A view of Edinburgh Fringe from Glasgow
The vibrant Glasgow comedy scene is going to be well represented at this year's Fringe. One of the most exciting west-coast newcomers, Richard Brown, tells us what the Fringe means to him
As a young lad my parents would, one Sunday every August, take me and my brothers for a walk along the Royal Mile, to gaze in awe at the sights and sounds that would not have been out of place in my nightmares. 10-foot-tall terrors juggling knives, faces painted to represent concepts I was far too young to grasp, and unicyclists. So many unicyclists. Often juggling knives.
20 years later, The Fringe is an altogether different experience and has been responsible for some of the worst hangovers of my life. I am now aware of an exploitative corporate arm; acts who will work all year to pay for these three weeks; and the shocking revelation that those terrifying monsters along the Royal Mile are just people, many of them having their hopes and dreams and aspirations kicked to the cobbled streets.
I live in Glasgow. Despite being a short train journey away from the world’s biggest arts festival it can be easy to take the Fringe for granted. So many top names pop through that you could be forgiven for your complacency. I get as much joy from reading The Stand Glasgow’s August listings as I do from perusing the Fringe programme. But in Edinburgh, in August, you can escape real life, even if it’s for just a day, and immerse yourself in a surreal world of experimental arts, from the beautifully constructed celebrations of existence to the proudly anti-PC. In the space of a day you can see the most wonderfully unique and original performances, and the worst shit ever performed to a human audience. Either way it will leave an impression on you.
The Fringe is like the boy in the bubble. In a world of online advertising, rolling news and smartphones, Fringe performances can still sell out from word-of-mouth and established acts still flyer for their own shows. The Fringe can seem cut off from the outside world in a way that’s hard to imagine without experiencing it. When I popped through last year, London was on fire, as were the satirists who had taken up their annual month long residence in Scotland’s capital (boom!). In spite of this I still saw several London-based comics who seemed very blasé about the fact their homes may have been reduced to ashes, being instead more concerned with bringing in the punters and fine-tuning their shows.
This year I will throw myself in headfirst. Since venturing onto the Scottish stand up scene last August I have had the pleasure of seeing a number of acts work their way up to their first full length Fringe shows. I’ll be doing small 10-15 minute spots across the city, so since I have no emotional investment in a full length show perhaps I’m at an advantage?
I somehow doubt it. I will still be out in the street, inevitably soaked to the bone, apologising with my eyes as I push a flyer in your direction and ask you to come into a tiny room and validate my existence, my thinly-veiled alcoholism pushing to the surface. At the end of August I imagine I will be broke and broken, adding mine to the pile of shattered dreams. But whether I spend my evenings drinking to failure or success, I am sure that just by being in this bubble I should be able to avoid the Olympics. And really that’s all I want out of my Fringe experience.