the baked potato place toward the train at Waverley Station on the way to Kings Cross. For the first time in years, I’ve not had a show (or two or three!) to worry about. None of the usual stresses. And there’s actually a seat reserved for me on the train! Normally on the last day of the festival there’s a lethal lack of space on all the trains, oversold by the grasping gits who run the services! Just saying…!
Now I HAVE been rushing round like a mad thing for a week and talking to people and doing radio shows and podcasts and I DO feel a bit knackered. But I mainly feel sad to be leaving. So why? What is it? Is it the people? Well, actually, in once sense, yes it is. Because after the years here, I now know people, lovely artists, who I only see – and very much look forward to seeing – in Edinburgh in August. Mmm! So maybe my fringe legends’ wife was right.
It’s taken me a while to try and work it out and I think it almost is a kind of drug. Edinburgh is the biggest open arts festival in the world. So there is nothing else like it in the world. The fear, failing finances and fatigue that we experience here is unique in the world. As are the friends, fortitude and fame that might (rarely) result from being here too.
Yes. I think that’s it. The human experiences at the Festival are unique in the world. Different to a West End opening. Different to a new tour first night. So. One way or another, I shall be back with at least one production next year. Along with my Fringe Legend Friend who, as I was leaving this time, said, “No. I don’t think so. Not next year. It’s too tough.”
We’ll BOTH see you there.