Danny MacAskill on Drop and Roll Live

Viral cycling legend Danny MacAskill returns to Edinburgh with a new live show at the Edinburgh Fringe; we catch up with MacAskill ahead of opening day

Feature by George Sully | 31 Jul 2019
  • Danny MacAskill

In the spring of 2009, before the term ‘viral video’ had been ruthlessly commodified by content marketing agencies, a talented cyclist put together some clips of eye-watering urban stunts and put them online. Soundtracked by The Funeral by Band of Horses, the video exploded into hundreds of thousands of views overnight, as Danny MacAskill – then not really known outside of local cycling circles – treated the streets of Edinburgh as his playground.

Leaping over and across fences and steps around Edinburgh University, the Commonwealth Pool, the College of Art and even off trees in the Meadows, MacAskill had the perfect ingredients for video virality: something that appealed to both enthusiasts and your typical online video magpie, blowing minds in all corners of the internet.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of that video, and to celebrate MacAskill and his team are bringing his stunts to the Fringe, in the hopes that the same mass appeal that skyrocketed him to success will translate to the world’s biggest arts festival.

The show will be a version of Drop and Roll, a production they’ve been touring for the past five years. It takes the sorts of trials-style outdoor tricks seen in his videos (Red Bull didn’t skip a beat in sponsoring MacAskill from late 2009; have a look on YouTube for his more recent escapades) and puts them in a tent.

“It is a little bit of a bread-and-butter kind of way to make a living from trials, ‘cause it can be done in a smaller venue,” MacAskill tells us. “You don't need a mountain for one, and the jumps and things you can do in a more confined space, which lends itself well.”

On returning to Edinburgh

Fittingly the festival brings him back to where it all began. “It’s a bit of a homecoming, back to Edinburgh,” he says. “But we really want to really step it up for the Edinburgh shows. Because we're in one venue, we don't have to transport the obstacles around with us, you know, ‘cause you get confined with what you can take on the road. So we'll be able to build much bigger and more elaborate setups.”

Danny MacAskill's Drop and Roll Live will take place in Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows. In many ways this makes sense: what is circus if not professional athletes doing impressive stunts? But few circus shows involve two wheels.

“It'll probably be slightly loose,” MacAskill cautions. “It's maybe not like the circus where it happens first go. We're not quite as trained as that. It's a little bit more spills and thrills. And maybe getting it third go rather than first.”

He prefers “that ‘real’ aspect”. “Sometimes I find some shows are too polished, that maybe takes away the element of risk, or makes it look too easy. So [in Drop and Roll Live] there's a few tricks that might not work first go. We’ve put some stuff in there that's going to be pretty challenging.”

But he also says “we're gonna try to pick some stuff on a level that's repeatable. You know, we don't want to watch an entire hour of me just trying one trick. So we're going to be really trying to push it, but then also trying to make it through 25 shows.”

Danny MacAskill on the "real-time feedback" of live shows

It’s certainly a marathon. “We normally tick off maybe 20 dates throughout the entire year. So this is going to be pretty next level. That's going to be difficult – the discipline, I mean. Luckily we're used to that kind of lifestyle, we're at events quite a lot. It's just going to be a long event.”

MacAskill feels in good company at the Circus Hub. “Some of the coolest shows I have ever watched have been in the Festival. So we've got some tough competition, but there's not so many two-wheeled ones out there.”

This will all be referee’d by their trusty MC Henry Jackson, a pro who’s been in many of their live shows. “He's a great ringleader, and keeps us in check – or makes us do things that we don't want to do sometimes!” he says. “He’s a good middle man between the crowd and us. And really keeps the show lively as well.”

MacAskill asserts the show’s crossover appeal. “It'll be a show for everybody, and it's very family friendly. It should be funny as well, hopefully. It's meant to be funny. I hope people don't just start laughing at us falling off our bikes all over the place.”

Compared to his staged videos, “the live shows are really fun ‘cause you're getting real-time feedback,” he explains. “You can't beat the feeling of doing shows in front of kids because you know how it feels. I've seen my heroes doing tricks, and I remember looking at my heroes' bikes and they almost glow, they're that cool and unobtainable. It's a really cool feeling to start planting those seeds of inspiration.”

MacAskill’s relationship with the Festival hasn’t always been a positive one, however. As a young rider, the busy streets meant “it was a nuisance.” But “it's definitely the coolest festival in the world, so it's going to be awesome to be back.”

Danny MacAskill's Drop and Roll LiveUnderbelly's Circus Hub on the Meadows (Lafayette), 3-24 Aug, 3pm plus 7, 12 & 19 Aug, 7pm, £16.50-20

Wheely Wild Shows: Three more cycle-fuelled Fringe shows

Elements of Freestyle
An "explosion of extreme urban sports, breakdance, music and theatre", EoF combines BMX, skating, skateboarding and basketball into an exciting whole. Pleasance @ EICC (Lennox Theatre), 3-25 Aug (not 7, 14 or 21), 4pm, £12.50-17.50

360 Allstars
Breakdancing! Basketball! A two-time flatland BMX champion! 360 Allstars brings together a range of world champions and record holders to celebrate all things rotational. Assembly George Square (Gordon Aikman Theatre), 1-26 Aug (not 12), 1.30pm, £14-16

Cirque Berserk!
Back after a hit Fringe debut last year, Cirque Berserk! are the only show on this list with their own motorcycle Wheel of Death. They also bring dozens of acrobats, aerialists and dancers to the party. Pleasance @ EICC (Lennox Theatre), 2-25 Aug (not 21), various times, £13.50-19.50