A Day in the Life of a Playbill Fringe Reviewer | Playbill

Playbill Goes Fringe A Day in the Life of a Playbill Fringe Reviewer

Follow along as one Playbill writer stumbles his way through the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!

Hello from Edinburgh! This year, as part of Playbill’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe coverage, I’ve been given a week in Edinburgh to see whatever I want at the Fringe. The only catch? I also have to write about everything I see. Our fearless leader (aka editor-in-chief) suggested that one of the writers here at Camp Fringe keep a diary for a day, so our readers can see what it is we do, besides just seeing a lot shows. And apparently, I was the first—and possibly only—one crazy enough to volunteer. This past Wednesday, I kept a running log of my day, which involved a lot of typing in my phone's note app, and taking occasional photos. How did I fare? Well, let’s find out.

7:15 AM
Good morning! Time to wake up and start the day. Wait a minute… the first show on my schedule isn’t until after 11 AM. Why am I awake so early? I’m going back to bed.

7:30 AM
Eh, I tried. I can’t get back to sleep. Maybe I’ll do some light reading before I start my day. Let’s see… I’m in Edinburgh, so maybe that great Scottish novel Ivanhoe? Who am I kidding? I’m reading the latest Dungeon Crawler Carl book. It's too early in the morning for 19th century literature.

My reading options: Ivanhoe or Dungeon Crawler Carl. What would you choose?

8:00 AM
Okay, enough relaxation. Time to take a shower, get dressed, and start the day.

8:30 AM
I have a busy day of Fringe ahead of me, but before that, I need to get some writing done. Time to turn on the laptop and work on my review of Paul Chowdhry: Family-Friendly Comedian from last night.

10:00 AM
Okay, time to head into town for some coffee. There are a lot of hills in Edinburgh, and we’re staying at the bottom of one of them, so it’s a long uphill walk to the top. On the plus side, I’m getting more exercise than usual.

A small section of my uphill climb

10:18 AM
I made it to the top! Now where is that Pret?

10:22 AM
Pret found. Coffee acquired, a strong mocha. Breakfast of champions.

10:40 AM
Walked over to Monkey Barrel Comedy to try to get a standby ticket to a work-in-progress comedy show that isn’t offering press tickets. The line is already down the block. That’s okay, I have a plan B: shadow puppets!

10:42 AM
Google Maps said it’s sending me on a route that’s “mostly flat.” What is this flight of stairs I see before me?

Not what I would call a “mostly flat” route

11:00 AM
E-ticket successfully purchased—last-minute show decisions mean there’s no time to request a press ticket. They’re letting us inside the Assembly Roxy to see Shadow Kingdom. And what’s this? More stairs! One thing I’ve learned about Fringe venues this week—many of them require going up multiple flights of stairs.

11:14 AM
The show doesn’t start until 11:15, so I decided to put the finishing touches on my Paul Chowdhry review from my phone. I’m clicking submit as the lights go down, but the cell reception isn’t great up here and my internet is slow. I hope it submits...

12:15 PM
Oh wow, Shadow Kingdom was fantastic! At the beginning we’re told that the show is a bedtime story, and we’re welcome to go to sleep if we want. But the puppets were so inventive, and the story so fun, who would want to sleep? It’s written, performed, and designed by two artists who live in Japan—Seri Yanai designed all the puppets and voices the main character, and Daniel Wishes (who is Canadian) wrote the story and does all the other voices. Oh, and there are songs too! Full review coming as soon as I have time to write it [read here]. Also, my Paul Chowdhry review is on the site now, so I guess submitting it worked. That’s a relief.

The curtain call at Shadow Kingdom

12:17 PM
Walking over to Bristo Square for a break and I just passed someone singing on the street with a brown bag on their head, and then around the corner, someone getting ready to do a show on a unicycle. Yep, this is the Fringe alright.

12:40 PM
Time for a quick lunch. There are a couple of food stands around the square. Which to choose today? I'm going with chicken in a waffle cone from Chicken Skoop. And to drink, an Irn-Bru. which I’m told is Scotland’s favorite soft drink. It’s been growing on me this week. The flavor is officially a mystery, but to me, it sort of tastes like bubble gum.

