Eleanor Bron is appearing ior the iirst time in Edinburgh in Desdemona - It You Had Only Spoken at The Pleasance. She explains her view of the Fringe.
it’s not that I had a deprived childhood -iarirom it. Only thatl had heard oi something better. Who hadn't? Grown-ups and critics all used to go on about it. The tale of how one day, alter some row- over what? iundlng? a broken contract? — for some reason everyone—the cream - had simply upped and gone to the tlorth, taken all the songs and the singers, the costumes and the dancing shoes, the canvas and the beads, iollowing alter someone, or something. And lwanted to go too, but somehow I never was quite quick enough. Always a bit slow to catch on. I dreamed about it though.
And now I'm here, in the nick of time, and oi course l’d know this place
Inthe midnight hour
‘You are going to die,’ said his mates, but Thom Dibdin didn’t listen to a word of it. He took his life in his hands and went live onstage at the Fringe club.
Every midnight, for fifteen minutes, the mike on stage at the cabaret in the Fringe Club‘s wine bar is abandoned by the professionals. Anyone brave or foolhardy enough to believe that they too can entertain the masses is welcome to stand up and put their mouth to the test.
I came prepared. My script was rehearsed, polished and I was now ready to unleash it upon an unsuspecting public. I’d listened to the advice on microphone technique. I was sober, pumped up with caffeine and ready to explode into the glamorous world which is known as Showbiz.
What I was not ready for was the wine bar. It bears a close resemblance to one of those Elizabethan centres of popular entertainment which specialised in the mutilation and death of several
anywhere. it is another country, but they all speak the same language, just more lrlendly. They seem glad to see you. But what's it called? It‘s on the tip oi my tongue. It isn't Hamelln, or is it? Somewhere in Brunswick, by lamous Hanover city? Except that it's the Forth that washes its walls on the north-eastem side, not the Weser. This just has to be the place. This is where he brought them, all the talent, pulling away at his magic pipe, heading out oi the harsh, sterile South, away irom theirlalthiess, ileshy, money-grubbing parents into a make-believe world, where all their dreams could become possible, it not immediately true, and they could dance and sing and do their own thing for people who really wanted to know.
dumb animals. A bear-pit perhaps, or cock-fighting ring. The atmosphere inside approaches sauna level, the crowd on the floor bays and howls, crushing the weak in its collective search for the double nirvana that is alcohol and entertainment.
In the gallery above, the laconic and pie-eyed recline, suddenly
The old ‘orgasm live on stage at the Fringe Club’ routine caused a laugh, more out of incredulity than anything else, lsuspect
powerful. Should the entertainment not meet with their approval, no matter the will of the masses below, they need only spill beer or drop the occasional missile to register their displeasure.
The late-night cabaret is where performers come to tout their wares, where punters come to sample, and, if they don't like the taste, to spit. Stepping into this space, this
A place where time doesn’t just stand still but actually expands to lit in more delights, and there are no lrowns brought on by tourist iatlgue, because even tourists conjure smiles oi welcome and rellei and make their own sweet music: the clinklng of coin, the crackle oi cash, the slither oi plastic credit cards. Robert Browning got it wrong — it was Edinburgh he meant.
And every year the ritual is re-enacted, the Pied Piper played by a succession oi actors. The ragged old variegated musician, sponsored now, leads his band of prodigies into the heart of the volcano, into King Arthur’s Seat. Who said it was extinct?
And when that day dawns and the sleeping giant erupts- lnclnerating all the proud citizens oi the land, choking the cobbled streets- centuries after, archaeologists will iind preserved the incredible remains oi an entire civilisation dedicated only to Art, to Culture, to theatre, music, dance, perlorrnance, to eating and drinking and loving and laughing and all the good things of tile. A beautiiul fairy tale.
Desdemona - It You Had Only Spoken: Eleanor Bron (Fringe), Pleasance (Venue 33) 555 5550, Until 5 Sept, 4.45pm. £5.50 (£5.50).
battleground between performer and audience, is to become partisan. So what was I doing on the side of the performer for once?
I jostled my way to the stage in the far corner of the room: below the level of most of the crowd. The band on stage were giving it laldy and the crowd loved every second of their didgeridoo and electric ﬁddle combination. How would they take to my finely honed blend of Royal nipple and Woody Allen jokes?
The first part of the routine went down well. The crowd just lapped up the ‘anyone in from London’ routine. A safe bet, cheap and easy, but I’m not ashamed: at least two people responded. I even got to the punchline and I swear I heard someone laugh.
I was basking in it, but at this point it all began to go horribly wrong. I’ve listened to the tape and its hard to ascertain what happened. Perhaps somebody ﬂipped my switch, because I suddenly and inexplicably started to speed up. Maybe it was the crowd or the heat, but what I thought came out of my mouth as measured tones was in fact so fast that it sounded as if I was selling cattle at an auction.
The old ‘orgasm live on stage at the Fringe Club’ routine caused a laugh, more out of incredulity than anything else I suspect, but then the floodgates opened. I was not wearing a hat for any vague sartorial whim, but as straightforward protection, so it was safe to cut to the last joke: ‘What’s the difference between Woody Allen and Roman Polanski?’. I had lasted all of four minutes as I disappeared in a hail of solid tangible abuse. No one, it seemed, wanted to know that
Polanski seduces other people’s children.
There was a minor skirmish in the South Atlantic and De Lorean went bankrupt. It was 1982 and Thom Dibdin was in London where Roberto Calvi was found hanged beneath Blackfriars Bridge, but he had an alibi, honest guv. . .
l The Maya Theatre from Madhya Pradesh were the first Indian drama group to visit Scotland. Their tribal theatre, in a style thousands of years old, won a Fringe First despite being performed entirely in Hindi. The youngest member of the cast was eighteen months old.
I Mire's people, a collection of his paintings, was in Edinburgh. Only one or two of the exhibits were said to be literal representations of the natural visible world.
I There were 5000 performances of 830 shows by 450 different groups in 130 theatres. Largest of the theatres were the two new ‘Supervenues’ — the Assembly Rooms, in its second year, and The Circuit, in the notorious Hole In The Ground (now the site of the Traverse Theatre).
I The Film Festival went populist for its first year at the new Filmhouse. ETopened and Sean Connery visited while Blade Runner, Diva, Firzcarraldo, The Thing and Syberberg’s Parsr'fal were premiered. I Neil Cunningham set the glutton-for-punishment record. He appeared in four shows a day as, variously, Harry ‘Oasis‘. Adolf Hitler, himself, Jesus Christ and Dali. for which he won a Fringe First. He also played a part in The Draughtsman’s Contract premiered in the Film Festival. I Brilliant title, shame about the acting: N0 Socks Please, We’re Flemish was marred by being staged by a chanting crowd of militant Christians. I Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and a punk Cleonte appeared incongruously in a version of Moliere‘s classic 17th century French farce Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. I The lirst Glenlivet Firework concert was acclaimed as the most spectacular firework display since George IV’s visit in 1822. A full moon enhanced the proceedings which were staged by the Festival Firework company, straight from the Rolling Stones European tour. I The homosexuality and bestiality with a peacock in Sanku Juku’s Kinkien Shonen were bad enough for one Glaswegian doctor, who wrote complaining to The Scotsman, but it was the Japanese dance group’s apparent ridicule of Scottish music which she found most degrading. And she had to keep quiet while consuming her drinks in the interval.
The List 28 August - 10 September 1992 7