EFF 2019: final thoughts


The first thing I want to do is formally express surprise at the lack of a freak out throughout my stay in Edinburgh – and as I’ve struggled to catch up with everything since then. Hit with a non-compliant laptop the night before my trip, having to head up there on the overnight National Express, and then getting repeated soaking from the torrential rain; any one of those things would normally tip me over the edge, let alone all three overlapping, but somehow I remained calm. Feeling still rather unmotivated probably helped in some ways, as did managing to create a schedule that didn’t have me running around like a headless chicken and just seeing shows for me for a change.

In all I had ‘just’ 12 shows to review (the unlucky 13th had to be cancelled thanks to a Sunday evening drenching), plus another eight to which I had no commitments – a nice round 20 shows seen in just over four days. It may not seem that much, but you’d be surprised! Plus it resulted in 91,274 steps, and I did do a little bit of extra writing anyway (because apparently I can’t help myself).

I have to say though, I’m not sure I’ll be committing anywhere near as much to future festivals. Maybe an annual weekend visit to satisfy my curiosity, but nothing more; trying to walk anywhere is so much worse than trying to walk around in London (apparently I was the only person who didn’t identify as a snail), pretty much every single show went up late (I’m sure last year was far more punctual), and certain venues not providing shelter for queuers was absolutely enraging (I’m mostly looking at you, Pleasance Courtyard). With all the rain in the first couple of days, I found myself in the bizarre position of missing the Bakerloo line – it may be a sauna on wheels, but it’s bloody good at drying you in a hurry!

I loved my choice of accommodation though (Pollock Halls); great for a short walk to a good deal of venues, thankfully well connected to the bus & train stations, and the place itself provided exactly what a visiting reviewer on a budget needed. It’s definitely high on my list for any future stay in Edinburgh.


It was also great to broaden my horizons in terms of venues – last year I was nearly always at one of the two Pleasance areas, but this time I even ventured out into New Town a bit, as well as a variety of different venues in the main hub of the festival. I was definitely glad to have made a visit to the Traverse Theatre this time, and hope to return as much as possible in the future, plus it was quite fun to find myself in lecture theatres on a couple of occasions.

Happily there were some familiar faces up there – I obviously had to go to a Bite-Size Breakfast, as well as revisit The Wrong Ffion Jones and Before 30, plus Nat (BroadwayWorld Scotland writer extraordinaire) and I even managed to sync our diaries on the Friday afternoon for The Red. Though with seeing so few people (and most chat being with FOH/box office staff – so extra considerate behaviour & lots of smiling) I gradually forgot how to have a proper conversation as the days slipped by…

The unexpected beef that sprung up (and seemingly escalated daily) between reviewers and some performers meant lanyard time was ruined for me – I didn’t dare wear it that much for fear of offending someone. Ridiculous. And I’d also like to propose flyering-free zones for next year; I felt absolutely bombarded most of the time, and exhausted myself by trying to look busy as much as possible in the hope that flyerers would be considerate and leave me alone, when all I wanted was a chance to just zone out for a bit. Even having headphones was no guarantee of freedom – but most concerning to me was the absolute prick who distracted me as I tried to cross a road. I hate to break it to you, but not getting hit by a car is so much more important than your silly little flyer!

I know flyers do make some difference, but the right people need to be targeted, for one thing – and being more environmentally friendly surely has to come into the equation too. It would help if there were some recycling bins around, or if more companies were able to e-flyer rather than thrust unwanted bits of paper in our faces.


But I’m sure what you really want to know is what my top 5 shows were? (Excluding comedy and previously seen shows.)

5. How to Mend the World (With a Student Play)
Clever & funny – I probably would’ve missed out had I not been on the Arthur Miller hunt this year.

4. Phoenix
Really funny & full of heart – and so smartly presented. Masterful musicianship from Andrew Gallo.

3. Crocodile Fever
Think Martin McDonagh & Tarantino, but with a powerful female voice – and some cracking tunes.

2. Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch
A new musical that’s hit the jackpot, with a great book as well as brilliant music – one of the funniest things I’ve seen all year.

1. Birth
Incredibly human; full of simple joys one minute and heart-stopping drama the next. Wins the award for making me properly cry.

Well, that’s me finally done and dusted for this year. Finally.

Who’s ready for Vault Festival..?

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