Edinburgh Festival: Side View

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The Independent Culture

One hundred and eighty-four different performance spaces are used on the Fringe and very few of them are purpose-built theatre buildings. As such, the unconventional theatre becomes the convention. Large masonic eyes stare down at performers declaiming conspiracy theories, and church altars host mock weddings. Sports centres are probably the third most popular theatre conversions. Marks for originality must therefore go to the Kiev- based company Theatre-on-Podol who are performing their Iago in the Infirmary Street swimming- pool. 'A director has a dream to use water,' Vitaly Malakhov explains. 'In the Ukraine, it is easier to play in a pool than to get water on a stage.' The same dilemma presumably exists in Edinburgh. Not all companies are enamoured with water, especially in the form of rain. Excluding buskers, there are few official outdoor performance spaces. One is the Wireworks Playground behind the Fringe Office. The dancing juggler Rex Boyd feels completely at home here. 'It's a bit dingy and I think I'm expected to clear out discarded leaflets every day but the acoustics are great.' Connoisseurs of pesto, olives and fine salami should head to the Valvona & Crolla delicatessen at the top of Leith Walk for a cabaret-style celebration of Italian Scottish culture. Wine, crostini and ice-cream are included in the ticket price. Thirteen O'Clock Productions use Edinburgh itself as a set. Their play The Black Ambulance Gang takes place on a moving bus, which is one way of preventing punters from walking out.

Theatre-on-Podol (031-557 3973), Valvona & Crolla (031-556 6066) Thirteen O'Clock Productions (031- 566 5044).

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