Why MSPs Should Not Look beyond the Fringe; as Festival Organisers Make a Plea for Cash Aid
Byline: TIM LUCKHURST
PERFORMING Rites was not a great play. In its two-week run on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1984, a meagre total of only 150 people paid to see it.
By the end, the playwright was exhausted and broke, but proud to have staged it. Back then, there was nowhere else an unheard-of student writer could get his work performed at an international festival.
I turned up with big dreams.
So many household names got their first breaks on the Fringe.
I was frantic to follow in their footsteps.
One story inspired me above all others. In August 1960, a very young Dudley Moore accompanied by equally callow youths called Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett pitched up in Edinburgh with ambitions similar to my own (but much more realistic).
Their radically innovative satire, Beyond the Fringe, lit a fire under Britain's staid political establishment and blew a huge raspberry at the very notion of deference.
The genius of sketches such as Cook's One Leg Too Few, changed the nature of live comedy. Audiences fell about as Moore depicted Mr Spigott, a one-legged actor auditioning for Tarzan, while Cook, playing the director, explained: 'Your right leg I like. It's a lovely leg for the role. I've got nothing against your right leg. The trouble is, neither have you.' Fourteen years after the Fringe was launched by performers turning up uninvited to camp on the periphery of the official festival, Beyond the Fringe secured its reputation.
This was a seedbed in which talent could leap from obscurity to fame. In my generation, performers including Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson launched their careers in Edinburgh. Their 1981 Cambridge Footlights Revue won them a season on the London stage. The Fringe has been making stars ever since, grooming performers such as Jenny -clair and Frank Skinner.
The Hollywood A- listers Robin Williams and Susan Sarandon have performed on it. So have Anthony Hopkins, Joan Rivers and Jude Law. In fact, it is easier to compile a list of stars who have not served apprenticeships in the capital than to list those who have.
Since it was created to bring a ' flowering of the human spirit' to war-ravaged Europe, the success of the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe has been stupendous.
But today, as the Festival celebrates its 60th anniversary, decades of supremacy have generated complacency.
The talent and experimentation on display is undiminished. But for a young actor, writer or director, it is no longer the only place in which to build a reputation. Cities around the world have copied it. These days an ambitious cast can stage a show in Dublin, Prague, Melbourne, Orlando, Winnipeg and Avignon to name but a few of the cities which now sponsor annual arts festivals.
Here in Britain, Brighton, Cheltenham, Newbury and Aberdeen have all made bids to steal Edinburgh's crown.
Now Paul Gudgin, the Fringe director responsible for attracting this year's largestever programme of 28,000 shows, has called on the Scottish Executive to give urgent support to this prestigious annual event.
He is supported by the director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Catherine Lockerbie, and by festival executives as well. Their calls should not be controversial. A recent study concluded that the festivals are worth [pounds sterling] …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Why MSPs Should Not Look beyond the Fringe; as Festival Organisers Make a Plea for Cash Aid. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: Daily Mail (London). Publication date: August 7, 2006. Page number: 12. © 2007 Daily Mail. COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group.
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