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Edinburgh International – A Festival At Its Best

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The end of August – and probably the worst summer on record here in the UK – sees the end of Edinburgh’s International Festival and If you’ve never been, you should maybe book time to do it next year.

Across this most beautiful of cities and exploring everything from music to film and TV, literature, dance and comedy comes together and by far my favourite bit is the Fringe, where live music features in many theatres and a huge number of comedians choose to hide behind a guitar.

This year, there were 42,096 performances of 2,695 shows in 279 venues. 47 countries sent performers and probably more sent audiences. It’s impossible to see everything and madness to try, but there were some highlights for me this year.

Comedy and music seem to go together. Maybe musicians know that they can’t take themselves too seriously. Or that comedians find music a useful way to express the stuff going on in their head. Long may it continue. There’s a lot of satire. A lot of properly British comedians who might need some translation. Paul B Edwards is one of those with a particularly wry look at the world who spent his month playing to audiences every afternoon in a dingy basement. His show is part of the Free Fringe – he stands at the back with a bucket as you leave. I was happy to leave with a CD that, actually, I can’t play to many others, given the frequency of swearing. Worth every penny.

Youth theatres are a speciality of the Fringe and this year saw thousands of young people from schools, colleges and theatre groups bring comedy, drama and dance to the streets, churches, theatres and tents. It’s a great opportunity to perform in front of audiences and some rise to the occasion. Some fail to impress and find swiftly that word spreads and dodgy plays eventually play to tiny audiences.

You get ensemble cast performances like Big Spirit’s ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ that quickly sell-out every seat in their five-night run. Well-deserved and in direct opposition to ‘Rubber Dinghy’, which was truly surreal. And not in a good way.

‘Work Songs’ was a great drama that features two young men playing out the politics of the workplace using music and wrestling. Yes, wrestling. Whilst having a conversation. Sometimes I think I might have been able to do an office job if it was a bit more physical. And had a soundtrack.

I managed to fit Edinburgh into the Olympic break and excitement is now building towards the Paralympics and a climax to the most amazing UK summer. Who needs sunshine?