Liam Rudden - Fringed Out: August 2008

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The quirky real-time on-line diary of the Entertainment Editor of the Edinburgh Evening News

Wednesday September 3: 10.45am


Ken Dodd once took to the stage of the Festival Theatre at 7.30pm and was still there, cracking jokes, at midnight.

It was long show. He warned us it would be. People left to catch their last bus home or because they had work the next morning, but the King of the Diddy Men just ploughed on.

The audience that stayed certainly got value for their money.

It was a bit like that at the Edinburgh Playhouse last night when Mrs Brown returned to Edinburgh, with comedian Brendan O'Carroll firmly ensconced as the loveable foul-mouthed Dublin mammy.

Ten minutes late going up, the show was already over-running by 20 minutes at the interval, and by the fall of the curtain... well, let's put it this way, it was supposed to come down at 10pm. Final bows didn't happen until 10.40pm.

Still, the Irish have never had a concept of time. The son of a Dublin mammy myself, I know.

Not that a packed Playhouse minded. Certainly, if the standing ovation O'Carroll and the cast received at the end was anything to go by, they didn't.

Good Mourning Mrs Brown is the second in quadrilogy of plays about O'Carroll's comic creation – Agnes Brown.

A cross between a stand-up routine, a soap opera and a farce, O'Carroll's ad libbed antics often leave the cast laughing as much as the audience.

It bawdy, rude and even occasionally crude – but laugh out loud funny.

If you have yet to experience an evening in the company of Mrs Brown, let me recommend it, just don't expect Shakespeare... and remember to bring a flask of tea and sandwiches to keep you going.

God forbid they ever allow Brendan O'Carroll and Ken Dodd on the same bill... you'd need a sleeping bag too.

Tuesday September 2: 9.45am


The problem with the Festival is that regular routines go to the wall. All those mornings spent at the gym trying to erode what was once a six pack, but is now a beer barrel, wasted.

Okay, so there was never quite a six-pack, but you get my drift.

Consequently, climbing the stairs leading to Escape Health Club on Market Street this morning felt like ascending a small Munro.

But it was worth it, if only to discover that after three weeks away, I wasn't as out of shape as I could have been, which can only be due to all the trekking from venue to venue during the Festival... not forgetting the endless stairs that seem to be a prerequisite before seeing any Fringe show.

Monday September 1: 10.25am


News just in via e-mail that's sure to bring a smile to the faces of all Lemar and Leon Jackson fans.

The pair are to appear at the Queen's Hall in the latest Be Live event, sponsored by Forth one and Asda.

All tickets for the show, which will take place on Sunday September 28, are free, with the majority due to be given away on air or via in-store competitions. So keep your eyes and ears peeled.

Headliner Lemar comes to the Capital fresh from recording his brand new album The Reason. X Factor's Leon Jackson is still best known for his No 1 When You Believe. The pair will be supported on the night will be soul-pop songstress Natalia, direct from supporting Girls Aloud.

Sunday August 31: 1.24pm


Theatre Alba have spent the Festival battling the elements in Duddingston Kirk Garden, where they presented their production of George Bernard Shaw's masterpiece based on the life of the Maid of Orleans.

I caught it last night in the more hospitable confines of Musselburgh's Brunton Theatre. With memories of OMD's Joan of Arc lurking at the back of my mind I settled down ready to be transported back into history.

Witty, emotional and with a wry understanding of Shaw's often satirical writing, the company made the two and a half hour piece fly by.

I still haven't quite decided however, if the 'simple' girl in question was holy or just mad. Although I'm tending to sway towards the latter.

Friday August 29: 9.12am

JIHAD: INNER STRUGGLE (Mela Big Top, ends tonight, 6.30pm)

As the house lights snap off in the Mela Big Top, a TV set doubling as a security monitor snaps into life.

It shows a man stumbling, arms and legs flailing, along a suburban street. At first it's not clear if he's meant to be drunk or has some physical disability – it turns out to be the former, acted badly.

From this shaky start however, Theatre Insaan present a piece of theatre that, despite its jumble of styles, is not only thought-provoking but boasts a surprising charm and depth.

Two men share a house. One is a British Asian Ugandan of Islamic background, the other an Israeli of Jewish background.

This is the story of their similarities, differences and prejudices set in the global context of wars, land disagreements, occupations, cultural clashes, terrorism, world changing handshakes, sexual freedom, music, drugs, miracles, disasters...

Life and death flow through Jihad: Inner Struggle in much the same way the wind gusted through the Big Top, causing walls to flap and the roof to rise and fall – imagine sitting in a giant wheezing lung as it inflates and deflates.

Those distractions aside, this production has some clever imagery including an inventive Evolution of Man section and one of the most dramatic entrances I've seen for some time.

If you fancy catching something different, that is a bit of a challenge, give it a go. After all, if you find it's not for you it is only 55 minutes long.

Thursday August 28: 3.36pm


BEEN tracking down Jon Morgan for three days. He wasn't keen to speak. And now it's obvious why – the search is on for a new Fringe director after he stepped down this morning in the wake of the box office crisis that plagued this year's event

For those who aren't up to speed, the Fringe box office went into meltdown leaving companies unable to sell tickets for their shows.

Just curious, though, was he the one who actually signed off the new box office system?

Regardless, now would be a good time for the board of the Edinburgh Fringe Society to draw a line in the sand and re-access their role at the world's biggest arts festival.

It's unlikely to happen, too many board members now appear to have too many fingers in too many pies to have the appetite for real change, yet that is what the Fringe badly needs.

The time has come for the Fringe Society to re-engage with the smaller companies, who are the lifeblood of the event, and leave courting of the corporates and star names to the super-venues and The Comedy Festival.

Rant over.

Thursday August 28: 2.38pm


As ever, in the wake of the Fringe, Edinburgh slowly grinds to a stand still for a week or so until the various autumn seasons kick in at the Playhouse, King's Festival and Lyceum.

And so tomorrow's issue of The Guide is a bit different to normal – although Mrs Brown does return to the Playhouse next Tuesday.

Anyway, here's tomorrow's low-down: Check out the at a glance guide to the showstoppers heading to Edinburgh over the next couple of months and discover if the 2008 Festival Season really was Edinburgh's worst in recent memory.

Plus meet Avenue, the boyband that were disqualified from X Factor, Vin Diesel talking fatherhood, a review of new tapas heaven, Andlaluz, on George Street, author JJ Lumsden on his spooky new novel and the usual film reviews, clubs round up and My Edinburgh with Mela director Liam Sinclair.

