On the Origin of Performers by Means of Natural Selection

13/08/2013 14:40 BST | Updated 11/10/2013 10:12 BST

It is interesting to contemplate the Edinburgh festival as a tangled bank, clothed with many shows of many kinds, with acapella groups singing on the Royal Mile, with ambitious drama students flitting about, and with comedians crawling through the edges of human decency, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by people who have spent the months before tearing their hair out, while trying to sort the minutiae of a successful show. Edinburgh, taken in the largest sense, relies on Growth with reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of creativity, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for audience numbers, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of one-star shows. Thus, from the war of promotion, leafleting and press, from bankruptsy and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher arts, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of Edinburgh, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creators into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.

Well, that was pretty pretentious, adapting Darwin's On The Origin Of Species to be about Edinburgh, wasn't it? Yes it was, thanks for noticing. But the tangled bank of nature serves as a pretty good metaphor for the festival here. Every year more and more shows come up to the Scottish capital to vie for attention. Unfortunately, with this continuous exponential expansion of shows on offer, there is never going to be enough people to fill the audience (and every year I come up, more and more unlikely places have become 'venues', as they realised people will perform anywhere, even the dingy stock cupboard at the back.). So, in this endless competition for resources, the weaker are choked by the strong. And just like evolution, it isn't always totally logical who survives, as the caveman who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time in front of a sabre-tooth tiger will attest. For sabre-tooth tiger, read bad venue in a rubbish time slot...

But what about the rest of the tangled bank? The PR people charging you two thousand pounds by waving the promise of getting reviewed in front of you, what are they? Leeches, obviously. Are you just saying that because you're pissed off that you refused to pay out and have consequently not had a single review? Possibly. Let's move on. OK, so what are the journalists? They're carrion birds, who circle round the kill. Buzzards looking for the show with the most 'buzz'. What about the big commercial venues? They're the big predators - they have the biggest teeth. Be wary and respectful, as you would to an ocelot. What about the free fringe? Well, that's like the coelacanth - a fish that was thought to be long extinct, but has reemerged glorious, the spirit of the fringe. Beautiful in its own way, the coelacanth remains endangered due to competition from the sharp-clawed predators, but it is hoped that with its passionate protectors (well done Peter Buckley Hill for setting it up and your continued guardianship), it will continue to enjoy an increase in numbers.

Have you just written this whole thing to show off that you've read On the Origin of The Species? Cos that's pretty lame. Yeah, well you know what else is lame? Talking to yourself. Hmm, maybe the Fringe has sent me a bit mad. I agree.

Matt will be appearing throughout the Edinburgh Fringe in the French Quarter at the Voodoo Rooms, 19a West Register St, EH2 2AA, 7.30pm.