THE BLOG

Edinburgh Begins

05/08/2013 15:12 BST | Updated 04/10/2013 10:12 BST
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It may not be in existence yet, but one day there will be a very targeted calendar where August has been aptly renamed Edinburgh. This is how a small niche of the country consisting of comedians, actors, performers and varying industry professionals refer to the dying lights of summer. If any of those professionals have read this and thought that's a great idea, I'm going to make that calendar, let me just say I look great in Autumnal colours. To everyone reading this who is thinking, 'what do you mean?' I'm referring to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which runs for most of August. This year it is my fourth full year up there and before I go into the ins and outs of it, let me just say to whoever is in charge of the weather thanks for getting summer out of the way first this year. It's been approximately five years since I last truly saw the sun and instead of tanning this year, flowers have bloomed out of my freckles and I currently survive through a complicated system of photosynthesis.

There are countless blogs and articles written by performers such as myself that try and give you an insight into the daily routines, insecurities and slowly degrading dietary habits of someone watching their bank balance rapidly deplete as they cling hopefully on to the edge of their dreams. I don't want to do that just now. But if you really want to know, it goes something like this: Start optimistic, drink lots, slowly turn grey through sleep deprivation and poor nutritional choices, make several Highlander references, re-enact Highlander, drink more, optimism becomes realism, get paranoid, realign optimism, go greyer, try to recall what Highlander 2 was about, lose weight, gain weight, do shows, watch shows, see friends, make enemies, panic, laugh, enjoy, karaoke, react to reviews, envy reviews, it was about aliens right? And on and on and on...

In truth, as a performer, it's a stressful time where any number of external factors make themselves painfully clear as you're pulled down to earth at terminal velocity. It's also the highlight of my year and one of the most fun and joyously exhausting experiences I am happy to keep running back to.

There are a number of reasons for performers to take part or avoid the Fringe and all of them boil down to personal experience and choice.

The thing we really forget to address as performers is that the reason Edinburgh thrives is down to the people who come there not to perform but to enjoy, digest and soak up the massive diversity of performance and culture without the restrictive slickness of television produced and edited processes. You - our audiences. The punters. The peeps. Those guys. Norms - who keep coming back year in and year out to make sure we're not left to our own devices to slowly regress into a Lord of the Flies like scenario. You, our bread and butter, whose approval we seek and dismiss instantly if it doesn't massage our ego.

We may curse you for not coming, or rarely think about you if things are going well, but in truth you are what drives the Fringe. We depend on you.

But it is a daunting place, especially if this is your first time. There's so much to see and do that it's almost impossible to know where to start. I'm not going to sit here and recommend shows, sorry. As much as I'd like to, there are so many incredible shows and many are performed by friends who I would be shamelessly bias toward, I trust you to go forth with your own instincts and time restrictions and seek things out. However, I will say from a comedy perspective alone the scope and spectrum for types of comedy you can see is completely covered and then some. You can watch mainstream acts and TV personalities all the way through to absurd lunatics who have spent the past six months making props to communicate and disseminate an idea they had on the toilet that spiraled out of control (generally these are also my friends).

And that's the beauty of it, dig past the surface of PR and industry backed performances and you can spend a day in the darkest, most absurd depths of the human psyche, wondering why you've never seen a play about a man who loves his shoes before. Or don't.

The Fringe is like a bubble, similar to the film 'Biodome' starring Paulie Shore. Inside, the outside world almost ceases completely and as an audience member you have the freedom to explore it. All I'll say is enjoy whatever you see, especially when it's underprepared, shambolically put together and one of the most painful hours of life you endure, simply because you're too polite to leave. These are the beautiful moments of an arts festival. Go and see the people you came to see, but take chances on those who you have no idea existed - people who perform not for fame but for the thrill of doing it, if only to express something elsewhere they would be shunned for. I guarantee, for better or worse, they'll be the ones you remember long after you leave, because one way or another they will surprise you.

If nothing else, please just try to leave Bristo Square. Although the demonic eyes of the purple cow see all, you won't if you cling to its udders. Did deep and find something interesting and surprising - then tell your friends about it.

SPOILER ALERT I'M ABOUT TO PLUG MY SHOW

If nothing else come along go and see this. I worked hard on it and it is funny (if you like that sort of thing).

https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/matthew-highton-s-it-came-from-the-mud