Artistic agony stalks the Fringe: The dog in flames . . . the sticky statue . . . the lesbian who wasn't . . . David Lister reports from Edinburgh

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MELBOURNE SHEPHERD, a former bus driver turned playwright, has brought his play Beneath the Waves: The Titanic Crossing to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. As he ruefully concluded yesterday, 'If the sinking of the Titanic was a disaster, then we have not been short of disasters with this production.'

With more than a thousand shows in one city, many of them not in purpose-built venues, accidents can happen.

Mr Shepherd's letter to the Fringe office is a plaintive SOS. One cast member died just before his company set out, programmes had to be reprinted and costumes altered. 'On the same week my mother-in-law had a heart attack and since coming out of hospital has been staying with myself and my wife.

'I set the dog on fire by spilling a grill pan over it. My daughter threw a bowl of water over us. The dog is okay now.'

Well, that's all right then. Not quite so happy an outcome for William Meredith whose production of Pepys the Diarist involved a plaster bust of Shakespeare. When this was accidentally dropped, the stage manager did a hurried glueing job just before curtain-up. And the curtain rose on a well-restored bust - with the stage manager's hand glued firmly to it.

Not sticking together quite so firmly are the two actors playing God and Satan in All This and Heaven Too. The company says diplomatically that God is seeking a replacement Satan 'due to artistic differences'. According to a spokesman, the two friends had to accept they just were not compatible.

He added: 'We're looking for another performer to take on the Devil's role. The actor must be able to sing Elvis Presley's 'The Wonder of You'.'

A talented actress, Emily Woof, doesn't need to worry about personal relationships in her piece Revolver, a one-woman acting and dancing show. Or at least it was an acting and dancing show in rehearsal. It is now just an acting show as she hit a table on the small stage in the Edinburgh suite at the Assembly Rooms, broke her ankle and now performs nightly in a cast. A front of house lady announces delicately every evening that the show has been 'rechoreographed'.

The superb stand-up comedienne Jenny Eclair certainly had her show rechoreographed when her routine was interrupted by 20 people with megaphones congratulating her on coming out as a lesbian. She hadn't and isn't. The campaigners had got the wrong show, made their loud excuses and left.

The official festival has not been exempt from problems either. The Playhouse Theatre was set on fire by an arsonist and, at Scottish Opera's glittering opening night, Frederick Burchinal was struck down with bronchitis and acted his part while his understudy sang the role from the wings and, encouraged by the applause, increasingly on the stage.

But some accidents are welcome. Zippo Circus consists of three Romanians who fled their country. One gave birth some weeks earlier than expected. The accident did have a happy ending. At festival time in this city you can find anybody - even a Romanian Orthodox priest to bless a baby in a tent.

Festival, pages 24, 30

Fancy dress, page 37

(Photograph omitted)