28 August 2006

It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

So farewell then, Fringe 2006.

A definite improvement on the 2005 vintage, but there are some issues that need to be faced by the organisers. Chief amongst these is how much more can the Fringe expand? This is especially prescient given the fact that as the number of shows has expanded the area within which the majority of venues is situated has contracted. The so-called big 5 definitely dominate the scene like massive corporate behemoths, with every nook and cranny seemingly an outpost of one or more of them. Ticket sales are up, attendance is up, I have never seen Edinburgh as busy as the first full Saturday this year, yet still they complain the fringe needs more promotion. And, it's so obvious it hardly need be said anymore, it's still far too expensive.

More importantly, the Pleasance Courtyard in particular has become the worst managed venue on the fringe for waiting time for box office (half an hour when the queue is barely out the door) and more importantly, staff attitude. It was not uncommon this year for staff to ask customers to wait a moment whilst they went to get themselves a cup of coffee (I saw it three times) and their knowledge of what shows were about or even whether they were comedic or dance or whatever was useless. A legacy of employing people who "want to work on the fringe, daahling" rather than proper customer-focussed operatives. Running out of booze twice on the opening weekend was signal enough of the dismally poor planning involved.

Luckily, the quality of the shows this year seems to have been very high. Certainly I have experienced a few shows that were, quite frankly, superb. Special mention must go to Black Watch and Tom Crean - Antarctic Explorer here, and old hands like Will Smith, Andy Zaltzman, Justin Edwards and Phil Nichol came up with the goods too.

If there has been a "theme" to the fringe I experienced this year it must be either (a) accordians, (b) self-conscious "opening songs" or (c) close shaves with the smoking ban.

My final sobering thought is the fact that even in a year when I cut down my fringe going (and therefore, spending) I still managed to see more shows than the arts editor of The Scotsman.

Slacker kids rule! You shoulda been here, man!

Back to ranting for another year, then.

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