Wednesday August 27: 1.13pm


Buster Bloodvessel, he of Bad Manners turns 50 this year, and to celebrate he's going back on the road – not that he's ever been off it.

News just in is that the ska hero who scored hits with Can Can, Special Brew and Lip Up Fatty in the 70s and 80s will stop off at the Citrus Club on Gridlay Street on September 18, where he will be supported by Max Splodge + support.

Just be prepared to sing along when you hear

Happy Birthday to you

I went to the zoo

I saw a big singer

And he sang special brew...

No... that's not mine, not guilty. It was on the bottom of the press release.

Wednesday August 27: 10.25am


E-mail just in from my old mate Drew McAdam, Scotland's top Mind Master who, these days, is best known as the interrogator on the Trisha Goddard Show.

His new stage show, An Evening of Mindplay, is booked into the Regal Theatre, Bathgate, for one night only on October 24. Don't miss it.

Of course Drew is more than just a mind-reader... he can even bend spoons. Check out his website and prepare to be amazed.

Tuesday August 26: 3.30pm


Just when you thought it was safe... I've decided to keep blogging. God, I hate that word. Anyway, the Fringe might be over but welcome to Fringed Out - The Entertainment Blog, which will continue to keep you up to date with what's on in and around Edinburgh throughout the year.

Monday August 25: 7.35pm


The final Fringe engagement of the year is almost here, and what better way to bring down the curtain on my 25th arts extravaganza than with a return visit to Faulty Towers The Dining Experience, with my other half and a couple of special friends.

Just for the record, my Fringe debut was in a musical called Clutter back in 1983 – long before anyone had even heard of Assembly, Gilded Balloon or The Pleasance, let alone C Venues and Underbelly.

The end of any Fringe is always a sad time for me and 2008 is no exception, although looking back on those early years I can't help feeling that wind of change is once more about to blow and we could see a very different festival landscape in 2009.

I'm even beginning to think that the mooted Edinburgh Comedy Festival might be a good idea.

After all, it doesn't matter why people come to the city in August, as long as they come. Let's be honest, the average punter doesn't care who is in charge as long as they bring the big names to town.

So, perhaps if the Edinburgh Comedy Festival were to find a major sponsor it allow them to stand alone, and in so doing free the Fringe Society to go back to it core values, supporting and promoting the smaller venues and companies who, despite the corporate incursion of the last two decades, remain the life-blood of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Monday August 25: 11.20am


Saturday was heavy... well the session than began my long farewell to the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe certainly was.

It started at 10.30am at the Assembly Rooms where Michael Barrymore and a cast of Fringe performers were recording two pilot try-outs of a new sit-com called Emergency Family.

Created by Tim Firth of Calendar Girls fame, and written by Simon Blackwell (Peep Show) the show revolves around the Burton family, each member of which works for a different emergency service.

Reminded me of that old radio classic starring Jon Pertwee and Leslie Phillips, The Navy Lark. And looks like the perfect vehicle for Michael's TV comeback.

By 1.30pm I was in the bar of the C Venues, sitting with producer Jacqui Garbett, Hollyoaks stars Matt Littler and Darren Jon Jefferies and Susan Gray the press manager of the National Museums of Scotland.

Now that's what I call an eclectic mix.

Then it was off to Native State to say farewell to London PRs Paul Sullivan and Kim Morgan - poor Kim had her lap-top nicked on the train home on Sunday morning.

Later, it was showtime: Greyfriars Twisted Tales (7.30pm) and Departure Lounge (9pm) at the George Square Theatre – two great shows which finish tonight, catch them if you can.

A mammoth drinking session at the Gilded Balloon followed, with photographer Bill Mackellar. Thanks to Rhona Cameron for the best seats in the bar.

Consequently, next morning I was just a little the worse for wear when I met the lovely Camille for a catch up.

Fresh from taking the Assembly Rooms by storm the night before, she too was a little fragile and so we sat chatting all day, drinking coffee and, in her case, sipping on ginger and honey in hot water.

Various people popped over to our table over the course of the afternoon including theatre producer Guy Masterson, still 'bemoaning' his departure from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest all those years ago, and Zeb Shaw of Elysium Massage, whose magic fingers lifted my self-inflicted headache in minutes.

Finally, it was time to head to The King's to see Matthew Bourne's Dorain Gray, accompanied by Allison McKenzie who you may remember as the original Joanne Rossi in River City.

Brutal, evocative, beautiful and obscene, Bourne's choreography also manages to retain its humour while cheekily sticking up two fingers to the dance establishment. Just don't go if you are easily shocked.

As the warning in the theatre foyer states: Contains adult themes.

Friday August 22: 10pm


National Theatre of Scotland's 365 at the Edinburgh Playhouse was hard work. Ned-theatre describes its style.

While the production ticks all the right political boxes, it was not a particularly uplifting experience. As an exercise in securing future funding from the Scottish Executive however, it was a five star effort.

Two other points worth making, firstly, the stalls of the Playhouse were curtained off, closing off the back section.

Why? Well, apparently the piece was intended for the King's but was booked into the wrong theatre. Or so an insider tells me. How does that happen?

Secondly, in a climate when theatres everywhere are struggling for survival, what is with the current trend to eschew the traditional interval.

At one hour and 50 minutes 365 badly needed one. Commercially it would not have hurt the Playhouse either.

Friday August 22: 3.54pm


Here is the first batch of the 2008 Fringed Out Awards for services to a sodden but carefree Festival-going public.

Quote of the Fringe goes to... Evening News reviewer Martin Lennon, who proved he is not a fan of a certain comedian/writer/satirist, when he declared, "Clive James has that Spanish chef guy, Armando Iannucci, on his chat show on Saturday."

The Liza Minnelli Award for Most Insignificant Comeback goes to... Jim Rose Circus. Just why?

The Valiant Best Programme Award goes to... Glenn Chandler for Boys of the Empire at C Venues – a rattling good read.

The Grayson P Award for Most Pretentious Decor goes to... The Freemantle Bar, Assembly Rooms. Redundant Singer sewing machines on tables and bird-cages containing either Champagne flutes, red bulbs of the type found in electric fires, or an old atomiser. Need I say more.

The Frank Bruno Award for Best Sport on the Fringe goes to... Hollyoaks' star Tony Hirst, he deserves it for all the stick I gave him at the start of this diary. Good job he's an actor and not a PR man.

The Tony Hancock Award for Sense of Humour Bypass goes to... well, any one of the increasing number of comics who appear to slouch around, faces tripping them, when they are not on stage.

