While London-based comedians ﬂood into town, Scottish stand-up Fred Macllulay defends his noble calling against the kill-joys.
‘So there's too much at the Fringe is there"? I‘ve heard this every year that I‘ve been in Edinburgh. Look through the brochure and you might be tempted to agree. That‘s why I'll be lirnitrng the comedy in my show this year. It's only fair on the punters after all. I can sympathise with them. I went to see a ballet this year and. frankly. there was just too much dancing. And as for opera. lose the singing and you'll please a lot more people.
‘Get real. There‘s so much comedy at the Fringe because it works. The shows sell well. The audiences have a good time. The performers make a bob or two . . . for their promoters . . . and there's time after the show for a few swallies. Where‘s the harm in that? As long as we give Value For Money. nobody should be too unhappy. Or is the mere mention of money contrary to the spirit of the Fringe. A quick flick through the brochure and you'll see that most shows are about £7 for an hour. That's not too bad — a football match costs nrorc. Granted it‘s 90 minutes long. but disappointment is more of a probability.
‘The Fringe. for me. does mean more than that. It's the annual challenge of writing new material. ()r. to be honest. the annual challenge of rearranging last year's show in a different running order and pretending it's ‘Brand New!” And it provides me with 23 nights work at luer . . . with titne after the show for a few swallies.
‘And where better to swallie [r'm' .slurmelvss plug [or mumluur 's venue — Ed] than the Gilded Balloon Bar. It's potentially the worst shape of room for a bar that I‘ve ever seen. In fact it‘s more of a corridor than a room. Scottish & Newcastle Breweries should feature it in seminars for publicans urtder the heading ‘Don’t Ever Build a Bar Like This. Anywhere. Ever. We Mean It. Don‘t‘. But in spite of that I'll still be there for longer than is healthy — it‘s like a second borne to me. Well. a third really. My second home during the Fringe is at our friend’s house. They‘ve put rne up durittg EdFest for the last five years and I don't know where I‘d be without them. Sorry. I do know. I'd be in the bar. Mine's a Guinness. Cheers.‘
I Buy Fred MacAulay a drink after his show at the Gilded Balloon, 9—31 Aug, 99m.
With two new plays being performed in Edinburgh, John McGrath is one of the Festival’s most prolific creative forces. Neil Cooper profiles the radical writer and director.
Z Cars and The ('lu'rim. 'I'lu' Sure. And The Black. Blur/r ()il are. in different ways. milestones which have shaped popular dratna as we know it. To have been a part ofthem. even in a small way. would be itnpressivc. but to be responsible for both is downright precocious. ’et despite his collective
ideals. writer and director John McGrath stands out as the creative force behind most of his ventures. Having helped change the face of TV cop shows. this Anglo-Irishman left the BBC to blaze a rttore overtly political trail in Scotland. taking his 7:84 theatre company on almost permanent tour through the Highlands during the 70s. Now two new and very different works may give a clue to how the knocks of the preceding years have affected him.
lrt that time McGrath has seen the company he founded and loved with a passion taken away frorn him. and alrttost died of cancer. before fulfilling a long cherished ambition to stage Neil Gunn's The Silver Darlings. A film version by McGrath. who also produced last year's Bloomsbury set movie Curringlmr. is now in development.
Meanwhile. this year's mammoth reworking of Sir David Lyndsay's
Festival set-piece A Satire ()fT/re Four Esruiles. which adds the fourth. contemporary power of the press baron. stands in complete contrast to The Last Oj'T/ie Mru'lfur'lums - a return to a favourite McGrath theme. the Highland Clearances — which he wrote for his actress wife Elizabeth MacLennan.
McGrath himself seems to be taking stock. In ajust~published collection of plays. he reiterates his belief in the power of popular Scottish theatre. but there are also traces of bitterness. He can't resist a dig at the way promenade epic Border War/in? was ‘rejected by my successor at 7:84'. The acrimony over his departure from the company has already been aired publicly in a previous collection ofessays.
The split can be traced back to the I983 production Women In Power. which provoked a cast mutiny that belied the company‘s supposed spirit of collectivistn. as political conviction turned in on itself. From that point on. question marks hung over McGrath's artistic direction. and after four funher years of internal wrangling he resigned from the company.
Continued rumblings of McGrath's alleged autocratic style are strangely at odds with the soft-spoken. left-leaning intellectualisrn of his public persona. Whatever the truth of this apparent contradiction. and whatever happens onstage next week. McGrath is someone who has stayed on the front line of popular drama longer than most. and still has the power to inspire.
I A Satire 0! the Four Estaltos (International Festival) Wildcat. Edinburgh International Conference Centre. 16—28 Aug (not 25).
I The Last Of The MacEachans (Fringe) Freeway Stage. l2~24 Aug (not l8)
Although Nick Br'oornlield's rubber- clad documentary l-‘oris/res has attracted its fair share of tabloid attention. according to the l)rarnbuie Edinburgh Film Festival the most oft- requested pttblicity shot comes frorn Peter Greenaway's new movie The I’illmr' Bonk. Surfing on the crest of his 'Iruins/mrung popularity. Ewan McGregor has provoked intense interest in an artlrouse film which would otherwise have gone unnoticed outside cineaste circles. And the reason? A particularly pert bottom shot of the young Scots star which the film‘s distributors deny exists. but photo editors up and down the country appear to regard as the Holy Grail. Sources who saw the film when it screened at the Berlin film festival reported clearly audible gasps when a naked McGr'egor turned to face the camera. Tacklespotting. anyone?
image the: tamin man
Midge Ure has pulled otrt of his planned Edinburgh shows. though the reason varies according to who you ask. It appears Ure backed out because his ex-wife. TV presenter Annabel Giles. is also performing at the Fringe. 'He found out his wife was iii a show.‘ said Drew Taylor. promoter at Celtic House. where the former Ultravox front-man was scheduled to play an unplugged set. ‘It seems the town isn‘t big enough for the two of them.‘ This
came as something of a surprise to Giles's publicist who offered another explanation: ‘Midge is in Miami with their daughter so Annabel can get on with her show. They are very supportive of each other as parents.‘
Aries: lir'cryI/riug will r'mm' at you at mu'v — you will be under a great deal (illness-tire. Fringe companies will recognise the feeling. but for Colin Campbell — organiser of The Big Issue in Scotland's first foray into the Festival — the stars seemed unduly pessimistic. ‘l'd had a wonderful day.‘ says Campbell. who was born rrnder the sign of the ram. ‘It wasn't until I was walking home and a ﬁre engine rammed a Metro. sending it spinning across the road. that I realised everything really was coming at tne at once.‘ Campbell was indeed under a great deal of pressure; finding himself pinned between the car and a fence. he suffered cracked ribs. cuts and bruises. ()n the plus side. at least firemen were on the spot to cut him free.
10 The List 9- I 5 Aug I996