The sound of revelry and disgruntled drivers fills the air in Edinburgh this week. It can mean only one thing. Not that a giant, drunken parade has taken over the streets. It be The Festival. Which actually is a kind of giant, drunken parade at times. People drunk on comedy and theatre, music and dance all filling the centre of Edinburgh like cultured zombies signifying the artpocalypse. It’s an interesting time to be a writer in the city, because so much creativity swallows the place it makes you feel more at home than ever. It also makes it a lot harder to write, because why make stuff up when you’re surrounded by so much excitement that other people have made up for you to enjoy? I’ll call it research, then it’s fine.
I remember asking a bus driver once how he felt about the thing, and how he organised the timetables on his routes. He simply shook his head with a smile and shrugged his shoulders, “you just get on with it.” That’s pretty much the resident’s attitude to the whole thing. That is to say it makes you smile, because otherwise it would make you cry. It is however truly the best time to live in Edinburgh.
I’ve already dabbled my tiny feet in the warm waters of this year’s artistic delights, in great part due to the very welcome offer from Assembly rooms for £5 tickets for locals to any of their venues for shows on the 1st and 2nd of August. On Thursday I went to see and am happy to review Graham Clark’s ‘Afraid of the Clark‘, playing at a nice intimate venue at Assembly Roxy. I’d not heard his name before but going off the back of the reviews he’s received on the Canadian circuit I thought I’d give it a go. The best thing about the festival is that opportunity to see what you hadn’t previously ever known about. It’s rammed down your throat in glossy flyers and a constant barrage of noise and fun so you almost have to jump in for fear of drowning beneath the deluge of other people telling you what to do. Graham Clark however was one of those perfect examples of why that’s so good. A delightful show of beardy humour delivered in a way that made for comfortable laughs (albeit less so when he read us erotica, the sexy devil) and a friendly atmosphere. Highly recommended.
Later in the day we stumbled along to watch Rich Hall in the Assembly Spiegel in George Square. It was comedy with a bit more of an edge, ready to cut the poor bastards sitting in the front row who unfortunately for them had decided to meet his eye and reveal their studies in Economics and Maths. Woe be you who sits at the front without an interesting story.
Josh Widdicombe who we saw on the Friday followed a similar thread. Don’t sit in the front row if you’re in the process of getting divorced either. All in all though Josh Widdicombe was a very fun show too. Not tackling the big issues but instead talking about the items found on his coffee table, which were damning despite his protestations. No man should be too lazy to carry his supernoodles through to the kitchen, you’re saving about a fifty calories by not having to cook. It was friendly humour though, that re-assures you that you don’t have to satire huge events to make people laugh. One lesson learned from the two however; sharp is the tongue of the comedian on the first night of his tour. That and don’t sit in the front row unless you want your shame brought forth amongst a crowd of strangers.
With so much to see it’s hard to work out what to do, but I like that random nature. It’s that strange quirk of chance that took me to Graham Clark, the highlight so far. It also took me to see Cambuyon which was a righteous festival bonanza of tapping toes, fantastic dancing, quirky drumming, beautiful melodies and a whole lot of fun. It’s a show that’s very hard to describe, and difficult to forget, highly recommended too. The Assembly festival offer was a great way for local residents to start things, giving us a chance to see all those little bits you might not otherwise see.
More than just the random fun, there’s a strange few other things I enjoy of this sprawling artpocalypse that smothers our city each August. I like walking down the street being annoyed at tourists, pondering whether it’s ok to knock a six year old over because you’re hungry and really want to eat before your next show. I like it, not because I’m a sick bastard who likes the idea of pushing over 6 year olds (although it is probably quite funny) but because I like the reason they’re in my way. They’re here for one of the world’s biggest art festivals, and their custom is the means for it to continue. So am I, except I don’t have to check in or out to do it. I win tourists. Thanks for coming and get out of my way. I’m not afraid to knock over your children.