The Stephen K Amos Award for Campest Man of the Fringe goes to... you've guessed it, Stephen K Amos.

The Heaven's Have Opened Award for Best Outdoor Drinking Dengoes to... The Riviera Bar on the roof of the Gilded Balloon. If it's good enough for Joan Rivers...

More to follow...

Friday August 22: 11.36am


Sean Connery makes his much anticipated Book Festival appearance on Monday. It's the hottest ticket in town

Reminds me of the time he was given the Keys to the City at the Usher Hall. What struck me then was just how unassuming he appeared.

Not sure he'd still have received the honour if his 'autobiography' had been published then – although he makes some valid, if negative, points about his home city in the book.

What really makes me smile however, is the fact that just the mention of his name is enough to have every Edinburgh citizen of a certain age recalling how, no matter what part of the city they lived in, Big Tam delivered their milk.

He must have had one hell of a big milk round.

Friday August 22: 11.10am


With just three days to go I've decided that in a spirit of fun and frivolity I'm going to present my own Fringed Out Awards.

The categories will include Best Programme, Most Original Pitch, Most Pretentious Decor, Most Annoying Poster... you get the idea.

Thursday August 21: 6pm


In the Library Bar of the Gilded Balloon, two of the Capital's best known amateur theatre companies are celebrating after winning Evening News Drama Awards for Best Musical and Best Play on the 2008 Fringe.

Forth Childrens Theatre, in their 30th anniversary year, have just been presented with the inaugural Evening News Drama Award for Best Musical by BBC I'd Do Anything star Niamh Perry, for their production of Jekyll and Hyde.

The diminutive star presented the Award just 15 minutes before she was due on stage in the musical Only The Brave at the George Square Theatre.

Edinburgh Theatre Arts were also winners, picking up the Evening News Drama Award for Best Play for their production of Dennis Potter's Blue Remembered Hills, from legendary Bullseye host Jim Bowen, who admitted to being nervous about the whole presenting lark.

Also celebrating are Leitheatre, their production of Rikki Fulton's A Wee Touch o' Class landed the runner-up prize in the Best Play category, while Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group came second in the Best Musical category with their show, Company.

Oh and, Southern Light Opera Drama received the first Evening News Theatre Critic's Commendation for their production of Black Chiffon, from Thom Dibdin.

Well done one and all.

Wednesday August 20: 9.45pm


Chatting to Chillax producer Jacqui Garbett in the bar of C Venues when she spots Bradley from EastEnders aka actor Charlie Clements ordering a drink.

She's off... 'Would he like a walk-on guest slot in The Great American Trailer Park Musical (C Venue, until Monday, 10pm)?

Never misses a trick that girl.

Wednesday August 20: 3.20pm


The clock is counting, the scores are in and I can now reveal that the winners of the 2008 Evening News Drama Awards are... going to be announced in a glittering Award Ceremony at the Library Bar of the Gilded Balloon, later today.

Once again there has been a fantastic response from Edinburgh's amateur drama and musical companies, and recognising their work and talent is one of the highlights of my year.

Along with the legendary Jim Bowen and I'd Do Anything star Niamh Perry, we are expecting in excess of 100 actors, directors and stage crew - from no less than 13 companies - to attend the event.

Good luck to one and all... but if you can't make the ceremony, the results will be announced at 6pm on

Wednesday August 20: 9.55pm


Well, that's the first Edinburgh International Festival production of the year under my belt... and things can surely only get better.

Where to start? Nigel Williams' seminal work, Class Enemy, premiered at the Royal Court, Theatre Upstairs in 1978. Set in a vandalised South London schoolroom it told the stories of six teenage boys – Sweetheart, Racks, Nipper, Skylight, Iron and Snatch.

For the 2008 EIF, East West Theatre Company have adapted the piece, increased the cast to seven, three girls and four boys, and switched the action from London to Sarajevo.

It doesn't work. The translation is clumsy. The direction clunky. And the fact that it is performed in Bosnian with English subtitle displayed on monitors high above the stalls – and either side of the stage – makes it impossible to fully engage with the company.

Lessons have not been learned from last year. And, speaking of the company. Surely the point of this visceral piece of theatre is the raw anger of the young characters. There is something deeply embarrasing watching actors in their 20's trying to recapture their teenage identities.

The steady flow of walk-outs from around 20 minutes in spoke for itself.

Roll on Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray.

Wednesday August 20: 13.50pm


The spat between Tom Roden of New Art Club and Ed Byrne over the health check stunt is taking on a Christopher Hitchen/George Galloway quality with this come-back, just in, from Tom to Ed's riposte.

"Oh dear, I seem to have offended the great Ed Byrne. Just to set the record straight, I wasn't accusing him of cheating but was suggesting that for the PR of whole health test thing there was much more value in famous him winning than unknown me. Maybe Ed should get an extra layer of skin (his current one seems a tad thin) by donning a leotard and joining me on top of Carlton Hill for a pas de deux at dawn. Come on Ed, dance if you think you're tough enough!"

I sense a picture opportunity...

Wednesday August 20: 12.36pm


Star of stage, screen and TV favourite Christopher Biggins is to pop down to the Musicals Theatre at George Square today - get those autograph books out guys.

He is in town catch Big Bruvva The Musical (until August 25, 3pm)

And talking of autographs. Noticed at Hazel O'Connor's show the other night a couple of strange looking specimens loitering around the entrance.

When Haze arrived, they produced photo after photo for her to sign. Wonder how many are now on e-Bay? Think I'll go check.

Wednesday August 20: 11.45am


They're a sensitive lot those stand-up comics. On Monday, in the Quick Fest section of the Evening News, one of the headlines declared: 'Cheated' comic calls for dance-off showdown.

The diary piece continued: One of the more imaginative stunts cooked by one of the legions of PRs sharp-shooting their way through the Fringe this year was for John Ryan's show Hurt Until It Laughs, at the Gilded Balloon.

A group of brave comedians were asked to lend their time for a health check by a crack team of nurses in a quest to find the healthiest comedian on the Fringe.

The comic with the best form, however, didn't win. Tom Roden, of New Art Club, is currently wowing audiences at the Gilded Balloon, and is a trained and practising non-smoking, fitness-obsessed contemporary dancer.

He came third and he smells a big fat rat. Roden is supposedly not as fit as Ed Byrne, who came first, and Matt Kirshen, who came second. "Ed Byrne, the best known comedian on the Fringe is also the fittest? Hmm."

