Come and watch a decent comedian in a spectacular location. Barry Ferns is gigging daily atop Arthur’s Seat, the highest point of Holyrood Park. His set is only fifteen minutes long, but the set is only a small part of the show. Even once you’ve completed the climb, you still have the ‘pre-show queue’ to look forward to. At the summit Ferns has constructed a ramshackle wooden doorframe, where people queue in order to have their hands stamped (“this ink belongs to Lionel Richie”) and be admitted ‘into the venue’, where they can enjoy the tiered seating lovingly provided by nature. It’s a beautifully surreal moment.
Ferns’ set is alright. His pre-written material is perfectly fine, but his real talent is for audience interaction – putting people at their ease, establishing a rapport and providing a platform for that day’s deeply weird mountain-goers to amuse each other. For example, Ferns began one skit by claiming to have never realised that there were still people called Jesus. Suddenly, he was interrupted by two men from Ecuador and Spain, who both explained that they were Jesus. They were invited onstage and encouraged to arm wrestle, before setting aside their differences with the help of a small boy-translator, re-named by Ferns as the King James’ Bible. When Ferns flowed back into his pre-written ‘Jesus in an airport’ stuff, he seemed aware that it couldn’t top the strangeness of real life. The mountain is the headline act; Ferns is just the compere.
Go to this show. It’s worth the journey. I may be no athlete and may have lungs decayed by tobacco and cheap theatre smoke effects, but the walk from base to summit only took me about twenty minutes. You have no excuse for not climbing it. The path on the way up is beautiful, the view from the top is beautiful, and the mountain is an actual volcano. What more could you want?