Edinburgh Festival Review

I’ve finished the novel I brought with me (Magnus Mills’ splendid “The Scheme For Full Employment” a return to the form of his first two) and have an hour to kill on my last evening in Edinburgh, so here’s a quick festival report. It’s typed on our host Alan’s iBook, with its tiny keyboard, so may have more errors than normal. There’s saxaphone music playing as I type, and Sue’s reading about couturiers.

Best Play: Dark Earth by David Harrower. A gripping, superbly staged state of Scotland play at the Traverse (we seemed to spend a lot of time at the Traverse), brilliantly acted, especially by John Mackay as the father. If this tours, see it.

Runner Up: The Straits by Gregory Burke, which is about to tour. Not as showy as his first, Gagarin Way, which we saw two years ago, but a powerful, well staged autobiographical piece with four fine young actors. Set in Gibraltar during the Falklands War.

Most disappointing Play: The Thebans. I’m normally a huge fan of the author, whose version of Medea two years ago was fantastic. Here she’s crammed three great Greek tragedies into two hours and come up with a bum aching, repetitive, over acted melodrama. Mind you, it was better than My Arm, a tedious gimmicky one man show by Tim Crouch, that doesn’t count as a play, though it was advertised as one (and published as one by Faaber – go figure).

Best Exhibition: The Boyle Family Retrospective at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art. A fascinating couple of hours, hard to describe in haste. Highlight: the fourteen sand pieces where the family (husband, wife, son, daughter) replicated the same square of sand over two tides and seven days, using techniques they keep secret, producing fourteen completely different sandscapes. Mark Boyle (the father) was wandering round while we were there, his voice booming at us both from the documentary on show in a corner and wherever he happened to be standing at the time. A show that makes you look at the world afresh.

Worst exhibition: Julian Schnabel at the Royal Botanical Gardens gallery. Luckily, the weather was ace and the gardens were lovely because Schnabel is full of schnit.

Best Comic: Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure. Oh, Ok, he was the only comic we saw and, if you don’t know what a ‘Googlewhack’ is, I’m sure a search engine will tell you. I’ve tried to insert one in this piece. It should be pretty obvious (does a googlewhack count if it’s deliberate? Don’t ask me, but you can e-mail me if you spot it. No prize, sorry, I’m a penniless author). Sue saw ‘Are You Dave Gorman?’ two years ago and made me watch the TV show, which I quite enjoyed. But live, I laughed ’til my eyes watered. A very funny, very well structured show. I’m under orders not to give any of its storyline away, but it’s about to tour. If you like using the internet (and, uh, you’re reading this) and the tour comes near you, tell him Dave sent you.

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