Roden has thrown the gauntlet down for Byrne and Kirshen to join him in dance-off to test the validity of the results.

"I'm hopping mad," he says. "Unless their fitness has come on in leaps and bounds at the drunkest, most-gruelling Festival in the world, I think I've been cheated."

The tongue in cheek piece however, didn't go down too well with Byrne's publicist, Claire Walker, who was on the phone a day later asking for a right of reply. Always happy to oblige, it popped into my e-mail box this morning.

It reads: "Please find below the reply about accusations of cheating in the health checks.

The health checks were just a bit of fun to garner some publicity for Unison and the Leicester Comedy Festival. All the check consisted of was a blood pressure test and Ed's did come out the healthiest.

Possibly this has been helped by the fact that Ed has been bagging Munro's (for those who don't know these are mountains in Scotland over 3000 feet of which there are 284) during the days of the Fringe.

When pushed for comment Byrne said, "If this dude wants to declare himself the healthiest act at the Fringe, then let him. I can only imagine my blood pressure was better than his because I wasn't as excited as he was at the prospect of a little bit of press attention."


Tuesday August 19: 8.27pm


Tip of the day: Try to avoid nipping to the gents at the Assembly Rooms just as the queue is going in for the Ballroom. Every other male making their way to sit through a show appears to have a weak bladder. Never seen queues like it... oh, actually I have, at the Pleasance Courtyard.

Tuesday August 19: 8.06pm


Stephen K Amos is ordering a rum and ginger ale at the Assembly VIP Bar, and looking forward to the arrival of his twin sister Stella tomorrow.

He's had a great Fringe, he says... and now you know what to buy him if you spot him off-duty.

Tuesday August 19: 7.25pm


Just bumped into actress Lizzie Roper in Hanover Street.

You may know her from previous Fringes – she starred as Hollywood bad boy Christian Slater's love interest in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest a few years ago, playing her favourite kind of role – a flirty, tarty type.

Lizzie's taking a break from performing this year, doing the tourist thing instead. Still good to see her back.

Tuesday August 19: 8.10am


My favourite e-mail of the morning so far comes from Eastern Angles Theatre Co, currently appearing in I Caught Crabs in Walberswick (Pleasance Courtyard Cavern, until August 25, 5pm).

Karen Goddard writes: "Our promotional badges, bear the motto 'I Caught Crabs...'

"One of our staff – Jon – was giving out badges to punters the other day when he spotted Joan Rivers. Jon approached Joan and offered her a badge... she asked what it said on the badge.

"When she found out she laughed and said she had better have two."

There's a line in their somewhere, but I'm resisting...

Monday August 18: 9.10pm


There are in excess of 100 people queuing along the corridor outside the auditorium of the Universal Arts Theatre on George Street – that's the old Masonic Lodge to you and me.

They are waiting to buy a signed CD from 80's icon Hazel O'Connor, who has just wowed with a five star performance of Beyond Breaking Glass – her autobiographical show.

Most singers are lucky if they have one song that is rediscovered by future generations. Hazel's new wave legacy boasts two, the anthemic Eighth Day and the soppy tea and coffee love song, Will You.

Hazel only did three shows on this year's Fringe. But I can reveal that there are plans afoot to bring her back with her full show next year.

Can't wait.

Monday August 18: 4.52pm


I knew the invite was somewhere, just couldn't find it. Still, be at the Malaysia Pavilion in Holyrood Park at 5pm, was the gist of the thing.

The Malaysian Ministry of Tourism had requested that I attend their presentation, An Enchanting Discovery.

Thankfully, the phone rang just as I was leaving, and prepared for a two minute sprint through the drizzle.

The event is tomorrow. Now that would have been a first. Me 24 hours early.

Monday August 18: 4.46pm


AND so we've hit the final week of the Fringe. You can tell by the way press officers are now frantically chasing the last of the reviews that are yet to appear, and the sighs of relief coming from the Fringe box office... soon they'll have a whole 12 months to get their ticketing systems up and an running properly.

You can also tell by the slightly lost, unshaven, haunted look being worn by the army of PRs who, for the last few months, have been doing whatever it takes to ensure that their shows got the coverage they deserve – and that's just the females.

For me, it's time to start clearing through the hundreds of messages which, on more than one occasion, have clogged up my e-mail account completely. Trust me, sending out the same press release 57 times does not get it noticed in anything near a positive light.

Similarly, and here's another tip for any companies planning to head north next year, sending out an e-mail every time some obscure website or publication gives your show five stars does not do you any favours.

Who cares what thinks?

Which brings me to this e-mail, which I discovered while deleting all the dross. It was sent by a well known Scottish comedian, who pleaded:

"Dear sir/madam,

This e-mail is a request to all newspapers/magazines, that if they feel they must review my show in Edinburgh, could you PLEASE not quote the actual material in the review?

"A very important element of comedy is surprise, and it can often make the difference between a show that works and one that does not.

"I would be very grateful if you could acknowledge this e-mail as it would help put my mind at rest.

Thank you..."

My challenge to you, is to work out who sent it.

However, he does have a point. A well written review should never spoil any prospective audience member's enjoyment of the piece, whether it be a stand-up set or stage play.

The problem with Festival reviews is that so many here-this-month-gone-the-next publications and 'review' web-sites spring up in August that there just aren't enough bona-fide reviewers to go around.

Cue frustrated theatre-goer of Morningside with an opinion and laptop with which to share it.

Perhaps our mystery guest should have targeted those publications instead of the Evening News, The Times, Scotsman, Time Out, Independent and The Observer... oh, and learned how to BCC.

Saturday August 16: 1.10pm


Just remembered, Bombay To Beijing By Bicycle star Russell McGilton plans to ride his bike from top of the Royal Mile to the Parliament at Holyrood at 2pm today – naked.

His publicist claims it is a protest against the lack of cycle lanes and sustainable transport in Edinburgh.

More likely just a stunt to promote his show Bombay To Beijing By Bicycle (Gilded Balloon, until August 25, 5pm), which details his real-life adventure cycling 10,030 miles across the Himalayas from Mumbai to Beijing.

The big question is this? What is the difference between a saddle sore naked cyclist and a foot scuffed naked rambler? The naked rambler you will remember kept ending up in Saughton, being looked after at the tax-payer's expense.

Still, it just goes to show the lengths people will go to for their art.

Saturday August 16: 1pm


Surfaced, and back in the office despite the fact that by midnight last night it looked as though a long walk home beckoned – not a fast black to be had. Thank God for the aptly named Festival Cars.

