Theatre: Edinburgh

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The Independent Culture
They say size isn't everything. They say money can't buy you happiness. They say many a mickle makes a muckle, which is a good guide to the quality of advice. The Festival is a case in point. Bigger is better. Money really can make you happier.

Take the big four venues; The Assembly Rooms, The Pleasance, the Traverse and the Gilded Balloon (above). None can match the scale of their operations. The Pleasance, for example, boasts of "spaces" into double figures, so if you miss one show, why, there'll be another two or three along in a minute.

And if you want bigger, there's none better than Hector Berlioz, never knowingly underscored. His Grande Messe des Morts opened the International Festival, in an intimate, four-brass-band, 138-strong orchestra-plus-chorus setting. Of course it brought the house down, but where are the new commissions?

And then there's money. What is it about spending the stuff which makes people leave their critical faculties at the door? Comedy audiences win the Prozac Award for compliance in the face of recycled material. Goodbye to the noble art of heckling, hello to an addict's relief at the quick fix.

But take it with a pinch of salt when they say that the Festival isn't what it used to be. In comedy, there's Jason Bryne, a dizzying, lunatic seer, and the unmatched genius of Al Murray's pub landlord. Watch out for the opening of Camus's Caligula at The Playhouse and thrill as Louise Woodwood appears at the television festival.

But remember: size does count. Oh, to be the Right Size.

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