What In The World Is This: The Edinburgh Fringe Edition!

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The Edinburgh Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival and one of the best showcases of comedy, theatre, music and different types of performance. It runs for about a month in the capital city of Scotland, bringing over a million people to the tiny city. Last year alone there were 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows in 313 venues during the 25-day run. It is a celebration of artists, culture and, really, the best of humanity.

It’s also one of the goddam weirdest things you will ever see.

I’ve been coming to The Fringe for four years now and have loved every one. It helps that every single of my Fringe experience has felt completely different: different shows, different parties, different food, different experiences. I just spent three days (Thursday to Saturday) with my lovely fiance, trying to see as many amazing things as I could. And so, I’m not going to give you a Fringe Survival Guide, since there are enough of them out there. Instead, I’ll talk about the best things I saw this year and hopefully tempt you to buy a last minute ticket to Scotland.

And for good measure, I’ll throw in a best of a few other things, just because:

THE BEST OF THE FEST

07800 834030 (Comedy)

07800 834030 is the name of the show. It’s also the phone number of comedian Miranda Kane. Each night, she has nothing written, nothing prepared, just a slew of voicemails people have left her on that number. Sometimes they ask questions, which she will poll the audience and then call the number back to answer. And sometimes, the messages are long and rambling and awful, and she’ll just mock the people who left them.

Guess which one I left?

Miranda wasn’t going to play my message that night, but I had mentioned the word “bandicoot” in it, and it was too tempting for people not to hear once she mentioned it. So she played it, I filmed it and now you too can enjoy my mockery with the video above. 😁

Really, though, it’s an excellent, weird, fun show. Worth seeing to get just how crazy The Fringe can be.

07800 834030 is a free show. You can find more here

ADAM KAY – FINGERING A MINOR ON THE PIANO (Comedy, Song)

Courtesy of The Edinburgh Fringe.

Courtesy of The Edinburgh Fringe.

With a title like that, you know it’s going to be something. And this was something. Adam Kay is a doctor turned parody songwriter and joke teller. This show switches between some seriously funny ER tales and songs mocking minor afflictions to life-ending diseases. Surprisingly, it was also the most poignant show we saw during the set, driving home a real point about the necessity of the doctors and nurses in the UK. I’m still thinking about it days later and you should see it so you can too.

Buy tickets to Adam Kay – Fingering A Minor on the Piano here

FAT HEAD and THE BIG DOG (Comedy)

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My favourite moments at The Fringe are the ones I never see coming. Shamaine and I walked into a room to get an early seat for Puppet Fiction (more on that below) and expected whoever was on at 11:30am doing comedy would be terrible and we’d sit through it. How wrong we were.

This set, which sounds like some sort of terrible morning AM disc jockeys spinning top 40 hits, are actually two Northen Irish Comedians: Aaron McCann and Dave Elliott. We didn’t get to see Elliott, so I can’t comment, but we came in halfway through McCann’s amazing set and were dying. Dying! Usually, it takes a little while for a comedian to build up and for you to get the rhythm. Not here. We were laughing before we even sat down. McCann has great timing, great jokes, and I expect you’ll see him elsewhere (like on national TV) soon.

Also, I like when he asked for my blog, it autocorrected on his phone from Eat Play Pixels to Earl Platypus. So if I’m ever looking for a rebrand, now I know what to call this.

Fat Head and The Big Dog is a free show. You can find more here

FELICITY WARD: 50% MORE LIKELY TO DIE (Comedy)

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Courtesy of The Edinburgh Fringe.

Manic, hyper and hilarious, Felicity Ward was someone we were recommended to see last year by our friend Tara, but we never found the time. Our loss since she is fantastic and at the top of her game. Ward always creates a new show for The Fringe every year and this one is about… life? I guess? Really it’s about everything and nothing and it is really, really funny.

Buy tickets to Felicity Ward: 50% More Likely to Die here

HAPPILY NEVER AFTER (Improv)

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Improv is a big part of The Fringe, and either it can be brilliant or it can be awful. No in-between. And The Maydays are brilliant. This year, they create a spontaneous Tim Burton-inspired musical from the suggestions of the audience. We saw one about a stone mason and his muse and it was equal parts funny, equal parts chilling. But all parts awesome.

