By Imogen Sarre
Now that you've negotiated the Edinburgh Festival pre-planning packing conundrums and accomodatory nightmares (presumably entirely thanks to the trusty aid of our handy Edinburgh Festival planning hints), it's time to work out what to do while you're up there.
If you're anything like most people, despite spending an inordinate amount of time on the boring logistical elements of your trip, you've barely given a second thought to how you're actually going to fill your days.
The Fringe programme will become your bible (albeit a rather sodden and dog-eared one: paper and rain don't mix so well). Get ready to spend hours poring over the pull out map of Edinburgh and its venues at the back of the guide book. Free copies can be found in all good UK theatres/outlets in the months running up to the Fringe, you can get them delivered in advance (P&P prices apply), or you can download a copy. Alternatively you can wait to trip over the stacks of free copies to be found in every shop and venue all over Edinburgh.
2) The official EdFringe website is invaluable, listing the most up to date show and venue information available. You can book tickets in advance online via this as well. Booking fees are very reasonable.
3) EdFringe authorities in red jumpers scatter themselves across the Royal Mile and parts of the city so you can always approach them in person if in need.
Getting a full flavour of the Fringe means leaving yourself a fair amount of time to be spontaneous - there's always something you can join in on last minute. However, to make the most of your time, it is worth doing some planning. âTimetable' has connotations of school and excessively organised administrative fiends, but for all that I beg you not to dismiss it. Bear in mind the following:
Most shows at the Fringe are an hour long. All listings and most reviews put running times down. Shows start at about 10am and go on until midnight.
A word of warning: most people's eyes are bigger than their legs. The city of Edinburgh is quite a bit bigger than it seems on the Ed Fringe guide map. It's also much more difficult to navigate than you'd have thought, with cheeky labyrinths of streets that aren't accessible from streets they totally seem to be connected to. Leaving twice as long as you think (on average 45 minutes) to get to each venue is recommended. Walking is the standard mode of transport and so much is pedestrianised that I'm not sure taxis or buses save you that much time.
There's obviously no right or wrong answer here, but it's probably fair to say that performers generally see a show a day (on top of flyering and performing in their own), that the average punter will take in three, and that the hard core will aim for five (possibly moving up to the dizzy heights of six or seven if they are inordinately organised and have an insatiable theatrical appetite).
How long is a piece of string? It depends what you want
from your Fringe experience, but I'd say that if you know there's something
specific you're desperate to see, definitely book it up. NB: as the Fringe
progresses, it becomes more necessary to book in advance.
When you go up there you'll be besieged by people giving
you recommendations of amazing finds and it's really pretty gutting if you
can't go and see something because your schedule is too choc a bloc. There's
also something very exhilarating about wandering down the Royal Mile, being
given a flyer or seeing an awesome snippet from a show being performed live,
and using that to determine what you're going to see.
The general feeling about the Fringe experience is that it's all about taking the good with the bad. It's this openness to seeing new things that makes it such a special place to be. So, if you're able to (retrospectively at least) laugh about the totally horrendous moment when you were privy to something horribly unsuitable, when you were bored to tears, or when you sat for a whole hour with your mouth actually wide open in disbelief that anything could be that bad, you might find those moments are some of the most memorable from your trip.
Or join us on twitter to find out our daily EdFringe recommendations. Share your top tips too.
To really make the most of the Fringe, I'd recommend taking tips from some of the most trusted reviewing authorities, but also taking a punt and taking the advice of some smaller ones. Variety is the spice of life and nowhere is this more true than at the Fringe. The Fringe programme and edfringe website has sections dedicated to Cabaret, Children's Shows, Comedy, Dance and Physical Theatre, Events, Exhibitions, Music, Musicals and Operas, Spoken Word as well as Theatre, so don't limit yourself. You'll find different reviewing bodies focus on certain sections of these, so to ensure you get your quota for variety, take advice from lots of them.
Generally speaking, the reviewing big dogs cover shows that fall into the'Festival' part of the month, rather than the 'Fringe'. Edinburgh's Scotsman, the Metro, Three Weeks, Whats On Stage, The Guardian, Independent and Stage all focus on covering professional, bigger-budget productions, though they may also get round to some smaller productions that have a buzz going. The shows reviewed by these publications are often in larger venues and are more expensive.
Lyn Gardner (Guardian theatre critic) is especially good at dipping more than a toe into the Fringe's talent pool, so look out for anything she recommends. The smaller websites and papers will also focus on seeking out the up and coming talent that's less well established. These smaller-scale productions are often tucked away in Edinburgh's cubbyholes but showcase much more exciting writing, directorial and acting talent than anything in the big shows. Because they're in intimate spaces and a bit cheaper, these are normally the most exhilirating and powerful experiences. Broadway Baby, The List, Fest Magazine, Fringe Review and Fringe Guru are all worth checking out, and EdFringeReview does a sterling job focusing on all those shows (student, amateur and free) that are often marginalised, but can show talent at its very rawest.
Leave yourself a good few hours to wander the Royal Mile, a fully pedestrianised street in the very heart of Edinburgh that encompasses the variety and spirit of the Fringe. You will be besieged by cast members handing out flyers, so if you need to get from A to B in any other speed than 'amble' choose a different route. Marketing approaches range from the bizarre to the fabulous: some perform excerpts from their shows; others use innovative shock-factor tactics. Flyerers will be costumed up to the nines and street artists line the pavement. It's something of a spectacle.
A hill with panoramic views of the city of Edinburgh, this is a short walk away from the centre of the city and a lovely way to get a bit of fresh (and windy) Scottish air.
Based only a stone's throw from Princes Street, the International Book Festival runs 9-25 August. With its family-friendly programme, cheaper tickets and the promise of a gentle escape from the mania of the Fringe - is well worth making time for.
This hour and a half event takes place between the 1-23 August. Music, dancing, marching military and an epic firework display makes for quite the experience.