Edinburgh Diary: Emma Thompson; Stephen K Amos; Tom Wrigglesworth; Theatre Ninjas; Frank Chickens

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Revisiting an old friendship

Much has been made of Emma Thompson's involvement with Fair Trade, a searing look at the lives of two sex-trafficked girls at the Pleasance Dome. It's labelled in the Fringe brochure under her name and her quote – "one of the best scripts I've seen in years" – adorns the programme. But how did her involvement as executive producer come about? Blame Aloysius. Anna Holbek, who co-wrote and stars in the play met Thompson on the set of Brideshead Revisited in 2008.

Among her jobs as a production assistant was teaching Thompson a song in Latin for one of Lady Marchmain's more fervent scenes. While rehearsing, the pair bonded and Thompson told Holbek about her work with the Helen Bamber Foundation and their Journey Against Sex Trafficking project. So something good came out of that awful remake, after all.

One-stop shop for jokes

A year on and Edinburgh's ill-fated £600m tram project once again finds itself the butt of visiting comedians' jokes. The terrible road-works have gone so you can at least now cross the road. But thanks to wrangling between council and contractors, the "tram system" currently consists of a single lonely vehicle, parked up permanently in the middle of Princes Street. Already this week, Loretta Maine (the troubled singer alter-ego of Pippa Evans) has staged a one-woman, one-guitar protest against the tram, stopping traffic for five minutes. But it was Stephen K Amos, hosting the Pleasance press launch, who got the biggest laugh. "It's great to be back in Edinburgh", he purred. "I must say, I love what you've done with the one tram."

Railing against fares

Tom Wrigglesworth was nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award last year for his brilliant show Open Return Letter to Richard Branson. In it, he told the true story of how he took on a Virgin Trains inspector who was trying to charge an elderly woman over £100 for having the wrong ticket. The show led to the online campaign against unfair rail fares "Lena's Law". Now up at the Fringe with a new show about getting married in Las Vegas, the comedian tells me that he received his own letter from Richard Branson last year, wishing him good luck. The entrepreneur never made it up to Edinburgh to see the show for himself, but his sister, Vanessa – a powerful mover and shaker in the arts world – came along. "She loved it", says Wrigglesworth. "It was very nice that she came."

Theatre Ninjas

Dispiriting rows of empty seats could soon be a thing of the past at the Fringe, if Theatre Ninjas have anything to do with it. The fantastic initiative, set up by a group of theatre-makers all aged under 25, makes around 700 free tickets available every day via an app and its website (theatreninjas.co.uk). If producers have spare seats to fill half-an-hour before curtain up, they can offer up to 10 free tickets online to whoever gets to the venue first and quotes the correct code. So there you have it, flyers for the iPhone generation.

Foul play stops Chickens

Aware that the best way to woo a bunch of hacks and hangers-on in Edinburgh is through food, drink and, umm, children's toys, attendees at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards launch were showered with Foster's-branded gifts this week. There were spare socks ("for when you laugh yours off"), water pistols and a pack of Comedy Award Top Trumps, featuring the faces of winners from the last 30 years. Categories for comparison in the game include number of nominations and age at win.

Controversialists at the lunch were disappointed that it didn't stretch to nominees over the years, too. Otherwise Frank Chickens – the obscure Japanese act, nominated once in 1984 and propelled up the 30th anniversary Foster's Comedy God poll by Stewart Lee's recent online rant – would surely have been the trump card. So far Frank Chickens have received around a quarter of the votes cast. The results are announced at the end of August.