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Paul Nathan: Taking to the Fringe streets

By | Published on Thursday 7 August 2014

When you think of the cabaret Fringe you normally picture the late night gatherings that occur in vaults and lofts and dark corners all over the city. But don’t forget the streets of Edinburgh are one big cabaret during daylight hours too. The Royal Mile is the hub of this street theatre cabaret, with some awe-inspiring acts on show alongside the flyering frenzy and show-clip preview stages.

Street Theatre

One guy who knows this most exciting element of the Festival better than most is ThreeWeeks Editors’ Award winning Paul Nathan. He stars in ‘The I Hate Children Children’s Show’ in the mornings and the ‘Best Of Burlesque’ at night, but in the middle he busks on the Mile. We asked Nathan for his tips for how Fringe-goers can get the most out of the street theatre Fringe.

Busking is intimate and immediate. There is a lot going on. It is also pure. No lights, no trapdoors, just the artist and the audience and sometimes those lines blur. Here are five tips and tricks to enjoy the show more.

1. It really is dangerous. The fire is real, the knives are sharp, and yes that is a real whip. So when the performer says “don’t try this at home” keep in mind that there is a reason every act on the Royal Mile is required to have insurance.

2. Don’t watch the fun, be part of it. The father of modern psychology, William James, said “we don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh”. Nowhere is this more true than in street theatre. There’s no fourth wall. The audience is a character in the play and anything can happen. You travelled all the way to Edinburgh to be part of something special (or all the way into town if you’re local!)… don’t hold back now.

3. You never know who you’ll see. Many of the artists in this year’s street programme have very successful indoor shows. You may even catch some future stars. Pierce Brosnan started his career as a fire-eater. And Eddie Izzard did street shows here until Robin Williams – who himself started as a street mime in New York – produced Eddie’s Emmy Award winning TV Special. Couldn’t get tickets to see The Boy With Tape On His Face last year? This year you can see The Boy’s alter ego, Sam Wills, on the Mile. The take away here is to cherish whichever act you are watching.

4. We are on the clock. Just like you, we have to be at work on time. At 10am each morning all the artists meet on the Mile and draw names out of a hat to see who will perform where and when. It’s different each day. Buskers have 30 minutes to gather a crowd and do their show. Bigger circle acts have 45 minutes. If we go over time we are thrown in the Edinburgh Dungeon and made to watch ghost tours until 10am the next morning. Schedules are posted online daily on the Fringe website.

5. Get in early and get in close. When you see an artist starting up a street show, that is the best time join the audience. Don’t get stuck in the back of the crowd. If you see a few street shows you will likely see something you have never seen before and will never see again, you want to see it from as close as possible.

Bonus tip… Street festival organizer Andy Meldrum recommends that folks bring a towel or a hoodie to sit on for comfort. If you have a tip of your own, tweet it to @ThreeWeeks and we will add it to our list of tips for watching shows.

‘The I Hate Children Children’s Show’ was on at the Pleasance Courtyard and ‘Best Of Burlesque’ at Assembly George Square at Edinburgh Festival 2014. He was also regularly to be found performing on the Mile. 

LINKS: www.ihatechildren.com

Pictured: Todd Various performs on the Mile. Photo: Andrew Brown.