ARTYFACTS: Fringe ticket fiasco, farce or tragedy?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fringe ticket fiasco, farce or tragedy?

My annual pilgrimage to the Edinburgh Fringe and Festival got off to a disastrous start when I went to book a few things at the box office. I joined the queue only to discover that it was the pre-paid ticket queue. I wasn’t alone, as there were no signs saying so. On joining the right queue I was approached by a nice young man who asked me what venues I was buying tickets for, ‘Several, I replied’ then he gave me (ominously) a white raffle ticket. When I complained to him about the opaqueness of the system, he explained that he was hired no more than 30 minutes ago and knew nothing. I then witnessed someone being hired from the queue!

Finally, I got to the white raffle ticket desk, only to hear that my first choice was cancelled and that for my next choice I needed a green raffle ticket. So I joined another queue, along with several other confused customers. It was here that I could witness, at clse hand, the whole fiasco. The staff were clearly untrained and were using an unfamiliar system for the first time with paying customers. Printing problems were grinding stations to a halt ad there was no one with enough expertise to solve the problems. One man was complaining loudly, most were simply shaking their heads at the sheer incompetence of it all. I left with tickets for just one show. But it wasn’t over yet. I was told that the Fringe Box Office had been give hardly any tickets for La Clique and that I should go up to the George Square Speigeltent Box Office. This I did – it’s about a mile or so away, only to discover that it wasn’t open until 5pm. This was theatre in itself – a tragedy!

I suspect that Edinburgh is at the start of a slow decline. It’s fragmented into worthless wealthy students on holiday rather than taking their performances seriously, a rather predictable Comedy Festival and it has become very difficult to find surprise hits. The best theatre is probably at the Traverse, but that’s there year round anyway. There’s the major music Festivals embracing other art forms, Brighton, Manchester and other cheaper, and better run, competitors snapping at their heels.


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