Oh, and I've just had a text from Sybil at Faulty Towers The Dining Experience. The extra shows are but sold out. Only a few tickets remaining. This is your last chance to catch my hit of the year.

Friday August 15: 11.30pm


The wine, cocktails and champagne have flowed for most of the night. Gusto on George Street certainly knows how to throw a Festival party.

And as for the food... well I'll be back. Fantastic seeing the reaction of the regulars as well-known Fringe faces turned up for a bite to eat.

Never have so many camera-phones snapped so many pics in such a short space of time.

Great PR. Someone even wanted their picture taken with your truly! Probably mistook me for Auf Wiedersehen Pet's Tim Healy - wouldn't be the first time, even though he has a good ten years on me.

Cheers Julie and Andy.

Friday August 15: 7.18pm


Still in the Assembly Rooms. Roy has just arrived for a quick pint then he's dashing off to see a show about the legendary Scottish comedian Chic Murray. Remember the bunnet?

Accompanying him is the man who gave him the Catchphrase job all those years ago, TV director and producer Graham C Williams. Graham also directed eight years of Spitting Image.

"I'm told the Queen had a picture of the Spitting Image puppet of Prince Charles on her desk," he reveals. Does that mean Spitting Image could almost have boasted, By Royal Appointment.

Graham also produced Blockbusters starring Bob Holness and so, by default, is responsible for that other well known catch phrase, "Can I have a P please Bob."

Friday August 15: 7.03pm


In the Assembly Rooms VIP bar and on the water as I have a feeling a heavy night awaits.

Just watched Roy Walker deliver a master-class in comedy. Slow, deliberating and with killer sucker-punches liberally scattered throughout his set, not to mention a game of Catchphrase and Car Park Catchphrase ala the Chris Moyles radio show.

This is a show not to miss if you have fond memories of Saturday evenings spent watching Mr Chips... or have just received a one-star review for your own stand-up act.

Oh, and Nicholas Parsons is hovering by the bar... will he never retire?

Friday August 15: 2.52pm


Counting down the hours until the weekend which, for me starts later today with a trip to see Roy Walker in Goodbye Mr Chips (Assembly Rooms, George Street, until August 25, 6pm) and then a Festival party at Gusto on George Street.

Thursday August 14: 1.32pm


News just in: Basil, Sybil and Manuel have added two extra performances of Faulty Towers the Dining Experience at B'est on Drummond Street.

With the advertised run almost completely sold out – there are only a small number of seats remaining at three of the lunch-time performances – book now or you could miss the hit of the 2008 Fringe.

The new shows are on Monday August 25 at 2.30pm (three course lunch and show, 29) and then at 9pm on the same day (three course dinner and show, 37).

Book online at (click on the floating Faulty Towers logo) or call 0131-556 6040 for a night you will never forget. Even if you are from Barcelona. Que?

Wednesday August 13: 6pm


Famous last words, but this week, The Guide seems to be slightly ahead of schedule. So much so, that here's a sneak preview a day earlier than normal.

Featuring on Friday are rapper Dizzee Rascal, actress Samantha Bloom, West End star Frances Ruffelle, TV legend Jill Gascoine and comedians Mark Watson, Felix Dexter and Kevin Gildea.

Also, punk icon Hazel O'Connor, Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk, Potted Pirates, 'Madonna' and more comedians in the shape of Des Clarke, Clarkson and Crouch, Rhod Gilbert, and Paul Tonkinson.

Finally there are previews of the Evening News Drama Awards, Class Enemy at the EIF, and Broadway star John Pinette goes restaurant reviewing.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday August 12: 10.32pm


One thing about the Festival, it certainly acts as a reminder that we are none of us getting any younger.

Just bumped into Kate Copstick and spent time reminiscing about Fringe's gone by... do you remember Copstick and Paul Cawley in their sell-out culinary murder mystery show, Dicing With Death – there's a programme from the show's Lyric Studio run in London up for grabs on, I notice - a bargain at 2.

Anyway, the point is this, that show must have been the best past of 20 years ago, as was her stint presenting STV Festival show, Banks and Copstick, with Morwena Banks from the old Gateway Studio on Leith Walk. I remember them both.

However, I reckon we can both still Fringe party with the best of them... Can't we Kate?

Tuesday August 12: 7pm


Just heard, soap legend Lorraine Chase paid a surprise visit to The Dome today.

A couple of hours she popped into the George Street bar and restaurant only to find herself in great demand... as viewers of STV's Five Thirty Show will already know.

What they might not know is that Lorraine, a regular visitor to the Capital, was dragged her away from her pizza in the Garden Cafe to "mark the scores on the board..." never seen the show so don't know what that means, but she did it anyway.

And no she didn't fly in from paradise, but London City Airport, the noughties equivalent of Luton.

Tuesday August 12: 12.33pm


Keep your eyes peeled there's a super villain around. I hear Alfred Molina is in town. Yes, Mr Jill Gascoine has been spotted in the company of his good lady over the last couple of days.

The actor, best known these days as Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2, is taking a break from filming the movie, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, in which he plays Sheik Amar.

Sadly, due to clauses in his contract he is unable to pose for pics with his lady, or help publicise her play.

Monday August 11: 11.58am


AN e-mail from PR Will Young – no, not that Will Young – and Saturday's tale of Matthew Kelly being stuck in a lift becomes clearer. And Matthew wasn't the only one stuck in the lift.

Saturday' performance of Glenn Chandler's Boys of The Empire, which has been nominated for a Fringe First, nearly ended badly when a cast member Mark Farrelly, who plays schoolmaster Spartacus Pratt, found himself trapped with Matthew in the lift.

The pair, who are set to star opposite each other in a production of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf at the Lichfield Garrick, in October, only managed to escape minutes before the start of the performance.

A technical malfunction caused the lift of the Colinton Road building where the company are based to jam, trapping Mark and Matthew for two hours or so. A frantic taxi ride later, Mark was able to get into costume, and Matthew to his seat, just before the curtain up.

Monday August 11: 11.02am


Press officers come in all shapes and sizes during the Festival. But I think this must be the first time I've received some blurb from somebody's mum. Read on...

"During the Festival Fringe in 2007, Frankie Boyle took a budding stand-up comedian under his wing. He trained him well. One year later and Daniel Sloss now writes for Frankie's weekly news satire show on BBC2 – Mock the Week.

"He also performs regularly on the Scottish circuit and further afield... and is now a regular at both the Edinburgh and Glasgow Stand comedy clubs.

