There was a time when 50% of the Edinburgh Fringe was sitting in bars until 4am, shouting at each other as we made stains from the drinks we clumsily drank.
It was the camaraderie of intoxication as the fear of low numbers, bad reviews, or no reviews. For many, the first ten days was a time without any very solid solids, thin soups and Coco Pops were the only foods that wouldn’t graze the reactionary stomach of the performer waiting for judgement.
Some days, between gigs, the only music to listen to was Malcolm Middleton singing, “woke up again today, realised I hate myself, my face is a disease”.
These days, I can eat solids.
I also rarely drink, two cans of Red Stripe in the last 11 months, and both for theatrical reasons (welcome to my burgeoning alibi).
And I think this is what makes the Edinburgh Fringe so weird this year. The rapidly inflating and deflating egos, my own and other people’s, were hard enough to take when half cut, but a full room of people on the verge and an awareness unhindered by booze seems too much. I nearly made it to a bar with Michael Legge tonight, but at the penultimate pelican crossing, I thought I would go home to eat cookies and listen to the most recent Wild Beasts’ album.
(I almost wish i hadn’t. I just heard a bang against the window and turned to see something I couldn’t make out. My pattern seeking brain was slow to find the pattern. It was actually some white roses, but I think it was a ghost/big cat/psychopath with white eyes and a black balaclava for just long enough for my adrenaline to kick in. It was almost Rorschach too).
With sobriety comes biscuits, musics and a solitary demeanor. I have found ceasing to booze has curtailed the remnants of my gregarious nature. It seems like a different Edinburgh Fringe, simply because it is. I am not entirely sure the worry without the pointless drunkenness quite balances out as an experience.
Walking by the Udderbelly today the Fringe Festival felt more like a Moroccan Bazaar than ever before. “Hey you! You like comedy! Manchester United! Best relationship jokes here! Luvverly Jubberly”.
I have created a new avant garde cereal. It is called Yoko Pops, when you pour milk on them they go Snap! Crackle! Pop!, but with increasing discord and some screaming.
Is the angry show becoming too scary? I think it may be even weirder than previous years and have more unexpected moments of sudden confrontation. I did some of it topless and some if it as the angry ghost of Lenny Bruce while beating chairs. Sometimes Michael and I just stared at each other. Are we theatre of cruelty now? Has it all gone slapstick Artaud?
I am doing my show, which maybe comedy to some and talking to others, in Edinburgh HERE (that is the science-y one) and HERE (the even more shouty, jumping around one)
Or I am on my never-ending tour (must end January) from Sheffield to Cardiff, Exeter to Newcastle HERE
Twitter updates @robinince
Stopping drinking (~23 years ago) has definitely left me healthier and internally happier whilst at the same time diminishing my social circle to only a very small few – which is decidedly weird as I now behave far more socially acceptably and responsibly and (I think) am a much nicer and less violent person. Dilema…..
I think you are awesome without the drink- unless you did TIMC while hammered! So witty!
As a person who never had a drinking problem in a family with many, very social drinkers I think you probably are romanticising the drinking times. I know I get recounted “tales of magical nights where everything was so fun, everyone danced, everyone had a fantastic time!”. My answer is usually, “I was there. Only two people were dancing, you didn’t get there until 1:30 because you drove your car into a ditch and had to walk three miles in the rain, we had to pay 300 dollars for a rescue tow the next day and I waited three hours for you guys to show up.”
The more I come to the fringe the more nights we spend hanging out in each others flats. It’s nice.