Gaby Soutar: The Edinburgh Festival is here, so let's play Celebrity Spotting Top Trumps

I’ll decide who wins.

Let’s play Edinburgh Festival Celebrity Spotting Top Trumps.

These are the rules.

This year, there are zero points for seeing Ian McKellen, Alan Cumming or Herbie Hancock on stage.

Sir Ian McKellen  (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)Sir Ian McKellen  (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
Sir Ian McKellen (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
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The fourth wall must be broken, or it doesn’t count. I don’t care how much you paid for a ticket in the royal box.

If you’re at any well-known comedian’s show, and go up on stage because you’ve been sucked into an audience participation skit, you may get a sympathy point. I know your pain. You try to make yourself invisible, by sinking into your seat and transmitting “please not me” psychic waves, but they always see the biddable ones. The obedient Labradors of the audience. I’m one of those utter idiots.

Just check that your skirt isn’t tucked into the back of your tights, before you go up there.

Also, you get nothing if you spot Ian Rankin or Dylan Moran. Last time I checked, they live in the Capital and a sighting in Margiotta or The Oxford Bar is probably a regular occurrence. Mind you, JK Rowling lives here too, and I don’t know anyone who’s ever seen her around town. 500 points.

Johan Christensen and Ian McKellen who share the role of Hamlet photo Devin de VilJohan Christensen and Ian McKellen who share the role of Hamlet photo Devin de Vil
Johan Christensen and Ian McKellen who share the role of Hamlet photo Devin de Vil

You also get a higher score, the more inverse to the glossy celebrity status their activity or setting is. A-listers doing Z-list stuff.

We want Brad Pitt in Snax. Kim Kardashian shopping in Lookin’ Trendy on Great Junction Street. Meryl Streep diving into Ainslie Park swimming pool. Show me Madonna eating a white pudding supper on a Newhaven bench. All for a trillion points.

It could happen, because Leonardo DeCaprio made that sort of thing possible.

Think of 2016, when he came to the Capital to support homelessness charity, Social Bite.

Miriam Margolyes
Photo by Ken McKay/ITV/ShutterstockMiriam Margolyes
Photo by Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock
Miriam Margolyes Photo by Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock
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It was a surreal sight, to see him with his brioche-coloured tan and manicured beard on Queensferry Street, before he visited their cafe.

He was shedding stardust while being mobbed by fans near the 37 bus shelter, though he looked different. That’s maybe because a cold Scottish light can diminish anyone’s beauty by up to a quarter. I’m sure the flamingos at Edinburgh Zoo would look pinker in their own habitat.

That appearance happened in the same year that Arnold Schwarzenegger visited the city, for some reason that I can no longer totally recall.

I saw him at the traffic island on Shandwick Place. Did he press the crossing button? Does The Terminator wait for the green man?

I wish I’d paid attention to the minutiae.

If you want to win my silly game, these sort of encounters are what you want to aspire to, except during Edinburgh’s celebrity-saturated month of August.

Whoever catches a glimpse of Basil Brush rummaging for half-eaten chicken wings in the bins in the Meadows, will be awarded 8000 points. Boom boom. If McKellen does Hamlet at Ashton Hall in Stockbridge, then heads off to feed the ducks in Inverleith Park, you will get some other random amount. I hope you see him. Break a leg.

It might sound like I’m a potential stalker or groupie, but I’m not a huge fan of any particular celebrity.

They’re all okay. There are no weird strings attached. I just appreciate good sightings. This is probably an inherited trait.

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My late dad dined out for years on his tale of when Sean Connery came to view our Edinburgh flat, to potentially buy it for his mum, back in the early 80s. 007 was asking about central heating.

And there was the time he saw Yehudi Menuhin miming playing a violin on the music school balcony that overlooked our garden.

“Yehudi who?” was my teen reaction, but it gave my classical music loving dad a huge thrill.

These stories were rolled out at every social gathering.

Now I have amassed a few of my own, like they’re rare and precious eggs and I’m a Victorian collector.

The best sightings I’ve had at the Edinburgh Festival over the years include Julie Christie in the front row of La Clique, about a decade ago.

I’m pretty certain it was her. Maybe, when The Famous Spiegeltent’s lights went up, I would have discovered it was Linda Robson.

There was Sam Heughan and Michael Fassbender at the National Museum of Scotland.

Also, I’m not sure how to mark myself, when it comes to seeing Miriam Margolyes. I was at a Summerhall show, Every Brilliant Thing, in 2014, when we got pulled up on stage. That’s because my husband is also Labrador-faced. We need to work on looking less compliant.

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We were instructed to hold and rotate the performer’s keyboard, when I saw this actor watching my shame from the front row.

If we add sympathy points to star-spotting ones, that’s a clear 4000.

I also once sat beside Mark Gatiss and Reese Shearsmith at DARKFIELD’S Seance, which was held in a shipping container, also at Summerhall.

I’ve told a lot of people that story, and they’re never even vaguely impressed, though I think it was one of my favourite moments.

You know, the pair from The League of Gentlemen? Usually I’m met with a blank expression, so I’m not sure how to mark myself on this one.

If you can’t impress other people with your sightings, what’s the point?

Anyway, now that I’ve clearly explained the rules, head into the throng, and see who you can find.

Unless it’s Brad at Snax or Basil in a bin, I think I’ve already won.

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