Edinburgh Festival Diary: Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer; Phil Wang; Fringe Central; Adrian Howell; John Malkovich
The marrying kind
There are many ways to prepare for a month at the Edinburgh Fringe. For most, early nights and a healthy diet are key but Neil Gaiman and his wife, the Dresden Dolls singer Amanda Palmer, decided to kick the August slog off with a wedding – their third. Having had an "art-surprise flashmob" wedding in New Orleans, and a proper wedding in January, last week the couple threw a family wedding party on Skye, where Palmer has relatives on her mother's side. "It made me happy watching Amanda's white-bearded gentlemen in kilts encounter my North London Jewish relatives," wrote Gaiman on his blog. "At one point Amanda and I were hoisted on to chairs for a Jewish chair dance, while the bagpipes played. I do not believe this is something that has happened a lot in human history." The fantasy writer is appearing in several events at the Book festival, including one with Audrey Niffenegger, while Palmer's cabaret show, Evelyn Evelyn, featuring "the world's only conjoined-twin singer-songwriter duo", starts next week.
Footlights has long been a breeding ground for new comedy talent and this year's crop of Cambridge students is no exception. Their current president, Phil Wang, has signed to Avalon, following his win at the 2010 Chortle Student Comedy Awards, and is now preparing for his first television spot, on The Rob Brydon Show next Friday. This year, the third-year engineering student is appearing in The Comedy Zone at the Pleasance and on the Free Fringe and he has written and co-directed The Life Doctor. He is not, however, appearing in the Footlights show, Pretty Little Panic. "It's open auditions for everyone," he says, "and if they like you, you get in. Sadly, I didn't get in this year. Never mind, I have plenty of other things I'm doing."
Two's company in a crowd of three
The Fringe can be a lonely place at times. Never fear, though, companionship is at hand for performers and punters alike. Fringe Central is running weekly events for solo performers where they can meet other one-man or one-woman bands and buddy up, sharing their experiences and flyering one another's shows. "It's particularly good for overseas and first-time visitors who may not have their Edinburgh network ready made," a Fringe Central spokesman tells me. Punters, on the other hand, can log on to Festafriend, a free-to-use website which finds you a companion so you don't have to watch a show alone. Set up by James Baster, a former venue manager for the Forest Fringe, the site connects people according to the shows they want to see, offering two options: "conversation only" or "a romantic drink afterwards".
Is Edinburgh taking revenge on the critics? An inordinate number of "interactive" shows have cropped up this year, from a public dance competition in Dance Marathon to a humiliating piano lesson in What Remains. These are nothing, though, compared to Adrian Howells' shows, which open next week. In The Pleasure of Being, Howells bathes participants in a tub of essential oils and rose petals before wrapping them in a big fluffy towel, feeding them Belgian chocolates and hugging them "for a prolonged period". "Participants can choose to be either naked or wear their own bathing suit". Good. In his other show, May I Have the Pleasure?, Howells reflects on being a best man eight times with a wedding party in the penthouse of The Point Hotel. Between anecdotes, he'll invite audience members up for a slow dance. I'm not sure which sounds more terrifying.
Come flyer with me
For the hardened Fringe-goer, the Royal Mile and its gauntlet of wacky flyerers is to be avoided. Last week, though, the cobbles were congested as John Malkovich took to the streets to promote his Pinter tribute. He has long since left town but countless others remain. On an early-morning run around the Meadows, I was chased by a student thespian, who tried to shove a flyer into my hand. Nowhere is safe.
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