Lunch time

1:15 PM
I’m Doonstairs at the Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose. Or, as a fellow audience member said, “down by the loos.” And the entrance to the theatre is indeed right across the hall from the restrooms. I'm going to see the musical On You Bike. This is one of the most auditorium-like theatres I think I’ve been to so far at the Fringe. It has proper theatre seats with armrests. Also, there’s a keyboardist on stage playing pre-show music. It’s all so fancy!

2:30 PM
Well that was delightful. It was a musical about two “Eateroo” delivery cyclists, plus the owner of a Rotisserie Chicken restaurant (that uses Eateroo to deliver its food, naturally), and someone who works for Eateroo corporate. The performances were charming, the music toe-tapping, and the choreography very amusing—there was an on-the-fly bicycle with spinning pizza box wheels, some wing-flapping chicken dancing, and even a little kick line—what’s not to like? And here’s something uniquely Fringe—one of the actors announced at the curtain call that the same four actors and almost all the same creative team are part of a second musical at the Fringe called Jingle Street that starts less than two hours later, upstairs in the same building! My first instinct was to immediately buy a ticket, but alas I have writing I need to get done, so I need to get back to the flat. The downside to reviewing shows at the Fringe: the more shows you see, the more articles you have to write; the more articles you have to write, the less time you have to see shows. Also, I’ve walked up and down a lot of hills and stairs today. I need a break. And I already have two more shows booked for tonight!

The curtain call at On Your Bike

2:35 PM
In case there was any doubt about what country I’m in, I just passed three people standing on a street corner playing bagpipes.

4:00 PM
Draft one of my Shadow Kingdom review is done, and I’ve just finished tracking down photos to run with it. I told my editor about the On Your Bike/Jingle Street doubling, and she suggested doing a Q&A feature with them. So I need to work on the questions for that. And plan out my schedule for tomorrow, so I can try to request tickets. What a calm and relaxing afternoon I’m having...

5:00 PM
Questions written! Emails sent! Now I have a whole hour and a half until my next show. Except it’s a long walk to the theatre, I need to get there early to get in line (Fringe shows are all general admission), and I should probably get a snack before the show, to keep my energy up. Rest is overrated.

5:01 PM
I went to see a show called Funeral yesterday, and part of it involved confetti. I thought I was done disposing of all the bits that managed to follow me back to my room, but I just stood up and found another piece. Will I ever be rid of it all?

5:05 PM
And another piece of confetti. Was the confetti meant to be metaphor for how even though you lose someone, they’re never completely gone? Please let this be the last piece.

Two different pieces of confetti on the floor. Where is it coming from?

5:20 PM
Finally left and realized I’ve been here for a week and now no longer need to use Google Maps to get to the Pleasance Courtyard because I know how to get to Moo Pie Gelato and it’s down the road from there. And I've um... stopped at Moo Pie Gelato almost every day this week.

5:35 PM
Gelato acquired. The best thing about Moo Pie Gelato is that the flavors change every day. The worst thing about Moo Pie Gelato is that the flavors change every day, so I have to keep going back to try the new ones. I think my favorite is their malted milk soft serve. But today I’m branching out and trying one of their regular flavors, called 99. It has pieces of chocolate, dulce de leche, and pieces of waffle cone. What’s not to like?

A scoop of 99 in a cone at Moo Pie Gelato

6:00 PM
In line at the Pleasance Courtyard to see Ivo Graham: Organised Fun.

6:15 PM
Oh hey! Ivo Graham is down by the line handing out QR codes for us to scan. I scanned it, but it involves answering questions and taking a selfie. I have the distinct feeling that if I fill it out, I'm going to end up having to go on stage at some point. Nope, no thank you. Not filling out the form.

6:27 PM
And they’re finally letting us in for a 6:30 start. This is a pretty big theatre, and it’s completely sold out. Chances of starting on time? Zero. Thankfully I was far back enough in the line to be in the second row instead of the first. Being in the first row at a comedy show is always dangerous.

