When I thought about going to my first Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I thought I had a good grasp on what to expect.  Crowds. Good shows. Not so good shows. What I did not expect is that in August, Edinburgh would not only be host to Fringe but also The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Assembly Fest, Edinburgh Art Festival, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, and Edinburgh Mela Festival.  Needless to say, everywhere in the city was crazy!

All along The Royal Mile, there are people handing out flyers to shows, street entertainers, and people doing who knows what in the name of art.  Tents are set up on the west side of St. Giles church selling crafts.  Pubs are open until 3am and cafes and clubs until 5am.

Some of the effects of the festival month can be mitigated in advance.  The obvious is to book early for accommodations and even train tickets if you know your schedule.  I waited on the train ticket and paid more, for sure.  The other thing on your preparations to-do list is to get tickets to a few shows in advance.  Tickets start going on sale in January, with additional tickets released monthly as more shows are accepted into the festival.  While the booking is easy, it's the selection process that is overwhelming.  You're looking at over 250 venues, and assuming they are putting on hour long shows for most of the day, say upwards to 10 shows per venue at least, so that's 2500 shows each DAY!  My strategy was to look around for early write ups on the Fringe Festival around springtime because there would be a good list of options available by then.  Of course, opinions will always differ and they may likely not even match up to your taste preferences.

I knew I wanted to see at least one improv comedy show and, perhaps, a show that has returned to the festival because of its popularity in previous years.  The shows are affordable on their own, but after you start to add more and more into your cart, it gets a bit expensive.  You're looking at maybe £10-15 for each show.  Yes, there are many free shows available too, and you may be lucky, but you may also get what you (don't) pay for in those shows.  Realistically, I would not do more than 3-4 shows in one day.  In my experience, getting from one venue to another requires a minimum of 15 minutes walking, maybe less if you can find a cab.  If your next show is in the same venue, you still need 10 minutes to get out of one show and into another.  Queueing for shows starts up to 30 minutes before the doors open too.  There are a number main venues for the festival:  Assembly at George Square, Pleasance Dome, Pleasance Courtyard, Gilded Ballroom, and Underbelly.  Not to say that all the venues can be found in or around those spots.

I ended up with tickets to four shows over two days, with three on one afternoon and one the next evening, because I had other things I wanted to accomplish in Edinburgh.  The favorite of the four was Thrones! The Musical.  Yep, a musical parody of the popular TV series, Game of Thrones.  I suppose one should probably be a fan of the show before committing oneself to seeing a parody.  The show was created by Baby Wants Candy, an improv troupe from Chicago more known for their improvised musicals.  Obviously, this show was scripted.

For another pure improv show, I took the recommendation to see Aaaand Now for Something Completely Improvised by the U.K. based improv troupe Racing Minds.  The show was fantastic, and you can tell that the have been playing together for a long time because the show flowed so well, with the improv-ers picking up on and agreeing with each other seamlessly.

The final two shows I went to were ok.  I wanted a break from the improv, so I went with a comedy/ drinking show: The Thinking Drinker's Guide to the Legends of Liquor.  The two presenters, Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham ,used dress up and funny stories to talk about the history of liquor like whiskey, gin, vodka, and even some beer.

The final show I selected was because, according to the description, Ricky Gervais said it was the best thing ever.  I wouldn't go so far as to agree with Ricky.  It was entertaining, for sure, but not the best thing ever.  The show was BLAM!  It was four actors, well more like miming stunt men, who were stereotypical office workers that liked to jump into superhero action scenes using the office products and furniture as their props.  It was a LARPer's dream show (that's Live Action Role Play if you are unfamiliar with the term LARP).  Good show for kids, ok show for adults.

Last thoughts on Fringe Festival:  It was super fun and I wish I had spent a week there! Unfortunately, it's just too expensive to do so because the hotels bump up their rates, the restaurants are crowded, the waits are long, and seeing more shows adds to the bill as well.  At least now I have my first fringe under my belt and can learn from my experience, so the next time I go it will probably be for 3-4 days because I will always want to leave room to explore the historic sites of Edinburgh while in town - it's one of my favorites!