Magazine article The Spectator

Bad, Good and Ugly

Magazine article The Spectator

Bad, Good and Ugly

Article excerpt

Uber Hate Gang

Underbelly

Little Black Bastard; Stripped

Gilded Balloon

The Tailor of Inverness

Udderbelly Pasture

Ginger and Black

Pleasance

And it's getting bigger. Amazing as it sounds, the Edinburgh Festival keeps expanding like a slum landlord.

Every year half a dozen cobwebbed halls and disused assembly rooms are forced open, spruced up and pressed into service for the ragamuffin hordes of wannabe superstars.

It's getting harder to find your way round, too. Luck was against me when I set off for Uber Hate Gang, an acclaimed masterwork from 'Britain's hottest young theatre company' at the Underbelly. I found it all too easily. The dank, cold, unlit venue smelled of rotting knitwear and, if I'd sat there in the dark twiddling my thumbs and breathing TB fumes for an hour, I'd have had more fun than watching this pretentious muddle. The Gang want to unleash a sophisticated howl of protest against some unnamed fascist power but they succeed only in delivering a ceaseless barrage of infantile nastiness. Pity I didn't get lost on the way.

Luck was still against me when I set off to see Death of a Theatre Critic . In my haste to cross North Bridge I was nearly killed by a speeding bus. (Grieving relatives would have been consoled by the amusing inscription on my gravestone. ) I reached the location on time but was bamboozled by strange signposting and ended up in the wrong queue so I never learnt how my fictional colleague met his end. When arriving at a venue with multiple entertainments the best policy is to approach an usher and repeat the name of your show with an upward inflection. A title like Little Black Bastard makes this process trickier than it need be. The show is an oral memoir by Noel Tovey, an Aboriginal actor born in Melbourne shortly before the war.

Though he was beaten, vilified and sexually abused throughout his childhood, he was also shown kindness and love. Nuns took him in. Hospitals treated him. The Air Force trained him as an officer cadet and a TV company gave him his own kids' show to host. Australia in the 1950s was less intolerant than we realised.

The Tailor of Inverness is a memoir by Matthew Zajac, whose Polish father was swept up in the convulsions of September 1939. Zajac describes prewar Poland as a haven of religious freedom. Catholic and Greek Orthodox congregations happily shared the same church and everyone left the Jews to themselves. Then along came Hitler and the killing started. No one can quite explain why. It just happened. Hate got hip. The worst atrocities, he says, were perpetrated by teenagers. Zajac crossed Europe several times trying to return home and was conscripted into four separate services along the way. …

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