It's been 26 years (I think) since I did a show here. Still raining. The last time I played the Fringe it was a three hander with Angela Scoular (Leslie Phillip's Mrs) and Joe Mydell at the Traverse, back when it was in the Grassmarket.
The festival is certainly much busier, buzzier, more corporate and yet still full of that eager student "this is the most meaningful piece of dance expressionistic, Meisner, Brechtian, noh theatre, African-griot-storytelling- influenced drama since Peter Brook and Glenda Jackson were here".
The locals move, heads down, past the myriad young people trying to stuff leaflets into their hands. Being older and somewhat more recognised since The Bill, This Life, etc. (which all have taken place in the intervening years) I get the "don't I know you? look, before they realise that, TV or not, I'm just another actor trying to put their bum on my venue's seat and I've given them the leaflet they were hoping to avoid.
Being 50 now and no longer drinking, I don't have tons of student/actor friends sleeping on the floor and I haven't yet woken naked next to anyone I haven't been formally introduced to. I'm flatsharing with the other two actors in our piece in St Leonard's Street. As if to remind me of those younger, more debauched days, Arthur's Seat looms large through the sitting room window. Most recall it as a piece of famous Scots landscape. I recall it as the place I got totally pissed and climbed up a very steep bank. Only to wake early next morning stuck on a high ledge and (now sober) too scared to try and climb down. It was only the thought that I might actually miss the show that eventually gave me the courage to descend.
In those days it was the likes of Tilda Swinton and Ken Stott that you would bump into in the melee. These days, it's Hardeep Singh Kohli and Ruby Wax.
Let's face it, Edinburgh's probably the only city not caught in the world deficit, so a laugh is necessary before we reach the apocalypse and if you fancy the apocalypse there's sure to be a show to cater for that.
It is great being back here, finally.
• Cyril Nri is appearing in Mad About The Boy at Udderbelly's Pasture until 29 August. Today, 2:20pm. See this week's Fringe First winners.
Posted by Tim Cornwell