As the festival grows, the good acts are harder to find and the prices keep rising to meet the throngs of showbiz refugees who surge north in the belief that the glory, this year, will be theirs. Arriving at my one-star hovel (no breakfast, no towels, shared bathroom), I was given a security key and a disc of see-through soap that I could have hidden beneath a tea-bag. The bill, payable in advance, was a third higher than last year. Glory in this city belongs to the landlord.
Marcel Lucont’s Whine List is performed by a suave, self-adoring Frenchman who starts by asking if anyone in the crowd is new to his act. ‘Lucky bastards. What I would give to see myself for the first time.’ His ‘snotty Frog’ routine is perfectly crafted but what’s amazing is that the audience seems to enjoy being patronised by a sneering, egoistical loafer, quaffing red wine. Lucont targets middle-class habits. He calls glamping ‘a portmanteau word meaning “I’m glad I’m not camping”’. The French like holidaying under canvas, he says, just not at festivals. ‘What would you rather wake up to? The cool waters of the Loire? The distant Alpine peaks? Or a drunk woman dressed as a banana being fingered in a hedge?’ He’s a quality act but a hard one to market because he appeals to a tiny portion of the cultural bandwidth.
Quarter-Life Crisis is a medley of songs and jokes about Generation Rent. Katie Brennan, 29, forged her act in London, not Edinburgh, but the locals tittered politely as she cracked jokes about the Tube in a venue 400 miles from the nearest station. Her effervescent lyrics, at their best, are as ingenious and inventive as Noël Coward’s. They’re also explicitly filthy.