On my grandma’s dresser is a letter that my brother wrote when he was five? six? It’s addressed to the Manchester United football team. He names each of the players. He invites them round for tea and scones with grandma. He tells them they’ll have to walk from football because they can’t all fit their cars outside her house.

I think about this letter during several different shows.

I think about it in Before I Forget You, I Love You, as Pip Utton watches his character’s wife deteriorate but memories from years ago remain crisp. I think about it in Unconditional, the gorgeously creative two-hander by Josie Davis and her mum which makes me want to go again with my mum and grandma. And I think about it in [Insert Slogan Here], a show that has been rumbling around my brain and made me listen on repeat to the music from adverts, where Sam Ward describes writing to Volvo as an 8 year old and asking to be in their next ad. I think about grandma and theatre and whether my other brother would like this show and what my grandma would make of it and how she keeps forgetting how long I’m away for and the fact that my brother never got a response from Man United.

*

I tell myself I’ll be healthy and organised this fringe. I’ll have days off. I pack tupperware, books, a swimming costume. I join the library.

*

It’s pouring and we don’t have raincoats. She bought a tourist’s poncho and we share. I break a hole along one side for my head before realising the arm hole works too so we walk along, arms wrapped around each other, both of our shoulders getting wet from the unnecessary extra gap we’ve made. The air is cold and fresh and the peaks around Arthur’s seat rise above us.

*

A man gets up during Dice festival to get a pint. The performer draws attention to it, so the guy turns back to apologise. He then scurries to the door and pushes it but it’s a pull door so he falls into it with a bump and by now everyone’s watching him and his face pops with a blush.

*

I think about who you sit in the dark with. I know that I prefer seeing live art with other people, if only to gorge on its strangeness together, but with theatre I often find it distracting waiting on another person’s reaction. As a critic, I’m so used to seeing stuff by myself, and in Edinburgh it feels inevitable. But I’m walking back from Cold Blood, feeling lucky to have seen both it and its predecessor Kiss and Cry, and I’m thinking that one day I’d like to take someone to see a show by Michèle Anne De Mey and Jaco Van Dormael. Someone whose hand I could hold throughout.

*

I feel the lack of Forest Fringe significantly this year. I miss the space, the feel of community, the certainty of surprise. At D&D we talk about whether there is space for live art at the fringe. We decide there is, it just needs another group mad enough to take charge of organising it.

*

There’s a talk at the literature festival that I’ve been looking forward to all month. There are two places in Edinburgh with the venue’s name, half an hour apart, and I go to the wrong one. By the time I realise, I’m too late, and of course it’s raining. The anguish I feel at having missed it is disproportionate to the actual stress of the situation and it’s all a bit much and I think I’ve crashed. I walk home, flop on the sofa with shoes still dripping and don’t move for half an hour.

*

I’m on the bridge trying to push past hundreds of people who seem to mould into one giant fish of a person, gills opening to reveal gaps to slip through, then closing and trapping you in, more tangled than you were a moment ago. I reach the mile where it’s even worse. I squeeze past and go down a quiet street, arriving at a venue where there’s almost no one there. I sit down, out of breath, and let strangers tell me a story for an hour. At the end I cry and then drag myself back out into the cobbled streets. I know I should be used to it by now, but none of it quite feels real.

*

On the last night we go to a friend’s show and I’m expecting it to be good but not quite dance on the tables kind of good, and funny but not proper belly laughs funny. It’s a brilliant surprise and I feel full as we head out into the night.

*

I’m writing on a plane a day after leaving the festival. It’s a tiny plane and we’re up so high so fast, the windows are already spraypainted white. The captain is feeding us instructions. A baby is crying and I wonder what would happen if the captain were to ask it to be quiet. Nothing is crackling and the lights are still on – all in order – but I can’t help feeling the rumble of the plane is an imitaton of Flight’s simulator, rather than the other way around.

*

I cook maybe four times in the month. I don’t take a day off. I have too many meal deals, too much pizza, the exact right amount of falafel wraps. I don’t read a single one of the books I brought and by the end of the month I am getting angry emails from the library about the overdue book I haven’t opened. I don’t go swimming but I do wear my goggles to write my Drip review. I turn up to a few shows at the wrong time or venue, usually soaked in a mix of rain and sweat, and after five days of soggy shoes from the torrential rain a week before, I have to give up and buy new trainers. I’m exhausted. Next year, I tell myself, next year I’ll be on top of it all.

*

Some of my favourite conversations this fringe have been the ones I haven’t quite caught: Sam Ward whispering to a stranger in [Insert Slogan Here] as he dances with them on a stage strewn with candles and cardboard; The things I think I heard in Malaprop’s Everything Not Saved but now, two weeks on, I’m not sure I’ve remembered them right; When they stare at eachother in the low light and the bright noise near the end od No One Is Coming To Save You and they ask eachother – I think they ask each other – if they’re okay; Two debates jumping across each other at a drinks laiden table, new faces trading in shows and ideas; Something whispered in my ear in the dark, turning, tired, what did you say; My friend yelling something to me at 5am, a few of the vowels flying over the music but the rest of it just a blur.

There’s something in the uncertainty of the other half of those conversations, the secrecy or ephemeral nature of them that makes them more exciting than the actual words that fill them could possibly be. That gap, that uncertainty, that darkness, that potential. It feels like the most exciting companies are engaging with that this year – Malaprop, Breach, YESYESNONO, Poltergeist, This Noise, This Egg. The idea of belief and half truths and reality and playfulness on stage. I like the uncertainty of it all.

*

I’m walking back across the meadows. The light is dimming but not dark. The grass joins the gravel path. To the right are three boys. They’re sitting on a bench. They look young. My age, I think, maybe younger. Sprawled on the grass in front of them is a middle aged magician. He wears a bright green suit with playing cards stamped all over it. Cards are scattered around his arm too. Perching himself up on his elbow, he says “this is Edinburgh.” I don’t hear the rest.

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To keep track of the month:

 

Reviews

Offstage – Fest 2*

Class – Fest 3*

Chase Scenes – Fest 3*

Beowulf – Fest 3*

Everything Not Saved – The Guardian 4* <——– this is my favourite, read this one

Midsummer – The Guardian 5*

User Not Found – The Guardian 4*

Weird – Fest 3*

Puffin Island – Fest 2*

After The Cuts – The Guardian 4*

Daughter – The Guardian 4*

Hocus Pocus – Fest 3*

Captain Cauliflower and Marvin the Mischievous Moose – Fest 4*

Pussy Riot: Riot Days – Fest 4*

What Girls Are Made Of – The Guardian 4*

Busking It – Fest 3*

La Maladie de la Mort – The Guardian 3*

The Cat’s Mother – Fest 3*

The Squirrel Plays – Fest 2*

Drip – The Guardian 3*

 

Features

Love Songs to Lavender Menace – Fest

Road Trippin’ with Thorpe and Chavkin – Fest

 

Other

Best shows of the Fringe (various) – The Guardian

Live blog of All These Things, Live Art Bistro 5-5

Sexual assault on stage

Notes from the fringe

 

P.s. I won the Allen Wright award again!

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