Edinburgh Festival Day 6 & 7: Apparently . . .

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WITH THE Festival moving into its second week, staff at the Fringe Office are brushing up on their counselling skills as demoralised performers inundate the office with sob-stories. Tears were seen to gather in the eyes of press officer Faith Liddel this week as she becalmed a distraught Lawrence Armstrong, writer, producer and director of Stickled at the Celtic Lodge. He claims that poor attendances have left him penniless and ostracised by his cast. By Friday his company had attracted just 13 people to a total of five performances, including one occasion when they played to an empty house. 'We're not eating, we have no money, and we're here for another two weeks. But we won't stop,' he insists. Not one to give up, he held a widely- publicised photocall on Friday morning. No-one turned up.

FRINGE stalwart Malcolm Hardee (who gives his tip of the Festival below) is also playing to small houses. Actually, he's playing in one as well, but the novelty of appearing in his own flat has not brought the punters flooding in. His lowest audience ('just five - and I knew three of them') came a day after the Guardian published a feature on his show. And now a battle waged against him by a retired solicitor living below has taken its toll. First he was prevented from an charging admission fee, now he's been prevented from selling refreshments of the alcoholic kind. Instead, audiences are served slices of carrot and cold lemon tea.