Recommendations from the edge of the fringe

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The Independent Online
ALTHOUGH I am nowhere near the Edinburgh Fringe this year, this does not disqualify me from listing my recommended shows from among the 10,000 which did manage to get to the festival. I am sure that any of the following will provide an unforgettable experience.

Pavarotti in the Round (at the Culverleith Lodge venue). One of the hits of last year's fringe was the up-and-coming comedian Damian Rogers's re-enactment of an entire Frank Sinatra comeback concert, playing the parts of the backing orchestra, the Mafia, the staff of the Albert Hall and many famous people in the audience such as Gummo Lloyd Webber, Zeppo Lloyd Webber and the comparatively unknown Jacko Lloyd Webber, although not, for legal reasons, Frank Sinatra himself. This year Damian Rogers re-enacts an entire Pavarotti concert. I won't spoil it for you by revealing whether Pavarotti cancels or not.

Not the Glenfiddich Fireworks Display (at the Old Shirt Factory). The second Thursday of the festival is not good business for anyone, as almost everyone is outside watching the great fireworks display laid on by the Glenfiddich whisky people. But, cannily, the Softly Softly Theatre Company has calculated that there must be a good few folk who have a phobia of fireworks, so it has mounted this show specially for them, for this night only. They refuse to let on the contents. 'Does the Glenfiddich Display tell you what's coming next?' they say. 'Well then, nor do we.'

What's Radio 4? (at No 4, Harry Hill). Once upon a time BBC radio producers used to flock up to Edinburgh and go round in a drunken band, talent-spotting - a lot of the late-night violence was caused by this lot trying to find their hotels. Now BBC radio producers are different - they are young and thrusting, and they want to have their own programmes, following in the steps of those who turned performer such as John Walters, Victor Lewis-Smith and Armando Iannucci. This show is entirely composed of radio producers who ask for ideas from the audience for new radio programmes and then improvise the entire programme (on a bad night, they also repeat them).

The Great Escape (Gattenweem Island, in the Firth of Forth). The legendary Richard de Marco is back again with what promises to be his greatest act ever. The idea is that he is placed in chains and rowed across to Gattenweem Island, a small, rocky, uninhabited islet which is covered at high tide twice a day. He is left on the island, securely tied and alone. Within two hours, he guarantees to return, unharmed, bringing with him a Polish theatre company, a Bosnian string quartet and a collection of paintings by brilliant unknown painters. If he does not return, you get your money back and there is a retrospective tribute to Mr de Marco that night, late on BBC 2.

The Informal Perrier Award Panel Get-Together (pubs all round Edinburgh). The lucky punter will see small groupings of the Perrier Award people getting together to decide informally to band together against the rest of the panel, who are doing the same somewhere else, the idea being to choose a compromise candidate who will offend everyone and amuse nobody. The Perrier panel is traditionally divided into two sets of people; those judges who have never seen any of the acts before, and those who have already seen them all on the London circuit and are fed up with them.

Waiting for Peter Mayle (at St Oscar's School, Dalkeith: bus to Dalkeith, then ask again). Samuel Beckett brought up to date by a very good university drama group from South Carolina, USA, by cross-fertilising Waiting for Godot with Peter Mayle's Year in Provence. The result is not unlike waiting for a meal in a restaurant from which, unbeknown to you, the staff fled half an hour ago.

Here Comes the Fireman (Gilded Birdcage VII). Anyone who has ever taken part in a fringe production will know the trouble that the fire and public-safety people can cause with their petty regulations, but this show is the only one that has ever capitalised on the fact. The audience is coached for half an hour in how to give a hot reception to one of these busybodies and then, at half-time, he actually arrives and tries to clear everyone out so that the curtains can be fire-proofed. Instead, much to his surprise, he is lynched. You can't help wondering, as you go home, whether he was an actor or a real- life safety officer.

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