FDISHING THE DIRT
Raunch on the Fringe has been a tradition since the 50s. although this year it seems the official Festival is stealing some oftheir thunder. Thom Dibdin puts on his dirty old raincoat and sniffs out a few scandals from Fringes past. looking at the shows that outraged. if not the public. then at least their self- appointed arbiters of taste.
I 1953 The Scottish Daily [irpress carried a photo of a scantily-clad actress appearing in a revue on the Fringe. This was excuse enough for Festival Director. Ian Hunter. to rule out any sort of incorporation ofthe Fringe into the official events. ‘When I see these “sexy sketches“ ofthe Fringe in the newspapers this morning. it is a little bit discouraging.” he is reported to have said. ‘While I
' have anything to do with the
‘ Festival. we will keep to the
articles of association to present é the veryhighestart.‘
I 1959 linglish newspape rs almost put paid to a performance of Salome when
they sounded the alarm over a
‘striptease‘ in a church hall. However. after viewing the
= dress rehearsal. the priest 3 involved decreed the dance of
the seven veils to be safe.
I 1963 The title ‘Prince of Prurience‘ must surely go to one Michael Barrett for his statements to the London Moral
Re-Armament Conference in
1963. This was the year of the ‘nude girl‘ incident at the end of an otherwise dull drama conference which was part ofthe Festival that year. A photographer‘s model. Anna Kesselaar ( 19) of Portobello. was wheeled across the balcony of the McEwan I [all on a trolley.
She was unclothed. Dirt. debts
14Thc List lb— 23 August 1991
I (iaardian was to be believed. I and certainly prurience was
and decadence were being
produced by the Festival according to Mr Barrett. ‘Some people think the once fair name of Edinburgh. the Athens ofthe North. is being besmirched by the soot of Sodom and the godlessness of (iomorrahf he thundered in a fit of alliteration. ‘it seems to be a programme to make Auld Reekie reek again.‘
I 1966 The arch-censor was the Lord (‘hamberlain who. until 1968. had the dream job of checking dramatic works for indecency. profanity and impropriety. In 19%. he forced some ofChaucer‘s own lines to be cut from a production of The .l’lillens Tale and caused a production of Arthur Schnitzler‘s La Ronde to be withdrawn because of the restrictions be imposed.
I 1958 While Soviet tanks rumbled into Prague. the most scandalous event in lidinburgh was the appearance of the Russian State Orchestra. The following year. the attack had swung round to hippies: "l‘hey‘vc turned the city into a happy l lippy land.‘ a front page story led off. ‘Buoyed up by equal doses of pot. The Beatles and Bob Dylan. they‘ve moved into lidinburgh to take over the pubs and cafes.‘
I 1970 l lippies were still all the the rage. but only because they had put their tent pegs into the greens of the golf courses at the Isle of Wight. Shocking. ()fthe Festival. the one mention was buried deep on an inside page. where the Frankfurt ()pera was recommended viewing because nuns stripped off in a three-minute nude sex orgy with monks in the finale of Prokofiev‘s The l’iery Angel.
I 1971 The Festival might have had sex as its theme. if The
E 2 Q 2.
alive and well in Auld Reekie. but there was none in the Sunday Mail— just acres ofﬂesh and bouncing bosoms. By 1976 nipples were tlaunted and the Festival was not mentioned once.
I 1971 Local politicians are always good for an outbreak of prurience. And where better for them to suffer debauchery for the sake of a slice of publicity than the Festival Club? One Saturday night. Councillor John Kidd popped in to see what was going down. ‘I went up to a group of men who were carrying on in the most disgusting manner and told them to stop.‘ he later informed the press. ‘They told me they loved each other.‘ It was an opportune Festival for Councillor Kidd. who advocated the return ofthe birch. Besides men wearing colourful clothes and the smell ot‘grass in the Grassmarket. he had occasion to contact the press . to complain about not one. but two plays at The Traverse. Lay By was about a hitch-hiking junkie girl who got picked up by a pornographer and Games After featured a man and a woman nude on stage together. ‘This is disgusting.‘ he told the Daily Record. ‘The plays are full of filth and the council have given the Traverse £1000 to bring such filth to the city.‘
I 1977 Nippleswere off. cleavages higher than ever and the mother ofall Fringe scandals emerged. ‘ANGER OVER NUDE JESUS‘ trumpeted the front cover in l'/2in-high letters above a story as scantily clad as the previous year‘s models. A ‘massive storm‘ was supposed to be brewing over plays involving ‘homosexuality and lesbians. nude bathing scenes. sex-starved wivesand four-letter words.‘ But pride of place in the X-rated catalogue of ‘pornography’ was taken by
Satan '5 Ball ‘which portrays
Jesus as insane and shows him‘j being crucified in the nude.‘ Already it had caused a ‘wave of ; revulsion‘ and been labelled as ' ‘disgusting and immoral‘. Without having seen the play. the Mail dug up quotes from the Moderator ofthe Church of Scotland. a representative of the Roman Catholic Church and Mrs Mary Whitehouse. None of whom had seen the play either. Fringe Director Alistair Moffat did. and said it was ‘one ofthe most splendid events of the 1977 Fringe.‘ ln classic prurient style. the Mail article went on to list where its readers could sample nudity. violence. horrific death scenes. four-letter words and. horror of horrors. the portrayal of Batman as a homosexual.
I 1977 What a year! Nicholas Fairbairn MP decided that a play boldly entitled The Tragedy of King Charles [II was ‘derogatory and paltry‘. This was the year the Sex Pistols sang ‘God Save the Queen‘ and Fairbairn blustered that ‘one of the tragic characteristics of modern theatre and indeed modern art. is that its only advertisement is either iconoclasm or blasphemy.‘ But playwright Paul Graham had foreseen this sort of attack and let Prince Charles look at the script. ‘His Royal Highness was most interested to read The Tragedy of King Charles [11‘ wrote the Prince‘s secretary. ‘and wishes you every success with the performance for the Festival.‘
I 1978 Edinburgh‘s Lord Provost. Mr Kenneth Borthwick‘. showed distinct concern when he heard that Gay Sweat Shop were to include homosexual love scenes in their show. He spoke out against plans to bring the Festival and Fringe closer together: ‘Ifthey are going to put on this sort of stuffI would have nothing to do with them . . . lfthey want more cooperation. they will have to keep the Fringe out ofthe gutter.‘
I 1985 The centenary of D. H. Lawrence‘s birth and a full 25 years after the celebrated obscenity trial which caused the post of Lord Chamberlain to be abolished. Roman Catholic authorities banned a version of i Lady Chatterley '5 Lover from the St Mary’s Cathedral Hall. The Right Reverened Monsigneur Patrick Credy said ‘I am a priest and I feel a certain responsibility for things which go on in our premises.‘