One of my favourite features of the Fringe is its venues, and the way everyday places transform into wacky spaces for theatre and music. The National Museum of Scotland wins hands down for its inherent drama as the setting for a series of stages and activities. Museum After Hours strikes me as a fab Friday night outing for a bunch of friends, and on the night I was there, I saw the event had attracted plenty of Edinburgh residents as well as festival-goers from afar. With entry to the current exhibition, Celts, included in the ticket price, this evening of entertainment is a fabulous introduction to the museum too.
The Grand Gallery – a mezzanine arranged around the spectacular Grand Hall – and exhibition spaces are transformed into a bustling hub for fun drop-in activities. Examples include the Mad Celts Selfie Studio, where visitors don Celtic attire and pose for pics, perhaps after creating a ‘spirit animal’ headpiece in the Red Door Gallery – or a visit to Discoveries for a temporary tattoo (Blewog the boar or a swirling Celtic face on the evening I was there). Though I didn’t indulge, I watched crowds of visitors really get into it.
To gear up for the activities, food and drink is also on offer: wine (in real glasses) and beer as well as soft drinks. I recommend a carton of nachos with guacamole and sour cream (£4); pulled pork sandwiches looked equally tasty as an alternative.
It was quite surreal wandering through the various stalls set out in the stunning galleries and exhibits of the Museum. It’s not every day you get to wander among floating whales and pieces of quartz crystal hefted from the natural landscape.
I bagged a place on the first floor overlooking the Main Stage for a bird’s eye view of the acrobatics (Bang! To the Heart) and circus (Throwback and Driftwood) which, while not my own usual fare, were fabulous in this context. The Noise Next Door were on as well, offering a ‘comedy improv extravaganza’ and the final act that night, the high-energy 13-piece Melbourne Ska Orchestra, was worth waiting for. They were so good they were over far too quickly – though the member of the audience who got up on stage to dance with them had probably done more than enough exercise by the end of their set.
On the Hawthornden Stage, and the Space Stage, there was a heady mix of comedy, magic and ‘Spooky Midnight Ghost Stories’ to choose from; acts change each week.
On first glance a ticket price of £18 may be something to think about; but for what you get for your money, the fun factor, and the sheer otherworldliness of the evening, I heartily recommend it. When I emerged into the Edinburgh streets afterwards, I felt like I’d been somewhere else entirely.