So the Edinburgh Festival 2007 has begun. At least according to the Spiegel Garden which opened up on the 27th July to whatever travelling companies passed its gates. As always with these things, there are a few advantages and disadvantages to visiting such a locus, and having consumed a couple of bevies there I’ll try to lay them open to you, whoever you may be, so that you may be fully prepared for what awaits.
The most important thing to consider is of course the price of a beer. Why else would you be at Spiegel apart from to drink? Yeah, there are some shows there, live music, freak shows and what not, but when people say, “Let’s go to the Spiegel” they don’t mean, “I’ve heard there’s an interesting Beckett interpretation there”, what they actually mean is, “I’m thirsty for booze”, which is the first hurdle. After extensive research I discovered that a pint of Tennents costs £3.15.
That may sound like standard Fringe price but it’s a bit of a thorn in my side. Being a resident of Edinburgh I’m used to the space that Spiegel Garden occupies being an area of grassland that students desperate to escape from the confines of the surrounding university buildings escape to in order to bask in the cloudy skies of Edinburgh. The idea of queuing to enter, let alone paying for the privilege of drinking alcohol on the turf just seems a little peculiar.
It’s not as bad as Teviot or Pleasance though. This may sound whiney to someone with money to burn, but going into a building that’s usually a shitty student union where you pay £1.50 for a pint as standard but, in the month of August, in the same bar, with the exact same beer, you get charged twice the price just because a load of suckers have turned up who think it’s fine to pay a ridiculous price for a pint is a little bit galling. And having it justified by the fact that they’ve changed the name of the building to ‘Pleasance Dome’ or ‘Gilded Balloon’, whatever the fuck that means, doesn’t help. Not to mention the fact that Tennents is a god awful beer, the super fuelled version being the tipple of choice for crazy homeless folk.
But this is splitting hairs; it’s the Fringe, inflated prices are par for the course. The important thing is the atmosphere in which you’re drinking. And this is where the Spiegel Garden comes up trumps. In this day and age where smoking is just one step away from child molestation it’s a pleasure to be able to sit and have a cigarette in a heated environment along with your pint. Even if you’re not a smoker, at least you don’t have to deal with the emotional torment of seeing your smoking friends disappear into the distance where no doubt they’ll be bitching about you. Jokes aside, the ability to sit, drink and smoke can not be overrated.
This factor alone no doubt accounts for the fact that the Spiegel Garden is packed already. Through luck alone myself and my friends managed to sneak in before the hour long queue (possible exaggeration) to get in kicked up. Already it’s full because it’s the only Fringe drinking venue open and those companies that have arrived in Edinburgh already (bless ‘em) don’t know about the many wonderful little pubs that the city has to offer.
Which is OK if you’re having a quiet pint in Cloisters, but bad if you’re queuing for the toilet in Spiegel. Yes, Spiegel Garden is the focus of that most bizarre of all phenomenon: a gentlemen’s toilet queue that is longer than the lady’s. It’s something I’ve only seen before at an AC/DC concert, and it is a worrying indicator for the Festival as a whole. In the first place it shows that the Festival is one big sausage fest, but more importantly it highlights what a chauvinistic world theatre is, with men occupying the majority of roles and women left to play second fiddle to their quite possibly inferior male leads who just got their job through an accident of birth. The truth is out there, just look to the toilet queues.
Speaking of sausage fests, Spiegel Garden is also a great place to be chatted up. For the first time in my 21 years I was told that I was beautiful and should be a model. Alright, this was coming from a thirtysomething drunken Scottish bloke in a tight blue t-shirt who me and my mates were laughing at while he was throwing ridiculous shapes on a non-existent dance floor to himself, but I’m sure the sentiment was genuine in some way… It was probably the fact that we as a table were laughing at him that encouraged him to come over and strike up a conversation but still, after hearing his compliments a small part of me did wish I was gay and attracted to bald thirysomething Scottish men.
But that wasn’t the best thing. Oh no. We’d gotten to that stage where the idea of getting to the bar and desperately trying to get noticed by the barstaff was just too much when, with impeccable timing, a waitress turned up to take our drink orders. That sold it for me. When you can sit, smoke, listen to good music while also being able to chat to your mates and on top of that have drinks delivered free of charge to your table then it’s going to be a challenge to make me move. Plus there are some good music acts playing there, or so I’m assured, so if you do decide to visit Spiegel Garden mine’s a Belhaven, cheers!