Now in my youth festivals meant Reading or the Monsters of Rock at Donnington. These usually ended up in a mudbath as the traditional English summer drought would inevitably break for the duration of the event. Why should a month long festival in Scotland be any different?
Well it wasn’t, although when we arrived after catching the Cheapo Ticket Express from Kings Cross, it had obviously dried out enough to strand this lovely creature.
So after a meze platter lunch at Empires Bistro in St Mary’s Street we caught a few zeds at Dr Caligari’s (AKA the Travelodge, where the fixtures and fittings are as wonky as the scenery from the very best examples of German Expressionist cinema), before gearing up for the main events.
Both the shows we had tickets for on Saturday were at Dan’s Paleis in George Square, which was actually a massive tent complete with a bar.
First up was Margaret Cho. I had been a bit concerned that Cho might have been a little heavy on the gender politics and light on laughs, but I needn’t have worried as she was hilarious – covering material as diverse as her appearance on America’s Dancing with the Stars with Bristol Palin (I totally get hating the mother’s politics but still wanting to sleep with her), the unwelcome effect of lubricating the vocal chords with olive oil and why the female orgasm requires a PIN number.
Cho’s show done we were back out in the rain to wait for the main event Al Murray the Pub Landlord’s Compete for the Meat Christmas Special. You probably know how the TV show works and it wasn’t that different live, although for our £15, we got two hours of breakneck madness. The central auditorium of the Paleis had seats laid up as tables for the pub quiz and all the audience were the participants. We got of lightly, despite me being on the receiving end of a: “Fuck me it’s Captain Haddock!” however I was game for that. I was impressed by the way that Murray sized up his audience and left anyone he judged would be uncomfortable alone. Richard Herring put in an appearance as Mr Giblets and I got one of those brilliant Thick and Slow foam hands to take home too!
As we’d had a couple of pints of Murphy’s (Murphy’s, that’s what you drink when you can’t get Guinness, nobody really likes Guinness, just like jazz (c) Al Murray) it was necessary to stop off at the Central Fish Bar before heading to the Auld Hoose for a nightcap.
The following Sunday after a leisurely Indian tapas lunch with the daughter at Mother India, we caught a bit of free street performance before seeing A Betrayal of Penguins at the Gilded Balloon. This was our Fringe wildcard and we had no idea what to expect, but the three guys from Dublin pulled off a blinding sketch show based around a wedding, a horse race and Oscar night. I particularly liked the racing commentators who were also spies, the Oscar night zombie security guard and the groom’s best friend who was clearly in love with him. I think they have the potential to go far, keep an eye out for them, you won’t be disappointed.
Our final show was Shappi Khorsandi‘s My Brother and I Holding Hands in Our Pants. Again I was worried that the show could have been overly sentimental or needlessly cruel, but no it was a delightfully funny ramble through Shappi’s relationship with her brother, from their childhood in Iran where the original photo of them holding hands in their pants was taken, to the recent recreation of the shot for the Guardian. Very funny lady.
So with just enough time for some Spanish tapas at Alba Flamenco (more about there later), before heading back to Dr Caligari’s. That was our smashing Edinburgh Festival weekend.