Festival blogs: Deborah Frances-White | Peter Scott-Presland
DEBORAH Frances-White on why the Olympics have made this year’s Fringe all the better, and Peter Scott-Preseland on why he loves Edinburgh’s seagulls.
‘A tandem, bigger festival was right up in our narcissistic faces’
DURING the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe I had a show in the Pleasance Courtyard. Standing in the performers’ bar after my gig, I was chatting to a comic who glanced at a Scotsman headline about medals in Beijing. He looked at me, a little confused, and said: “Is it the Olympics?”
The real news doesn’t usually manage to penetrate the festival. “News” to comedians, for this sacred three-and-a-half weeks, is entirely star-based. How many stars does a 19-year-old who has blagged a press pass from a website grant your personal confessions with punch-lines? How many stars does a pissed-off broadsheet reviewer, bored mirthless with comedy, comedy, comedy, bestow on you with her magic wand? Three stars passes for “bad news”. Four stars is generally received as “good news”.
Last year the riots caused a revolution at the Fringe, as comics lifted their heads and used their Twitter feeds for social commentary on what had caused a rampage through a number of regional Primark stores. Retweeting “Gr8 show m8 – I laughed till I vomited” seemed embarrassing under the circumstances.
This year, not one person asked me if it “was the Olympics”. A tandem bigger, better festival was right up in our neurotic, narcissistic faces. What’s a rave review from Chortle – or even a nomination from the award body that apparently Jesus himself turned from water into beer – in the face of 65 medals; 29 of them gold and 19 of them bronze that read like silver?
Listen, I’m not undermining your glowing report card from Broadway Baby – but it hasn’t done us any harm to be faced with a little perspective on how many previews you need to do to be the best runner, rower or rifle-woman in the world and how much feel-goodwill it can engender, with a lot less whining, white wine, menthol cigs and self-indulgence. I’ve seen enough people crying in Bristo Square about a cast squabble or a poisonous review to know that just remembering that there’s a life beyond the Fringe – is solid gold.
• Deborah Frances-White: Cult Following, Assembly Roxy, until 27 August, 4:15pm.
‘The seagulls of Edinburgh are nostalgic’
The bird screeches like the Wicked Witch of the West having an orgasm. The display opens with something between a purr and a squawk, as if it has been surprised by someone sticking a finger up its bottom, and builds to a terrifying – well, “climax” is the only word. Then it stands immobile on the chimney top of the house opposite our flat in Spey Terrace, looking like a weather cock. Except, of course, it’s a “weather seagull”.
The seagulls of Edinburgh are so much part of the aural landscape that probably the local people don’t notice them. To me they are nostalgic.
We used to have seagulls in London when I was growing up in the early 1960s. Thousands of them. They used to dive for your lunchtime sandwiches as you took them out of your satchel. They’d snatch them from your hand if you weren’t careful. The docks were still functioning in a world-class port. But the docks were destroyed when the world moved on, and the developers in league with the local councils achieved what Hitler was unable to do. Now you have to go out to Tilbury and Gravesend to see them in any numbers.
Now there is an absence in the air, and seagulls are an occasional sighting. There are yuppie flats where the cranes once stood, and the locals have mainly moved out to the outer suburbs and the new towns. Instead of seagulls in Rotherhithe and East India Docks, we have bankers, who snatch metaphorical sandwiches out of our hands in other ways. Seagulls or bankers? I know which I’d rather have.
• Peter Scott-Presland is the writer/performer of Locked In, theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, 12:50pm; and writer/director of Strip Search, SpaceCabaret @ 54, 11:05pm, both until 25 August.
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Thursday 20 June 2013
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