Buy tickets to Happily Never After here

JAMES VEITCH: GAME FACE (Comedy, Talk)

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Courtesy of The Edinburgh Fringe.

James Veitch knows there’s going to be a comparison to Dave Gorman, he even addresses it in a cheeky bit of a conversation with Siri before the show even begins. That shouldn’t stop you from seeing it, in fact, it probably should give you more reason too.

Using a combination of PowerPoint, videos, GIFs and sound effects, Veitch has put together a show about what happens when you take the little things a little too far. A segment about a wrong text from someone to his landlord, and another where he’s trying to sell a Flux Capacitor online, had me laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Also, you get a sweet pin at the end and a chance to win some rubber ducks throughout the show!

What’s not to love?

Buy tickets to James Veitch: Game Face here

#JOLLYBOAT: SEVEN SONGS FOR GEEKS (Comedy, Song)

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Courtesy of The Edinburgh Fringe.

No lies here, we didn’t actually see Jollyboat this year, because we’d seen them before (including their Fringe preview show in London a few weeks ago) and there were so many things to see. But let me tell you this, if you go to Edinburgh and see ONLY ONE DAMN SHOW, Jollyboat is it.

Two brothers, dressed in pirate gear, sing songs about Game of Thrones, Jesus, Computer Key Love Stories, Dungeons and Dragons, and so much more. They’re like Flight of the Conchords if Flight of the Conchords were English and somehow nerdier. Guys, trust me on this one, this is the one to see.

#Jollyboat: Seven Songs for Geeks is a free show. You can find more here

TOM BINNS IS IAN D MONTFORT: HOW TO TOUCH DEAD PEOPLE (Comedy, Talk)

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Courtesy of The Edinburgh Fringe.

Ian D Montfort is a shit psychic.

Wait, let me rephrase that… Ian D Montfort is the best shit psychic in the world.

Tom Binns’s stringy blonde-haired  slightly Jamaican-accented clairvoyant character was thrown out of the CIA for being the best seer and the worst illustrator they have, which is why he can talk about his time working for the agency. Now he’s giving a fake-TED talk about talking to the spirits. This show is part lecture and part John Edwards “secrets revealed” show. And I’ll tell you this, here I filled out a card with things like my dog’s name, my initials, a secret I had and put it into a box right before the show began. And goddam if the man didn’t nail everything on the card, mocking me the whole way through:

Ian: “Do you miss Katharine?”

Me: “I do.”

The entire audience: “Awwww…”

Me: “Don’t awww too quickly, Katharine is my dog.”

Ian: “So you’re from the southern states then, are you?” 

Also

Ian: “You’re here with someone, aren’t you?”

Me: “My fiancée.”

Ian: “Suzy?”

Me: “Shamaine.”

Ian looks a little horrified.

Ian: “Ok then, you’re going to want to be watching out for Suzy, she’s the one.” 

The man’s comedic timing and improv ability was incredible. Truly, you have to be this good to create a character this shit. I don’t think I stopped laughing the entire way through.

Buy tickets to Tom Binns is Ian D Montfort: How to Touch Dead People here.

PUPPET FICTION (Theatre)

Puppet Fiction is Pulp Fiction… with puppets. That should be all I need to say to sell you on this, but I’ll say more: it was one of the best shows we saw.

The puppets are simple but fantastic marionettes that really do look like the actors, the background is a tiny TV projecting a scene, and the puppet masters are funny and quick on their feet (when two of the puppets got tangled, they did a whole routine about them being tied together for life.) Every day it’s a few different scenes from the movie, so we saw none of Bruce Willis’ story but most of John Travolta’s. If the rest is as good as what we saw, I’d go back again and again until I watched the whole film.

Puppet Fiction is a free show. You can find more here

WIFI WARS (Interactive)

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In a previous Fringe, two guys thought it might be funny to have comedians play video games against each other and swear a lot. They were right (and their show, Go 8 Bit, is being turned into a program on Dave, coming soon.)

Wifi Wars is the evolution of that: a show where the entire audience plays video games against each other! Using pretty amazing technology they built from scratch, the whole audience uses their phone to battle to the death. The games started off simply (as a collective team, we played Pong!) and then got WAY MORE AMAZINGLY COMPLICATED, ending with a virtual reality superhero flight simulator through the city. I lost every damn game and had a blast. It’s only happening next weekend at the Fringe then touring around the country. Don’t miss it.

