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Edinburgh Fringe 2018

The OS Map Fan Club

Helen Wood

Genre: Comedy, Theatre

Venue: theSpaceUK Triplex


Low Down

A charmingly eccentric ramble through that venerable national treasure that is the Ordnance Survey Map.  Just remember to turn off your satnav before entering.


Helen Wood looks ready for a good ramble.  There she stands, boots on, socks tucked into the troos, ultra-modern backpack full of those walking essentials.  She’s the self-appointed head of the OS Map Fan Club, here to extol the virtues of this old-fashioned navigation device that never needs recharging, never needs a wifi or phone mast and never utters those dreaded words “please turn around – now recalculating route”.

Quite why the OS map remains such a national treasure is something of a mystery.  But, despite a plethora of digital offerings, many (and not just those with grey hair and knapsacks) prefer the more holistic offering of a big, paper map to the chirping tones and tiny image offered by its digital cousin.

Wood takes us on a gentle stroll through the history of the OS genre (as well as demonstrating just how illustrative a navigation tool it remains) through a thirty five mile “virtual” walk around her stamping ground of South Gloucestershire, passing by (amongst other places) Highgrove House (Charles was out) and the source of the River Thames which allowed her to demonstrate the many and varied symbols that OS maps use to describe the topography and facilities available across the UK.

She’s a quintessentially English outdoor geek, with a wonderfully nerdy sense of humour that’s dry, droll and genuinely funny.  Possessed of a very good sense of comic timing, Wood illustrates her show using a range of non-tech, prosaic props including amusingly posed photos on boards, maps, walking paraphernalia (including the obligatory thermos flask) and wigs and hats that allow her to adopt the eclectic range of characters that pepper the history of the OS map and its erstwhile rival, the Edinburgh based Bartholomew’s.

The show has clearly been meticulously researched and is very well constructed, with signposts (the theatrical kind) moving the story effortlessly alone during this entertaining hour.  Poetry is mixed in to break the lecture “feel” and Wood is very good at working her audience, bringing them gently into the show at various points.

It’s a wonderfully dotty piece of theatre that manages to amuse and educate in equal measure.  It’s well worth making a detour to see.  And you can find it using the OS Explorer Map 350 that covers Edinburgh.