As an aficionado of all things Olde Edinburgh, there are a few basics I've come to expect from an underground tour. An immersive experience; a bit of history; scares; laughs; and a sense of trespassing into another time and place are necessary for their success.
There are other far slicker, well executed tours close by which cost less.
My experience of Auld Reekie’s Terror Tour was immersive, but one got the distinct impression that we were inconveniencing the tour guide, Christel. We were running late from the beginning, which is understandable in the first week of the Fringe. However for the duration of our tour, she frequently made reference to the fact that she was running late and had another tour subsequent to ours, as we were hustled through the six vaults with barely time to reflect. This meant that we weren’t given the opportunity to fully settle into that immersive, spine tingling head space where our brains would conjure up spooky sights and sounds which we’d reimagine for years to come.
In terms of history, I left knowing more about the guide’s personal life than I did about Olde Edinburgh. A few crumbs of history pertaining to the vaults were presented, however this could have – and indeed is – executed much better throughout the city on other tours. I was also surprised that despite our tour guide advising us that her other job was making historical clothes, she was one of the only guides on the Royal Mile dressed in ‘civvies’.
Further enhancing my discomfort on the tour was Christel’s penchant for touching the male members of the audience intimately. Twice I observed her suggestively run her hands over the chest of a male audience member. She lifted the top of another male when demonstrating how a torture device would work. And she ran her walking cane up the inside thigh of another male. All three displays were significantly out of place in the context of this being 2018, when consent and personal space is the order of the day.
I was left with a distinct lack of terror at the culmination of the tour, as I hopped down Edinburgh’s highest step, back onto the cold cobbles of Blackfriars Street. What is terrifying is that, at a whopping £16 per ticket, this tour is the most expensive of its kind. There are other far slicker, well executed tours close by which cost less and achieve all of the elements that fans of such events rightly expect to enjoy. Unfortunately this felt like an add-on afterthought to the Auld Reekie brand, rather than an attempt to create something new for the Fringe. What a missed opportunity, especially for the audience.