You’ve got to be streetwise to cram in the shows, writes Tom Allen
How will you do it? You are stuck in Bristo Square and you’ve got to get to The Stand in just under seven minutes! Luckily I have prepared my top tips and tricks for crossing the city in record time. Avoid the tourists, dodge the traffic, take my hand and we’re almost there. Sort of.
In this first instance the route I’d recommend is walk along Bristo Place. Which is, I know, confusing because to any outsider the word Bristo sounds like “Bistro” and I imagine you haven’t eaten for possibly up to three days at this point (there’s too much to see) but try not to let this distract you.
To avoid tourists you simply have to walk directly in the traffic. I recommend behaving like an actual car and they won’t even notice you. Indicate, change gears, lean your elbow out of an imaginary window – you haven’t got time to walk like ordinary people on the pavement at the pace of zombies.
Hook a right on the Royal Mile. DO NOT STOP! DO NOT LOOK AT ANYONE OR ANYTHING. THERE IS NOTHING HERE FOR YOU TO SEE! Immediately turn left and walk to the end. Now, don your roller skates and head down these very steep steps. You’ll feel like you’re going to die but you’ll never have felt so alive! Once at the bottom retain momentum and head past the entrance to Waverley Station. Stop to laugh at people just arriving. They have so much to learn. Now go past the man playing the bagpipes – does he never tire of Scotland the Brave? I mean no one’s denying it’s a beautiful song. But ALL day, every day?
Go up South St Andrew Street, then across St Andrew Square. Turn right on to York Place and you’re there. Phew, just a couple of minutes late. Thank god comedians don’t have a habit of making fun of people walking into their shows late.
Now, let’s say you’re new to the city and you want to get from the Pleasance Courtyard to Assembly Rooms on George Street. It’s raining so all the cabs are taken. Everything feels so difficult, but fear not, what you should do is strip a tourist of their cagoule and now with dominant force lay it on the ground and sit on it, lean back and hope that with the rain flowing on the ground you’ll soon be sailing away to the bottom of the hill.
But then you’ve got to cross Waverley Station and get all the way along George Street. Well if you’re anything like me you’re not afraid to ask for help. So grab a flyerer – they are nimble and young – climb aboard their back and make them run you to the Assembly Rooms. Do not attempt to tip them or show any gratitude – they will respect you more for asserting control.
From Assembly at George Square you’ve got to get to the Pleasance Courtyard but someone’s seen Ronnie Corbett and the city has come to a standstill. My advice with crowds is to go in the opposite direction. Run to the top of Arthur’s Seat and hang glide down – look at the view and see how beautiful Edinburgh is. Now stop screaming, there are shows to get to.
Let’s say by some terrible mistake you’ve got to get to the Underbelly but you’ve come over North Bridge and thought you could just walk up the Royal Mile. This is possibly the most stressful experience you will ever endure. My only advice is to immediately start performing. It doesn’t matter what you do, maybe a mime, or a tap dance or even some sort of striptease? A crowd will form leaving a gap around them – steal your chance and run for it.
What’s that? You didn’t realise that the Cowgate was on a totally different level to George IV bridge? Firstly, get off those railings, no you won’t make it if you jump. If you can’t find the entrance to the Underbelly your best bet is to march to Chambers Street, walk along and you’ll soon see some steps behind C Venues. Stop for a moment to take in the smells of the city and keep descending in stately manner. When at the bottom where are you? No, not Hades but the Cowgate.
Often all the rushing around and longing to see as many shows as possible can make you feel foolish or even naïve but never fear as you are not the first to try to achieve this. Only a fool wouldn’t want to see everything at this, the world’s largest most fantastical arts festival.
• Tom Allen performs in Both Worlds, at The Stand at 5:20pm, until 30 August. He also has a midnight chat show at The Pleasance Courtyard, Thursdays to Saturdays throughout the Festival.