Fringe reunited: website will bring together acts that played Edinburgh

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The Independent Culture

Marriages have begun and ended there. Professional partnerships of stage and screen have been forged amid the orgy of late-night performances and all-night drinking. And for many, appearing on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is their last taste of greasepaint glory before sensible working lives of accountancy or medicine begin.

Marriages have begun and ended there. Professional partnerships of stage and screen have been forged amid the orgy of late-night performances and all-night drinking. And for many, appearing on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is their last taste of greasepaint glory before sensible working lives of accountancy or medicine begin.

Now Fringe organisers have decided to offer thousands of people estimated to have taken part in the world's biggest arts festival the chance to revive memories of past successes and embarrassments in a project called Fringe Reunited.

An online database is being set up to offer acts who have worked at the festival the chance to get in touch to reminisce or even plot collaborations. With an estimated 350,000 performers in hundreds of venues over the past 58 years, there could be a lot of old ground to cover.

Paul Gudgin, the Fringe's director, said the idea came to him last summer with the return to the festival after many years of Willy Russell, the writer of Educating Rita, who announced a £5,000 prize for a new play.

"We get a huge amount of support from present audiences and present performers," Mr Gudgin said. "But I've found a lot of people during my time here who have performed on the Fringe back in the mists of time and they're often keen to retain some form of relationship. We'd just like to build on these relationships a little bit."

It might be professionally useful for some performers to catch up with others. And there might be benefits from connections. "I remember in London meeting a barrister who had performed on the Fringe," Mr Gudgin said. "Who knows when you might need a barrister?"

The roll-call of people who have appeared on the Fringe, often early in their careers, includes Maggie Smith, Tom Conti, Simon Callow, Rowan Atkinson, Tom Stoppard, Hugh Grant, Jude Law, Rory Bremner, Graham Norton and Robin Williams. Fiona Shaw, now one of Britain's most established classical actresses, appeared on the Fringe in 1982 as a student in a production of Woyzeck directed by Deborah Warner, the start of a long collaboration.

Acts as diverse as the musical comedy trio Fascinating Aida and the poet John Hegley have appeared as has almost every comic you care to mention. In 1991 alone, Eddie Izzard, Jack Dee, Lily Savage and Frank Skinner were the contenders for the prestigious Perrier Prize.

And successive troupes of Cambridge Footlights have become household names. From the team of Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett who created a storm in 1959, to the 1981 cast of Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Slattery and Emma Thompson who won the inaugural Perrier Award, the route from Cambridge to Edinburgh has proved productive for comedy and straight drama.

Neil Mullarkey, a Comedy Store Player whose Fringe appearances included a double-act with Mike Myers, said the website was a great idea. "There are all sorts of people you meet at 4am and you don't quite remember what you said or what they said and it would be great fun if you can catch up with them."

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