Edinburgh Festival Diary: A Celebration of Harold Pinter, the Abattoir, Child of Privilege, Wendy Wason,Talking of The Stand

Veronica Lee
Sunday 07 August 2011 00:00
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Stardust touches this year's Fringe as Hollywood actors Julian Sands and John Malkovich collaborate on A Celebration of Harold Pinter at the Pleasance. But even big stars have to slum it sometimes; Air France lost Malkovich's bags, so he was forced to wash the clothes he was wearing when he arrived for rehearsals with Sands, whom he is directing. Their publicist walked into the kitchen of the flat that the duo are sharing to find the 57-year-old American stripped to the waist and elbow-deep in soap suds. "He is," she said through her blushes, "still a fine figure of a man."

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While the Assembly Rooms are refurbished, the venue has moved from George Street in the New Town to George Square Gardens in the Old Town. The new location has eight theatres, but thirsty reviewers wonder what has become of the members-only Star Bar, scene of many legendary late-night sessions, clashes between critics and comics, and much else besides, over the past 30 years. It has been upstaged by the Underbelly's swish new private watering hole, the Abattoir, in Bristo Square. "It's like stepping into Narnia," cried one critic in delight when he saw the comfy sofas, potted plants and trendy awnings behind an unmarked door.

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Tom Rosenthal (son of TV sportster Jim, and star of Channel 4's Friday Night Dinner) has a show at the Pleasance called Child of Privilege. Despite his private school and university education, his posters advertise the "Pleasence". Not so privileged that he learnt to spell, then.

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Critics are rushing to Wendy Wason's show at The Stand, as the heavily pregnant Wason could give birth at any time. As long as nobody heckles "Push!" she should be OK.

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Talking of The Stand: the comedy club founded by Old Labour man Tommy Sheppard is run along suitably co-operative principles: comics get the box office while the bar takings go to the club. Now comes a wheeze called Bums on Seats to help newcomers. The club has a list of people who will come to a show at short notice if a reviewer decides to pop in, boosting audiences, and so making the show go better.

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Dapper comic Tom Allen from Radio 4's Bleak Expectations finds his fans in the most unusual places. In a sauna at an Edinburgh health club, the chap opposite began pleasuring himself. As he reached his, er, peak, he said: "I really liked your show yesterday," adding upon leaving, "And I love your Radio 4 stuff." Tom Allen's Afternoon Tea, a chat show with guests and games at the Gilded Balloon, is a rather more refined affair – and great fun.

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