I was "ushering" for Volcano Theatre's "Black Stuff" at the biscuit factory warehouse building today - and by ushering I mean sitting on a plastic chair by the entrance incase any late comers dropped by and needed directing... They didn't. It was cold and I needed to pee (much like now, on the bus - why is there no where to pee in Edinburgh after 11? It's gonna be an uncomfortable half hour folks) when the "chef" from Scottee's Social, in the main biscuit factory building across the road, came by to try and pillage some customers. I told him there were only 5 people in and they didn't seem the type.
Given that I was so desperate to pee and the toilet was in the main building, I thought "hey why not drop in" - from out in the street there was much laughter and applause and it sounded like quite a hootenanny. Forest Fringe had the opening night party at this venue with these people so it wasn't unfamiliar territory.
I entered the café after my much needed pee (I really have to stop thinking about peeing) and the only people in there were the performers, a bar man with his tshirt pulled up behind his neck, the check in lady and the chef.....
But I'd committed; Sitting with the chef and check in lady because it would have been even more awkward sitting alone, I decided the only thing to do was go with it. I went to the half-shirted bar man and asked for beer (there was no way I was having a divorce cocktail again) and settled in for the soiree.
It felt a bit like we were mental patients in a day room pretending to be at a cabaret café. Even more weirdly.... I kinda liked it.
I guess awkward is the general vibe, but a deliberate awkward. It knows it's awkward. In fact, the host Scottee has a show at forest fringe next week which will encourage audience members to step up with their party trick in a sort of "performance karaoke". In the description in the programme, it describes it as being a "socially awkward" hour.... So I think this vibe is intentional.
And yet, in all its outright awkwardness, I feel quite comfortable there. Like there's a general acceptance that you don't get in most bars.
I feel like the whole set up is a mockery of the festival itself with its carousel of outrageous, over the top comics, clowns, cabaret acts, actORs and performance "artists". Like holding a big distorted circus mirror on the whole shebang..... or maybe it's not this at all. Maybe it's just a cabaret performance which, awkwardly, has no audience.
Anyway. I think they deserve more people at their crazy little cabaret café. It is well off the beaten track but you can visit Forest Fringe (10 mins away) while you're there, go to Volcano's show at 8, then finish the evening across the road at the café. See I've even planned it for you. You're welcome.