And now, wealthy parent productions present the toast of North Ossetia's theatreland in...

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The Independent Culture

Noel Coward famously warned Mrs Worthington against putting her daughter on the stage. Such advice, it appears, has not yet reached North Ossetia.

Noel Coward famously warned Mrs Worthington against putting her daughter on the stage. Such advice, it appears, has not yet reached North Ossetia.

A leading industrialist from the tiny Caucasus republic is spending a slice of his fortune to bring his daughter's theatre group to the Edinburgh Fringe.

During a five-night run, Viola Khodova of the Arvaiden Theatre Company will narrate her self-penned production, Heaven's Mirror, a music and dance extravaganza featuring the folklore and traditions of her homeland.

Unlike many of those taking part in the world's largest arts festival, Ms Khodova is no struggling artist battling for her art. Her father, one of the richest men in Ossetia, has funded the £100,000 trip to Edinburgh. A spokeswoman for Scottish International, the company's promoters, said: "I think it is fair to say that her father is supporting the cost of the visit to the festival.

"They are unlikely to break even but how many performers in Edinburgh will make money? They know that all the promoters from around the world will be here and they see it as a showcase."

North Ossetia is a tiny autonomous republic of just 700,000 people and 8,000 sq km, bordering Chechnya, Georgia and Ingushetia. Currently part of the Russian Federation, its first president was elected five years ago.

The unstable republic has long been fought over for its considerable natural resources. Ms Khodova's father, Nikolai, a mining magnate, made his fortune from zinc, which fetches a high price at the moment. One of his companies, Electrozinc, based in the capital, Vladikavkaz, owns the Arvaiden group.

No expense has been spared for the performances at the Playhouse theatre, starting on Thursday. The costumes for the 35-strong troupe of musicians, actors and dancers were designed by the Bolshoi ballet, the publicity shots were taken by the head of photography at the Moscow School of Art and the music is being provided by the republic's own chamber choir, of which Ms Khodova's mother is artistic director.

"It is a unique show," said the Scottish International spokesman. "It is unlike anything I have worked with before. But it would be wrong to say they are an amateur group; they are well known in Russia." Indeed, across Russia and especially in their homeland, the group has been received warmly. "Oh my," read one breathless review in an Ossetian newspaper. "What wonderful voices they had."

Rumour has it that several British critics were invited on an all-expenses trip to see the group in Ossetia - on condition that all reviews be positive. None took up the offer.

The companyseems to have little doubt that it will be a huge success. Its modest publicity release says: "Viola Khodova has created this performance to educate people from other parts of the world about the ancient traditions of the Ossetian nation and its connection with other world cultures. Viola is well-placed to head the company as she comes from one of the most talented families in Ossetia."

The group's manager, Marat Bassiev, admitted that although the company had some sponsorship from other companies, it was Ms Khodova's father who had supplied the lion's share.

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