Column: Entertaining yes, but hard work!
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest, I couldn't help but think during my latest trip to the Edinburgh International Festival Fringe.
Grandchildren in tow, we set off to see a show that has inspired rapturous reviews and sold-out shows for its entire run.
The plot was this: two young boys are asked to tidy their room and, er, that was it.
It might not sound like the strongest storyline, but Chores was brilliant. The kids laughed, cheered and shrieked (‘it’s behind you!’) for a full hour, finally emerging with their eyes shining.
Obviously, the ‘young boys’ were actually skilled circus performers whose idea of ‘tidying their room’ included juggling the skittles rather than putting them away, back-flipping, and teetering on 8ft tall building blocks.
It was a simple idea – hilarious and charming – but their skill was breathtaking.
I felt vindicated because I’d suggested the show to a friend who thought the lack of plot meant it couldn’t be up to much and I couldn’t wait to say ‘told you so!’.
Basking in being proved right, I was happy enough when the children stopped to watch one of the street performers on the Royal Mile.
Like many performers, he had some great banter and they were mesmerised.
But I did object when one passer-by, clearly a local who was irritated at the commotion sniped: “They’re easily entertained!”
At that point, the performer in question was balancing on a teetering platform that swayed unnervingly, while he juggled an axe, hammer and some other scary implement. (I don’t think the moany man saw him proceed to squeeze his body through an unstrung tennis racquet, though I doubt even that would have impressed him).
Easy? I don’t think so.
It was fun to watch the children’s delight at his daring and made me think how we underestimate the sheer graft that goes into our entertainment.
So, I was a uneasy when I read that many fringe venues are being exposed for appalling wages and conditions.
On stage or off, it’s sad that we can’t recognise people’s worth – whether they are turning cartwheels or checking tickets.
The arts has always relied on goodwill and it always will – but there must be a line between offering experience and exploiting people.
If not, there’s nothing entertaining about it.