Edinburgh Fringe Review: Fringe Search Party

Edinburgh Fringe Review: Fringe Search Party

It’s been hard to find the spirit of the Edinburgh Fringe this year but I had a damn good go. Earlier this week after restrictions had lifted I went to see an open air stand-up show from Nathan Cassidy at the Three Sisters in Cowgate. It was a pretty good gig and as it stands Cassidy will no doubt be sticking the line “Best Edinburgh Fringe Show 2020” all over his posters. Which will be correct if no other comics turn up to do stand-up in the remaining days.

There is another game in town though. The venerable Gilded Balloon venue, which has also been putting classic shows online to raise money, found a way round the lockdown restrictions by collaborating with Escape Room people Padlox and creating an interactive, immersive comedy-themed treasure hunt around the streets of Edinburgh. And do you know what? It’s great fun. Not a stand-up gig but great fun. As long as the sun shines, which luckily it did on my day. 

The premise is simple. Starting outside what is normally the Gilded Balloon venue in Bristo Square you log on and follow the clues to find the mysterious woman called “Isla Fallout” (yes it took me a while to work that out too). Get an answer right and you move on to the next clue. There are twelve in total and it should take around an hour. Though not if you have a flat battery in the middle and have to return to your airbnb for a swift recharge. 

Some of the clues are offered online by celebrities such as Jo Brand, Bill Bailey and Zoe Lyons, who also regale us with their favourite memories of the Fringe. Lyons recalled having her bum pinched and Bill Bailey recalled a famous face joining his comedy punk band Beergut 100 onstage one night. 

A few answers are obvious, but others aren't. I made a very quick start around Bristo Square. But as I walked on they soon started to get more challenging. I was stumped by a puzzle on Candlemaker Row however hard I looked at the buildings. And Bill Bailey’s cryptic word search really foxed me. Though put in any old answer enough and the online guide will eventually give you a hint. 

One of the joys of doing Search Party however, was seeing Edinburgh anew. Even though I was already seeing Edinburgh in a way I never had because it was August and there were no posters, no hopeful flyerers thrusting leaflets into my hand. 

But Search Party takes veteran gig-goers off the usual beaten track. In 20 years I’d never come across the Writer’s Museum, down an alley just behind the Royal Mile, but an oasis of calm with some great views across the city. In fact I’ve never visited Edinburgh Castle. Following the clues took me as close to the ancient walls as I’ve ever got. 

Elsewhere you go up and down stairs and steps you wouldn’t normally be using if you were rushing to a gig. So I liked the different pace and the different route after doing the same thing for some many years. Even though I struggled with some of the answers it was well worth accepting the challenge. 

Did I find Isla Fallout? Not quite. A combination of knackered phone power and Bill Bailey frustrating me slowed down my progress and knocked me off the leader board. But at £10 for teams of up to four people (though how they count you I don’t know) it’s a great way to spend time in Edinburgh. You might not find the spirit of the Fringe but you may well find parts of the city you didn’t know existed.  

Play Fringe Search Party until August 31. Tickets and details of other Gilded Balloon fundraising activities here.



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