Ancient Shrines and Half Truths

A teasing alternative tour guide to Edinburgh

★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Ancient Shrines and Half Truths
Published 08 Aug 2017

You’re a traveller not a tourist, right? When you visit a city, you want to really get to know it. Seek out the cool places, the ones that only locals know about, the ones that have that tang of authenticity…

New Zealand company Binge Culture have created their own alternative audio guidebook to a patch of Edinburgh, which sends up the way modern travellers like to congratulate themselves on doing something different to the average tourist.  

They dole out headphones and smartphones, and participants navigate their own way around a corner of the Meadows and a few side roads round Summerhall, listening to an audio guide that explains the history, geography, and local legends of the area. Wittily surreal stories are obviously nonsense, but the app apes the earnest cool-hunter, hipster guidebook style well enough to land a few punches about gentrification and the fetishization of gritty authenticity.

There is an element of joy to the way that you do actually move among genuine locals, too – when we’re encouraged to gather round a bit of traditional performance art, people not in on the show join in; sites of pilgrimage include cash machines, very much in use.

There’s a silly interactive element to Ancient Shrines and Half Truths, which their silver-tongued guide gets you just to go with – I’m soon listening to stone walls and bowing at parking meters. And for all that you’re hearing, at best, half-truths, this does still become a genuinely enjoyable way to explore a neighbourhood.