"And he's just made it to the finals of So You Think You're Funny!, the competition that helped launch the careers of Dylan Moran, Miles Jupp, Rhona Cameron, Phil Kay, Peter Kay, David O'Docherty, Des Clarke and more... And he's only 17.

"He's Scotland's rising star of comedy and he has his own show at the festival this year.

Best wishes, Lesley Sloss (His mum)"

Ah, sweet, and just in case you fancied catching Daniel, his free show is Life in 2D (Laughing Horse @ Espionage, until August 25, 12.50pm).

Sunday August 10: 8.15pm


After dinner at the Dome, from where STV are broadcasting their daily Fringe programmes, a quick pint at the Assembly Rooms' Freemantle Club Bar finds Roy Walker in residence.

One of life's nice guys, it's good to hear that his show Goodbye Mister Chips (Assembly Rooms, until August 25, 6pm) is going well.

Now remember, say what you see.

Wonder how Fringe Sunday panned out after all the rain?

Sunday August 10: 4.25pm


With trousers changed I made it back in time to see Joanie (just) in Joan Rivers - Work in Progress by a Life in Progress (Cowbarn, until August 25, 3.45pm).

A standing ovation greeted the 75-year-old trouper who not only overcame a couple of technical problems, but turned them to her advantage.

Though having ripped the failing radio mic from her costume I guess there's one sound operator sure to be avoiding her right now.

Sunday August 10: 2.44pm


Never be tempted to eat between shows. With an hour to spare before seeing Joan Rivers at the Cowbarn, I succumbed to a crepe with maple syrup from the stand outside the Gilded Balloon.

Which is why I am now in a taxi on a round trip between Bristo Square, home and back, to change my trousers.

Maple syrup poured from the paper plate the crepe was served on and down my trouser leg. Going to see Joanie should not be this stressful.

Sunday August 10: 1.46pm


Poor Dawn from Hampshire, she must have thought she had a chance of winning when we were teamed up for the game of Bullseye that rounds off every performance of Jim Bowen's Look At What You Could Have Won (Udderbelly, until August 25, 12.30pm) when we were teamed.

After all, we were only up against the thick bird from Big Bruvva The Musical. Then Dawn discovered that my ability with darts is as good as that of Stevie Wonder.

Add to that the fact that I'm sure Di, the BB girl was a hustler, and poor Dawn never stood a chance.

Yes, I've just served my stint as a guest on Bowen's lunch-time chat show and survived. Great craic. Apparently, The Hamilton's want me for their chat show next... mmm, not sure about that one.

Saturday August 9: 7.30pm


Catching up with PR Paul Sullivan in C Venue's bar when another familiar face appears. Matthew Kelly is in town. He's very tall, but not print media friendly and and disappears quickly. But I do hear that at the Pleasance, earlier today, he got stuck in a lift...

Friday August 8: 8.35pm


Everyone seems to have a pass of some sort hanging around their neck on a lanyard during the Festival, but just spotted the best yet. It read: ACCESS NO AREAS - VIP ID EXPERT

Apparently you can buy this latest fashion accessory from a shop on St Mary's Street – always assuming you don't already have one.

That said, I keep mine in my pocket. A press pass around your neck at this time of year draws performers to you as surely as bulls are attracted to red rag – especially when they have just received a one-star review.

Friday August 8: 7.42pm


Just spotted family man Mackenzie Crook hoisting his lad into his arms.

I interviewed the star of The Office and Pirates of the Caribbean four years ago when he played Billy Bibbit opposite Christian Slater in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, at the Assembly Rooms – he's a nice guy.

So what brings him to the Pleasance Courtyard this evening? "I just feel like I'm missing out if I don't get up for a couple of days," he says, as modest as ever.

Friday August 8: 7.02pm


Sitting in the Pleasance Courtyard with the other half, when who pops by for a quick drink but Katrina Bryan – star of my first panto at Musselburgh's Brunton Theatre. Back in 2006 she played Alice in Dick McWhittington for me but is now better known to a generation of pre-schoolers as Nina, from the Cbeebies series Nina and the Neurons.

And there's good news for tots everywhere, a new series featuring their favourite scientist has just been commissioned.

There's good news for her adult fans too, Katrina has just been cast as the new pathologist, Dr Ellis Sinclair, in the long-running STV crime drama Taggart.

Friday August 8: 11.02am


This morning's favourite freebie is... a beach ball, from the cast of the Brunton Youth Theatre and Dance Company's Discontented Winter House Remix (Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, tonight and tomorrow, 7.30pm).

Thursday August 7: 9.22pm


Kevin has had an attack of the nibbles and all thoughts of eBay have been consigned to the past – he's now munching his way through what is left of Joan's baguette.

Thursday August 7: 8.13pm


Still in the Riviera Bar, now with Kevin Wilson, the man looking after Joan, who, has just sent a basket of crisps to the table to ensure that we have something to soak up the champagne. Thoughtful, as only a mother can be.

Kevin meanwhile reveals that he has a half eaten sandwich that Joan bought earlier in the day, before deciding that she wasn't really hungry. "Going to put in on eBay" when I get in he quips. It's a chicken, mustard and tomato affair from Baguette Express.

Thursday August 7: 7.45pm


Sitting in the Riviera Bar, on the roof of the Gilded Balloon, surrounded by legends. In one corner the stunning Jill Gascoine (there's no way this lady can be 71), the first actress ever to play a senior female police officer on telly.

Yes, four months before Stephanie Turner slipped on the uniform of Inspector Jean Darblay in Juliet Bravo, and long before Helen Mirren made Detective Jane Tennison a household name in Prime Suspect, Gascoine played DI Maggie Forbes in The Gentle Touch – a role she reprised in the ITV series C.A.T.S Eyes – securing her place in the annuls of TV history.

Right now she is appearing in Sister Cities (Gilded Balloon Teviot, until August 25, 6.45pm). On stage for just 15 minutes during the play, my spies tell me that she is stealing every performance.

In another corner of the loft bar sits Joan Rivers. She's just finished her first performance of Joan Rivers: Work in Progress by a Life in Progress (Udderbelly, until August 25, 3.45pm), and the champagne is flowing.

Producer Martin Witts, a one-time tank commander and now owner of the Leicester Square Theatre in London, to which Rivers' show transfers to after the Fringe, is in charge of the bubbly. And he's a generous man. Cheers.

Oh yes, and there's a film crew following Joan around, making a the pilot for a new TV series, as well as her entourage of six... or is it eight... assistants. The gossip is that Joan has just agreed to appear on Celebrity Apprentice alongside Heather Mills – that should be an interesting combination.

