The witches of Edinburgh - Poles apart
Friday 30 August 1996
During the rest of the year it is just a quiet university backwater - on my first day here I met a middle-aged man staring mournfully into the merry maelstrom of outdoors tables and drinkers and saying to himself, "That's my parking space in there!" - but for the Fringe month it is a place to drink and jostle and talk.
Or rather, to listen. Two weeks ago, for instance, I was asking Ralph Oswick of the Bath Natural Theatre Company what he had seen on the Fringe that was good.
"Well, I've seen the travelling Polish version of Macbeth."
"How was it?"
"I was disappointed."
"Oh, no, it was good enough, even if you know no Polish. But I was disappointed because when I went in, there were three very big ladies going in in front of me, and I just knew from the look of them that they were going to be the three witches. They sat in front of me looking very threatening and I was waiting for the moment when they would leap up dramatically on to the stage, when I heard one of them say to another, 'Oh, dear - I didn't know it was going to be in Polish...!'"
But it's not just the Fringe - it's real life as well. We were having dinner one Saturday night in a nice little restaurant called Keeper's, with a big room off to one side that was full of a noisy American party, which we could hear but not see. They all fell silent at one point for the leader to address them as follows.
"All right, can I just talk to you about worship tomorrow morning? Now, in the church we're attending I don't know if they will be using ONE large chalice or several small chalices pouring into smaller cups, so if any of you has any problem with either approach, please let me know..."
Weird. Even notices that I have jotted down have a slightly odd flavour. There was one I spotted in the Royal Commonwealth Pool when we went for a swim: "No Access To General Purpose Room". There was a blackboard I noticed in Portobello, outside a pub on the beach called The Tides Inn, which was the sort of blackboard that normally says something conventional like "Lunch served from 12 to 3" but which in this instance said pleadingly, "NORMA - DON'T FORGET YOU'RE WORKING TONIGHT!"
I also copied down some graffiti in the gents' loo at the Botanical Gardens, partly because some of it was in Gaelic and partly because it was the gratifying sort of graffiti that begins with one line and is then added to by other people. It went like this:
1. "Saor Alba! Free Scotland! Thigar la..."
2. (In a different hand) "This Canadian heartily agrees with this."
3. (In a different, scornful scrawl) "Oh yes, back to the old clan and feudal system..."
I must go back at the end of the week and see if the debate has continued.
Even our own little show, "The Death of Tchaikovsky - a Sherlock Holmes Mystery" (advt) has produced useful comments. A microbiologist came to see it one night and left a note with the stage crew saying: "You might tell the cast that you catch cholera from a bacterium, not a virus". The script has been amended accordingly. And one night my old music master from school, Noel de Jongh, came to see the show (in which I briefly play the euphonium) and could be heard saying to his neighbour, "I used to teach Kington music, you know!", then adding, "Not that you'd know it."
Actually, it was Noel who came up with my best overheard remark at the Fringe. Afterwards in the Pleasance Courtyard I heard him saying to someone: "I had an aunt who smoked so many cigarettes that her voice went deeper and deeper as she got older. Towards the end of her life she could easily manage the bass chorus part in The Messiah".
Now she would have been a wow on the Fringe.
- 1 Al Pacino on suffering from depression: 'It can last and it's terrifying'
- 2 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Perez Hilton apologises for Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak
Victoria Justice on naked photo leak: 'Let me nip this in the bud right now'
4Chan 'nude photo hacker' claims there are hundreds more celebrity images to be published
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
Ariana Grande nude photos leak: 'These are completely fake' say singer's representatives
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ukip Douglas Carswell defection: Tory MP jumps ship to join Nigel Farage
£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...
£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...
£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...