That’s Edinburgh’s festival season wrapped up for another year. I walked down George Street last night at dusk as teams of William Wallace lookalikes – shaggy-bearded, strong types, strung with leather tool belts – disassembled the pop up street bars and stages. All twenty-two temporary venues that took weeks to piece together will be popped down in a matter of days. The hoardings and posters throughout the city will be next. Peeling, faded and tired; like Christmas decorations, they have a novelty factor when the season opens, but very soon, you wish for the twelfth day of Christmas so you can take them all down. Tonight is the festivals’ equivalent of twelfth night.
And, just like many of us eat too much at Christmas, I feel as though I may have had a culture overload this month. I took a simulated flight in a shipping container in total darkness (“don’t come to this show if you have claustrophobia” – was the extent of the warning as we entered). Thirty minutes later we had been pitched into the sea: black, silence, oblivion. Then we were all released from the box and told to get on with our short lives. Not a go-to show for nervous flyers. I saw the young Liverpudlian who won best joke of the festival; he was good, but my favourite remains the joke that was placed third:I took out a loan to pay for an exorcism. If I don’t pay it back I’m going to get repossessed. I squirmed my way through the singularly worst show I’ve ever seen in my life. Young, Antipodean and male: that’s as much description as I’ll give without narrowing it down too much. It was billed as comedy; he was having the last laugh if anyone thought for a moment this was comedy. You win some you lose some. The one-woman show about a hoarder was a definite winner. Whilst there wasn’t much to laugh about, I was left with lots to think about; especially when I woke the next morning to the news that hoarding is now classified as a medical disorder by the World Health Organisation. The character in the play didn’t just have piles of magazines and bags of knickknacks, she had an invisible accumulation of life issues and traumas on which her hoarding was built. No, it wasn’t light; neither was the Glaswegian social justice rapper/poet, but he still managed to make us laugh – please tell me there really is a vegan coffee shop in the Glasgow suburb of Pollok called, ‘Soy Division’.
There’s always a show that the critics rave about, but leaves you cold. For me, it was the one with three Irish women taking turns to sit in pairs with their orbiting conversations about shopping, men and betrayal. What was all that about? It did remind me about the use of the word ‘wagon’, in Dublin, though. In a different play, a man (London book editor) was meeting his old flame (she left him 15 years earlier to marry a successful author) for lunch. He drinks too much, talks too much, remembers too much, and lunch unravels in an unpleasant way. She reminds him, most ungraciously, acting like a bit of a wagon (I knew that word was going to come in useful) about some bad poetry he wrote for her in the past. Never disparage a man for writing you poetry, no matter how ill conceived or poorly fashioned; preferable to have been the muse for bad poetry, than never to have been a muse at all. I’ll say it again; what a wagon. It was a sad play, he loved her still, whereas she felt less than nothing for him. I thought of it at the Billie Holiday tribute act when the singer gave a beautiful rendition of, ‘I fell in love with you the first time I looked into them there eyes…’
Tonight I’ll climb part way up Arthur’s Seat with A. and her two children. Just like last year, we’ll bring blankets, a flask of hot chocolate and some biscuits. By 9pm it will be dark, the groups scattered on the hillside will hush and everyone will turn towards the castle for a fireworks sendoff. Following the night sky explosions of colour, Edinburgh will pull on her overcoat, and tightly do up her buttons for another year. My friend C. had the loveliest thing to say about it all: “Perhaps most of the city breathes a sigh of relief when it is over, because isn’t Edinburgh really quite a settled, sure of itself, sort of place? Yet having this creative burst every year must really give it a very therapeutic shake.” It’s time for the snow globe to settle. No more shaking until August 2019.
From, ‘The Tempest’ by, Shakespeare