Gaby Soutar: Going to an Edinburgh International Festival show? Then leave your banana at home

Being around lots of humans can be tricky

We were about ten minutes into Edinburgh International Festival’s opening act, MACRO, when she came thundering into Murrayfield Stadium.

Our toes were trampled, she whacked me when wrestling out of her denim jacket, then loudly apologised to the pal who’d been waiting.

Next, she rummaged in her rucksack for a banana, before noshing it loudly, like an angry macaque.

Pic: Adobe

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Then, since it was an outdoor show and it was getting chilly, there was a long search for a hoodie. It was right at the bottom of the bag.

I was so distracted that I couldn’t focus on the excellent National Youth Choir of Scotland and Australian acrobatic act Gravity & Other Myths, who are also appearing in The Pulse at the King’s Theatre. (Go see it).

At least I had a running commentary from the amateur Des Lynam, beside me.

“Oh wow”, “No, no, not possible”, “They’ve done that before - one trick ponies”, “I can’t believe they just did that, can you?”.

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woman hand with red nail polish holding peeled banana on yellow background

Yes, I bl**dy well can.

She texted a few people, presumably to tell them about the excellence of the show she wasn’t watching.

Meanwhile, her friend took photographs with the flash on. This is while people are doing backflip-triple-axel-inversion-thingies on stage, and might be easily distracted. Have some respect, I wanted to say, for the performers who have trained for years so they can dangle from their earlobes and fold their bodies as if they were origami. And for me, who has been looking forward to this for months. Years.

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I should have said something. Instead, I kept my mouth shut and fizzled silently, like a wet firework.

In my head, I was inventing a prototype.

It’d be up in the rafters of all theatres and cinemas, before being rolled out to libraries too.

There would be a sound monitor attached to a deadly laser. Whenever chat, coughing or rustling went over a certain decibel, this device would instantly jellify the persons responsible. Or maybe turning them to powder would be more convenient, so the ushers could use a Dustbuster to clean up the seats after the show.

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It might be difficult to regulate comedy, since laughter is usually encouraged, but the laser could differentiate between that and heckling.

Sadly, it would still take out those who guffawed at the wrong moments, too loudly, or in an oinky fashion.

I had one of those sitting behind me at Assembly, while we were watching comedian and drag star, Reuben Kaye, and the laser is probably too good for them.

The whole trapdoor/crocodile thing is another alternative. Of course, the floor would have to be soundproofed so you couldn’t hear the shrieks, and reptiles are expensive pets, so it might not be financially viable in this climate but, still, just a thought.

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I’m sure Creative Scotland might be persuaded. The crocodiles could also be deployed as moving advertising hoarding, as they roamed the city, lurking in vennels and closes along the Royal Mile. And they’d deal with the pigeon population. The club-footed ones would be snapped up like kibble.

Anyway, MACRO wasn’t the only scene of audience-related annoyance.

I’ve found there’s been a lot of chatting during performances thus far. Quite a lot of very wide-legged manspreading too, almost to the point of hip dislocation. I’ve experienced a few stinky pits and one person who was theatrically savouring a packet of salt and vinegar crisps.

Also, the tall people sitting in front of me with Sideshow Bob hair that inflates due to venue humidity has been a slight problem.

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I forgive them though, it’s not their fault. Don’t sic the crocs on them. It’s the other ones, with the hats and high ponytails.

I've wondered if my overt irritation is just because I’m not used to this anymore. It’s been three years since most of us have been lumped together with an excess of other humans. I’ve been a solo bean, and now I’m part of a cassoulet.

I think tolerance might be a learned activity. Or, maybe others are out of practice, and they’ve forgotten that you’re supposed to pipe down and forgo a picnic spread. Not that all my fellow Festival-goers have been badly behaved. I’ve had a few lovely Auld Lang Syne-ish moments, when we’ve all been quietly enraptured at the same time. Everyone was holding their breath. Nobody was eating crisps.

I’ve always been good at sitting still and keeping shtum, ever since I went to see the Eighties classic film The Dark Crystal with my primary school friends for my seventh birthday party. I’d read the book a dozen times before the screening, and was so excited to see the Gelflings, Fizzgig and Skeksis. I basically narrated the first quarter of the film, until a woman turned round and told me to “SHUT UP!”.

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I did, and have ever since. I want to thank her for her honesty. It was brutal at the time, and I cried a little bit. Now I sit in silence, trying not to breathe too loudly, sucking my Maltesers and only re-crossing my legs every half an hour.

However, I’ve never been brave enough to say anything to anyone else, even when I think their flagrant banana eating is excessive.

I’ve come very close a few times this Edinburgh Festival.

But no, I think the laser is a much easier option. And the crocs.

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