How I'd fix the Fringe

Iain Maciver Todd wants it smaller and more regimented, with less new material

One of my favourite dinner spots in Edinburgh was the cheap and cheerful kitchen in the mosque. But this weekend I headed for a post-gig curry and was faced with a dilemma: Edinburgh now has two mosque kitchens. One called The Mosque Kitchen and the other called The Original Mosque Kitchen. Although strangely neither are now in the mosque.

How do I make a decision about which to go to? They both serve curries, they are both cheap and they both claim to capture the spirit of the original mosque. I thought about it for a second and then went for a pizza.

The consensus is that audiences are down at the Fringe this year. I'm an audience member and I'd like to point out some reasons why I haven't been too as many shows this year as I had in previous years.

There is too much choice in too many venues with no rhyme or reason for their booking. If you go to Tesco they have a fruit aisle, a cereal aisle and that section for food with weird names to impress people at dinner parties. Now imagine it was all mixed up. The Weetabix is next to creme fraiche which is next to the tomatoes. That’s the Fringe.

I'd like to see more places do what the Scottish Comedy Festival has done, and programme a whole strand under one roof rather than a random selection of acts. It may not be all good but at least I know that I can turn up any time and have a rough idea of what I might see.

There are too many comedians attempting to fill a set for an hour. I like cup cakes. I can eat two quite happily but by number three I'm a bit bored and feel slightly sick. The same with comedians who outstay their welcome. You’re there to entertain me, not to imprison me. If you’ve got a great 30 minutes just give me that.

The comedians are denying me their best material. I've watched you on the telly. I may have seen some of your early stuff and loved it. I then watch your show and its all new!

Where was that joke I loved. What happened to that great set piece you did? I think up-and-coming comedians should give me the best of their material not the newest. How many people have seen the comedian before? If they played to an audience of 50 last year and now they are in front of 100 then at least half the audience isn't aware of it. If I went to see a band and they only played new stuff then I'd feel cheated, so bung in a few hits please.

Why are the venues small, cramped and stuffed with sweaty people? Does that heighten the comedy? If so working on a submarine a must be a laugh a minute.

The branding of the festival isn't audience friendly, The Pleasance Dome is in Potterow and not the Pleasance, The Assembly Theatre is at the Mound and George Square, not the Assembly Rooms, the Edinburgh international festival is in Ingilston not Edinburgh. No wonder sales are down. Audiences are lost!

If the comedian is going to tour after the Fringe, why should I see them in the Fringe? Normally the tour is the same price, lasts longer and takes place in more comedy friendly venues.

So my message to the Fringe and the mosque kitchens is. Advertise your best product, make it easy for me to make a decision about it and when I do turn up, give me a reason to come back.

Published: 15 Aug 2012

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