Edinburgh Fringe: Portrait Gallery to host shows

A tribute show to the late comedian Chic Murray will be held The Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Picture: Brian Stewart
A tribute show to the late comedian Chic Murray will be held The Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Picture: Brian Stewart
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It is a far cry from a dingy pub basement in the depths of the Old Town.

One of Edinburgh’s most prestigious art galleries is to be turned into a glamorous comedy club for this year’s Fringe, The Scotsman can reveal.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street will be hosting the National Galleries’ first proper foray into the world’s biggest arts festival.

The move has been unveiled as it emerged the National Museum of Scotland will be hosting its own late-night Fringe events, as well as a catwalk show for the Edinburgh International Fashion Festival.

Special “in conversation” interviews with leading comedians will be held at the portrait gallery, before a huge backdrop of Glasgow funnyman Billy Connolly, by John Byrne – one of the best-known works in the attraction, which is being used for the first time in the Fringe.

Three different spaces in the gallery will be deployed for the two-hour event, which will have a capacity of around 180.

Tributes to iconic variety hall performers Francie and Josie, and stand-up comedian Chic Murray will be created by modern-day performers Des Clarke and Scott Agnew.

It has been timed to coincide with the staging of Tickling Jock, an exhibition celebrating 75 years of Scottish comedy at the gallery. The £12 ticket price includes a tour of the exhibition with comic and comedy historian Susan Morrison. Little-seen portraits of Stanley Baxter, Rikki Fulton, Robbie Corbett, Una McLean and Ivor Cutler all feature in the exhibition, which is to run until May of next year.

Imogen Gibbon, deputy director of the portrait gallery and curator of the exhibition, said: “Tickling Jock brings together the legends of Scottish comedy from Sir Harry Lauder’s success in the early 1900s to Billy Connolly’s first appearance on Parkinson in 1975. We’re looking forward, in August, to filling the gallery with current comedians and performers, hearing their memories and, most of all, sharing the distinctive characteristics of Scottish humour.”

Other Fringe events being hosted by the National Galleries this summer include Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby leading a tour of nude paintings at the main Scottish National Gallery on the Mound, and saxophonist Martin Kershaw staging a tribute concert to the late sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi at the modern art gallery.

The National Museum of Scotland is offering exclusive late-night public access to the new Mary, Queen of Scots exhibition, which is due to open next month, while special performances will be staged by leading promoters C Venues.

A spokesman said: “These will feature many of the popular elements of the hugely popular RBS Museum Lates, such as entertainment and pop-up bars in the grand gallery, the opportunity to visit the museum after-hours and also to visit the Mary, Queen of Scots exhibition.”

Successful Fringe by the Sea expands to the shores of Fife

ORGANISERS of a major arts festival in East Lothian have unveiled plans to launch a new event in Fife.

Fringe by the Sea, which is held in North Berwick at the height of the Edinburgh Festival, has seen a rise in visitors from 2,000 to 8,000 in the space of just five years.

Ian Rankin, Dougie MacLean, Elaine C Smith, Larkin Poe, Jenny Eclair and Lucy Porter will all be part of this year’s line-up.

Two “Spiegeltents” are now brought to North Berwick for the week-long event, said to attract a growing number of visitors who base themselves in the town, rather than day visitors from Edinburgh.

However, ScotRail has agreed to lay on a special late-night service in recent years to accommodate festival-goers heading back to the capital.

Festival director Jane Thomson said: “We are looking at running a similar event in Fife, but probably before the Fringe starts, rather than during it.”

Other acts confirmed for this year’s North Berwick event include Fringe favourites The New Rope String Band, The Boy With Tape On His Face, Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain, and Orkestra del Sol.