We managed to see two shows: a set by John Hegley, a standup / performance poet whom pseudomonas knew from Radio 4; and a two-man comic play, Flamingo Flamingo Flamingo.
John Hegley was very good, delightfully and unselfconsciously silly, and his set had plenty of movement and visual stuff as well as just his jokes. His poetry was nothing special (and he overused tricks like bathetic twists to the point where they became predictable), but his delivery was gorgeous. He was at the Assembly Rooms, but in a small studio, and his interaction with the audience was really marvellous. The funniest moment of the whole show was when the inevitable mobile went off, and Hegley pounced on the culprit: ooh, who is it, is it him?, pointing out another member of the audience, who turned out to be a woman with short spikey hair. The way Hegley got comic value from his own embarrassment at this mistake was pure magic.
Flamingo flamingo flamingo was a very "Fringe" piece: in a tiny (BT-sized) theatre, the Kommedia Roman Eagle Lodge, very student-y humor, good fun but utterly unmemorable. Plested and Brown appear to be a tiny company with two actors and director; Plested in particular is talented and the whole was well written and at least fairly original. They did a lot with two actors and a small, low-tech set; there was a lot of variety and they made a single theme consistently interesting.
My main complaint was that those two shows came to slightly under £ 20 (and they were among the cheapest options). That makes it prohibitive to do the Festival thing properly; we wouldn't have been able to afford to really cram the day with shows and maybe take in a couple of exhibitions as well, or alternatively spend several days at the festival. Those kinds of prices mean that there's a strong temptation to play it safe, go for the big names; I'd rather spend £ 12 for a show I knew would be good than £ 8 on a complete unknown, and of course that means that prices creep up. And really, it's not worth braving the massed hordes that descend on Edinburgh at festival time just to see a couple of big name, mainstream shows that I could see at any time.
That said, the quality of street theatre when we happened to be wandering up the Royal Mile was particularly good. There was a really good balloon artist (his entire patter consisted of saying, hi, I'm John from Canada and I make cartoon characters out of balloons), yet he drew quite a crowd just because he was making such complex and interesting pieces. And there was a saw fiddler, nothing special musically but absolutely gorgeous mime to go with it. His delightful piece turned out to be an advert for a group called QuestFest; if we'd had more time in Edinburgh and more money, I would have been very tempted to go and see one of their shows.
All in all, a very fun day out.