A guest post from one of our recent volunteers, Gus Simonovic.
It’s raining and the temperature is falling with the wind whipping in from the Firth of Forth. As John Malkovich, one of Hollywood’s most famous stars, found out on the city’s Royal Mile, these have become the traditional conditions that mark the beginning of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The star of Dangerous Liaisons, Con Air and 70 other films, Malkovich is such a distinctive figure in Tinseltown that he was the subject of a movie about himself: Being John Malkovich.
But in Edinburgh, Auld Reekie (or ‘The Athens of the North’), fame counts for nothing, and the dispiriting act of trudging late last week through the sodden heart of city, distributing leaflets, scarcely earned him a sideways glance from passers-by.
Being Gus Simonovich? One of an estimated 30,000 performers, in a city that ceases to be a city and becomes a FESTIVAL, is as close to insignificance as one (or anyone) can ever imagine. And still, this is the most exposure that I have ever had in my short performing career. Doing 2-3 shows a day, running around from venue to venue, handing out leaflets, seeing other shows, attending talks and workshops, seeing exhibitions, and in general trying to get the most of this multiple-Festival madness… did I mention rain and wind and cold?
Thousands and thousands of performances across hundreds and hundreds of venues are competing for attention from an action-hungry audience. It’s an amazing experience to be in a place where creatives have taken over! Theatre, dance, comedy, poetry, art … have taken over and everything else is unnoticeable.
My day starts (after an hour-long bus ride) with a performance of my solo show iWas, which becomes more of a poetic “discussion” with a charming, insightful and knowledgeable audience. Then it’s all run, run, run to set up for Lovers Walk. First day, it took us more than 2 hours, now we can (and have to) do it in 10 minutes … nothing could make us more ready for touring than this experience! And what a delight to stand there in front of such an appreciative and warm audience and hear the feedback after the show. We even had people coming to see the show more than once and have been invited to “guest perform” in other venues around town.
If I had to choose one word to define this whole experience it would have to be: endurance! If I was given a chance to choose another one, it would have to be: generosity. Generosity of everybody involved, generosity of all performers, generosity of the audiences, generosity of the Scottish people, unbelievable generosity of the highest quality art/performance offered in this beautiful event that brings 260 million pounds to the Scottish economy year after year. Festivals listed on this website are only a starting point. There are dozens of other festivals happening at the same time.
Violence in the UK? The only “violence” happening here is on stage … and the only fire is in fireworks at the end of the day! Athough one million roaming visitors on a constant move from one show to another might look like a looting mob.