28th Jul 2012 8:33am | By Caroline Bishop
Finding yourself in unusual situations is par for the course at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival.
From eating supernatural cheese to getting sticky with fellow audience members in a sweat lodge, this year’s event promises some memorable experiences. It’s hardly surprising; on from August 3-27, and with 2695 shows in the programme, this year’s Fringe is the biggest ever.
And while top comedians and esteemed playwrights may garner the most column inches, for a truly Fringe experience, throw yourself into one of the festival’s interactive shows.
Entertaining, offbeat and often downright weird, these participatory productions are unlike anything else.
What: Claiming to be the shortest Fringe production ever (yes, it is one minute long), this free show asks you to spend that minute spotting birds – shouting ‘bird’ (or its name, if you know it) when you see one.
Your instructor, Holly Rumble, records your efforts to create a rather amusing audio track. Suitable for twitchers and non-twitchers alike.
Weird? 5/5. Completely daft; inevitably funny.
What: Running a marathon can be an emotional rollercoaster. Performer and triathlete Melanie Jones invites you to share her own highs and lows as you follow her on a run, listening to her personal thoughts via an iPod audio track. Surprises ensue.
Weird? 3/5. You may get some funny looks from passers-by, but it’ll certainly be different from your usual jog in the park.
What: Based on real events, Hearts On Fire recreates a sweat lodge in the Arizona desert where motivational speaker James Arthur Ray gathered 60 followers in 2009 – three of them died.
Become one of Ray’s followers and immerse yourself in this claustrophobic experience created by the aptly named Peculius Stage.
Weird? 5/5. Not for the faint-hearted.
What: You arrive at an office to face a job interview. You’re nervous, scared of rejection, slightly sweaty. Would Be Nice Though... recreates this psychologically fraught atmosphere in a real working office.
But who are the actors and who are the audience members?
Weird? 4/5. A surreal ordeal, and there isn’t even an actual job on offer.
What: Cheese lovers rejoice. This show starts out as a cheese-tasting session – complete with real experts proffering sage advice – before revealing the story of a mysterious supernatural cheese with amazing powers. But should you eat it? The choice is yours.
Weird? 4/5. Cheesy and profound – an odd mix indeed.
What: Even having a cuppa in Edinburgh can be entertaining. This pop-up cafe created by two performance artists promises surprises with every sip.
From the menus to the food to the till receipts, everything is presented as art – even your waiters are in on the act.
Weird? 4/5. Expect bizarreness with your Battenberg.
What: Fancy a good heckle? This show positively encourages it. Based on the true story of riots in a London theatre in 1809 – they were protesting against ticket prices – it casts the audience as a raucous mob whose role is to drown out the actors on stage.
Weird? 3/5. Sounds rather therapeutic, actually.
The two branches of bistro Urban Angel, on Forth Street and Hanover Square, are great for brunch or a light bite. Mains from £6.90.
Mosque Kitchen offers affordable, tasty Indian cuisine right next to George Square, home to several Fringe venues. Mains from £4; samosas and veg from 60p. Talk about a result.
Around the corner from the Gilded Balloon and Udderbelly, The Pear Tree House boasts a sizeable beer garden and Free Fringe events upstairs. Pints from £3.50
The Spiegeltent in George Square Gardens is a Fringe institution. Round off the night with a drink and a dance in this famous mirrored big top.
Pollock Halls, part of the University of Edinburgh, is a good bet for a cheap stay, with single rooms from £56.
With 620 beds, Smartcityhostels may offer a sniff of availability. Five-star facilities and ensuite rooms make this a step up from your average hostel. From £17 for a dorm bed.
Train fares between London and Edinburgh in August will be sky-high. Consider the coach instead; single fares from London Victoria start at about £14.50. nationalexpress.com
More on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe at edfringe.com
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