2022 Edinburgh Fringe

Bin and Gone: Si Hawkins' End of Fringe Round-Up

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 badges from shows

I really thought this might turn out to be the Edinburgh Fringe's Year of the Rat. But that was arguably 2014, when Jim Davidson did a show.

With people still dumping rubbish round overcrowded bins - particularly on the side-streets where many smaller venues reside - I had a gap-year flashback to 1999, and an old fleapit cinema in Smithtown, Long Island, where cheap tickets were offset by the real possibility of rodents sharing your popcorn. Still, it's another warm body - by week three, a lot of acts were getting seriously cheesed off with all those empty seats.

One good way to get crowds is to perform a show about something popular already, and I caught a couple of acts doing interesting things with existing IP. My favourite show of the whole Fringe, in fact, was Yippee Ki Yay, in which the high-concept poet Richard Marsh turns an unlikely premise - a rhyming version of Die Hard - into a glorious rom-com, as one couple's relationship is inexorably tied to a vested Bruce Willis. Great idea, great execution.

Yippee Ki Yay poster

Less polished and poignant but still an admirable undertaking, Edy Hurst's Comedy Version of Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of HG Wells's Literary Version (Via Orson Welles' Radio Version and Steven Spielberg's Film Version) of the War of the Worlds takes a deep-dive into the innumerable versions of the Martian-invasion situation, with some likeable effects and at least one magnificent costume. Thankfully it's a fairly boisterous show as Hurst was bombarded every evening by a booming drum and bass night, downstairs at the Mash House - but lived to tell the tale.

Alice Cockayne's mum

So yes, it may have been a stinker of an August for many, but there were lovely things about this Fringe too. Parents flyering for their offspring, for example. At the Underbelly to see a show, Alice Cockayne's mum grabbed a handful of her daughter's flyers to punt around the cafe: might as well. And outside the Mash House, New York stand-up Terence Hartnett and his visiting mum did a sort of promotional double-act for his testicle-related show. Quality time.

More Saturday afternoon walkout drama - it's clearly the prime time for fickle punters to take a quick dislike to the cut of someone's jib, and flounce off. Tom Little's fabulously frenetic delivery is definitely not for everyone, true, but if you're unsure early doors, maybe don't sit in the deepest corner of the huge Subway, as it can take a while for your whole table to walk all the way past the stage and out, five minutes in, which really doesn't help the gig.

It's interesting when people choose to leave, too. The excellent Melissa Stephens' show Hot Dogs and Tears has a silly poster but an often dark subject matter, which seemed to trigger different people at different times, the evening I showed up. One guy left after ten minutes, someone else ten minutes later, and someone else ten minutes after that. By then we were starting to wonder if it was some sort of organised stunt - either way, they missed some amazing stuff.

Melissa Stephens poster

The other extreme: performers absolutely bringing the bloody house down. Later that Saturday, Jazz Emu felt like The Beatles at Shea Stadium - or maybe more Jarvis Cocker at Glastonbury 1995 - and clearly attracted a sizeable number of pre-Fringe fans of his social media malarkey. They were going nuts. Although props also to Christy Coysh, last year's musical comedy awards winner, with his 'do you know where the Patter Hoose is?' flyering technique, while standing right outside the Patter Hoose.

An honourable mention also to Luke McQueen here, whose Workout flyer lists some impressive credits - The Trip, Peep Show - which, on closer inspection, are headed 'auditioned for' and 'has seen.'

Luke McQueen and Christy Coysh's flyers

The other rock star-like show I catch is Garry Starr, who has at least one bloke wide-mouthed and howling for the full hour of Greece Lightning, even on a Tuesday - his poor jaw. But then it is full-on hysterical from the word go; one great joy of the Fringe is seeing diverse crowds absolutely loving what is pretty niche stuff, when you think about it.

Although it's also amazing to see a couple of folks sitting there stony-faced throughout, the joyless fucks. A few people thought there should be warnings before Starr's show, apparently, and may have a point: there's more meat and two veg on display than a Toby Carvery.

Actually I got a pretty niche bit of triggering earlier that day, during Fan/Girl, Bryony Byrne's excellent exploration of her teen football dreams. One of the most excruciating interview experiences I ever had was with Eric Cantona (due to a PR not bothering to tell him we were doing football, not film, questions).

Fan Girl poster

Now suddenly at Banshee Labyrinth I'm beckoned to the stage by an oblivious Byrne - playing Cantona - and have a full-on flashback. If this was a film, that encounter would resolve my Eric trauma, I'd detest Manchester United less and go on to live a happier, better-adjusted life. We'll see. Lovely show, anyway.

Another trigger-happy show was a late addition to that same venue: Pope's Addiction Clinic. Edinburgh has a unique pull, especially when in full swing and your social media feed is suddenly full of it. Having belatedly decided to come up, host Pope Lonergan seemed to go through the full Fringe emotional wringer within a few days. Indeed, he almost missed his own first show while chatting outside beforehand - the staff started turning punters away - but he managed to turn that awkward start into a mini triumph.

That show's convivial vibe does create an intriguing clash with the tone of the material, on occasion. On that opening night the estimable Milo Edwards revealed some intensely deep stuff about death while the (otherwise sound) local lads behind me eagerly discussed what drinks to get. But they bought Pope a Coke too, and bloody loved opening act Mark Silcox, who can baffle people. A memorable evening, that almost didn't happen.

Mr. Chonkers poster

Other memorable events, in that last week? The tallest man I have ever seen was in the toilets before the marvellous Mr Chonkers, which caused some consternation in the queue ("must not get stuck behind him!"), but he solved that dilemma by sitting in the front row, so we were all behind him. Then again, he probably can't squeeze in anywhere else. And we soon forgot about it when John 'Chonkers' Norris emerged, in a monk-y fashion.

That was up there with the best cold-openings I saw this year. Glenn Moore's you-missed-the-first-ten-minutes bit is probably the most satisfying, longer-term, although funniest was Josh Glanc's Python-esque concessions-seller and comedy-commentators double-header. I'd love to hear more of the latter.

Josh Glanc poster

As my Fringe winds down, I always make a point of visiting two venues where pretty much every show is guaranteed to be well worth your time. Arriving mid-Fringe at the Traverse Theatre, Liz Kingsman's One-Woman Show was already feted after successful runs and rave reviews elsewhere, but didn't disappoint, even with the added expectation of a grand Trav staging. What was surprising, for many, is how silly that show is. While also being wickedly clever.

One Woman Show poster

Over at the impressive culture hub Summerhall, an old veterinary college, John Hegley was in gloriously cantankerous form, like an exasperated lecturer, mock-chastising those of us who failed to adequately grasp his singalong requirements. As befitted the classier setting, the bespectacled lord of Luton elocution was this year talking Keats, plus also elephants, biscuits, but not the advertised burlesque dancing. That was just to entice people in. There's another promo method then: lie.

And still at Summerhall, an utter delight on my final morning. A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings is an adaptation of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez short story, which starts small - with tiny puppets - and gradually becomes gloriously epic. And this particular morning included an unexpected twist.

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings receiving the Lustrum Award. Image shows from L to R: Manus Halligan, Karen McCartney

Right at the end, as the storytellers - Karen McCartney and Manus Halligan - were about to take their bows, someone stepped out from the front row and onto the stage. Thankfully it turned out to be the boss of Summerhall, as the company had won a Lustrum Award (for an Unforgettable Show), a fragile-looking beast that might require lots of bubble wrap, to get home to Dublin in one piece. But they've got lots of tiny puppets to transport too, so probably know their onions.

Safe travels, everyone.

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