Features Published 3 August 2020

Who would have thought it would come to this?

The 2020 Edinburgh fringe is (mostly) cancelled this year. So Natasha Tripney’s cut-up style poem imagines what the festival will be like, when it returns.

Natasha Tripney

The Royal Mile in full Edinburgh Fringe swing

Under a nuclear sun. After the flood. A girl with a pet pig. Wanders the streets of a deserted city. Where time has ceased to have any meaning.  Encountering hilarious characters along the way. Inevitably things don’t go exactly to plan. Days melt into one another. From the ashes a hero emerges.

Set in the year 2080. In a windowless basement. On an Italian balcony. On the road to Barnard Castle. In a polarised culture. In Greyfriars Kirkyard. In a Downing Street press conference. In a country ruled by kittens. In a time of economic collapse. In a world where the old order has crumbled. In a Zoom breakout room. In a dark cold lonely universe. In a haunted teashop. In the bad timeline. In a world without hugs. A thwarted young playwright. Teeters on the edge.

A young woman with hope in her heart and an axe in her hand. A lockdown odd couple. Two care workers. Three Deliveroo drivers. Four Romanian asparagus pickers. Five recently unemployed theatre ushers. Armed with party poppers. Covered in glitter. Encased in latex. Naked except for a facemask. Emerge blinking into the light. Embark on a treacherous quest to Tesco’s. Embark on a long-distance relationship. With the ghost of Nicholas Parsons. Eventually they find common ground. Learn to love again. Put the past behind them. Join forces with each other. Before smashing the machine to pieces.

Gig theatre with a twist. A visionary verbatim encounter. An intense interactive experience. An immersive staging of Mr Burns. A sci-fi cabaret extravaganza. Performed on a seesaw. Performed around a campfire. Performed in a beer garden. Performed on Portobello beach at midnight. Performed inside a series of chalk circles. Performed inside a holographic forcefield. Performed by Lucy McCormick’s vagina. Using binaural technology. Using Facetime. Using hand knitted puppets. Using semaphore. Separated by a distance of at least two metres. Written in iambic pentameter. Written in twenty-minute stretches while looking after three small children. Written while enthusiastically day drinking.  Written while crying. Who would have thought it would come to this?

In a time of upheaval. In a city full of memories. In a Technicolor coronavirus dream-zone. In a Totalitarian state. In a post-Trump America. In a rebooted universe. In the bowels of the Traverse. As dawn approaches.  Two weary theatremakers. Crawl towards each other. With only their eyes visible. Tainted by a dark secret. Trying to remember what it is to be human. Can we just start again?

Rehearsed via Skype. Rehearsed via Morse Code. A backdrop made entirely of banana bread. A set made entirely from toilet paper. In a blast from the past. In a giddy reminder of the power of liveness. In a gesture of solidarity. A lone singer in an empty room. Performs songs of the lost. To an audience of one.

Inspired by Beckett. Inspired by Dante. Free Pickering’s gin and tonic for every audience member. Free hand sanitiser.

Out of the darkness.  Something starts to hatch. A platform for the flowering of the human spirit. A new kind of story. A festival for everyone.

It’s time to begin again.

This piece is an imagined version of an annual tradition; each year, Natasha Tripney writes a cut-up poem based on the contents of the Edinburgh fringe programme. Read her 2019 edition here


Natasha Tripney

Natasha co-founded Exeunt in 2011 and was editor until 2016. She's now lead critic and reviews editor for The Stage, and has written about theatre and the arts for the Guardian, Time Out, the Independent, Lonely Planet and Tortoise.



Enter your email address below to get an occasional email with Exeunt updates and featured articles.