Thursday August 7: 12.26pm


Well, that's another issue of The Festival Guide put to bed and I just thought I'd give you a sneak preview before it hits the streets tomorrow morning.

Featured interviews this week are with legendary comedienne Joan Rivers, 60's sex siren and Bond girl Britt Ekland, funnyman Stephen K Amos (with twin sister Stella), pop star Paolo Nutini, Taggart creator Glenn Chandler and of course the promised review of Faulty Towers The Dining Experience.

Also appearing are Zoe Gardner, Nina Conti, Bert Jansch, Lucy Drever, Pappy's Fun Club, Pavel Douglas, Kerry Godliman, Idiots of Ants, Tina C (the flowers worked) along with reviews and at a glance guides to The Edge and Edinburgh International Festivals.

Don't miss it... you'll need something to read if this rain keeps up.

Thursday August 7: 10.15am


Which one to wear? Just opened a bulky envelope from Alexis Dubus and discovered three badges.

Each bears a single word. The yellow one has the word B*ll***s, in purple. The red one has the word P***, in yellow, and the green one declares the wearer to be a c**k, in red.

Hardly surprising, the accompanying flier reveals Dubus' show is entitled A R#ddy Brief History of Swearing (Nicol Edwards, until August 23, 6.45pm). Ironically, it also carries the warning 'Contains Swearing'. Thought that would have been f...airly obvious.

Thursday August 7: 9.14am


Will this rain ever stop? Bet the Pleasance Courtyard and Udderbelly Pasture were quiet last night.

Wednesday August 6: 5.56pm


It was in the outdoor bar of Cafe Graffiti on Broughton Street that I first met Hazel O'Connor, punk legend and star of Breaking Glass, one of the most iconic Brit-flicks of all time. That was a decade ago – the singer has just called from her home in Ireland to remind me.

Back in 1998, Hazel had just finished the first run of her five star show, Beyond Breaking Glass (BBG) – an emotional roller-coaster ride through her life and music, performed with just an acoustic harp for accompaniment.

"What happens to the piece now?" I asked as we sat in the bar. "There's nothing planned," she replied.

To cut a long story short, a call or two later and the show was out and on the road. It has toured ever since.

Now, ten years on, Hazel is set to return to Edinburgh with a special celebratory 10th anniversary production of Beyond Breaking Glass (Universal Arts Theatre, George Street, August 16-17, 12.15am, 18, 7.30pm), and I can't believe how much time has passed.

And for fans who want a record of the evening, there's now a DVD featuring guest appearances by film star Charles Dance, Julie Graham aka Professor Gillian Magwilde in BBC 1's Bonekickers, Joe McGann and John Taylor of Duran Duran. Time to relive Eight Day and Will You all over again – get ready for the sax solo.

Tuesday August 5: 10.10pm


The bright pink cape/coat thing first drew my attention – then I recognised the face, none other than Ruth Watson, Channel Five's Hotel Inspector. She was bustling along the corridors of The Gilded Balloon. Wonder if she's inspected Faulty towers yet?

Tuesday August 5: 9.07pm


A quick pint with Gary Flockhart, my collaborator on The Guide, at C Soco, and there's Tony from Hollyoaks still doling out the fliers. He's off at 7am tomorrow now. A Guinness later, he away fliering again. The Orlando Bloom of C Venues. "Do you think he's stalking you?" asks Gary.

Tuesday August 5: 5.53pm


Want to know the problem with this Fringe lark? Just as you are getting into it, you find yourself tied to the desk for a day. That said, it's also easy to get completely swamped by the very 24-hour-a-day momentum of the thing.

Take the other night for example. Heading home after meeting some friends, the other half and I were unceremoniously pushed aside by black clad security guards as we wandered past the Gilded Balloon in search of a taxi.

We wondered: Which celebrity could get away with such heavy-handed tactics at 10 o'clock on a Sunday night in Edinburgh? Had Barack Obama dropped in to see Reginald D Hunter in No Country for Grown Men (Pleasance Courtyard, until August 14, 11.15pm).

Or perhaps Joan Rivers' plastic surgeon was on an emergency call out? No, it was neither of these. In fact, the bouncers weren't even real. Of course they weren't. And the would be VIP? Well, it was none other than country western drag queen Tina C who, it appears, is running for President of the USA in her new Fringe show, Tick My Box (Udderbelly's Pasture, until August 25, 10.20pm).

Needless to say as she swept past in a puff of powder and sequins neither the other half nor I were best impressed by her antics. Yesterday I mentioned it, off the record, to a PR friend who just happened to representing... bet you know here this is going... yes, Tina C.

Guess that why I'm currently sitting looking at the beautiful bunch of white roses that have just arrived on my desk from Tina C's alter-ego, comedian Christopher Green. Maybe I will tick her, or is it his, box after all.

Monday August 4: 11.15pm


My sides are literally sore from laughing. For the last two hours, three actors have entertained 75 diners in the most wonderful recreation of that TV institution, Fawlty Towers.

We've had the fire drill, a rat in the kitchen, "She go craszy", "I know nothing"... and all before the main course had even been served.

Got to tell you, Faulty Towers The Dining Experience (B'est Restuarant, until August 24, 2.30pm and 9pm), is going to be the must see show of this year's Fringe. Get your tickets now, while you still can. Just remember to sit up straight and keep your elbows off the table when you get there. Basil will sort you out if you don't.

Although, I'm guessing that the alternative spelling of Fawlty – Faulty – might be a copyright issue. Anyway, read a full review of the night in Friday's issue of The Guide.

Monday August 4: 8.15pm


You might know him as Mike Barnes from Hollyoaks, but right now Tony Hirst is wearing his producer's hat, with two shows currently running on the Fringe.

We're having a quite drink in Aspen on the Bridges, an oasis of calm in the Festival madness, before going to Faulty Towers The Dining Experience (B'est Restuarant, until August 24, 2.30pm and 9pm). He prefers it here – "The Pleasance is like Milton Keynes on speed," he quips, referring to the seemingly endless bustle of the popular venue.

Hirst is off tomorrow to film more episodes of the Channel 4 soap, but will be back in a week or so to check up on his shows – Whacker Murphy's Bad Buzz (C soco, until August 25, 9.45pm), a comic tale of dodgy dealings in Dublin and... wait for it... Wombman (C Soco, Cowgate, until August 25, 2.30pm) – see Saturday's entry FAINT HEART. A slightly embarrassed Hirst admits, "I've not got the hang of this PR thing yet."

