Fan Fare

Entertainment behind the scenes

Paranoia sets in, when all the world’s a stage at Edinburgh

August 10, 2009

edinburghWhen everything and everyone around you is part of an act, you start to wonder where the make-believe ends and reality kicks in.

The hundreds of buskers and performers riding unicycles, juggling, dancing, doing magic shows, mind tricks, comedy acts at breakfast restaurants and even offering free butler services in the streets of the Scottish capital during the annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe can be unsettling for anyone unused to the barrage of the bizarre.

Small troupes promoting themselves will lie on the streets begging for you to come to their shows, people in pajamas, funny hats, colored hair, dressed as poppies or in giant lizard suits may roar for your attention and there is an army of young women all toting placards, handing out flyers and even Chinese fortune cookies.

Everyone wants to be your friend, providing you’ll stump up for their show of course. And some acts at the world’s largest open access arts festival are so in-between reality and make-believe that their players have no theatrical ambitions at all.

Marcus Hopkins, a nurse from England said he and four friends come up to the Fringe every year dressed as butlers to offer free butler services to anyone who asks.

“We’re not registered (with the Fringe), it’s just a unique experience,” Hopkins said. “We don’t actually know what we are going to do for the day until we do it.”

Meeting strangers in a pub, chatting over a meal at lunch or dinner in a restaurant can itself be a comedy of paranoia until both parties are assured they are not being duped into some kind of performance art.

A chance meeting with American couple Rob and Laurie in Edinburgh’s swish Café Royal bar was a convivial two hours, spent swapping stories about our experiences in the Scottish capital over a whisky or two and laughing at the craziness of it all. I thought we’d made friends, established a bond, enjoyed an hour or two of friendly sanity until Laurie leaned over and asked:

“Are you sure this isn’t some kind of act?”

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