EDINBURGH FESTIVAL '98: No sleep, a thousand shows and deep-fried Maltesers

Festival Diary

WELL, HERE we go again. Sleepy old Edinburgh fills up with a billion people and a billion quid. The Festival's on again. But which one? Book, Film, Mainstream, Fringe, Tattoo de Touristo? Personally I'll try and flit between them all, though I prefer to watch the Tattoo from a distance.

I will be spending most of my time hunkered down at the Fringe festival. And for anyone with a hunger, anyone with a thirst for all that is culturally fringe this year, the beast is definitely in the trough. Bizarrely, the Fringe has been extended to four weeks, which makes it even more of a test of endurance and survival. Due to the lengthening of the festival I foolishly thought that people would take it easier for the first few days, so that there was something in reserve for the end of the month and the ritualistic howling at the full moon that takes place to mark the end of four weeks of drinking, drug-taking, no sleep, a thousand shows, a thousand dumb reviews and deep fried Maltesers. Unleash the Beast!

Personally, I'm here to do what I like doing at the Edinburgh festivals - grabbing it by the scruff of the neck and giving it a good shake, and this year I might give it a swift kick in the guts just to finish it off. I enjoy the mantle of Alternative Comedian, I have seen it as a badge of courage since I turned my back on mainstream theatre 17 years ago. And as "Comedy" aligns itself more to the mainstream and as "Comedians" seem to aspire to a more "Nineties Bob Monkhouseness." I see my job/art as an alternative comedian as all that more important and dangerous and fun.

One thing that the comedy phenomenon of the last decade has done is to give "theatre" and especially "boring-irrelevant-who-gives-a-shit theatre" a good kick up the arse. And at the fringe this year there is a plethora of "wild, out-there relevant" fringe theatre. The fringe is making news again and possibly exposing the rotten, conservative heart of "Olde Reeke". Shows like O J Othello, David Benson's Nothing but Pleasure (which has seen him in the news defending his stance on such an important social phenomenon). And horror of censorship horrors, a performer was arrested on the Royal Mile the other day for shouting out "penis." Obscene? I think not. Anthea Turner butt naked, wrapped around some poor old bloody snake? Obscene? I think so.

Once again the Fringe is taking society to task and I'm glad I'm part of it. And I am "stoked" to be able to hold up the solo comedy performance end of things. Because more and more one finds oneself performing for hordes of Thatcher's children who have totally embraced the system - a system of insensitive globalised capitalism that has blinded them to humanity and the giant commercial rip-off that I believe we all live in.

So, Viva The Fringe, with all its bombast and bravery. But I've gotta rush now because I've got to find that fit little French bike bloke.

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