AGENDA FESTIVAL ’94
Edinburgh during the month of August is like a complete 200, only in reverse. Colourful beasts from all over the planet crowd into a small. grey space of their own free will. The local families stare and are in turns amused. frightened and bored by them. The streets ring out with their braying — ‘Please take a leaﬂet!‘, ‘Good review in The Scotsman!’ Their detritus litters the pavements -— trodden-on ﬂyers. used chip wrappers — and then they all leave.
Well, mostly all. Each October. the Edinburgh residents are accustomed to seeing the runts of the National Youth Music Theatre still wandering the Royal Mile handing out leaﬂets. unaware that their stronger companions have moved on to fresher pastures. leaving them behind to fend for themselves in the cruel northern winter.
Reader‘s Voice: ‘This reverse 200 then. a new thing is it?‘
My voice: Pretty new. After the war, people wanted to ﬁnd an outlet for culture and so they set up the lntemational Festival just in time for Dudley Moore and Jonathan Miller to invent Fringe comedy as we know it today. But really these traditions go back much further. Back in time . past Walter Scott. writing novels in his Princes Street Thunderbird 3, past
Adam Smith playing with his invisible '
hands, even past Mary Queen of Scots and her valiant attempts not to lose her head when all around her were losing theirs. ln olden days, the Scottish Clans would decide feuds by who could print and distribute the most little pieces of paper saying how worthwhile they were and how much their local papers liked them. Then they would spend the long evenings getting drunk together and bad-mouthing groups who had more money to spend on costumes. These days it's a lot more civilised: generally the worst that can happen is
acute embarrassment, and since many performers here are youngish, middle class-ish and southern English. this happens a lot. Six years ago, my friend Danny went to the Clamshell in the Royal Mile for his dinner. On his ﬁrst visit (that lunchtime) he noticed he was not offered salt and vinegar as condiments for his meal, but salt and what Danny overheard as ‘soss‘. This time, when ordering his meal. he thought he would endear himself to the girl at the till and not seem so much the outsider he so patently was. Danny said, ‘chips please. with salt and soss.‘ ‘Pardon?’ said the girl. ‘Soss,’ said Danny. ‘Soss . . . um. sauce . . . that stuff. . . oh . . .just salt. please.‘ The whole chip shop was laughing by this stage, and Danny left hurriedly with his high-sodium snack. He had learnt his lesson, and nowadays even The Scotsman describes him as ‘a nice guy'.
I mention this as it is symptomatic of the way most performers feel slightly guilty about being in Edinburgh at this time. We are the animals in the zoo. the house guests who redecorate walls with our faces. venue numbers and box ofﬁce numbers.
Of course. we don’t feel that guilty. We still come because Edinburgh has everything. Truck fans love the Festival Cavalcade, extinct volcano enthusiasts cherish Fringe Sunday, Opera fans have the grown-up Festival, connoisseurs of walking up and down in straight lines travel miles to see the Tattoo. And the best thing is that Emma Freud is here as well!
Yes. the Scots have it great. There is proper money (ie dishevelled green rags), proper food (fried pizzas. orange, pureed vegetables) and proper beer. if only it wasn't for all the performers . . . Ben Moor is appearing in his one-man show, ‘Electricity: the Caged Pony' at The Pleasance Upstairs (3pm). Danny is doing “Caught In The Net' at The Pleasance Attic (12.15pm) and does not wish to discuss his past.
lech Walesa was trying to become the leader oi Poland, the Marehloness sank in the Thames and the Piper Alpha enquiry was in iuil swing. It was 1989 and In Edinburgh, Yehudi Menuhin was made honorary president of the lntemational Festival.
I Archaos’s publicity machine was well oiled. Not content with ﬂy-posting a police box (with local bobby in situ) the French pranksters managed to persuade two families to drag their (no doubt complaining) children out of a performance at Leith Links. The parents were concerned that the wacky circus spectacular included two men kissing. a topless female performer on a motorbike and chainsaw juggling. Subsequent shows sold out.