Buy tickets to Wifi Wars here

THE BEST OF THE REST

Not everything can be as good as everything else. Here are the other things we saw, liked, and still wanted tell you about:

4 Minute Warning (Sketch Comedy): I’ve never been a giant fan of sketch comedy, but this show about different scenarios that would play out during the four minutes before the end of the world had some seriously stand-out moments.

Escape From The Planet of the Day That Time Forgot (Theatre): A cute chuckle-worthy minimalist show where a scientist, his assistant and his ward travel through space and time. The jokes were at the height of cheesy but they came fast and funny and the actors did a ton with very little: think boxes being used monster and vacuums being used as space ships.

The Duke (Storytelling): The tale of a man’s attempt to connect with his mother through a porcelain figure of the Duke of Wellington once owned by his father. Not bad and the performer is giving all his earnings to Save the Children, so a good way to laugh and do good at the same time.

Lili La Scala: Another F*cking Variety Show (Variety Show): Lila La Scala is an amazing singer, hostess, and actress. If it was just her, it would have made my top. But her late-night raunchy variety hour relies on other acts, and sadly, they were too hit or miss. If you can find her performing alone, go!

Rhys James: Forgives (Comedy): Fun, easy, enjoyable comedy about being a 90’s kid that I laughed my way through but didn’t leave a real impression with me once the show was finished.

Rhys Nicholson – Bona Fide (Comedy): Again, lighthearted, laughable, fun comedy that was enjoyable to see, but I didn’t really think about afterwards. Not bad by any means, but just not as good as the things above. Also, surprisingly, this is not the only other Rhys comedian in the Fringe guidebook. I guess if you want a comedian in the family, you now know what to name them.

But really, you can’t go wrong with any of them. Not a one! This was the best of the fest.

THE EDINBURGH DIGITIAL ENTERTAINMENT FESTIVAL

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Quite brilliantly, happening at the same time at the Fringe, was the Edinburgh Digitial Entertainment Festival: a different celebration of arts, entertainment, and technology. I’d read about it before coming to the city and wanted to check it out.

We were able to experience two different portions, both equally fantastic. The first, The Tech Hub, which was a collection of, in their words, “an interactive playground filled with new experiences to open your eyes to the future of technology.” So damn cool. I got to paint in outer space with the Google’s Tilt brush. Try to cook in a cartoon world with a job simulator.  Play digital games. Watch a 3D movie about a killer robot with a heart. Too damn cool.

The other section was The Virtual Reality Studio, which was a room with a comfortable square white seat and top of the line headphones and VR headsets. For about an hour, I was immersed in storytelling done immersively.

Some mindblowing ones were The New York Times’ “Man on Spire“, about climbing the World Trade Centre’s spire. “Waves“, an insane look into the mind and musical genius of Reggie Watts. “Hard World For Small Thing,” which the different people affected by a tragedy in Los Angels. And “Holidays: Christmas“, a hilarious and brutal video starring the amazing Seth Green.

If you’re in the Fringe, book tickets to check this out. The future is now!

THE BEST OF EDINBURGH EATS!

Of course, no Eat Play Pixels post would be complete without a little section on food. We ate like Kings and Queens all over Edinburgh, but as has been the norm in the post, this is THE BEST OF THE BEST!

THE GARDENER’S COTTAGE

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Edinburgh has a few Michelin-starred restaurants. This is not one of them… yet.

The Garden’s Cottage, which is adorably tucked away off the main road, is exactly what you want from a quality night out, especially for a celebration of a treat. Everything is incredibly delicious, everything is locally sourced, everything is great. The menu changes daily so you’ll never have the same meal twice. We did a seven-course meal that included lobster and scallop roe, herb and spelt porridge, a six month pickled carrot, olive oil ice cream and almond sable. Woah.

You sit family style at long tables so don’t expect and intimate meal. That being said, the space was quiet and my partner and I had a lovely long conversation while enjoying each course.

It was £50 for the entire tasting menu, which isn’t cheap by any means but less than any of the Michelin-starred spots in the city and honestly, even better than some of the meals I’ve had there.

WINGS EDINBURGH

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Gourmet not your thing (or at least you want other options)? Let’s go the other way then: wings.

