"Every square inch of picturesque Edinburgh was plastered with flyer after flyer"Flickr/@zoetnet

How much theatre is too much theatre? Reconciling the #theatrekid that, I suppose, has always been a large part of me, with the overarching and known belief that plays simply aren’t cool, was hard, but ultimately worth it, to spend a week as a reviewer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I am glad that I put aside my unfounded pretences for a jolly good week of theatrical hijinks at the Fringe, because frankly heartily enjoying a one-hour improv set about Greek myths really doesn’t make you too cool for school. And I’m proud of that.

I’ve always been a fan of signing up for a rogue writing course: a week or two here, a week or two there. All the fun of travelling, but with the bonus of structure being imposed on you and the added bonus (depends on how you see it) of sharing the experience with 10-20 strangers from all over the world (or the UK in this instance) who have the same niche interest as you.

I have always found it difficult to make friends, but my midnight (delayed flight) late arrival into this group of fun-loving (they’d had a few drinks at this point) thespian journalists was warm, welcoming and put me immediately at ease.

The main reason I decided to attend the Fringe as a reviewer, and not simply an audience member, was not because I felt I hadn’t got a chance to write all year (Varsity). It was instead because I was sure I simply wouldn’t know how to choose which shows to see. And I was right. As I walked along the road into the city, notebook and pen in hand, eagerly looking forward to my first review of the trip - through the safe tint of my sunglasses (I may have been a little hungover from the shenanigans of the night before. Theatre kids sure can throw them back), every square inch of picturesque Edinburgh was plastered with flyer after flyer for “Side-splittingly funny!” comedians, “Earth-shattering moving!” plays and “Whip-smart!” sketch shows. It was enough to make your head spin- though that might have been the previous night's tequila shots.

“The Fringe is friend to some, but won’t make stars of everyone, no matter how badly they want it”

But the real scourge of the streets were those god-awful flyerers. You couldn’t move for having someone’s ‘5 star’ (from their mate in the audience) show being shoved in your face with the following question, “Looking for some space-themed/ naughty/ feminist/ underwater comedy tonight?” - fill in the blank, based on the show’s premise.

As the leaflets of shows I’d never see collected mournfully at the bottom of my tote bag, it made me reflect on the excessive nature of events like the Fringe. Yes, some people - famously Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Rowan Atkinson, Russell Brand and Stephen Fry, among others - have built a career off being ‘discovered’ at the Fringe. But as desperate faces lined the streets, flyering manically, I couldn’t help thinking about the deluded many who wouldn’t make it. Eyes glistening with hopefulness, desperate for their moment in the spotlight. The Fringe is friend to some, but won’t make stars of everyone, no matter how badly they want it.

However, despite the exercise in excess, I found my time at the Fringe very enjoyable. Even seeing plenty of 2-star plays didn’t put me off. Like any drug, restraint is key, and it is with plays as well as psychedelics. But this week I was high on amateur dramatics and I couldn’t come down - frequently switching pre-drinks in the pub, for underground drunk heckling stand-up shows. Was it cool? No. Was it the time of my life? Yes - yes, it was.


Mountain View

Green Varsity’s guide to Cambridge talent at the Edinburgh Fringe

Not like any festival I’ve ever been to before, it was less MDMA and far more musical theatre. But this didn’t put me off.

Having never been to Scotland before, the most shocking part of the experience for me, however, was the fact that I heard very few Scottish accents during my trip. And this is an important topic to discuss. The Southern-isation of theatre, and indeed the creative industries mean that southern accents, just like mine, ruled the Fringe, and with many companies and performers investing hundreds of pounds into accommodation, costume, venue hire, flyer distribution and all the other costs necessary to take a show to this festival, it really proved that you have to have financial support to be able to indulge your creative side. A sad, but true fact of the business. One that I hope will change.

Additionally, another thing I had never really considered before was the real role of a journalist - even a student one - in shaping the truth. In reviewing, you canonically pass judgement on someone’s piece of work. In part, you could argue that all theatre is subjective and reviews are simply personal opinions, but in rating a show 2 stars, 3 stars, or even 5 stars, you attach your name to a reputable publication and say “This is The Truth”. And despite wanting to be honest and give my true thoughts on each show I saw, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the shows which had fallen short of the mark: so desperate for reviewers to promote their creative undertaking, that they didn’t realise a critic's opinion on a public forum may actually do more harm than good.

“I couldn’t help feeling sorry for those with stars in their eyes, who will never quite be 5-star performers”

So, what’s my take away from the Fringe as a whole? I wholeheartedly enjoyed it, and would definitely go back, but it’s undeniable that there are wealth inequalities in the theatre industry that are yet to be addressed. And although I was high on the adrenaline of an ardent audience member, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for those with stars in their eyes, who will never be 5-star performers. Overall, I would give my week a 5-star rating, but boy was I glad to have a nap when I got home.