Friday, 1 August 2014

Edinburgh begins - The Bristo Square Dance

You know Edinburgh's begun when, a) you see your poster on a real actual wall, and b) you start referring to the Edinburgh Fringe as just Edinburgh. I come to the city all year round now, and should be the last person to fall into that lazy comedian's trap, but here I am again doing just that very thing. And we love it. Of course as well as being plastered on walls, we're on the big screen...

I say big. The box office at the Gilded Balloon has moved outside this year, to a nifty pink shed which punters can't miss, and on its side is a video screen giving a rundown of the shows to come. There's us, partly out of shot. One reason for the new outdoor box office is the ever-changing layout of Bristo Square and its environs.

When, once upon a long ago, the Gilded Balloon first moved to the Teviot building in the 2000s, it dominated Bristo Square, looking out over a recessed square occcupied mostly by skateboarders and drunks, as it does for the other 11 months of the year. Far and away the most impressive building, Teviot has gothic towers and turrets and must take the prize as best looking student union building in Europe. And across from it was Potterow, a stark concrete 1970s lump which, at Fringe time, becomes The Pleasance Dome. (It has a dome, which, in true 1973 stylee, you can only see from inside the building or, if you're lucky, on Google Earth).

Then back in 2006 the large purple cow appeared. The Udderbelly landed in Bristo Square, and around it grew an open air pub called The Pasture. This served the dual purpose of getting rid of the skateboarders and drunks (well, swapping them for a different class of drunk. Less Buckfast more Pimms), and transforming Bristo Square into a three-venued hub.

And in more recent years, with the Assembly's move from, well, the Assembly (the London-based company named itself after the Assembly Rooms, the Georgian building in Edinburgh it originally occupied and who subsequently revamped themselves and turfed them out) to George Square gardens and the George Square theatre, Edinburgh Fringe's centre of gravity has now moved even further to Bristo Square.

This year's twist is that the Reid Hall, a vast domed Victorian echo chamber that has been used for the last decade to accommodate comedians with big TV reputations who don't mind being virtually inaudible and invisible to the furthest third of the audience, is undergoing building work. The scaffolding and blocked paths means that, this year at least, Bristo Square is no longer square, it's a horseshoe (to be more accurate, it's staple shaped). So The Gilded Balloon, which once sat at the top of the circuit which saw punters revolve around the Pasture and approach from all sides, is now on a dog-leg tributary, its entrance passed only by those people heading deliberately for it, or to the Underbelly venues that stand beside the Reid Hall.

Hence the new box office shed. It stands on the new lively thoroughfare linking The Pleasance Dome at Potterow, the side of Teviot and the Assembly's ever-growing George Square Gardens (this year they've grown so big as to eliminate all parking in the square. Not helping) and gives a hard-working flyerer like me a perfect place to catch the punters as they pass. And boy have I been flyering. Only two days in and the handing out of paper to punters has got off to a flying start, about which more anon.

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre ...And So Am I is at the Edinburgh Fringe 2014, July 30 - Aug 25 Gilded Balloon, 10.30pm

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