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The City Of Festivities...

The Festival Season has hit Edinburgh and, for the next month, the place will be taken over by thespians, tourists and bundles of queers as the Capital City goes all out to enjoy its annual orgy of culture. John Hein dons his culture vulture hat and pecks away at some cultural entrails.

A mixed bag of queer culture this year with rather fewer shows than usual in the Fringe having major woofter, dyke and bicycle appeal. That said, what there is seems promising. However, lets start with the International Festival which runs from 16th August to 5th September and, for the first time, no longer exactly coincides with the dates of the Fringe Festival which runs from 9th to 31st August

Dance always seems to attract the queens, it's a good excuse to see firm tight thighs in firm tight breeks. And this year, the Festival celebrates the work of one of the 20th Century's most influential choreographers, Hans van Manan, with performances of a number of his works by Solo Dutch National Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater. By combining academic ballet technique with modern dance and movement techniques, Van Manen has managed to succeed in making modern ballet popular with a large audience.

Other highlights include the annual Fireworks Concert in Princes Street Gardens (if you haven't got a ticket, join the queue early at the Festival Box Office on Sunday 30th August), Carlos Santos's erotic fantasies masquerading as art in La Pantera Imperial with music by Bach, Brahms German Requiem at the Usher Hall and what seems like a rather interesting series of Scottish Harp Recitals in St Cecilia's Hall.

Traversing more or less seriatim through the Fringe Programme (all 160 pages and printed in England), in search of personal recommendations not all of them queer, first up is an Alan Bennet farce Habeas Corpus put on by Bablake At Diverse Attractions - a breakneck seaside whirl through Englishness, sex and death. Another Bennet play is A Chip In The Sugar - a darkly comic suburban tale presented by Company Theatre at Roman Eagle Lodge.

More comedy: Mitch Benn at Southside is hardly PC and will offend many. But he's bloody funny with it. Scott Capurro's Brain Souffle - a new comedy about murder and date rape - runs at Pleasance and will no doubt have them rolling in the aisles. Railway Children Bob Downe, Australia's King of Camp is at The Palladium. In the worst possible taste, of course. Sabre- toothed haridan Jenny Eclair disgraces Edinburgh with a golden hour of new and old at Pleasance.

Circus of Horrors in the Big Top at Leith Links is Archaos creator Peirrot Bidon's latest madcap vehicle for circus mayhem. The outrageous rock hit of 1996 returns after sellout tours around the globe. Four Pigmen Of The Apocalypse fuse surrealism and absurdity at The Cafe Royal - including Jonny (musical heterosexual transvestite with attitude).

Kit And The Widow (who are most definitely not shagging each other as they've got better taste) are back at The Cafe Royal. "Come strip the widow in this beautiful listed ex-brothel."

Stewart Lee (the other half of Lee and Herring) has his own show at Pleasance. Although not as cute as Richard Herring (with whom he appears at George Square Theatre), Lee did a wonderful hatchet job in the Grauniad a few years ago on the evangelical bookshop on George IV Bridge - to much better effect than all the queers demonstrating outside!

Lip Service return with Move Over Moriarty at the Assemby Rooms. Very silly indeed: Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding star as Holmes and Watson.

Ennio Marchetto wowed them in last time he was here. At Pleasance, he indulges in parody, OTT paper costumes, music, and on-stage transformations. A 'must see'.

At the Holyrood Tavern, if you don't like the bona selection of real ale, you can watch Hamlet in the Mirror Travis T Merle BA (Psyche) PhD present an evening of country music and psychological analysis based on his doctoral thesis "Sexual Deviancy and the History of Country Music". Or you could always try the Bavarian Beer Festival at Princes Street Gardens West (or is it at the GPO?) with oompah band until 2am.

Sex Symbol and confirmed hettie Earl Okin has two shows this year at the Southside and the Southside Courtyard. A long time personal favourite, he tells me that an Internet search on his name produces more references to ScotsGay than any other publication! A Fringe legend who has now been elevated to the Fringe Board!

Another Fringe legend is Chloe Poems the Kinky Gingham Diva who is on at Hill Street Theatre with a brand new show. "The best thing to come out of Liverpool since Lily Savage". Just a shame she attributed that quote in the Fringe Programme to "Scotgay". Bitch!

Rabbi Lionel Blue has a one nighter at (aptly) the Queen's Hall where he'll be regaling us with a selection of stories and incidents from personal experience - all told with the benefit of his off beat sense of humour.

