Edinburgh Festival Diary: Move over Malcolm Tucker and make way for Phoebe Bernays

Move over Malcolm Tucker, Phoebe Bernays is in town.

While Phoebe Waller-Bridge was making friends popping up all over the Fringe her namesake was making an impression at the Traverse Theatre.

Bernays is hands-down the most terrifying creation I’ve encountered during the first few days of the Fringe, in the Traverse’s uncannily timely political satire, Exodus, which focuses on the ambitions of a Home Secretary, Asiya Rao (played by Aryana Ramkhalawo), with her eyes on the big prize.

It easy to imagine the hideous and ever-so-slightly inhinged political adviser played by Sophie Steer stalking the real-life corridors of power and presiding over one farcical sitation after another.

Anna Russell-Martinand Sophie Steer play Tobi Tucker and Phoebe Bernays in Exodus at the Traverse. Picture: Tim Morozzo

It made me long for an encounter between Bernays and Tucker, Peter Capaldi’s anti-hero from The Thick Of I, or even his henchman Jamie, played by Paul Higgins, who will be at the Fringe next week in This Is Memorial Device.

Audiences at the Traverse will have to make do with Bernays meeting her match in Anna Russell-Martin’s tenacious Scottish journalist, Tobi Tucker, whose name had me wondering who her father might be.

As for the other Phoebe, the Fleabag star just so happened to be in the audience and posed for pictures with Steer and the rest of the Exodus team at the post-show party.

An early contender for feel-good story of the Fringe has emerged from stand-up Robin Grainger, who sold just one ticket for his show at The Stand on Friday, but soldiered on regardless.

If he hadn’t, The Scotsman comedy critic Kate Copstick would not have heard about it when she arrived early for another show and would not have spoken to the lone audience member. He wouldn’t have been able to tell her he “I cannot remember EVER laughing that much.”

After a Facebook posted by Copstick on the verdict from his new fan was shared by Grainger and then The Stand on Twitter he was inunduated with well-wishers and promises to see his show, which has been drawing bumper crowds since his story went viral.

And when Grainger appeared as a guest on Des Clarke’s lunchtime chat show at the New Town Theatre and re-told the story of his one-man audience, it just so happened that Mike, the festival fan he impressed, was also there.

As The Stand put it on Twitter: “The Fringe is amazing, but it can be a cruel mistress. If anyone needs a reminder why you should always keep it up, this is it.”

The festival feelgood factor had spread to North Berwick, home of the terrific Fringe by the Sea and the Scottish Seabird Centre attraction.

Their worlds collided in the most unlikely of circumstances during the headline gig by Texas, when singer Sharleen Spiteri was called upton to retrieve a stray bayb puffling from the front row of her audiences in the festival’s big top.

The festival shared a touching video of a gobsmacked Spiteri cradling the puffling before handing it to a member of the stage crew for sake-keeping, then declaring: “Everybody’s a Texas fan.”

Fringe by the Sea has since crowned her the “patron saint of pufflings.”


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