To tire of Londoners at the Edinburgh Fringe

This article is from 2009

To tire of London at the Edinburgh Fringe

Steve Cramer's Festival blog

After Go to Gaza, Drink the Sea, I went to the Assembly bar and drank the tea. I was contemplating which was the more indifferent drinking experience out of these two, when I was cheered by a chance meeting with Candida Benson, an actress whose own character rather matches in elegance and poise, that of her stage persona in the thoroughly enjoyable The Girls of Slender Means. The willowy blonde is herself slender, but not at all mean, with a dotty kind of warmth as a person, and no shortage of performance skills as an actress. It was good to catch up with her, and I reflected how good it was to see her and several other London-based performers on our stages over the Fringe.

But sadly not every import from London brings the same pleasure. Later that day, in the same place, a table full of posh mockney accents manifested themselves next to me, and being engaged in important, deadlined work, I naturally tuned out of my notebook and into a bit of eavesdropping. The conversation went something like this:

“Wotcha gonna see then, innit?”
“That Girls of Slender Means, iinnit.”
“Who’s innit? Innit.”
“Innit a lot of Scotch actors innit?”
“I dunno about that, I reckon these Scots are a bit right wing, innit.”

A bit right wing? I’m assuming, then, that the election of Boris Johnson as London’s mayor was the greatest act of mass irony ever perpetrated by a large urban population. These folk, uniquely, can’t afford to laugh about the era of George W Bush, since in the circumstances that’d be as black as any pot was called by a kettle, yet still they think of Scotland as right wing?

This, it seems to me, highlights a mighty problem with the London arts world. Living in this milieu is a little like living in a large, beautiful house with one way windows that have been improperly installed, so that you can only peer endlessly inward, and can’t see the world outside. Black Watch was once recommended to me by an actor I know in London. “You must see it,” he said, “once it goes on tour.” I hadn’t the heart to tell him that London was the last stop on its tour, since after its Edinburgh debut, it was turned down by that city‘s enlightened arts Czars, and was then a hit in New York, Los Angeles, Sydney and pretty well everywhere else it went for over two years before it finally closed in London, sweeping up a score of belated awards. As Dr Johnson would say, were he around these days, To tire of London is to tire of an incestuous, blinkered, provincialised, bigoted, and reactionary shithole, that is if the views of these folk are anything to judge by.

Girls of Slender Means

  • 3 stars

Adapted for the stage by Judith Adams in celebration of Muriel Spark's literary spirit and genius. 'The greatest Scottish novelist of modern times' (Ian Rankin).

Go To Gaza, Drink The Sea

  • 3 stars

Justin Butcher (Scaramouche Jones) and Ahmed Masoud conjure a multimedia Palestinian-British theatre alchemy: dance, film, live music & 5,000 shoes. This play premiered in London earlier this year. 'A harrowing journey into a very modern heart of darkness' Stage 'Profane, witty, poetic, a voice from Gaza Beach…

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