Clare Summerskill performs a lethal cocktail of stand up, songs and monologues at Theatre Workshop in What Lesbians Do ... On Stage. Which venue is the place to see a much improved (I'm told) version of Stonewall Youth Group's Contracts - a play about love, sex, life and death. Also showing is Hamlet In The Mirror - an eclectic re-working of the 'to be or not to be' monologue from Hamlet in Spanish and English.

There's the annual big comedy benefit in the Playhouse for Crusaid and The Food Chain Beautiful Thing on 29th August. Announced artistes include Jo Brand, Julian Clary, Phill Jupitus and Bill Bailey.

At the Assembly Rooms, bisexual icon Tom Robinson celebrates 21 years and 21 albums since 2-4-6-8 Motorway and Glad to be Gay. Two nights only of loud popular noise.

The Well Oiled Sisters are playing at a number of venues around the City - look out for them at The Gilded Balloon and the Becks Spiegel Tent. They've played a number of gay gigs in the past and are worth seeing.

Also at the Gilded Balloon, but with no Web Site, is gay New Zealander Tim Bray with his one person show Me And My Vice. In addition to being a full time actor/comedian/writer/director, he travels the country performing in a road safety show in association with the NZ Police.

Artistic Director and fiddler David Hume (Is that an MBE or are you just pleased to see me?) produces his umpteenth Philomusica season at St Mary's Cathedral and St Mark's Unitarian Church. Classical music well played by mostly locally based talent at prices more affordable than the International Festival!

Two Sullivan operas at the Chaplaincy Centre as Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group present the outrageous Trial By Jury with words by Gilbert and then Bunbury & Co put on The Zoo which doesn't have words by Gilbert!

The Realistic Theatre Company of Edinburgh take a journey back to the days of steam with a musical adaptation of The Railway Children at Southside which gives us an excuse to print a photo of a steam loco. No picture, we'll just Bedrooms and Hallways leave things to your imagination, for Chameleon Theatre Company's show at Diverse Attractions: Who'll Come Into Our Wee Ring which tells of World War II evacuees and their ready acceptance of the new children who come to join them.

Following the success of the Channel Four film version, Jonathan Harvey's hit play Beautiful Thing is being performed at Southbridge Resource Centre by student company Absolute Banana. A bitter-sweet comedy set in a South London tower block which tells the tale of two 16 year old guys who fall in love. Absolute Banana are also putting on Marlowe's Doctor Faustus at Viewforth Centre whilst Ablaze Theatre Company are doing another of Harvey's plays, Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club at Bedlam.

If you're into a rather older vision of gay people, American High School Theatre Festival can be seen in A Chorus Line at Church Hill Theatre in the wilds of Morningside. If that doesn't wax your dolphin, how about Artcore who are demonstrating Sexual Perversity in Chicago at the C Venue? David Mamet's sex-crazed comedy is funny and fast paced.

It's Nothing But Pleasure from David Benson who follows on from his Kenneth Williams triumph Think No Evil Of Us (which won a Fringe First in 1996) with something else at the Assembly Rooms. Frankie Howerd perchance? Looks like we'll have to go and see it to find out.

The Lady Boys Of Bangkok brings Thailand's night life to The Meadows Theatre Big Top. Sixteen stunning Thai transvestites combine dance, cabaret and comedy in a unique show.

Velvet Goldmine Three queer plays from The Broken Dream Theatre Company at C too: I Can't Even Think Straight, Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song Trilogy and Drag King. The last show features free vodka. Exacting Theatre Company are also doing Torch Song Trilogy at Southside Courtyard.

1157 Performance Group present a new AIDS work, Transmission, which is designed to challenge attitudes towards the disease. Presented in two parts (alternating days), Part One provides audiences with chances to express themselves in this theatrical debate whilst Part Two combines text movement and image. On at The Famous Grouse House which also houses The Chemistry of Love... & Lust which exposes the physics of fucking (or, as the douce Fringe Society will have it, f**king).

Frantic Redhead Productions at Randolph Studio have an interesting season which includes Moscow where three gay men mount an impromptu musical version of The Three Sisters in the Satre-esque existential limbo of a deserted theatre. T.R.A.M Direct Over The Top With The Tartan Army deals with a minority interest within the gay community - soccer. Humour, music and a wry insight into Scotland as a nation.

Tiffany Whittome's dramatic comedy, A Cat On Heat is presented by Flyer Theatre at Gilded Balloon II and follows three London art graduates through relationships, art and sexuality. Whilst a different kind of sexuality is on display in Last Night A Boy Band Saved My Life - A Rock Popera which is an original hilarious modern day fairy tale featuring boy band sensation Thrust. They can be letched at at Old St Paul's Church and Hall.