Not just any wings. All the wings.

Wings is maybe the nerdeiest, geekiest, dorkiest restaurant I’ve ever seen, and I mean that in the best way possible. You’re greeted by a cardboard cutout of C-3PO, who announced that he is “Human-Chicken Wing Relations” and then led to your table which is themed with Where’s Wally images. Or Jurrasic Park with a T-Rex head looking above you. Or Doctor Who with a weeping angel watching your every move – just remember not to blink as you eat and you’ll be fine.

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And then you look at the menu and your jaw drops just a little. Because they have over 75 different variations of wings, all with hilarious names. Try the Skywalker with ranch (obviously), the Oh Canada with maple BBQ, the margarita with tequila, salt and lime or go for the suicide sauce and do six wings of it to get your name on the Wall of Flame!

Literally, it’s a blast just to walk through the space and even more fun to sit down and eat.

MARY’S MILK BAR

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And of course, dessert.

Do not leave Edinburgh without stopping at Mary’s, the best ice cream in the entire damn city. The flavours change all the time, but they’re always interesting: whisky and chocolate, dill, bran chocolate chip, baked pear. Try any. Try all.

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If it’s hot, the line is going to be out of the door. So just prepare yourself for a wait. It is worth it. Plus, look at this insane view right outside!

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Whatever you do, though, don’t check the case after you’ve eaten your ice cream. More often than not, a flavour has finished and they’ve replaced it with a different flavour you want to try. And then you have to buy another ice cream and it becomes another damn thing… 😁🍦

STREET FOOD

I will say this, the city, and specifically, the festival could do with a WAY better street food scene. With so many people running from show to show with no time to actually eat a real meal, you think the traders would be top notch, but in reality, they’re all pretty terrible (we were served “poutine” that was fries, sour cream, instant gravy and meat. Poutine, it was not.) Up your food scene Edinburgh, you were killing it everywhere else.

THE SLEEPER TRAIN

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And finally, we come to the final bit of our trip to Edinburgh. And it actually takes us right back to the start: our trip there.

We decided this year, for the first time, to take the sleeper train from London to Edinburgh to make the most of the day. Leaves at about midnight, gets in at about 7:30am, seemed like a perfect way to do it.

We had no idea what to expect when we arrived to the train. It was a very long vehicle with dark blue carriages and we were sent down to a woman checking people in down the track. She let us know which cabin was ours and we dragged our suitcases over. There it was, 3&4, so we opened the door and…

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Woah, that’s tight. It’s a TINY space, with a tiny door, and tiny single beds. Just enough room to put up our suitcase and get changed standing right next to each other. But I’ll tell you this, it was way more comfortable than you think it would be looking at it from those pics. The bed is super comfy and the rocking of the train really does put you to sleep. It wasn’t really enough rest to feel totally awake the next morning, but they knocked on our door and delivered some drinks (coffee, tea or juice) and it was an excellent way to get to Edinburgh. If you don’t like sitting up in a train seat for hours while travelling, this is an alternative I would recommend.

All in all, another amazing Fringe. If you’ve never been, go. And if I haven’t convinced you yet, here are some more beautiful pics from Edinburgh:

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Last photo from the Fringe. Who wouldn't want to see a performance in a giant crazy-eyed upside-down purple cow? 🎭🐮

A post shared by Alex Shebar in Chicago! (@alexshebar) on


See you in Scotland!

 

37 Comments

  • LaaLaa

    This is jam packed and very different. I liked the phone number show lol – how different is that x

    • Alex

      So different, but so much fun!

  • MELANIE EDJOURIAN

    My goodness such a range of things going on it sounds fun and exhausting x

    • Alex

      Couldn’t have described it better. 🙂

  • Rachel @ Coffee, Cake, Kids

    I’ve always wondered what it was. I’m not a huge fan of comedy shows but there sounds like there is something for almost everyone there!

  • Rachel

    What a great range of things to go and see, Adam Kay is so very funny!

  • Louise Joy

    I’ve heard loads about Edinburgh fringe but never thought about going because I’m not really big on comedy – despite loving Edinburgh! Your post has shown me that there’s more then just comedy there so I’ll have to consider this for next year x

    • Alex

      Oh yeah, for sure, tons more than comedy. If there’s something you want to see, I guarantee they have it. If you go, let me know what you watched (and have a blast!)

