A Cornucopia of Crap
Shakespeare was only half right, all the world is a stage but there are no players on it. Not even playas (although the chumps I’m going to roast here, think they’re in that category).
Nah, this stage has room for actual thesps apart from the ones stoating about the Cowgate at the witching hour; it’s like feeding time at the zoo for the assorted ragbag of local hoodlums, oddballs and ahem street philosophers who prey upon their bewilderment. But aye, stages and that. Without actors. Namely, Edinburgh.
That sound you can hear is the clunking of a metaphor – I had it honed from the really heavy vibes that this unfriendly rant from a disgruntled local is about to elicit.
Although truthfully, this is less a stinker of a review and more of an earthy encomium to the Embra so often overlooked by the greatest invasion of arts-holes to the greatest arts festival in the world™. The metaphor being that the whole city becomes its own performance piece during the summer months. Just not in the ways the city burghers would crow about.
If you ditch the well-trodden boards of the usual venues and venture out into the streets beyond the flyer-thrusters, you’ll find all kinds of performance taking place right there in front of your nose, quite literally actually (see below).
A gallimaufry of gadgies (yes, I did use the word ‘gallimaufry’ in conjunction with gadgie) to keep both town and gown onside. I urge anyone new to the ‘burgh who is here for the kulchur and that, to go forth and… no, not multiply… diversify.
For unbilled street experiences – as they shall be referred to from here on in – abound in this beautiful bastarding city of ours (such tension twixt love and hate, it is Stanley and Stella all rolled into one I tells ya). I would go as far as suggesting it is the truest expression of old Bertolt Brecht’s Epic Theatre.
After all, forcing audiences to see the world ‘as it is’ doesn’t get any more ‘as it is’ than, erm… ‘as it is’. Lost yet? Never fear, for I can provide a map to the filthy drama that proves elusive to many on the tourist trail.
To the performances themselves then. Purely organic, unscripted improv, yet paradoxically it follows a template of sorts, A paradigm of tropes, recognisable to most of us in the archetypes and scenarios you’ll encounter in this tour de force of tittery, tosspottery and tomfoolery.
Anyway, enough of the spraff, on to the performances. Behold the programme! A foretaste of what awaits if you chose to go rogue and suck up some proper Edinburgh.
Angry Scat Singing,
Leith Walk, Free
Leith Walk. The Boulevard of Dreams. The ones you have after strong cheese and horse tranquillisers. Add in the Krypton Factor assault course and piss-take pavement configuration that is ‘the Tramworks’ and you have angry scat singing aka… furious people ranting to themselves or at others. I’ve seen a 1000% increase in it recently. Imagine Cleo Lane on White Lightning rehearsing an argument about wasps with Johnny Dankworth. Fiery stuff.
Mobile Disco, Annandal Street, Free
Settle back for the musical fun that is ‘wankers in cars advertising their shit taste in music’. (This isn’t an Edinburgh phenomenon, you get these twats everywhere). But thanks to the infrastructural challenges of our beloved capital – temporary traffic lights are a big fave – there’s an increased chance to admire the playas in their mid-range saloons, polluting the air with bollocks at piercing volume. My end of Annandale Street is like the musical rail shooter Rez 2.
The Seagull, Any Bin, Free
Not Chekhov’s skit – he was overrated. But a dead gull could feature, if Konstantin isn’t hogging the shotgun. In short, the city is a cesspit a lot of the time – and the Evening News has said enough about the whole rubbish thing. But come festival time it’s a positive cornucopia of crap. Which allows for the horror show that is watching feral gulls attack overflowing bins or even tourists themselves. A Hitchcockian diversion then, to pass the time.
Barefoot Ballet, Lothian Road, Free
Girls with smudged mascara, carrying their shoes, at 2 o’clock in the morning. Sometimes screaming existentially about kebabs. Or urging a handsome ‘beau’ to ‘dinnae, dinnae… just leave it’ whilst dangling an arm out into the void for ghost taxis. It’s a thing of beauty. McFonteyns all of them.
Not that I’m a voyeur as such, I can barely make it past 10:30pm of a night. Plus driving slowly down Lothian Road to goggle at women can, rightly, get you arrested.
The Old Man & the C-Word, Broughton Street, Free
Finally, a mea culpa. For as I reach the half-century, I am becoming the thing I used to hate: the old man of Edinburgh who moans his way through a pint about festival wankers coming here and disrupting his supposed ‘idyll’.
The truth is, there are a lot of me out there, fouling the air of pubs with curmudgeonly rants like this. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry, But if you want to see me in action, try the Cask & Barrel of a Friday.
Until then, happy Edinburgh Festivaling. ■
Someone wants a word, Mr Montgomery…