City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Blasts From the Past at 2008 Fringe


By edg - Posted on 07 June 2008

The Fringe may be about discovering new acts, new writing, and the raw talent of tomorrow's stars, but it is also a place where fading stars come to shine a little brighter and household names present themselves in new guises. Just look at how Nicholas Parsons levered his cheesey games show host personna into the popular Fringe chat show host (back again this year at Pleasance Courtyard).

Among the 18,792 Fringe performers descending on Edinburgh this July and August, is the enormously talented comedian Michael Barrymore. The television host, whose career hit the rocks after a
man's body was discovered in the swimming pool of his Essex mansion in 2001, will be appearing in
Richard Harris's play Surviving Spike, about manic depressive comedian
Spike Milligan. The show, at the Assembly Rooms, also stars Strictly Come Dancing winner Jill Halfpenny playing Milligan's agent.

Another blast from the past is blonde, former Bond girl Britt Ekland also at the Assembly Rooms in an autobiographical, "no holds barred" show entitled Britt Ekland: Britt on Britt. The Swedish actress and pin-up, now in her Sixties, was married to Peter Sellers in the Sixties.

Eighties New Wave punk singer Hazel O'Connor, whose hit Eighth Day is remarkably fresh a quarter of a century on, is at the Freemasons Hall (Universal Arts) for a 3 day show entitled Beyond Breaking Glass: Hazel O'Connor With Cormac De Barra. The show is about her life in music and spoken word. On the spoken word side of things, Black Flag singer Henry Rollins is back again doing his stream-of-consciousness stand-up show.

Acid-tongued, septuagenarian Joan Rivers makes her acting debut at the Fringe with an afternoon show Work In Progress By A Life In Progress at Underbelly. Revealing age has not mellowed her, the Brooklyn comic will also be doing four late night stand-up shows. In a similar comedic vein, Ruby Wax drops in on the Fringe for 2 nights.

Moving along the generational scale there are numerous stand-up comedy favourites that almost seem fixtures on the Fringe: Jason Byrne, Scott Capurro, Bill Bailey, Jeff Green, Jimeoin, Phil Kay, Rich Hall in his award-winning role as Otis Lee Crenshaw, Arthur Smith, to name a few. Last year's IF award-winner Brendon Burns will be trying to be more offensive than anyone else.

TV chat and gameshow hosts continue to be drawn to Edinburgh in August, including Catchphrase's Roy Walker, Bullseye's Jim Bowen, the aforementioned Nick Parsons, and Clive James. The wit from Oz will be "In Conversation" each afternoon with
festival performers at the Queen's Hall. Later in the
day, James moves to Assembly on George Street where he'll be opining on
almost any subject the audience throws at him.

Actors thrive on the back-to-basics nature of Fringe theatre, including Simon Callow and Steven Berkoff. Callow, who has been a regular visitor to Edinburgh over the years, performs two of Charles Dickens's stories, Dr Marigold and Mr Chops, The Dwarf at the Assembly Rooms where Dickens himself once performed in his second job as travelling entertainer.

The uncomprimising Berkoff is also back at the Fringe, directing an ensemble of 12 in a production of On The Waterfront at the Pleasance Courtyard.

Artistic director Jon Morgan is probably right that "the Fringe continues to be
the best place to showcase new work." The 2008 Fringe will probably be remembered for the upstarts and break-out shows that come from nowhere, but there's also much is that familiar. It's just been given a bit of a Fringe twist.