Monday August 4: 12.37pm


Portobello beach is the place to be, according to London-based Portobello Productions, which is why they had their publicity shots for Somewhere Over The Westway (Gilded Balloon, until August 24, 4.15pm) taken there.

And they have good news for fans of Alfie Allen, the diminutive actor who made a big impact on Capital audiences earlier in the year when he starred in Equus at the King's Theatre.

Yes, Lily Allen's wee brother will be making a special guest appearance in tomorrow's performance – a part is being written for him at this very moment.

Surprised? Don't be, his uncle, Kevin Allen (Keith's brother) was one of the founding members of the company.

Sunday August 3: 6pm


Sitting in the Assembly Rooms club bar, accessed this year by bright yellow passes, and reflecting on Surviving Spike (Assembly @ George Street, until August 25, 4.15pm), which came down about 15 minutes ago.

Didn't know quite what to expect as I took my seat a couple of hours ago – but certainly never expected Jill Halfpenny and Michael Barrymore to reduce me to tears as they brought the troubled genius of Spike Milligan to life on stage.

And I wasn't the only one. This is a must see show, whether you are a fan of the famous Goon or not.

Sunday August 3: 3pm


Just heading out the door to catch Michael Barrymore in Surviving Spike (Assembly @ George Street, until August 25, 4.15pm), when the phone rings.

It's an invitation to appear as a guest on Jim Bowen's lunchtime chat-show Look At What You Could Have Won (Udderbelly's Pasture, until August 25, 12.30pm) next Sunday. What could I say but, "Super! Smashing! Great!"

Sunday August 3: 11.26am


In the office, checking e-mails, and the prize for the most desperate plea for publicity so far, goes to Wombman (C Soco, Cowgate, until August 25, 2.30pm] and an e-mail with the words 'Man Collapses of Heart Attack on First Night!' in the subject line. I'll let it speak for itself.

"The opening performance of Wombman at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival had to be stopped when an audience member collapsed on the front row, suffering a suspected heart attack.

"Actor Ricky Payne, performing his new one man show, was half way through his blistering text which ironically discusses man's fascination with life and death, when he noticed something was wrong.

'I saw the man's head drop and he began to shake. I know my gags are good and get all sorts of response but I knew this was very different!'

"At the time of sending this story the man was conscious and being treated by paramedics. According to Ricky and C Venue staff he was apologising profusely whilst leaving the theatre on a stretcher and stressed that he loved the show.

"Ricky has promised he will send him his best wishes, flowers and of course a complementary ticket for his return."

For the record, the 'heart-attack' victim later walked from the venue. Maybe the gags were to blame after all.

Sunday August 2: 9.55pm


There has already been much debate among my friends over the significance of the title Fringed Out.

To be honest it can be anything you want it to be, although I first started using the expression to describe how I was feeling back in 1984 while appearing in three Fringe shows a day – two performances of The Great T-Bag Mystery at the Moray House Theatre and one of Clutter at Baden Powell House, a three hour war time epic featuring a young Shirley Manson.

On stage for in excess of seven hours a day, I was indeed Fringed-out by the end of both runs.

However, having just watched the second of two plays co-produced by Edinburgh-writer Glenn Chandler, the creator of Taggart, it strikes me that Fringed Out is quite an apt title for this entry too.

There was a time when I could have named the remix of Corona's Rhythm Of The Night that was blasting out at the start of the first of those plays, What's Wrong With Angry? (C, Chambers Street, August 25, 3.25pm).

A new production of a play first staged in 1993, as a response to the controversial Section 28 which stated that a local authority "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship", it was a trip down memory lane.

Moving and passionate, it's a thought provoking piece, although I might think twice the next time someone offers me a slug from a bottle of whisky. You'll have to see it to understand why.

The second, Boys of the Empire (C, Chambers Street, August 25, 8pm), which is also written by Glenn, is a best described as Jennings meet Ripping Yarns. Straight out of the pages of Boys Own, beneath the veneer of camp comedy lies a poignant comment on the state of the world today and a biting indictment of our current foreign policy.

Together, both pieces highlight the changing attitudes within British society while their very staging celebrates the advances that have been made in the space of just two or three generations. And yes, the famous line, 'There's been a murder' is in there. Although, as only about three of us 'got it' and laughed, it's safe to say the rest of the audience were visitors.

Friday August 1: 9.10pm


First show of the Fringe under my belt – a preview of Charlie Victor Romeo (Udderbelly Cowbarn, until August 25, 7.40pm). Trust me, if the simple thought of walking across the air bridge to a waiting jumbo makes you break out in a sweat, then this is not the show for you.

It is however, a unique and riveting piece of theatre that you are unlikely to forget. In fact, I reckon I'll remember it every time I board a flight from now to the day I die. Which is worrying.

Derived entirely from the Black Box transcripts of real-life airline emergencies CVR brings audiences inside the tension-filled cockpits of actual flights moments before they go down. Dark and powerful, it is destined to be one of the hits of this year's Fringe. Just don't expect to come out smiling. Time for a pint.

Friday August 1: 10.30am


WITH two days to go until the curtain rises on this year's Fringe, welcome to Fringed Out, where you can join me behind the scenes of the world's greatest arts and entertainment festival, EDINBURGH 2008.

With the clock counting down, the turns are arriving – some have already began previewing their shows – and you can't move for enthusiastic students thrusting fliers at you from every angle.

I love it... for now, although going on past experience I'm sure I won't be quite so receptive by the end of week three. But then there are more than 31,000 performances all looking to put bums on seats at this year's Fringe and audiences are finite, so anything you can do to get your show noticed is fine.

You might be surprised at the lengths some companies will go to catch you attention. I'll be giving you an insight into some of the wackier gimmicks as the Fringe unfolds, but here's an example of the freebies that landed on my desk this morning.

First, came the red and blue M&Ms, five packets of them all personalised with the title of the show concerned, and nice glass dish to hold them in (The Patriot Act, Gilded Balloon Teviot, until August 25, 12.45pm).

Then came that old favourite, a miniature of whisky – Whyte and Mackay Special Double Marriage Blend to be exact (Loving Burns, Rocket @ Roxburgh Hotel, 5.30pm, until August 25).

Finally a jar of... wait for it... crab paste (I Caught Crabs in Walberswick, Pleasance Courtyard, 5pm, until August 25). Sounds like a recipe for Ready Steady Cook – wonder what Nick Nairn would make with a handful of candy coated chocolates, some amber nectar and fishy sandwich spread?