Edinburgh Festival Day 2: Sha-la-la-la, wo-o-o-o: Karen Carpenter haunts the Fringe. Mark Wareham discovers it is yesterday once more-ore-ore . . .

It is customary for the Fringe to throw up five versions of Abigail's Party or a dozen Macbeths. But no one honestly expected 1993's strange case of the three Karens. How could they? There are any number of defunct kitsch pop groups that could have attracted Edinburgh show-makers. This year's tributes to Boney M and Gary Glitter are only to be expected. But the Carpenters? They only make the very occasional outing on the Pete Murray Show, and it's been a while since they were piped across the food aisles of Asda, so why would anyone in their right mind sit down to write a show about such long- forgotten purveyors of sha-la-la-la schmaltz?

It's a question Dian Perry, star and co-writer of Yesterday Once More - Growing Up with the Carpenters, isn't about to duck. Hers is the only non-comedy of the three Carpenters shows and the one genuine tribute. The chief reason, it transpires, is that it's 10 years since Karen's death. 'Plus,' she says, 'I'm almost the same age she was when she died. It's time I came out of the closet, dammit. I'm tired of hiding my Carpenters records under the couch.' She might also have mentioned the one other good reason for the show - her uncanny ability to reproduce the crystal-clear tones of the Carpenter voice.

The Carpenters was the first album she bought, aged 12, and it remained her only record for the next five years. 'I liked to hang around in my room and feel really down to the Carpenters.' Then last year, fate intervened. Tomek Bork, the show's director and co-writer, heard her singing a Carpenters song in a karaoke bar in London ('I mean, you can't sing them anywhere else and get away with it,' she says). He suggested a collaboration and, having won the tacit approval of Richard Carpenter, she settled down to rehearse her dooby-doos and shing-a-lings.

Meanwhile, in an altogether sleazier part of town, Graham Norton was working on a less reverential tribute - The Karen Carpenter Bar and Grill, an anorexic comedy that takes place at Karen's last birthday party. While admitting that he's on dodgy ground with this one (last year his appearance as a tea-towel-clad Mother Theresa of Calcutta received plenty of flak), Norton says he's had not a single complaint about little ad- libs like 'Why do birds suddenly appear / Every time you are near . . . Well, because I always throw my lunch away.'

'It's surprised me how far I'm able to push it all,' he says. 'Look, you read the title, then you buy a ticket, you know what you're going to get. How stupid do you have to be? You're not going to get a homage.'

Despite the fact that Dian Perry's tragic Karen is proving the more popular in terms of audience sizes, Norton insists on Karen's intrinsic comedy value. 'She's always struck me as slightly amusing because a lot of Carpenters songs are played in supermarkets. I always think 'How inappropriate' and start putting tins back.'

Although you wouldn't think it, Norton now considers himself an avowed Carpenters fan. 'Originally, when I got the idea for the show, I thought, 'Pre-show music? Just shove on The Carpenters album. Very funny.' So I bought it and it's not funny at all. It's very listenable. Like a lot of Glen Campbell. kd lang says she wants to be the Karen Carpenter for the Nineties. 'Goodbye to Love' is spot-on. All I know of love is how to live without it. Fabulous line.'

David Richard Carpenter, creator of the third Karen in Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, is driven more by revenge. 'I've been called David Richard Carpenter since my birth; I was nicknamed Karen at school and it was a bloody nightmare. I absolutely hated the Carpenters. I was very anti-pop. Would never buy a single. Concept albums only.'

The inspiration for his play, a comedy, was the song of the title. ' 'Calling Occupants' is just off the wall. They were losing the plot by then. It was the official anthem of World Contact Day, some acid-inspired nonsense an East Coast hippie dreamed up at about the same time Tuli Kupfenberg of the Fugs was attempting to levitate the White House.'

Carpenter, who co-habits with Arthur Smith in Balham ('It's not a sexual thing') and who writes for comedians Ben Miller, Tony Hawks 'and anyone else who's around', was determined to avoid being nasty. 'It's too easy to take the piss, though they did write some very irritating songs. It's difficult to write a comedy about a tragically dead person. It's a very sad story. They were loners. They never lived apart.'

All three Karens are keen to get at the underlying tragedy behind the Carpenter voice, but it is Norton who has the most interesting theories. He blames Richard Carpenter for not allowing Karen any control over the group. 'There's something sinister about him. In all the photos, he's always the one in front looking stern and manipulating.' In his version, Karen was only in the group because 'the Carpenter' sounded too religious.

Yesterday Once More - Growing Up with the Carpenters, Hill Street Theatre (venue 41), 19 Hill Street (031-226 6522). 9pm to 4 Sept (not 23 Aug, 2 Sept).

The Karen Carpenter Bar and Grill, Pleasance (venue 33), 60 The Pleasance (031-556 6550). 6.30pm to 4 Sept (not 2).

Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft, Stepping Stones (venue 51), West Bow, Grassmarket (031-225 6520). 1.45pm to 4 Sept (not 31 Aug).

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'