August in Edinburgh.
Festival filled, streets lined with performers, tourists and people trying to continue to lead their lives through the mayhem. All watched over by the dominatrix owl mascot for this year’s festival. Average August.
This year, I’ve barely indulged – my first Fringe date was Monday past. Apart from being in the final throws of my recovery, an attic conversion, and a plethora of other things, my interest is at an all time low – not on purpose. The hype building up to it has been…meh. The atmosphere is…ok. Part of me can’t help but wonder if last year’s celebration of both it and the EIF starting on the same day made this year’s pale in comparison. The cynic in me, however, thinks it’s something else.
I can’t begin to describe how lame this year’s programme is and, more importantly, bewildering. The Fringe is a live festival, it’s about live performance. So why, to name one example, would you include the Digital Festival within the Fringe programme? Bearing in mind very few are live screenings which, to me, is cheating, not least because many of the recordings belong to NT Live and the RSC – so basically trying to capitalise on what had already been achieved, gotcha.
…Ok, that was super cynical, but something is definitely off with this year. There have been various reshuffles and overhauls of staple venues that have, to some extent, removed its soul and atmosphere. Venues have been moved and spread out which is a good idea in terms of people management, but it means no one place is buzzing like most are used to. And despite only being down by 1.3% in the number of shows being performed this year from 2015, the programme feels lighter – a 49 show loss shouldn’t make it feel like a chunk is missing, unless more venues are hosting their own programmes?
Maybe more people recognise the hole venue prices burn in performers’ pockets in return for rare success. Or they’re tired of the pot luck nature of the Fringe and more want value for money because for every good show, there are countless terrible ones. Maybe it’s that any and every feasible space can apply to be a venue, from toilet cubicles and alleyways to cafés (the very small kind) and strip clubs, and so many don’t relate to the piece in question. The fact it becomes an annual game to find places to eat, drink, or simply be for half an hour without being guilt-tripped into a show you didn’t go into the place for in the first place, is something that needs it’s own air time and awards ceremony. …I smell a plan for next year.
Anyway, I have no idea what it is, and I’m not going to pretend these are the actual reasons, largely because this happens every year. Taking a back seat on the exploitation of the Festival cannot be ignored (as I write this, a site has been set up on it), but every time the conversation begins, someone stubs it out with those wonderfully counterproductive arguments you hear from those who think if you can’t change the status quo overnight, why bother? But I’m sure others have had an incredible festival, and maybe that’s all that matters as a consumer. Right?