  • Georgina Ingham | Culinary Travels

    I would love to go to Fringe. It always looks amazing and such a range of events going on.

    • Alex

      So much fun. I look forward to it every year!

  • Daniel

    Wow, I need to start going to events like this. You look like you had a blast.

  • Natalia

    wow seems like you did a lot! I wish I can go one day, it looks so much fun! xx

  • Afshan Nasim

    Absolutely love Edinburgh. This looks like a great festival too! Must go. You have a lot of details and lots to see. Love the pics too!

    • Alex

      Aw, thank you Afshan. It was a blast for sure.

  • Charli Bruce

    This is now on my list of things to do and I’m going to plan to go next year! I didn’t even know it existed but everything here is right up my street. I have been on a sleeper train before and it’s true they really are so much comfier than they look! xx

    • Alex

      Ah awesome Charli. If you do get there next year, let me know what you think (and what you saw) for sure!

  • Liz Mays

    Oh my gosh so many of those performances and shows sound like fun. It’s really cool that they had some new tech to try out!

  • Rhian Westbury

    So many amazing things at fringe, I was there a few weekends ago and didn’t see any shows but I’d love to go back one year and watch some x

  • hannah

    I’ve never been to this before. I does sound like good fun x

    • Alex

      It’s such fun. If you do go, let me know what you think!

  • Ana De- Jesus

    I like the sound of Wifi Wars, I had a friend who performed at Edinburgh Fringe and they loved it. This looks fun.

  • WhatLauraLoves

    Aw great to see you’ve included Miranda on here. I know her 🙂 We actually went on holiday together a couple of years ago and she had my laughing so much!! xxx

  • Lubka Henry

    I like the Edinburgh comedy talks. There is actually so much to do over there 🙂

  • Sam | North East Family Fun

    I’ve never been to the fringe but it looks ridiculous! LOVE the sound of how much of a feast on your senses it is. It’s on my bucket list and I will visit one day….

  • Sarahjane Wood

    I love Edinburgh during the Fringe! Always such an amazing atmosphere and being not far away by train I can enjoy multiple day trips!

  • Harriet from Toby & Roo

    I have never been but it looks fabulous! I haven’t been up that way in SO long! H x

  • Hannah

    I’ve never been to Scotland before but now I have to!

  • Anosa

    I had never heard of this before ever until yesterday my sister told me she was going to stay at her best friends because it is both of thier birthdays and the Fringe festival at the same! She was so excited about going and said that so many things are free, I spoke to her earlier and she is having a great time. Definitely going with them next year

  • Lex

    Such a wonderful round up of the Fringe. My husband used to work at the Fringe and misses it a lot. I’ve only been once but – because he was working there – got a lot of free tickets. I really want to go again!

  • Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy

    I would love to go to the Fringe festival. I would love to just go to Edinburgh.

  • Elanor

    I live really close to Edinburgh, but still don’t really know what the Fringe is all about! Everyone raves about it every year, but I never really paid attention. Your post has made me realise I should probably get out a bit more, it’s terrible that I have all this on my doorstep, but never experience it! 🙂

  • Jenny

    I spent 5 years in Scotland and sadly never made it to the Fringe once!

    • Alex

      Never!? You’ve got to go back. 🙂

  • Katy Stevens

    Wow – looks and sounds like you have had an amazing time! I love the idea of a sleeper train, much better than X amount of hours of boredom!

  • Leigh at Fashion Du Jour | LDN

    Love love loving this post! I am an actress and one day I shall fringe it, as visitor or performer – a number of my friends happen to be in shows this year. I am loving reading what you saw and loved, especially Ian D Montfort, Adam Kay and Miranda Kane’s show! And those street eats – hello Edinburgh Wings and the Gardener’s Cottage is such a find. Plus your sleeper train journey sounds lush actually, who doesn’t like being rocked to sleep and have coffee delivered to your door in the morning?

    Thanks for sharing!

    Leigh at Fashion Du Jour LDN x
    http://www.fashiondujour.co.uk

    • Alex

      Right? It was amazing all the way through! Thank you for reading. 🙂

  • Jemma

    My husband has been to the Fringe and really loved it.

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