Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My pilgrimage to the Edinburgh Fringe

If anyone is labouring under the misapprehension that this is a man's world we're living in, they should try standing for an hour in the queue for the Edinburgh Fringe box office. Watching the behavioural patterns of those trying to drum up trade, it's very, very hard to escape the conclusion that you're much more likely to be singled out for attention (and occasionally even handed free tickets) if you're a) female, b) attractive, and c) inclined to giggle incessantly at very poor jokes. There was one South African guy in particular who was making me feel paranoid - he must have gone up and down the queue about twenty times to speak to people, but with an uncanny homing instinct always seemed to just miss me. Ah well, at least it made for a (relatively) quieter wait.

My plan was to do the same as last year, and see one contemporary play and one 'classic'. But there were no tickets available for the contemporary play I had in mind, so I ended up going for two very 'earnest' options - an adaptation of the Russian novel A Hero of Our Time, and an American production of Hedda Gabler. (Yes, that's right, more Americans with guns!) What they have in common is that they're both works I was supposed to read when I was studying literature at university, but never quite got round to doing so. In fact, I even wrote an essay on A Hero of Our Time without having read it. So, several years on, it was fascinating to finally discover what I was writing about! They were excellent productions and I'd recommend them both, although Hedda Gabler was marginally my favourite.

The highlight of the day, though, was eavesdropping on an exuberant director (or I assume he was a director) when he was introduced to a young designer who appeared to be the son of someone important in the theatre world. I drifted in and out of the conversation, but there was something about performing in Nice and Florence, 'fourteen illegitimate children', the Nazis letting someone go because he was so famous, and this -

"He said 'I'm not having a woman design my stage'. But she wasn't just A woman, she was THE woman. The greatest actress in all the world!"

No idea who he was talking about, but presumably 'the greatest actress in all the world' narrows it down to a few thousand.


  1. Hmmm. Are you sure you didn't dream that conversation... it seems a little surreal!

    I wasn't brave enough to not read set texts at uni, but I did manage to not read anything at all for my A level English (I did it in England), except "Sons and Lovers", which I thought was marvellous.

    "The Alchemist" sounded dreary, so I skipped it altogether, I watched a film of "Hamlet", and for "Far from the Madding Crowd" (the night before the exam) and read "Coles Notes" on the other pieces. I really was the most awful pupil.

    It's a pity you didn't discover who was the best actress in the world. I'd have liked to know.

  2. "I watched a film of "Hamlet""

    Yes, that's the beauty of plays - as long as you can find a film version that's faithful to the script, you can get it over and done with in an hour-and-a-half without reading anything! A couple of months before my finals I stupidly bought Michael Winterbottom's film version of 'Jude the Obscure', thinking it might provide me with a shortcut, but I quickly realised that it didn't follow the novel very closely at all. So I swallowed hard and got on with reading it, and I'm glad I did because it's one of my favourite books (albeit unremittingly depressing at the end).