Edinburgh diary: Political correctness is too late for St Joan

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Indy Lifestyle Online
IT SEEMED like the moment that political correctness had finally caught up with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Children from Kirkcaldy High School presenting a play about Joan of Arc were told by the Fringe office that their piece contravened Edinburgh District Council rules on violence against women.

And the Fringe office declared it was not prepared to broadcast scenes on the special screen showing Fringe excerpts in Princes Street Gardens. It had to "protect" the public from disturbing scenes.

Only after teachers had dried the tears of their bewildered pupils did it emerge that the Fringe office had confused the children's play about St Joan, which they had entitled "The Lark", with another piece by the same name that was put on by the National Film School, which showed a woman being beaten.

So, the woman being beaten is now banned from broadcast. The other piece - you know, the one where the woman is tortured and burnt on the stake - is ruled to be okay. Confusing stuff, this political correctness, and not just for the dummies at the Fringe office.

Perhaps the most emotionally incorrect comedy on offer is Love on the Throne. This slightly surreal piece by the National Theatre of Brent is a sideways view by its two male performers of the romance, wedding and divorce of Charles and Diana.

It was to be shown this time last year but was cancelled because of Diana's death. The jokes are many, perhaps the most memorable the one that makes Charles's mistress a sofa manufacturer: Camilla Parker Knoll.

But it is nevertheless the case that the humour, written when Diana was still alive, is leavened by events and now sticks in the throat a little. Humour is topical, not timeless.

I wondered whether they would dare to perform on the anniversary of Diana's death. "Ah," responds the spokeswoman for the assembly rooms director William Burdett-Coutts. "The anniversary falls on a Monday and Mondays have been programmed for resting days for the show." For which I nominate Mr Burdett-Coutts for a new Fringe diplomacy award.

Good to see the first reverse-concession ticket being sold. Comedian Arthur Smith is doing a site-specific show on a putting green. Tickets are advertised at "One pound or ten pounds if you're on expenses".

"Break a leg" is the well-known cry of encouragement in theatrical circles from backstage staff to performers. Best not to shout it though to Paul Merton when he does his first stand up act for 10 years at the festival. The Have I Got News For You star last did stand-up comedy here at the festival in 1988 and appears to have been too traumatised by the result to attempt it again over the next decade. What happened? He fell and a broke leg.

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