Fringe Diaries #2: Dan Nightingale.
So here we are in the second week of the festival and I’m sure, by this point, a lot of comics will be obsessing with what’s happening with their show, and with reviews, and with poor audiences, and also be facing up to the slightly depressing realisation that they can’t drink as consistently and to the same high standard that they were able to five years ago. Oh, it’s a tricky old beast this international comedy festival lark. The pressure is a mo’er fu’r…. (For those less naturally bad boy gangster than myself; it’s rather tricky.)
Now obviously I’m not immune from any of this, but I’ve developed, over my three previous festivals, a fairly successful coping mechanism. I call it; ‘The Dan Nightingale avoidance of Fringe bullshit scheme.” …Okay, well I’ve never actually called it that before, but it’s essentially what I’m on about. I avoid as much of the festival-esque, industry-centric waffle as humanly possible. I keep my head down. I ignore reviews. I don’t drink with PR people, agents or comics who play the “guess who’s signed for…or did you hear so and so got a five/one star review?” games and I lead this simplistic existence south of the meadows in the area in around the Marchmont road bit of the city.
And it is just lovely. The architecture, the delis, the total lack of posters and flyer teams; you wouldn’t know there was a festival on. I just pretend I live in Edinburgh for a month. It’s a real head in the sand lifestyle choice.
In the daytime, when there are obviously not that many gigs on and you have some free time, I’ve developed a relaxing and relatively healthy routine. Well, healthy by my pretty low standards. I even go running, and if I’m not up to that (i.e. most days) I go for a good old walk, but always head south away from the hub of the festival. And I’ve got my favourite spots too. Behind Marchmont Road about two miles south of the old town, there’s a hill with the Royal Observatory at the top. It’s less well known than Arthur’s seat, but it’s always quieter. Sometimes I try and run up it, most times I just waddle to the top. It’s where I head to clear my head and detach myself from the Fringe. At the summit I have a sit and watch the city.
Knowing all the madness of the festival is going on below – yet not being able to hear anything but the wind rushing in from the Firth – is a hugely relaxing feeling. The first time I was there I watched a rain storm sweep over the city from the coast and quietly chuckled to myself thinking of all the flyer teams getting drenched, the tourists ducking into free Fringe shows for cover rather than culture, and the comedians heading to their venues cursing the Edinburgh weather. Then it started raining and I got wet, which I supposed I deserved, though really I didn’t mind. I don’t actually know the name of the hill but I suppose I don’t need to. I know where it is.
I was there again yesterday and just as I struggled my way up there my iPod clicked onto 101 classical hits, and as I looked across the Lothian landscape I got a bit emotional. It’s worrying when you’re nearly crying at the views; it’s meant to be the reviews that make you weep when you’re up here. The key then is to climb back down without breaking an ankle. I don’t need to be performing an hour of stand-up on one good leg.
The 11 and a ½ Ill-conceived Edinburgh Shows of Dan Nightingale is at the Pleasance Dome, 6.50pm, daily. He currently has two working ankles.