Julian Hall's Edinburgh Festival diary

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The Independent Culture

The first involvement with the Fringe for Pavel Douglas, a star of EastEnders, Lovejoy and Doctors, was in 1968, whitewashing a venue at Cowgate, working on productions with Lindsay Kemp and John Lennon and Yoko Ono. That venue is now The Underbelly, in which Douglas is this year performing I Shot Dirty Den – a show that refers to his role as Gregory Mantel, the gangster who shoots Leslie Grantham's character. Douglas has admitted Dirty Den's reincarnation on the soap strained one's belief, but he now knows unlikely escapes do happen: "The first thing I had to do at the Fringe this year was take a call from my son, who was touring Nicaragua, [and phoned] to say he had been kidnapped at gunpoint." No ransom demand was made and Douglas's son escaped – in time to make the first week of his father's show.

This year's opening Fringe party, at the Corn Exchange outside central Edinburgh, was not an unqualified success. Though regarded as the best in years, the one fly in the ointment was the buses that were laid on to ferry festival-goers to the venue. Comedian Andrew J Lederer explains: "You'd think that since they recognised the need to bus people to the place, they might have glancingly considered the need to bus people back."

Australian musician Adam Page, winner of the Adelaide Fringe Award, came to Edinburgh without his didgeridoo. Bagpipes were no substitute, so Page improvised an instrument from an old vacuum cleaner found at his digs. There's only one potential drawback that the performer can foresee: "It'll be a bit of a blow if I lose my deposit over this."

Life imitates art? The play Lough/Rain had to skip one performance when the venue flooded – after a downpour.

juleshall@hotmail.com

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