I Macbeth got a couple of airings. The airiest was on lnchcolm island and suffered some setbacks. The ltalian principles cancelled giving ten days notice. Slightly more tickets for the production were sold than there were places on the boat to get out there, leaving aggrieved punters in a queue on the quay. It was also a constantly changing experience: local Gaelic writer and broadcaster Aonghas Macneacail was booked to do the soothsaying which he did perched on a rock by the water‘s edge. But time and tide being what they are, this became an increasingly wet point from which to say his sooths.
I Blood was promised in a dance theatre production of Macbeth by the Bremer Theatre at the King's. and blood was what the audience got. Buckets of it. It slopped around in baths, poured from pails into a great metal pit where the orchestra should have been and oozed from the witches’ breasts to slake Macbeth's thirst.
I The Chaplin award became the ﬁrst competition at the Film Festival. The ﬁlm that spawned a million headlines: sex lies and videotape, was there. A minor appendage to the programme was Dick, which consisted solely of shots of a succession of (ﬂaccid) male members.
I While the good residents of Edinburgh were on their way to the Kirk. the hacks at the Film Festival were making their way to a rare
WAS THE YEAR THAT
screening of Pasolini‘s $an or the 120 days of Sodom as part of a complete retrospective of the ltalian director’s work. In this. his last and bleakest ﬁlm. a group of adolescents are ritually humiliated. abused and tortured. lncongrously, there followed a press conference (with mint juleps) called by Butterﬂy McQueen who was in town for a gala screening of Gone With The Wind.
I In South Africa PW. Botha resigned as president while in Edinburgh there were three plays dealing with apartheid. Pieter-Dirk Uys's Just Like Home. Hanging The President which won a Fringe First and So Where To about events in Soweto during the 1976 uprising.
I lied King Rising, a play by Grant Morrison exploring the innermost workings of Charles Dodgeson's mind and his infatuation for Alice, won a Fringe First.
I The International Festival got its ﬁrst ofﬁcial pavement artist, one Dennis Martin, who drew scenes from Macbeth on the pavement outside the King's. Martin was at once thrilled by his appointment and also a tad miffed as the bureaucracy of the city's cleansing department insisted that his work was scrubbed off each night.
I Salome also got two outings. One. directed by Steven Berkoff, told Oscar Wilde's once banned version in ‘dream- like slow motion', the actors gliding through the highly erotic tragedy in two hours of choreographed theatre. This was probably for dramatic effect and not, as one tired and emotional member
' of the Dublin cast told a local
journalist, because the ﬁrst run through the play took a mere 45 minutes. The other. was a production of Richard Strauss‘s opera featuring more near nudity than a beach on the Costa del Sol. The Observer liked it because it ‘left nothing to the imagination of spectators, librettist or composer, substituting action for stillness and sexual intercourse for murderous introspection.‘
I The Premier was at the Assembly Rooms. Not Mrs T. who was encountering a little local difﬁculty north of the border due to the Poll Tax. but Premier lager. Not ones to court controversy. the Assembly Rooms refused the advertising line of ‘which Premier would you rather see in Edinburgh?’ under pictures La Thatch and a bottle of lager.
GUS oAscoIouE TRAINSPO‘I’TER
‘Quite frankly I wouldn 't choose to see anything at the Edinburgh Festival but with the train strike on there Is nothing else to do. ' says Gus. Here are the ﬂ ve shows he '11 be ticking off in his little notebook
I Jenny Eclair at the Pleasance. She came to see me last year. but the sex parts might be a bit embarrassing.
I Greg Proops at the Assembly Rooms. He has trainspotter glasses.
I illghtshiit Sarah Brignall at Gilded Balloon. Her sister's father-in-law is a trainspotter.
I Charlie's Angels Go to hell Graham Norton at the Pleasance. He doesn’t
’ i. W
2“» :13"; :1 " ‘13 d ignore me in the Assembly Rooms bar. I Bitch! Dyko! Faghag! Whore! Penny Arcade at the Assembly Rooms. She told me it would change my life. Anorak of Fire — The Life and 77mes of Gus Gascoigne: Trainspotter is at the Assembly Rooms until 3 Sept at 6.10pm.
The List 26 August—8 September l994 7