Owen Sheers: My Edinburgh, writer


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The Independent Culture

Edinburgh is a city that plays with your sense of altitude. One minute you think you’re walking at street level, the next you’re crossing a cobbled lane hundreds of feet below. It’s as if the city is a massive work of stone origami; the folding cityscapes of Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ spliced with the gothic towers of Gormenghast.

I first started coming to Edinburgh for the Book Festival. Set in the cloistered atmosphere of Charlotte Square, this literary cousin of the Fringe offers an oasis of bookish calm within the city’s frenetic activity.

Using this as my festival base I’d make forays out for the odd piece of theatre in a cellar or to join the baying audience at the Assembly Rooms’  1am  Late ‘n’ Live.

This year I’m at the festival with my own play, The Two Worlds of Charlie F. The play is created from the stories of wounded soldiers and their families, with 15 of those soldiers in the cast. Watching them rehearse, rubbing shoulders with all kinds of comedians and performers, I can’t believe that this time last year not one of them knew they’d be doing this.

The play has transformed them and their lives. They’ve had standing ovations at every show of their tour so far, and have deserved every one. We hope the Fringe audience will take to the play’s dark comedy too.

But even if they don’t, just getting here has been worth it. Doctor theatre has done his job.

Owen Sheers' must-do

Last year, following a stay in Paris with Jim Haynes, one of the founders of the Traverse, I went to that theatre for the first time. It immediately became my festival staple, a venue where the programme is always as varied as you’d hope for a festival, but where the quality bar is kept consistently high. The Two Worlds of Charlie F.,

Pleasance Grand, to  11 August  ( 0131 556 6550 ); then Theatre Royal Haymarket, London,  9 September  ( 020 7930 8800 )