Edinburgh Festival Diary: 15/08/2010

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The Independent Culture

Frank Skinner and the Assembly are at loggerheads over his last-minute withdrawal as host of The Talk Show at its new venue in Princes Street Gardens.

The idea was for him to interview stars of the Fringe past and present, and guests lined up include Alan Cumming, Jo Brand and Clive Anderson. The Assembly's artistic director, William Burdett-Coutts, is reportedly furious, saying Skinner has not offered a full explanation for cancelling, which Skinner denies. Luckily, star-of-the-moment comic Stephen K Amos, whose new sketch show is due to start on BBC 2 next month, has stepped into the breach and The Talk Show has now started its run.

Stephen K Amos again, a Briton of Nigerian parentage, and Reginald D Hunter, an African American, have back-to-back shows at the Pleasance Grand. Amos, above, was standing by the exit as Hunter's crowd was leaving last week and heard a man say: "Oh, that's the one I meant to see ...." Must have been the middle initials that caused the confusion.

Telephone boxes of the old-fashioned kind have been popping up, Tardis-like, around the city. The brainchild of the theatre company Invisible Dot, they are the Fringe's most charming idea; pick up the handsets and you can hear a choice of nine short stories read by their authors, including D B C Pierre, Julia Donaldson, Will Self and the Fringe veteran Arthur Smith.

Scotland's health minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is due to announce minimum unit prices for alcohol – which will be considerably higher than at present. So, it's heartening to see that Fringe venues have already adopted this most socially responsible initiative in their bar prices.

Gemma Goggin, who is performing Get Laid or Die Trying, has had the two blow-up dolls she uses in her show stolen from the backstage area shared with others. Staff at the Gilded Balloon are now running a book on which, er, sticky-fingered (and obviously very lonely) comic is the culprit.