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Diary: Relentlessly racking up the reviews at the fringe

As the Edinburgh Fringe [1] continues to bulldoze us through August, familiar tropes start to emerge.

The aggressive social media campaigns have hit full throttle, with performers in increasingly desperate pursuit of the holy grail of a Lyn Gardner review, while punters are being battered from every direction by Fringe Hot Takes (and rain).

Spare a thought though for the weary critics. They’re a few dozen shows in by now. The past two weeks have merged into one sludgy mass that tastes of chippy chip grease and smells of that especially dank and drippy Underbelly venue.

But truly, the reviewers are an impressive breed. Look into the steely eyes of a reviewer in the third week of the fringe and you will see a stamina rarely matched on these shores. Just kidding, it’s probably that Red Bull-topped flat white they just necked.

Yet nowhere is this dedication better displayed than in what deserves to be the stuff of fringe legend – fringefan.info [2].

Fringefan.info is a 65-year-old retired lecturer from California, who hurtles through a breathtaking 150ish shows each time he makes his annual pilgrimage to Edinburgh. His record was 200 in 2010, which, if he attended for the full 24 days, averages at 8.3 shows every day.

So little time is there between performances that he has a strict rule of three sentences per production, and they are then ranked, on a gloriously retro webpage-spreadsheet, from best to worst. It really is, in itself, a must-see of this fringe. Rather than wax lyrical here, Tabard urges you to experience it for yourselves.

I will, however, leave you with what is so far fringefan.info’s verdict on the bum note of 2018, Flight at Summerhall: “There is nothing here that merits your time or money.” Savage. (But read The Stage’s more positive, four-star review [3])

Shit times at Edinburgh

Most shows visiting the Edinburgh Festival Fringe strive to achieve a coveted The Stage Edinburgh Award [4], or a Scotsman Fringe First [5].

Many, however, find their festival experience doesn’t quite live up to expectations and they end up leaving instead with a ‘Fringe Worst’.

Festival-goers have been sharing their fringe disaster experiences with The Stage and with actor Helen Monks, who has made a comedy show out of other people’s Edinburgh disasters called You’ve Been Fringed.

Artistic director of London’s Soho Theatre Steve Marmion witnessed one performer have a really shit time of it at the fringe. Marmion told Tabard: “I saw a man accidentally poo himself while acting out childbirth.”

Patrick Morris, of Menagerie Theatre, recalls a time he took a “very delicate, tender piece of theatre” called Correspondence to the fringe.

He told Tabard how every night, at the quietest, most intense part of the performance, bar staff at the Pleasance would proceed to tip hundreds of empty bottles into a wheelie bin just outside the venue.

Monks shared a few fringe horror stories on The Stage’s podcast [6].

In one story, a friend’s theatre company had a show in an abandoned car park, which they regularly had to cancel because no one turned up – except for one man who began gyrating at the cast members.

To make matters worse, Monks added, the first-year company was later told it was not supposed to have graffitied over the car park and had to set up a standing order to pay for the damage.

It’s a miracle they are still working in the arts.

tabard@thestage.co.uk [7] [8]