“It is impossible to see every show presented at Fringe. It would take about five years to see every single one, not taking time to travel, eat, sleep,” says Margaret Hall, one of this year’s two Playbill Goes Fringe correspondents. “That’s the beauty of the festival. Only you can have your experience of it, and you can tailor your time at Fringe to your pace, your interests, and your preferred level of adventure.”
For this year’s Fringe, Playbill Goes Fringe correspondents Hall and Leah Putnam took in as many shows as possible, following word-of-mouth and chance encounters. The result was a wide range of genres and performers—and the data shows it. “Some of our trip statistics definitely conjure up the festival for us: we averaged, daily, 11,613 steps and 14 flights of stairs, saw 35 shows in all (seven of which made us cry, some from laughter), encountered two silent discos, ate haggis on at least 5 occasions, and listened to about 140 bagpipers—about 125 of whom played at the Royal Military Tattoo,” says Putnam. “The joy of the experience is the chance to go with the flow of the crowds or follow an impulse to see a show even though you may know nothing about it.”
“That’s not to say you can’t plan your day ahead of time. But, you can often decide at the last minute to go see a show and get a ticket right before you walk in—so long as it’s not sold-out,” says Hall. Keeping an eye on sold-out shows is one way of seeing what’s gaining attention, and most of the big venue operators keep boards that they update with the day’s sold-out shows. Festival-goers can then plan ahead to catch it on a different day. “One of the best things you can do is ask people around you what they’re excited to see or what they’ve already seen and loved. If you’re eager to catch what’s being well-received by critics, keep an eye out for past winners of Fringe First Awards, a coveted award for new writing at the festival that is given out by Scotland’s national newspaper The Scotsman,” Putnam recommends. The Scotsman announces new winners each week of the festival every year, giving audiences the opportunity to see award winners during their runs. In addition to awards, there is a heavy emphasis on critic reviews at the festival, and attendees can check publications like The List, The Scotsman, and The Guardian to find out the reception particular shows are receiving.
“Don’t forget, however, about the city itself,” says Putnam. “I first attended Fringe and visited Edinburgh in 2013. Returning nine years later, the city and the festival surprised me. It’s often easy to remember incredible experiences with rose-colored glasses. I did not expect to return to Edinburgh and fall so in love with it with my eyes open. It was easy to get swept up in the festival, and though I saw more of Edinburgh this time, there’s yet more left to explore. Next time, I’ll be sure to take the hours to slow down and bask in its music, its history, its hidden treasures, and spend more time taking it slow.”
While Putnam had some idea of what to expect of Fringe and Edinburgh, Hall arrived fresh to both. “The Fringe is a unique affair,” shares Hall. “Everyone seems to carry a childlike eagerness to help that results in communal adventures and memories. I can’t imagine something like this in another city. As my first year at Fringe comes to a close, I’m leaving Edinburgh with memories I will carry for a lifetime, like the ballerina and busker performing together in the street and joining some musicians to sing in a pub. The city left its imprint on my heart.”
“Margaret and I saw and did more than we planned at our most ambitious, and experienced more fully than we dared dream at our most hopeful,” concludes Putnam. “Fringe has left an incredible mark on both of us, leaving us dreaming of festival years to come”