The UK’s East Coast train lives up to its name for most of the trip, with views of green fields ending in brown cliffs that drop into the sea. Across the channel, a glimpse of the continent.
A tattooed man with a shaved head sits across the aisle, sharing a table with a young couple wearing cashmere sweaters, his back against the window and his feet on the seat next to him. Three empty tall cans of Carlsberg Lager rattled in a Tesco bag beneath his seat as he opened the fourth with a frothy “chhck.” The conductor stares at a sheet of paper handed over in lieu of a ticket. After a second the man says, “I forgot my ID, they said this’ll do.” The conductor shrugs. “That’s fine.” He wasn’t worth the trouble. The posh couple sitting ignores him and shares a bag of crisps purchased from the lunch cart.
I was back to the real world. I was not ready to return to the big cities of London and then, eventually, New York, with pollution and crowds of people fighting to get to places. After spending a couple days cleaning up our flats and saying goodbye to friends, I caught this train from Edinburgh’s Waverley Station to London’s King’s Cross Station. The festival was over and in a week we had more shows to perform in London’s West End. I was sad to leave Edinburgh with its views of distant green hills, fresh air and friendly Scots.
The day after the Fringe ended and most of the crowds left I finally recognized the city. Interns took posters down, erased show schedules from chalkboards in the front windows and threw away banners the morning after the last shows. Most of the tourists left on the early train and performers spent the day in to recover. It began to look like the city I spent a week in a quiet October more than a decade ago.
Nights were quiet and the streets empty. It was a shock. The sudden change in the city’s energy felt like camp the days after campers left. I walked down Princes Street and 11-year-old memories came back of naively gawking at a drunk businessman passed out in a doorway and a lone bagpiper playing in the rain. The Royal Mile was no longer full of characters stopping crowds of passerbys with flyers, just normal tourists looking to sign up for a haunted tour.
The party was over. Old menus with cheaper prices returned. Shopkeepers looked more relaxed. Places closed earlier, bars were no longer open until 5 a.m. The lady I bought sandwiches from said she’ll return to having weekends off. One shopkeeper said that, while sales were down from previous years, this Fringe was still a big money maker for them.I did not see many shows, but the ones I did see were fantastic and varied. Circolombia, a dance and acrobatics show about the performers’ lives growing up in the slums in Columbia. Carl Sagan Is My God, And Richard Feynman, Too, a stand up show about science from comedians and professors proud of being nerds. Neil Hamburger, an anti-comic character stand up performing horrible jokes to a crowd that either loves him or hates him.
I felt happy with our run. We got great reviews. Festival staff members recommended our show to people and many of them saw us multiple times. It felt fulfilling and exhausting to be a part of a hit show. While I was sad to leave Edinburgh and the artistic energy of the Fringe, I was eager to see how the audiences in London would take to our show.
Garrett Palm is a photographer, writer, producer and improv actor currently living in Brooklyn, NY. You can follow his travels and photos at www.lifeisaslowharold.com and find out more about him at www.garrettpalm.com.