Originally posted on The Unpleasant Lair Of Spank The Monkey 07/09/2005
There are lots of good reasons for wanting to see a film. Hoping to catch yourself in the background of a shot probably isn't one of them.
The hype for Annie Griffin's movie Festival started around twelve months ago. Following the success of her sitcom The Book Group, her plan was to write and direct a feature-length comedy drama with a similarly middle-class arty setting - the Edinburgh Festival. And in a sneaky publicity move, it was announced that Griffin and her crew would be filming on the streets of Edinburgh during the 2004 festival. It now feels significant that the one time I saw them filming last year was on that hellish stretch of the Royal Mile outside the Fringe Office. It may have been the centre of things a decade ago: but now that everyone buys their tickets online or from satellite offices, it feels like the equivalent of setting a London movie along the length of Carnaby Street.
Festival was released in the UK in July 2005. (If Pathe's website wasn't such Flash-encrusted pants, I could do you a link to more info about it.) It sort of just about works as a movie, but its idea of Edinburgh seems curiously out of date by about a decade or so - which is about when Griffin was up here doing her own shows, so that might be an explanation. For the purposes of her plot, the Festival is entirely represented by three bits of theatrical performance, loads of standup comedy, and nothing else. The solo performance pieces don't bear any resemblance to anything I've ever seen, though the group who charm the socks off an audience by leaving small bags of foliage under the seats gave me a chuckle (mainly because Complicite did it in Mnemonic five or six years ago, and got a very similar response). And nobody with ambitions towards a Perrier award is doing straight standup nowadays - it's all themed monologues rather than disconnected gags.
Since you asked, no, Spank and the Pals aren't visible at any point in Festival. Which is probably because we tend to avoid the Royal Mile if at all possible. We're everywhere else, though - lapping up the Film Festival in the Filmhouse and the Cineworld Formerly UGC, checking out the authors in Charlotte Square for Bookfest, lurking around Fringe venues both big and small, and even catching the odd performance at the International Festival if there's the risk of a gigantic riot taking place during it.
And that's what we'll be doing again this year, with daily reports all through the key week where all four festivals overlap. Watch this space.
- Saturday August 20th - "How d'you get a nun pregnant?" (Malcolm Hardee)
- Sunday August 21st - "You must have been shit at your job" (Caimh McDonnell)
- Monday August 22nd - "Luckily, we don't rehearse, so that's okay" (Tina Pina Trachtenberg)
- Tuesday August 23rd - "We all love the idea of Waterworld, like we all love the idea of Communism" (Shane Danielsen)
- Wednesday August 24th - "The unique texture of pubic hair mixed with yoghurt" (Richard Herring)
- Thursday August 25th - "I havnae felt so stupid since I got my finger stuck up my nose with Super Glue" (Stew)
- Friday August 26th - "I'm going to be late back from the supermarket, ducking steve" (Spank The Monkey)
- Saturday August 27th - "We'll be freedom fried potatoes by and by" (after Tom Lehrer)
- Postscript 2005 - late reviews and final thoughts from Spank's Pals
Napier University is providing our accommodation, GNER and EasyJet our transport to and from Edinburgh. Yes, we are creatures of habit. Deal with it. (Actually, a couple of us are flying BMI this year, so it'll be interesting to see how that pans out compared with Stelios and his sequentially delayed airborne potential deathtraps.)
The International Festival, Fringe, Film Festival and Book Festival all have their own official sites. Tying them all together is edinburgh-festivals.com, which has programme information for them all as well as the latest news and reviews from The Scotsman and the rest of the Scottish press.
The List continues to be the best guide on paper for what's on in Edinburgh and Glasgow: and now the same applies to its website too, after several years of bitching from me on these pages. Hooray! While you're there, don't forget to visit The List's eating and drinking guide: The Belated Birthday Girl and I found it invaluable when we made a rare non-Festival trip to Edinburgh this Easter. Recommended eateries include Martin Wishart, Atrium, The Outsider, Oloroso and Rick's (the latter is a pretty good place to stay too).
The Assembly Rooms, the Pleasance and the Gilded Balloon are still the big three venues on the Fringe. Underbelly is making a serious name for itself on the comedy front, while the old warhorse C continues to grow by a process of acquisition, its latest venue being the old Odeon cinema (now C Electric). Where's last year's noisy newcomer Pod Deco, former inhabitant of that site? Nowhere, apparently. The Traverse is, as ever, the one to beat when it comes to drama.
The Filmhouse and Cameo are still the key Film Festival venues, though the Fountainbridge multiplex is catching up rapidly. It used to be owned by UGC, but thanks to a recent deal it's now part of the Cineworld chain. Iofilm is still Scotland's best cinema webzine, and its Film Festival coverage is the envy of all, myself included.
Podcasting is the new black, apparently, and this year there are two sites providing regular audio reports from Edinburgh, which can be delivered automatically (or downloaded on request) as MP3s and listened to at your leisure. New Comedy Radio (which has loose affiliations with the NotBBC media discussion board) are providing daily recordings of the chat show Secrets of Desperate Performers. The Edinburgh Fringe Show has a much broader brief, producing a daily audio magazine with interviews and excepts covering all aspects of the Fringe. They're also running their own moblog for the duration, which practically makes them neighbours.
Sites from the shows: Adrian Byron Burns, American High School Theatre Festival (Rave: The Bacchae Of Euripedes Remixed), Andy Parsons, Antonio Forcione, The Aristocrats, Barb Jungr, Bill Hicks: Slight Return, The Booth Variations, Dominion: Prequel To The Exorcist, Fateless, Gamarjobat, Henri Cartier-Bresson, I Am Star Trek, Jane Bom-Bane, Julie McKee, The Magnets, Malcolm Hardee, Mark Watson, Mervyn Stutter, Michael Franti and Spearhead, MirrorMask, Moustache [dead link], Naked Voices, New Writing North (We Love You Arthur), Nick Pynn, Nizlopi (JCB Song), Paines Plough (After The End), Peter Reder (Guided Tour), Rain Pryor, Richard Herring, Rolf Harris, Scottish Opera (The Death Of Klinghoffer), Serenity, Stewart Lee, Tangled Feet (Lost Property), The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, Tricklock (The Glorious And Bloodthirsty Billy The Kid), The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain, Volcano (My Pyramids), Walk The Plank (S.W.A.L.K.).