Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Edinburgh Fringe - first day entertainment, Gretchen Frage and Henning Wehn

The real trick to booking a short break to the Edinburgh Fringe is to have one or two things planned and booked before you go up and leave the rest to chance. That way you're not too overwhelmed when you get there as you will have some structure already in place, but will still have lots of time to take in the shows that take your fancy on the Royal Mile or via the fantastic official Edinburgh Fringe app. The app gives you everything on at every time for the whole month - so if you've got a slot to fill from 3pm - 6pm that day, you simply put in the times and order your tickets directly. Of course you will still need to make sure you can collect tickets from the various Fringe box offices when needs be.

I do realise I am writing this right at the end of this year's Fringe (well there are a few days left but not many) but having made my third trip to Edinburgh I do feel that any snippets of advise I have will be just as relevant next year so get that trip planned!

We arrived (after a 7 hour drive up from London) at around 4pm and our first show, Henning Wehn's Authentic German Christmas Do wasn't until 7ish. So using our app (there's a first time for everything) we went on the hunt for something good to see. Coming across Student Medics performing A Midwife Crisis at Space at The Surgeon's Hall we went down there in the hope of buying tickets on the door. Of course it was sold out but the bright and smiley girl on the ticket office managed to sell us into Love: Gretchen Frage and we decided to take a punt on it. By the way Gretchen Frage is a play on the German 'Gretchenfrage' which means 'crucial question'.

Seeing that we were one of about a dozen audience members, and understanding that this was the opening show, we were a bit apprehensive as to what we would find. Well, let's just say any visit to the Edinburgh fringe when you take a blind punt is always a bit risky, and it wasn't awful. But it wasn't great either. Billed as 'Gretchen Frage is on a quest: to unravel the conundrum that is love in the time of capitalism. A confessional, eclectic and whimsical journey interlacing performance art and folk music by sibling duo Lex and Lian' we were quite excited to see what this was going to turn out like. What it turned out to be was a girl with a very sweet voice and songs she had penned herself, accompanying herself on the lute and being accompanied by her brother on box/guitar/harmonica - or did I dream that. There were a couple of actors supporting the thin narrative who needed a hell of a lot more rehearsal than was evident. We did get to make paper airplanes and play sweet whistles, but I wasn't sure why her clothes were cut off at one point leaving her centre stage in a body stocking that left nothing to the imagination. Hey ho the joys of the fringe - it was only about £6 so can't really complain and it did fill an hour nicely.

The Surgeon's Hall, Edinburgh

This did, however, whet our appetites for something really good, and something really good was what we got. Henning Wehn is 'that German comic' off the telly and radio. And he is very, very funny. We caught his show in London and seeing he had something new to offer decided to book for his Christmas spectacular while up at the Fringe. We weren't let down. He's comical, sharp, has an incredible understanding of the British vernacular and even though we were in the Caves (a large cellar underneath the street) and it was rather hot, the hour absolutely flew. I am sure he will be touring with this show nearer Christmas so I highly recommend booking tickets should it come to a town near you. His whole premise is how our Christmas drags on from January through to the following January whereas the Germans are far more ordered in their Christmas festivities which last a whole two days. The Germans obviously know how to do Christmas properly (well Christmas and a whole lot of other things as well). This show has been reprised from one he did a few years ago which I didn't see, but I can only agree that singing German Christmas carols in August somehow didn't feel wrong in a basement in Edinburgh because of the charm of our host, and the fact that you never know what stereotype he's going to tear to shreds next. I hope we see more of him on our mainstream media as he should be encouraged!

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