Waiting in line at the Pleasance Beyond

H7:37 PM
Absolute madness from Ivo Graham. And it didn’t end too late because he had a concert to run off to for his live Gig Pigs podcast later tonight. I’m very tempted to go to that, but I think an 11 PM fifth show of the day is too much. I have so much writing to do when I get back tonight. Anyway, now I have a whole luxurious hour for dinner, because my next show isn’t until 9.

7:46 PM
Settled on Mosque Kitchen for dinner, which had been marked as ‘want to go’ on my map since last year. They have Indian food in a steam table, and it’s pretty inexpensive. I had a massive plate of lamb curry with rice, cauliflower, and potatoes. I’m pretty sure those last two things count as vegetables, thank you very much.

Mosque Kitchen

8:07 PM
Done with dinner. Heading off to find a place to sit and start on my Ivo Graham review. He announced he’s also doing a second solo show that starts tomorrow, called Graham in the Green, so I think I’m going to combine both shows into one big review. This also means it’s one less thing I have to finish tonight.

8:25 PM
Time to head back to the Pleasance Courtyard for show two of the night, Mark Watson: Search.

8:32 PM
Google directed me to turn onto a road that I’m pretty sure is not actually a road. But it did get me where I needed to go, so I guess I shouldn’t complain too much. But I feel like I’ve been through an unusual number of parking lots and garden paths in Edinburgh this week, thanks to Google Maps.

Google Maps seems to think this is a road, but I'm skeptical

8:35 PM
And, back in line at the Pleasance Courtyard. I feel like I was just here. Oh that’s right, it’s because I was. I’m increasingly regretting offering to do this diary. I’m having fun writing it, but also I have so much other stuff I need to write. Like the Ivo Graham review I said I was going to start after dinner and then did not, because I worked on this instead. But I’m doing it now, while I’m in line. And definitely not just writing more diary entries.

9:00 PM
Mark Watson just came out to apologize for the show starting late. That’s a first. I’ve seen a lot of shows here that have started 20 minutes late. No one else has cared enough to do that. Should I start writing my 5 star review now? Just kidding—I can’t start a new review when I still haven’t finished Ivo Graham: Part One. But also, the show is starting late. What else is new?

Mark Watson chatting with the audience

10:15 PM
To quote Mrs. Lovett, “God, that’s good!” If that was the last show I saw at this year’s Fringe, I would have been thrilled for it to end a high like this. [Read my full review here.] It feels so early to be retuning back to the flat. I could be hanging around the Pleasance Courtyard for Gig Pigs at 11:20. But I have all these shows I saw today taking up space in my head, and I need to get all my thoughts down. I’ve made notes, of course, but a bunch of random notes are not the same as a review. Also, I’ve walked up and down many miles of hills today. I’m tired. I need to collapse into bed with my laptop. Gig Pigs will be released as a podcast. I can just listen to that.

10:20 PM
I’ve put in my earbuds and the next song on my playlist was “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” from Hello, Dolly! If anything can help propel me back through this exhaustion, it’s Jerry Herman and Carol Channing. I think it’s helping.

10:36 PM
Oh uncomfortable mattress, how I've missed you.

10:42 PM
Hello, laptop my old friend. I've come to type on you again.

12:00 AM
It’s been a productive evening so far! My Shadow Kingdom review is finally submitted, and I’ve picked out the shows I want to see tomorrow, which is sadly my last day at the Fringe. One review down, two more to go. They’re not going to be published tonight, but if I don’t finish them now, that puts me even more behind tomorrow. Sigh.

1:00 AM
It’s 1 AM. I have a first draft of the Mark Watson review done, and most of the Ivo Graham one done too. I’m falling asleep and having trouble remembering how to spell simple words. I think I need to go to bed. I fear what this diary will sound like when I re-read it tomorrow morning. I hope you enjoyed following along with my day. Good night!

1:04 AM
Just moved my pillow and found another piece of confetti.

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