A month after the end of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and ten months before the beginning of the next one, here’s your badly-timed guide on how to not just experience but to actually enjoy the Fringe even with your progeny in tow. (NB: I have limited Fringe experience and even more limited baby experience, so this is squarely aimed at all you other clueless fools blundering through life. If you read this intro and wondered why a guide was necessary, feel free to ignore and go back to considering your child’s investment profile or polishing up your Mandarin, as you see fit.)
DO seek out the most bizarre and/or highfalutin shows aimed at babies you can find. Korean puppet theatre? Fox-themed Scottish Opera? Avant garde baby theatre productions? Over-the-top all-singing, all-dancing mini-musicals? These shows are all out there and offer something different to the off-key recitations of the Grand Old Duke of York and the Wheels on the Bus you’ve been subjecting your baby to in music class after music class every other week of the year.
DON’T panic if your baby actually loves nursery rhymes ad nauseam and hasn’t yet learned to appreciate opera. This is the perfect opportunity to teach them that experimental theatre is often more an endurance test than it is an enjoyable day out.
DO accept that when you inadvertently bring them to a show they love, you’ll hate every over-the-top, eardrum splitting, eyeball straining, brain melting minute of it. That’s ok. Welcome to your life once they gain control of the tv remote.
DON’T schedule shows for nap time. It’s not worth it. We spent thirty pounds for E to sleep on my lap through the entirety of a show called The Amazing Bubble Man. That was a bubble-filled hour of our lives we’ll never get back. I still feel like weeping when I think of all the (admittedly bubble-free) things I could do in an hour.
DO seek out the baby shows which involve a bar. Win-win.
DON’T be like me and take your baby to the Royal Mile to ‘soak up the atmosphere’. No. The performers are outnumbered by the desperate students trying to give flyers to everybody but you because you, of course, are an invisible idiot with a pram. I did find that the parasol attached to our pram (in Scotland often redundant in its primary role as a barrier to the sun) doubled up nicely as a bayonet for bludgeoning my way through the crowd.
DO try and ditch your child and see some baby-free shows. If you can’t conjure up a friend to do this with, fear not. There were plenty of lone weirdos – probably calling themselves reviewers – at every show I went to.
DON’T assume that you can bring your baby to a show just because it’s about parenthood. This is in fact the worst kind of adult show to bring a baby to. Everybody there is there to escape their children! Without exception, they will hate you more with every squirmy, shouty minute which passes.
DO take your baby out day drinking. Choose your venue carefully and it will be genuinely enjoyable. We had a midday drink at George Square and it was perfectly family friendly. It rained, but in true Scottish fashion we braved it out, sheltered under the big umbrellas. E ran circles around the table and we were all briefly content.
DON’T spend a fortune on lots of shows. I got a bit overexcited and booked us into a couple of things a week for the duration of the Fringe. By the end, both E and I were as blasé and bored of the performance arts as any world-weary, coked-up luvvie on stage nightly in the West End. Lesson learned – you don’t need to repeat Enriching Activities over and over. Do it once, save your money, and go to the park.