EDINBURGH 2019: Surviving the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Every year, I revamp an article about how to get the most out of Edinburgh without running yourself into the ground. Around two weeks into the Festival, our UK Editor-in-Chief uses said article to mock me as I whine about how exhausted I am.
Yes, I'm absolutely terrible at taking my own advice. I work full time in Glasgow and commute through to Edinburgh on weekends and minimal annual leave. I've stayed through in Edinburgh for parts of the Festival before, but I usually end up sitting in near-empty shows until 1am (because I feel like its a waste not to) and spending my mornings nursing a hangover and missing my cat.
Don't get me wrong. The Fringe can be a lot of fun. The atmosphere is electric and you can see some absolutely incredible theatre. But it can also be emotionally tough when you're tired, cold (good old Scottish summer) and seeing intense work back to back with nobody to talk to all day. It can be difficult to write up coherent reviews when you're so exhausted you can't quite remember how to spell 'Edinburgh'.
Last year was my sixth year covering the Festival. It was definitely my most manageable year so far, and I picked up some habits I'm definitely keen to repeat in 2019...
No more than six shows a day
OK, six might be higher than many people recommend, but I've been known to do eight so this is still relatively restrained for me. Six is the maximum I can see and write up a review in reasonable time without getting completely frazzled.
Check your venues
Check your venues when you're planning shows, when you're booking them and when you're collecting tickets. I've been coming to the Fringe for over 20 years and I've still ended up at the Pleasance Courtyard when I'm meant to be at the Dome.
It's OK to cancel
Right, hear me out. Until last year I thought cancelling Fringe shows was an absolute no-no. If I cancelled something I would be blacklisted, have my pass taken away from me and banned from the city of Edinburgh for life.
But things happen. I contacted the press office 90 minutes before a show started to let them know that I wouldn't be able to attend as my early morning train was cancelled. I cancelled two more shows with five and seven days' notice because they were late shows and Scotrail had proved unreliable after 10pm, so I was worried about getting home. Everyone was very nice about it and I gave as much notice as I could.
Eat something. Anything
It's all very well scheduling meal breaks, but then that show comes up, the one everyone's taking about and you can JUST about squeeze in if you run between venues... Last year, I had a good breakfast before leaving Glasgow, made every effort to have something substantial around 5pm, and then had a freezer full of midnight snacks for my return home. My backpack was stuffed with nuts, crisps and anything snacky that claimed an energy boost for munching in queues or while typing up reviews in press bars.
Water is always a good idea, and you'll be especially grateful for a bottle in your bag when you're sitting in those sweaty, sweaty venues.
Edinburgh weather is an improvised show in itself, so you need to dress for the occasion. Layers are the ideal situation and I'd highly recommend a light rain jacket rather than having someone's eye out with an umbrella on the Royal Mile. The venues vary wildly in temperature, so you're best with something you can take on/off when necessary.
Get some sleep
I'm no use to anyone if I'm not well rested. In previous years, I've sacrificed an early night for some late cabaret and decided to power through with cheap energy drinks. Since ditching this habit, I've found that I might miss out on some awesome shows, but I don't miss the crushing sense of panic and doom.
You won't see everything
This is the one I struggle with the most. No matter how much time you spend in Edinburgh during August, you will miss out. I just try and reassure myself that I can read the playtexts or hopefully see it on tour.
Grab some pals
This is undoubtedly what made my Festival a lot more enjoyable last year. Seeing shows solo is possibly more of a reviewer thing and I definitely don't expect my friends to buy tickets to 50-something shows to keep me company, but it's nice to have someone to buddy up with if you can.
I find my best bets are other reviewers and performers who understand that you need to rush off afterwards. While I love seeing shows by myself, it gets a bit wearing all day every day, and it can be really nice to have someone to chat about the show with afterwards.
Even with the best intentions, a month-long arts festival is really gruelling. You can check out @BWWScotland for reviews throughout August, and you can follow along on Instagram to see how we're coping!
Do you have any tips for surviving Edfringe? Tweet us @BWWScotland!
From This Author Natalie O'Donoghue
Natalie has been an avid theatre goer since her first London production of Blood Brothers when she was 12. Based in Glasgow, she also reviews (read more...)
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