Gamechangers: How Michael Che and Viv Groskop helped me lose my Edinburgh Fringe virginity

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Originally published in International Business Times

It never occurred to me that the Edinburgh Fringe was something for me.

I associated it with the parents of Cassandra and Reuben, popping up from the Home Counties to applaud the last university-club hurrah before ushering them into a sensible-but-artsy job at Sotheby’s.

We ended up there by accident. We went to see family with our three small children and were astonished to find the train hellishly packed due to the opening weekend. The good news is that if you’re a posh bloke looking for an excuse to parade about in frocks, pretend to be a Star Wars character or sing like a dog, this is the moment to find you’re not alone. And before we go on, let’s just acknowledge that a cappella is really, really hard and best avoided unless you are actually pitch perfect.

A joyful revelation

Yet, despite the Islington-goes-alternative pop undercurrent, the last four days have been a joyful revelation. I’m a born-again, full-on evangelist convert to Edinburgh.

For a start, I don’t know a better way to entertain kids for “free” – of which more later – than going on safari on the Royal Mile. You scan the horizon for movement and then approach. Hula-hoop artists (Maple Staplegun, we love you and your big frilly blue pants), escape artists, giant bubble-makers, bands who play drums on flotsam and jetsam and cool Scandi acrobats plus all the characters from famous children’s stories roaming about around selling their shows.

The first children’s show we saw was Peter Pan from Tread the Boards. A enchanting play that captivated the young audience with constant action – sword fights, naughty Tinker Bell (played by a light), puppet pirates, comedy push-along croc and a suitably ridiculous Hook. We also took the kids to Hairy McLary Cats Tales, which had its moments of animal magic but, frankly, could have done with more pirate action.

On the grown-up scene our choices were eclectic. We went to Bafflesmash, in a grungy student bar four levels below ground and felt like rebellious undergrads. It is a three-man show of surreal skits, a number of which invoke three-point plugs and Narnia: at least half the cultural references passed us by, but we roared at Aslan the next day in the street to mutual delight.

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