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Who's Rocking In Edinburgh?

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The interval chatter is all about going, or not going, to Edinburgh next week. For some reason, virtually the entire staff of The Stage newspaper were at the opening last night of Betwixt! in the Trafalgar Studios, and one of the reviewing team, Gerald Berkowitz, tells me he's absconding to Auld Reekie for four weeks.

That's serious away time. You have a lot of socks and underpants to sort out for that trip, Gerry, and you always hope and pray that nothing is too wrong with the flat when you turn up so that you can dive straight in on the shows. The first big ask is the Traverse opening weekend, and I shall be ready for that first thing next Friday morning, I hope.

People are already muttering about the International Festival being less interesting than the fringe and, once again, it's simply not true. All through the reigns of John Drummond and Brian McMaster, critics moaned about the drama programme. And poor old Jonathan Mills, launching his fifth fest nine days after the fringe orgy has kicked off, has been accused of having nothing worth seeing, or too little to bother about.

Of course, if you mention the Chinese ballet, or Shakespeare in Korean, you get that all too predictable raised eyebrow reaction, followed by a stifled guffaw and wordly-wise glazed look of indifference. But the programme looks fascinating to me, and after several days of non-stop new plays and comedy capers I shall relish the prospect of concerts, and ballet and indeed Shakespeare in Korean.

Of course the weather is always a crucial factor. No city is more fun to run around than Edinburgh, but when it rains it's beastly. There's quite a lot of cloud and light rain forecast over the next few days, so let's hope the skies clear and the sun blazes forth thereafter.

I've made my schedule, so that the rest of the Whatsonstage.com reviewing team can pile in behind me and take their pick of the rest of the programme. I have forty-five shows down for my eleven days, though I shall be darting back for the big EIF weekend of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, adapted from a Japanese novel, and Tim Supple's two-part One Thousand and One Nights.

Simon Callow will be there again, playing a transvestite in something called Tuesdays at Tesco, though the billboards at the Trafalgar Studios were still proclaiming his presence there last night in Being Shakespeare, a show which finished last Saturday.

And while I'm on the subject of the ATG theatres, and reported recently on the revised, and improved, wine charging policy at the Duke of York's, I'm sorry to say that the Trafalgar Studios is offering a modest glass for £5.10 and a larger (but not much) one for £6.10. It's too expensive. A woman next to me at the bar ordered up four large whites, and got stung for £24.40. She was also buying ice-cream for two young boys. I'd be surprised if she had her bus fare home after that.

She probably hadn't had to pay for her tickets, as the smaller of the Trafalgar Studios was packed to the gills with friends and well-wishers for Betwixt! with a sprinkling of critics. As the pianist George Dyer took his place, someone even exclaimed, "It's gorgeous George!"

And during the show, Steven Webb (Stephen Fry's partner in real life) who, in a certain light and, with a tip of the head, can resemble a young Gene Kelly, greeted an excitable enthusiast in the front row by extending a "royal" hand for an adoring kiss or nibble.

You don't get this sort of thing going on at the National, not yet anyway, although I've been receiving reports that some of James Corden's flirting with the audience in One Man, Two Guvnors has been stretched to the limit.

Liberty Hall is obviously open for business, and there's something of that carnivalesque spirit abroad during the Edinburgh Festival, all part of the feeding frenzy and the sense of anticipation I fully expect to experience once more on the train north next Thursday.

All I have to do before then is about one million things, try and catch Ian McKellen in The Syndicate at Chichester, the new production by Sean Mathias of a Neapolitan black comedy by Eduardo De Filippo that is already earmarked for the West End before Christmas, get some dentistry that's gone wrong sorted out pronto and buy a new all-weather jacket that doesn't make me look like a farm hand or a care worker.


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