Brian Ferguson: Leith's renewing its festival ties

It has been ten long years for Leithers since Argentine theatre show Fuerza Bruta was staged inside a huge black tent, the last time the port hosted anything of real note during the main festival season despite boasting a heritage dating back to the 1960s.

Irvine Welsh. Picture: Contributed.

Back then, Leith Theatre was a linchpin of the Edinburgh International Festival and it was still being used for the event until the late 1980s when its declining condition forced its closure.

The neglected building finally returned to the festival fold in style on Friday, thanks to arts collective Neu! Reekie! and Irvine Welsh, who had spent months cooking up a 21st birthday bash for the first Trainspotting film.

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It might have been something to do with a noticeable shortage of bar staff, or the number of people sitting on the bare floor in order to relive Danny Boyle’s groundbreak film, but it was a bit more civilised than I had been expecting.

However several scenes prompted outbreaks of cheering from the 1,000-strong audience.

Along with Renton’s iconic Rannoch Moor rant, there seemed to be particular affection for The First Day of the Edinburgh Festival, which depicts the downfall of an American tourist who is unlucky enough to wander into the wrong pub in Leith.

• You wait years for the festival to return to Leith and then manage two nights out in a row without venturing out of the area.

It was surreal enough to find a vast new venue created in an empty church I pass almost every day in life two minutes walk from home.

But Welsh theatre company Volcano’s take on Chekhov’s The Seagull is winning in the site-specific theatre stakes this year after turning part of an old church on Constitution Street into a vast lake.

The five-strong cast deserve a medal, for not only gamely stripping off for much of the show in the chilly venue, but braving what must have been decidedly chilly waters for the finale.

Volcano’s brilliant publicity pictures for the show, depicting the cast members up to their knees in water, using suitcases to protect their modesty, has quite rightly appeared in all manner of places, including these pages.

However the company admitted on Facebook that “we weren’t probably expecting the naked cast from Seagulls to be on the front page of the Church Times...but there you go.”