The Edinburgh Festival: August 10, 2013



The Edinburgh Festival is something else….it’s great to take part  as a performer or writer or whatever but great fun even as a humble spectator –  hundreds of shows to choose from………the Festival is everywhere , the good, the bad and the hard-to-classify….out on the streets, in bars, cellars, churches…everywhere..

I first went to a Fringe Festival play in 2007. It was called ‘The Smile Off Your Face’ , by a Belgian Company with the unlikely name of Ontroerend Goed. I happened to be passing  down Chamber Street where  it was showing and I went in on the off chance I might come across something unusual.

I got my ticket and was told to wait in the bar   –   sort of unusual all right, a bit mysterious – no barman, just me … where was the audience? What –
A  door opened, a woman smiled and beckoned and  led me from the bar/waiting room down stairs to a wheel chair. I was seated in the wheelchair then quietly told I was going to be blindfolded and have my wrists loosely tied to the arms of my wheelchair was that okay? ( Normally NO NO NO but in this context it was okay. Sort of..(once started, no going back).

Then I was being pushed off, through a bead curtain, stopped, someone was whispering in my ear, then I was moved on, interviewed by someone else, soft music,  someone was stroking my hair, and asking me if I wanted to stroke hers (I assumed it was ‘hers’)  which I did and I did. And so on.
“Can I ask you a question?”  another  voice whispered and I must have nodded or said ‘Yes’  because the voice went on  ” Are you happy? Not right at this moment but in general. Take your time to think about it. Are you happy? ” and I  found myself giving a detailed account of my version of how happy/unhappy I was to a stranger I couldn’t even see and getting  back  wise and empathetic comments in exchange……
“When did you last cry?” the voice asked and as I was trying to remember, the blindfold was removed and I was staring up into an actor’s face and watching tears well up in his eyes and roll down his cheeks.
Then the blindfold was replaced and I was pushed elsewhere to meet other voices out of the darkness and asked other questions and finally one voice began telling me a story about a young man travelling through a strange land where everyone seemed to know him and expected his help, asked for his advice, apologised for taking up his time…
When my blindfold was removed again, I found the sweet voice I had been listening to belonged to a woman dressed as the Pope but with a long white beard like Santa Claus. “Do you mind if I take your photograph?”  she  asked and  of course I said ‘Yes’ then the blindfold was replaced. And  the journey continued.

Smell this. What does it remind you of? What do you think it is? Taste that. Is it sweet or sour? What does this feel like? Rough? Soft? Can you feel it move under your hand?

Finally I was untied and unblindfolded in front of a wall that was lined with photographs of ‘the audience’, mine included, sort of proof that the whole experience was real, had actually taken place, hadn’t been some crazy dream, then I was ushered to the exit and released into the real Embra afternoon air with of course someone playing the bagpipes in the distance.
What was that all about? Had it really been only 20 minutes? Did I really say all that? Did…..?  What….? Why……. How……. Where…..?







This is how cave paintings began


If you can’t join them, photograph them. Everyone has a camera these days


Edinburgh becomes cosmopolitan at Festival time, friendly, makes people smile.
This is Margo from Marvao and an astronaut with
cheap trainers posing for Sven, her Swedish boyfriend.


The woman whose white wedding dress you can just see had posed against the railings
with her handsome husband and his best man, – I was too late to get their photograph – got
instead this aftermath. This terrace is a busy Festival eating place above Victoria Road
with its quaint shops (it even has a brush shop!) which takes you down to the Grassmarket.
The day I went to the Festival was also the day chosen for a protest march 
organized by
Canadian comedian Shawn Hitchins to demonstrate against “gingerism,” or
against people with red hair. More than a hundred redheads  marched from the Balmoral
Hotel on
 Princes Street, across North Bridge to the city’s Royal Mile. The redhead below,
was simply a member of the University of Southampton’s Theatre group who
were putting on their play ‘Hanging Bruce Howard’  (admission:£5).

Pretty woman 
Good whisky shop.


Great place, Edinburgh.


3 responses to “The Edinburgh Festival: August 10, 2013

  1. Having heard a lot of references to the Edinburgh Festival over the years, I finally feel as if I have some idea of it! I wanted to find out what “Ontroerend Goed” meant and so Googled it just as a Belgian phrase, only to find numerous reviews etc about this group. Here’s a review that is mostly history:,1,1,5,29. Sounds a lot like the “happenings” of my college days, quite an experience! Thank you for this fascinating glimpse of a festival of theater in all its forms!

    • Hi RAB – thanks again for your interested/interesting response – what I found interesting about the Belgian ‘play’ was the sort of role reversal employed – actor becomes spectator and blindfolded ‘spectator’ to a certain extent actor – but overall a vital fetsival

      • Someday I’ll get over there for it. I’m “in” theater, at least in a dedicated-amateur way, and would love to be in the midst of such theatrical ferment! Meanwhile, thank you again for your great description.

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