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.
One Minute Birdwatching
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.
Endure – A Run Woman Show
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.
Hearts On Fire
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.
Would Be Nice Though …
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.
The Guild of Cheesemakers
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.
Hunt & Darton Cafe
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.
Eat, Sleep, Drink
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