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Michael Coveney at Edinburgh: English domination, Scottish parades and anti-Israeli protests

Our chief critic reflects on some major talking points of the festival so far

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Power play: James McArdle and Gordon Kennedy in The James Plays
© Manuel Harlan

Rona Munro's trilogy of James Plays were received with huge cheers and ovations in the Festival Theatre last night, so at least that's one big "Yes" vote for the National Theatre of Scotland if not necessarily for Alex Salmond and the independence lobby.

The National Theatre of Scotland is, of course, run by an Englishman, Laurie Sansom, just as the founding artistic director was an English woman, Vicky Featherstone. The director of the Edinburgh International Festival is an Australian, Jonathan Mills, and his successor next year is Fergus Linehan, an Irishman. Two English old Etonians run the Underbelly complex, and the other fringe giant, the Assembly (as opposed to the city-run Assembly Rooms) is the fiefdom of William Burdett-Coutts, a South African who modestly describes himself as the "poor relation" of the Queen's banking firm.

Still, the festival generally in all important respects is thoroughly Scottish. There was a magnificent Great War memorial parade from the Castle, past St Giles Cathedral, down the Royal Mile to Holyrood Palace yesterday morning as the rain poured down and the tourists gawped in their tartan trews and pacamacs. The Pleasance Courtyard - oh yes, the Pleasance is run by another English public schoolboy, Anthony Alderson, though he does claim Edinburgh ancestry - is packed to the gills, even in the rain, and sloshing in pints of heavy and Tennants. I'm eating haggis every morning with my breakfast.

Not all the street theatre is conducted in a festival spirit. The noisy, irate anti-Israeli demonstrations, aimed at the Incubator company thrown out of the Underbelly, which have been partly orchestrated by a professional PR and a prominent pro-Palestinian theatre critic, continue unabated. It's a disgrace that they were ejected in the first place, but I'm told that the disruptions of noise and insults within the precincts of the Underbelly were so fierce and unpleasant that the management had no choice. Nine other shows were affected, and the police advised that no more could be done to protect the customers.

I'm just as incensed by Indhu Rubasingham's decision to pull the plug on the Jewish Film Festival at the Tricycle in Kilburn, north London. Her reasoning is that the festival is funded by the Israeli government whose policy in Gaza she abhors. The Tricycle is funded by the British government - whose policy of backing arms sales to Israel she also abhors? Any institution in receipt of state subsidy should take the money and run. There's no such thing as a clean dollar bill.

These are the views of Michael Coveney and not WhatsOnStage.com