Former comedy editor at The Skinny, Lizzie Cass-Maran writes us a more personal Fringe guide and takes baby Dora for her first Festival day out
This is my sixteenth Fringe, and after reviewing comedy for years my wife and I moved to deepest darkest Fife and made a tiny human.
Life with our tot Dora has been full of unimaginable joys, often reminiscent of some of the more obscure Fringe acts I've seen (but am far too much of a lady to reference). My parenting ethos, though, is to stick my baby on my back and take her with me to see the world.
So what of the Fringe? Are some of the classic Fringe experiences still achievable with a baby in tow?
I was overjoyed at the beginning of the day to discover baby-on-my-back to be a pretty effective deterrent to flyerers. Approaching the Mile, things got hairier. I enjoyed showing Dora the Fringe madness though, and with her on my back she got as good a view as any. I was grateful as ever for babywearing, too: Edinburgh in a buggy is a pretty scary prospect for most of the year, and Edinburgh during the Fringe is scarier than the Predator statue I saw having a sly fag on the corner of George IV bridge.
Admittedly, I've never really been one for the Big Four. I do like the hustle and bustle of the centre and around the university, but for proper Fringe values, I'm a Stand woman through and through. The inestimable Tommy Sheppard (now working as SNP MSP for Edinburgh East) now has an empire that runs the length of George Street, so we decided to catch The Amazing Bubble Man [★★★★☆] at the Assembly Rooms. Dora slept through quite a lot of it, although this was no reflection on the show; just the Fringe exhaustion setting in early. It really is just bubbles, so it can be hard to explain what makes the show so captivating. Coloured bubbles, rising bubbles, rocket bubbles, bubbles in bubbles, kids in bubbles... all delivered with the message that you really can try this at home. It's the first time I've seen the show, though I know it's a Fringe staple; next time I'd love to see him expand on the storytelling he touched on to tell a full bubbly tale. Dora, when awake, loved the clapping.
There's something about beer in plastic cups – where your feet stick slightly to the floor – that sums up the Fringe for me. We were on a bike, so I stuck to a half pint of ale when we headed to the Mash House (a venue that's been through more names than Madonna – it's the one on the corner of Guthrie Street) to see The Kagools [★★★★☆]. This wasn't a kids' show per se, but billed as family friendly, and its wordless comedy was certainly perfect for us. Dora avidly followed the action for its full 55 minutes; as long as you can do anything at that age.
The word I've been using to sum up The Kagools is lovely. Nicky Wilkinson and Claire Ford were consummate performers with expert timing and control. The show mixes physical comedy and film with Mars bars, bear suits and a large water gun to a total greater than the sum of its parts. If I was still in my roaring 20s, I'd have perhaps criticised it a little for not being particularly groundbreaking, but for a show with my baby: lovely. Just lovely. I came out feeling a little happier about the world (and slightly wetter). Dora spent a lot of time worrying about where the bear head went. But there was a lot of clapping there too.
The Amazing Bubbleman, The Assembly Rooms, until 30 Aug, 11:05am, £9-11
The Kagools, Just the Tonic @ The Mash House, until 30 Aug, 3:20pm, £5
You can follow Lizzie Cass-Maran on twitter: @lizziecassmaran