Their p ace or yours?

Every spare space in Edinburgh is being turned into a venue. We checked out two of the newer stages. Words: Steve Cramer

t's dark. and rather damp. there are unidentifiable

smells hanging in the air and around each corner.

you expect to meet a startled rodent. There's something about the Underbelly that reminds me irresistibly of my last student flat. Having got past some reluctant Central Library officials and purchased a torch to walk about with. I‘m groping around the vast. catacomb-like corridors and rooms under the library with Aubrey. the future manager of what will become two bars at the venue.

‘It‘ll look great when it goes up.‘ he says with confidence. This venue was first conceived by the ever-inventive Grid Iron. who. three years ago. turned it into a site-specific venue for the excellent Gal‘gantua. Last year. it was reopened on a small scale. but this year. with three stages and twenty shows. it promises to become a big player at the Fringe. There‘ll even be a beer garden.

The variety of the Underbelly's programme is as vast as the building itself. with everything from stand up. to dance. to revivals of theatre classics. as well as new work occurring within its eerie precincts. There'll also be a cinema in the building. Among the highlights are a succession of shows which emphasise the haunted house atmosphere of the place. The ever—popular Trestle company will be bringing Blood And Roses. a tale of medieval bloodshed. while a Gothic melodrama. Hell ’3' Teeth. a production of Dracula and something called

will be

Comic-Trust in Napthalene (inset) and Axe in Pooh-Prah: two Russian highlights in the brilliant Komedia programme

Sixteen acts

performing experimental and work under experimental circumstances.

Fright Nights: The Tour Of Terror also look set to compliment the Peter Stringfellow-like creepiness of the place.

Meanwhile. in Stockbridge. the admirable Komedia group. whose reputation for sponsoring innovative work is well deserved. has opened a new venue. The squat. Presbyterian exterior of St Stephen‘s church in Stockbridge is not quite at the centre of the action for the Fringe. but a short journey will bring you to a world its builders

couldn't have imagined. Sixteen acts. largely of

avant garde dance and physical theatre will be performing experimental work under experimental circumstances.

For those who feel that the Fringe is all about

commercialisation. there‘s a refreshing change of

perspective in store at this venue. Komedia. working with German company Fabrik (part of Do-Fabrik. which produced the much acclaimed Hopeless Games in the Fringes of 1999 2000) and Scottish promoters Ecosmos are putting together a financial and artistic experiment. Each of the acts appearing in this venue will take an even share of the takings. an admirable form of insurance in an area of performance which needs to guarantee the right to fail occasionally.

The main space of the Kirk will be used in performance. giving the theatre a 250-seat capacity. accompanied by a pleasant cafe’ space. With such acts as the other half of Hopeless Games. Do Theatre of Russia appearing alongside companies from Sweden. Sierra Leone. India and Japan to name but a few. there’s a truly international feel to a quality programme. So revisit the old spirit of the Fringe. and wander a little further from the beaten path. You might find yourself well rewarded.


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