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Cold Comfort

By • Scotland
Fringe Flu, as we all know, is meant to happen in Week Three. Glassy throat, sniffles, general run-down-ness, general feeling-sorry-for-yourself-ness, a creeping sense that too many late nights and too many adventures that seemed a good idea at the time mean that you only have yourself to blame. So why, oh why, am I huddled in bed with Lemsip during the day at the end of the first week? I have not done any of the things that would make this fair.

So I am sitting at home writing this, and I am not, alas, at my very talented friend David Benson's one-off performance of Lockerbie: Unfinished Business, his solo play based on meetings with Dr Jim Swire. Dr Swire's daughter was killed in the Lockerbie Bombings, and he went on to meet with Colonel Gaddafi as part of an ongoing quest to bring his daughter's killers to justice - these meetings form the basis of David's play. I've never been to Libya or that part of the Arab Middle East - I don't pretend to understand the complexities of the current Libyan civil war or its impact on its long-suffering people. But I believe passionately in the power of conversation to generate solutions to conflict. Sanctions and standoffs provide necessary respite sometimes but they do not, on their own, create lasting resolutions. There is a huge importance in keeping talking and listening and learning, however complex and painful those conversation may be. And I so admire David, and Dr Swire, for keeping the conversation going. Those of you who do make it are in for a memorable afternoon - I only wish he was on for a longer run.

I don't blame him for doing a one-off show, though. My lovely and heroic cast of Medea are confronting the similarly tough issues of the play every day, which can be exhausting. The natural offshoot of this is bouts of dressing-room hysteria that feel more suited to a midnight feast in a fifth-form common room - never more so than when, in the middle of a quite intense line run, Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee interrupted to introduce us to their rabbits. Nadira (Janikova, who plays Medea) is Uzbek and has only lived in the UK a few years - I will never forget the look of annoyance-turning-to-utter-bewilderment on her face when every single one of her fellow company members interrupted our very focused work to give awed attention to a short, middle aged man introducing us to his pets. Was it Norman Wisdom who turned out to be a huge star in Albania? Sadly Paul Daniels' fame did not spread to Uzbekistan. But I must say, he and his wife are the nicest people you could hope to share a dressing room with, and the unmissable fact that they are still completely potty about each other is totally delightful. It's so nice when your heroes turn out to be, well, not arseholes.

It's so nice when audiences turn out to be lovely as well. The brilliant and funny Abi Roberts (whose cabaret Abi Roberts Takes You Up The Aisle I am also directing) is having ongoing issues with a set of steps at the front of her stage that keep disappearing - tricky, as her big finale requires her to come into the auditorium. Three nights running, she has been carried off the stage and through the stalls by smitten gentlemen in her audience - once, I am told, she crowd-surfed. These are exactly the kinds I'd hoped for in this delicious, spontaneous show, but which you can never quite dare to block in. Sometime the frustrating raggle-taggleness of Edinburgh - like disappearing steps - can lead to solutions you'd hoped for but didn't think possible.

Because of the lurgy, I've not been able to see many shows yet. But Showstoppers (Gilded Balloon, 22.50, 1 hr) continues to make impro magic; and Gemma Goggin's Celebrity Sleepover (Gilded Balloon, midnight, 1 hr) is delicious and naughty and somehow manages to make the sort of audience participation that normally terrifies me seem safe and fun. It's partly the guests, but it's also that Ms Goggin wrangles them, and the audience, with what appears to be effortless ease. She's a natural interviewer and I expect to see her on the telly very soon.

I'd rather hoped to be out on the razzle tonight. I think I may be in my flat in my pyjamas making soup. Rock'n'roll, my friends, rock'n'roll.

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