Edinburgh fringe festival

The Dane gets an interpretive dance makeover: Ian McKellan’s Hamlet reviewed

Ian McKellen’s Hamlet is the highlight of Edinburgh’s opening week. In this experimental ballet, Sir Ian speaks roughly 5 per cent of the lines, accompanied by a hunky blond dancer, Johan Christensen, who offers a physical interpretation of the Dane’s melancholy. The other roles are played by a ballet troupe in olde worlde costumes. The performing area is a black thrust stage, gleaming like patent leather, surrounded by low spotlights and swirling dry ice. It looks like Elsinore recreated by a cruise-ship designer. Newcomers will find the story mystifying. Hamlet smoulders longingly at Horatio and they dance like a hot couple at a gay night spot. The middle-aged Laertes seems

The death of the Edinburgh Fringe

The Edinburgh Fringe has returned after last year’s cancellation but it’s hard to find evidence of the festival on the streets. The atmosphere is weird, unsettling, ghost-like. The defining feature of the city in August is the constant din of music, but as soon as I arrived at Waverley Station I noticed that the pulsing backbeat was missing. The bars that throb with disco and heavy metal have shut up shop. So have the pubs that host free comedy shows from noon till midnight. The insistent tom-tom rhythm has been supplanted by a void. Edinburgh is on mute. Before Covid, there were more than 3,500 shows to choose from. This

Lloyd Evans

Sinatra, Bacon and a YouTube star: Edinburgh Fringe Festival round-up

Sinatra: Raw (Pleasance, until 15 August) takes us inside the mind of the 20th century’s greatest crooner. The performer, Richard Shelton, catches Sinatra in confessional mode in the 1970s as he looks back on his chequered career. In the early days, a promoter suggested the stage name ‘Frankie Satin’ but his tough-minded mother, Dolly, vetoed the idea. The show’s best sections investigate the harrowing details of his tangled and doomed romance with Ava Gardener. Fame and wealth never sweetened Sinatra’s prickly character. ‘Drink is my worst enemy,’ he quips, necking whisky from a tumbler. ‘But, like the Bible says, you’ve got to love your enemies.’ This show packs a surprising

The original Edinburgh Festival

Edinburgh, 3 November 1815. The university courtyard is buzzing. A band is playing. Surrounding streets are filled with thousands of excited spectators, many waiting since 10 a.m. From the Castle, from windows and rooftops, from Calton Hill, Holyrood Park and Salisbury Crags, all strain to get a glimpse. Then finally at 3 p.m., above the university, a large balloon suddenly emerges, climbing wondrously into the crisp November sky. Orchestrating this aeronautical display was pioneer English balloonist James Sadler. His balloon rose majestically as the westerly wind took it towards the sea. Sadler continued waving his flags as long as he could be seen, and the crowds applauded and gasped. Having