Royal Holloway at the Edinburgh Fringe

Written by Abi Slade

From the 18th-28th August, I was performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with Thisaway Theatre Company – a company formed of Royal Holloway, University of London students and alumni – in their performance of Hopes, Dreams, and the Bits Inbetween, written and directed by Elinor Boult. Here is our beautiful team!

Royal Holloway at the Fringe 4

We left London on the 18th August on the 9 hour overnight coach, arriving in Edinburgh the next day extremely tired. I unfortunately didn’t manage to sleep at all on the coach, which consequently meant that I napped for the majority of the first day and didn’t get to watch any shows. However, the rest of the week was brimming with theatre, which I’ll tell you all about now!

The first show I watched was comedian Bobby Mair’s show Loudly Insecure, which was performed at The Hive. The show focused on his insecurities and involved him relaying a story about him tracking down his biological mother and siblings. I personally enjoyed it a lot, and found it was a nice mixture of him mocking himself and mocking other people, but it was relatively clear that there were some jokes which didn’t quite land that well with the audience, and some of his jokes felt a bit underdeveloped. However, it was a ‘pay what you want’ show, so you can’t really complain!

The second show I watched was Noose Women by Bear Faced Moon Company and New Celts Productions, a show about a cult leader trying to make a new reality show with Channel 4 about women trying to win his affections and the winner winning the ultimate prize – death, which was a ‘prize’ as it was a one-way ticket to Heaven. The show was really funny with stellar performances from all cast members, with a really interesting plot, which does raise the question of how far reality TV could go to ensure it remains relevant. My only criticism would be that I felt it lost its pacing a little bit halfway through the show, but it regained it towards the end.

The third was comedian George Rigden’s show Comic Sans Girlfriend, and writing this now I’ve just worked out the joke in that title. I actually only watched this show as my brother knows him, but I’m really glad I did because it was absolutely hilarious. He really utilised musical comedy to its full potential, because when many other comedians are telling a joke through a song you quite often find that the audience gets the punchline long before the song has ended, but he knows when to stop which was very refreshing. The show revolved around him questioning while he’s still alone, until halfway through the show when he reveals that he’s actually had a girlfriend the whole time, which surprisingly didn’t ruin the narrative at all and in fact made it a lot funnier.

The fourth was Robin Boot’s Puns of AnyKey, a Rockomedy show with songs full of hilariously clever lyrics and puns, and was so good that I went again later in the week. I was glad to see such a core element of rock and roll – a raffle – being used throughout the show, and was very thankful for the presents that Robin so kindly provided for us – air guitars, meaning that we could play along with him. If I explained how clever the show was, then I feel like it would ruin the magic for you all, so all I will say is that if Robin Boot comes to an area near you then please watch his show, because all the songs have been stuck in my head for about a week now and still have me laughing.

Royal Holloway at the Fringe 2.jpg

The fifth was Baby Wants Candy: The Completely Improvised Full Band Musical. I’d heard a lot of recommendations about them and luckily my friend had a spare ticket, because the actual tickets themselves were about £14. The show was so good though that in the end I paid £14 to go and watch the next day’s performance. The perfect thing about Baby Wants Candy is that the whole show is based around one suggestion from an audience member right at the beginning of the show, and the cast and band just have to run with it, so the audience are all in on the joke as well, and then after you leave you’ll never be able to explain how perfect the show was because no one will ever see it again. The theme on the first night was ‘Grandma stole my boyfriend’, a heart wrenching tale about a young woman’s boyfriend making love to her two grandmas which led the elderly home to be shut down, and the theme on the second night was ‘Tyrannosaurus sex’, in which scientists discovered a new sexy dinosaur and opened a dinosaur park to rebuild broken relationships. Both shows were absolute masterpieces and I’ll never be able to recommend the company enough to people. Everyone was such an astounding performer and committed so much to whatever crazy story there was, and although £14 is slightly expensive for a Fringe show, it was worth every penny. My only criticisms are that I can’t listen to soundtracks of the shows as they’re one night only, and that I probably won’t be able to watch them again for another year as they are an American company that tours. They are, luckily, EdFringe regulars though, but their shows do sell out very quickly so make sure you are 100% on it when booking tickets!

Royal Holloway at the Fringe 3

The sixth (technically seventh due to me watching Baby Wants Candy twice) show I watched was Waggo, a new piece devised by Queen Mary Theatre Company. The premise of the show is that it’s a satire of the film The Breakfast Club, with a whole new range of stock characters stuck in detention, like the jock who is actually 9 months pregnant with God’s second child, or the loner art student who’s actually the Loch Ness monster. I’ve never seen a production created by university students at such a high calibre – every 5 seconds we’d all be absolutely screaming with laughter. I can’t fault the show whatsoever, there were no moments where I was wondering how much longer the show would last or where I wished I could be napping instead. I was actually quite sad because we got free tickets for the show as our show was with the same venue company, because that show deserves to be seen.

Royal Holloway at the Fringe 1

The final show was Thrones: The Musical!, a show within a show made to educate Linda, a recent divorcee, about Game of Thrones as she has never watched it before. This is where I slip back into my Baby Wants Candy nerd phase because the same company performed this show, and it was every bit as perfect as I’d hoped. The show ran before season 8 of Game of Thrones had finished, meaning that they were constantly working with new material. If you care about spoilers then I would probably say don’t go and watch the show, but if you just want to catch up with what’s happened in Westeros then the first song sets the plot up nicely, guiding us through all the main spoilers of what’s happened throughout the show. Thankfully this show has a soundtrack of a select number of the songs, meaning that I can listen to them again. Luckily this show also appears to be an EdFringe staple so if you plan on heading up next year then you should hopefully be able to see it again!

All in all, I had a wonderful week at the Fringe and wish I was back there. I am now suffering from the Edinburgh flu though, so if you go up in the future then I definitely recommend taking lots of paracetamol and vitamins up with you! My only regret with the Fringe is that I don’t think I saw enough, so next year I’m definitely going to organise a show schedule beforehand!

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