With the year 2000 being the anniversary of Oscar Wilde's death, there are several Wilde productions this year. King's College London Productions does Over the Top The Importance Of Being Earnest at The Garage Theatre. More interesting promises to be Born To Be Wilde which is the story of Vyvyan Holland, the younger of Oscar's two sons who was shunned as a child and other boys were forbidden to play with him because he was 'dangerous' - for a time he was banished to the continent Quadrant Productions hail from Radley College where Vyvyan Holland was educated. The show can be seen at C too.

Banished to Southside Courtyard is Accustomed To Her Face - Scottish gay playwright John Binnie's lesbian love story. It's performed by Behind Closed Doors Theatre Company.

Our front cover features Once - Derevo who appear at Pleasance and, last year, were awarded the Total Theatre Award for Most Innovative International Production. Mime at its best. Also at Pleasance is Bi Now, Pay Later - a black comedy looking at how prejudice, corruption and lies can leave you in limbo and freedom and choice can be illusory. Sounds like NuLabour.

From San Diego come Sister City Productions who present Tennessee Williams's The Two Character Play. Described by Williams as his most beautiful play since Streetcar, this production at Hill Street Theatre interweaves reality and fantasy in a seldom seen American masterpiece.

The Other Woman at Southside is an exploration into the life, loves and private desires of the songstress and combines Kate Dimbleby's sultry, jazzy voice with the startling operatic sounds of Ernesto Tomasini who join together to examine the diverse roles of the songstress in this psychological cabaret for the nineties. Tomasini was expelled from his school choir at the age of ten because "The little scoundrel refuses to sound Contracts like a boy treble and insists on singing mass as Julie Andrews!".

Finally, do see, if you can, Deadly Serious Theatre Company's production of From Hell She Came at Pleasance Over The Road. It's a darkly comic fairy tale seen through the lens of a B-movie in the style of Stephen King. Laugh out loud humour and black comedy join their evil forces in this devilishly funny satanic ride through a mire of deadly secrets and repressed guilt - brought to life by a grotesque rogues gallery of dysfunctional characters.

The International Film Festival this year runs from 16th to 30th August and starts with a film of major gay interest - the UK Premiere of Todd Haynes's Velvet Goldmine (UK/US 1998 120 mins). This is the director's euphoric exploration of the glam rock phenomenon of the early 1970's. With Ewan McGregor and Eddie Izzard in the cast, it promises to be visually interesting even if the loud popular noise does not appeal.

Other films of interest are: Head On (Ana Kokkinos, Australia, 1998, 104 mins) which spans 24 hours in the life of a 19 year old gay Greek/Australian, The Man Who Drove With Mandela (Greta Schiller, UK/US/South Africa, 1998, 82 mins) depicts the life of gay theatre director and freedom fighter Cecil Williams and explores the gay sub-culture of the 1950's, High Art (Lisa Cholodenko, US, 1998, 101 mins) a lesbian coming out movie, Get Real (Simon Circus of Horrors Shore, UK, 1998, 110 mins) which follows the tribulations of gay 16 year old Stephen and his best pal Linda who go searching for boyfriends, Sitcom (Francois Ozon, France, 1998, 85 mins) a melange of incest, S/M, homosexuality and murder, Regarde La Mer (Francois Ozon, France, 52 mins) in which a young mother offers refuge to a female hitch-hiker, Fox And His Friends (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1975, 123 mins) an early film which helped to bring one interpretation of gay to the screen, Love Is The Devil (John Maybury, UK, 1998, 90 mins) a biopic narrating the relationship between painter Francis Bacon and his lover George Dyer, Bedrooms And Hallways (Rose Troche, UK, 96 mins) from the director of Go Fish extends its fresh stance on homosexuality to the portrayal of heterosexual friendship, and Poison (Todd Haynes, US, 1990, 85 mins) was Haynes's first feature film in which he meditates on deviancy and alienation.

The Book Festival, which runs from 15th to 31st August has a number of gay or gay interest authors appearing this year. Look out for Patrick Gale, Christopher Whyte, Alan Sinfield, Edwin Morgan, Allan Hollinghurst, David Leavitt, Edmund White, Tony Warren, Neil Bartlett, James Gardiner, Diana Souhami, Kate Summerscale, and Paul Burston whose latest book Travels In Gay Britain we will be reviewing in our next issue.

ScotsGay Issue 23 will be published towards the end of Week 2 of the Fringe and will contain reviews of as many Festival and Fringe productions as our team of reviewers can get round in Week 1. Available free of charge in selected venues, the magazine can also be purchased in a number of retail outlets varying from The Edinburgh Bookshop in George Street to Bobbies Bookshop in Morrison Street.


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