Festival Diary: Adults-only sex tour lifts of historic tenement is an eye-opener

After a two-year hiatus, it was good to be back on a bustling Royal Mile, wandering past the early-bird street performers, musicians and singers, before a first Fringe show of the season.

Kate Stephenson is the host of Intimate Lives at Gladstone's Land.
Kate Stephenson is the host of Intimate Lives at Gladstone's Land.

It was also refreshing to plunge right in, with a sex tour. The National Trust for Scotland has instigated an adults-only show taking audience on an eye-opening trip back to the 17th century to discover what was going on behind closed doors - and bed curtains.

Cultual historic Dr Kate Stephenson holds court in Gladstone’s Land, a newly-restored tenement on the Lawnmarket, where you can hear tales of the brothels of the Old Town, condoms and dildos, sex worker directories, a masturbation diary and taboos over same-sex relationships.

If all this sounds a bit much to be mulling over in the middle of the afternoon, you can obviously any embarrassment can of course be hidden behind a face covering.

Peter Michael Marino will be performing his Fringe show Planet of the Grapes from New York.

The Fringe Society’s Meet the Media event, one of the biggest endurance tests of August, was cleverly replaced by the Fringe media office with Tweet the Media, to give companies and performers the chance to pitch their shows virtually this month.

There wasn’t quite the same buzz working in a quiet cafe in Edinburgh, but it felt like the moment when the spirit of the Fringe finally caught fire, with messages flooding in from many of those involved in more than 300 shows being staged virtually this month.


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It was no surprise to discover that one of the most prolific tweeters was New York theatre-maker Peter Michael Marino, one of the many performers who turns out every year at the in-person event, was poised for action at home at 4am to plug Planet of the Grapes his homage to the classic sc-fi film, remagined into a Victorian toy theatre-style show suitable for the digital Fringe era.

Other tweeters included Scots trad superstars Shooglenifty, appearing at the open-air MultiStory venue below Edinburgh Castle, which should give audiences the chance to experience all possible weather conditions.

However the band merrily declared: “Having played almost every venue in Edinburgh we're excited to be performing somewhere new. We once appeared in Parliament Square in a blizzard, so it will be a pleasure to be al fresco in summer for once.”

A long-anticipated return to The Stand Comedy Club felt like a return to relative normality, even if it is obvious performers have plenty of lockdown woes to get off their chest.

Pre-Covid, picking up a mobile phone mid-show in The Stand would have risked the wrath of many a performer.

But as he was about to launch into a tirade against a young woman on the front row, Gary Little remembered that audiences can now order drinks to their table on the venue's app.


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The rise of Phoebe Waller-Bridge is undoubtedly the Fringe’s biggest modern-day success story.

But an intriguing-sounding TV comedy series is inspired by an American stand-up’s experiences at the festival.

Ellyn Daniels, whose 2017 show was billed as “an unapologetic, soul-bearing tale of one girl’s journey from humiliation to liberation,” will write, direct and star in The Show, which focuses on a sitcom actress who creates a one-woman show following the death of her mother.


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