Festival Diary: The heat is on at Leith Theatre

It has only been open sporadically over the last few years, but regular visitors will know how much the temperature in Leith Theatre’s auditorium can vary hugely depending on the time of year – and the weather.

Multiple layers and regular supplies of tea and coffee have been required for some occasions since Edinburgh’s sleeping beauty venue was temporarily revived for the Hidden Door festival in 2017.

The International Festival’s followers have had the chance to experience the venue at the other end of the temperature scale, during memorably sweaty sold-out shows by The Jesus and Mary Chain, Neneh Cherry and Alan Cumming.

So it was no surprise to discover that Leith Theatre was the toastiest venue I've encountered yet during Edinburgh’s bizarre – and frankly unprecedented – festival heatwave, with more than a few vest top and shorts combos spotted in the audience.

The venue was far from full for its reopening night show by Romany outfit Taraf de Caliu, so it’s a fair bet the temperature could soar even higher for the likes of techno superstar Jeff Mills if this good weather keeps up.

The gypsy folk band seemed to cope fairly well with the heat – which perhaps explains why fiddler was wearing a suit during the EIF's photocall in the heat of the day at Granny’s Green Steps below Edinburgh Castle.

One of the great social occasions in Edinburgh’s cultural calendar will be restored to its rightful place tonight when the film festival's opening gala returns to the heat of the action in August for the first time in 15 years.

Although the opening gala screening itself has been ousted from the Festival Theatre, its home for the last decade or so, due to the International Festival’s use of the venue, the after-party will be back at the National Museum of Scotland, raising the possibility of how many changes of footwear will be required, how many routes will be navigated, and what forms of transport will be deployed, to get guests from the Vue cinema at the Omni centre.

Gheorghe ‘Caliu’ Anghel of the Romany folk group Taraf de Caliu warming up for the band's Edinburgh International Festival concert at Leith Theatre. Picture: Jessica Shurte

These trips will almost certainly be more glamorous than the one made by the early arrivals seeking to pick up press passes for the film festival.

The festival's return to August has ruled out the Traverse Theatre being used for the EIFF delegate centre. Its replacement this year is a pop-up office behind the aptly-named Festival pub – in an unmarked space with the possibly the best address at the festivals: Chuckie Pend.

It seems a long time ago since the darkest days of Scotland’s Covid restrictions, when stand-up Mark Nelson was hosting weekly online gigs from The Stand Comedy Club and taking the Scottish Government to task over its support for the industry.

Appearing at the Monkey Barrel this month, Nelson has reported an “incredible” response to his show, which has sold more than 1000 tickets to date.

Romany folk outfit Taraf de Caliu reopened Leith Theatre this year for the first in a series of Edinburgh International Festival shows. Picture: Jessica Shurte

He singled out one particular “wonderful lady” on Twitter after she apparently travelled all the way from Japan to see him perform after watching his live lockdown gigs online.

She told him: “Yours was the only show I attended this Fringe. You didn’t disappoint me.”


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