16 Aug 2015 at 23:21
About five or six years ago I was asked to speak on a panel at the Edinburgh book festival, so I thought while I was there I’d take in a couple of shows on the festival fringe. I remember going to see Gyles Brandreth’s one man show and a German comedian called Christian Schulte-Loh. ‘One day, I’ll come back and do this properly,’ I thought. And that’s what I’m doing for the next three days. I’m seeing 15 different shows before I travel back to Norfolk on Thursday morning. I flew up from Norwich at lunchtime today in a twin propeller plane that only had 30 seats and 20 passengers. I’m not afraid of flying, but I did wonder what this flight would be like. It turned out to be very smooth and nothing to worry about at all.
I arrived in Edinburgh at around 3.30 and my first show was at 7, in a venue which turned out to be directly opposite my hotel on George Street. It was almost as if I had planned it. I went to pick up all my 15 tickets from the Assembly Rooms down the road, had a brief snooze and then crossed the road to queue up for a few minutes. The show was called ALAN LONGMUIR: AND I RAN WITH THE GANG. For the uninitiated, Alan Longmuir was a founding member of the Bay City Rollers. I assumed this would be a one man show with the great man telling his life story and doing a bit of singing. I was in for a surprise.
The man on stage was certainly not 67 years old. In short, we were watching an actor, Ewan Petrie, play a young Alan Longmuir, with help from an older actor, John McColl, who dipped into various characters, but mainly the Rollers manager Tam Paton. A third young actor, Rory Speed, played various roles, culminating in playing the lead singer of the Bay City Rollers Les McKeown. Even before the start of the production it was clear that the audience was predominantly made up of women of a certain age who had dragged their reluctant husbands along. Several of them were singing Rollers songs even before the actors took to the stage. It could be a long evening, I thought to myself.
I shouldn’t have worried, however as it was a really engaging hour. Ewan Petrie was superb, with just the right mix of acting, ham acting and humour. You actually came to believe he really was the man he was playing. And then, almost as he had completed the story, the man himself walked through the audience and onto the stage. It was a bizarrely moving moment and I felt myself tearing up. The women of a certain age went mental. There wasn’t a dry seat in the house. Alan turned out to be a man of few words, so the rest of the hour was devoted to Alan, the young Alan and the young Les belting out some of the Bay City Rollers Greatest Hits, culminating in ‘Shang-a-Lang’. OK, it was all a bit karaoke, but enjoyable nonetheless. The whole audience took to their feet and a good time was had by all. Really.
So with that behind me I hotfooted it down Princes Street to the Ghillie Dhu bar to see Belfast singer Brian Kennedy perform an acoustic set. The venue was very atmospheric. It was in a large upstairs room which looked as if it had once been part of a church. Come to think of it, it probably was. Kennedy looks like a cross between David Aaronovitch and Paul Staines but has the banter and wit of his fellow Ulsterman Stephen Nolan. He has a voice to die for and used his range to full effect in the 75 minutes he was on stage. The song which brought him to my attention was the first song he sang – ‘Captured’. Other notables were ‘Carrickfergus’ and ‘You Raise Me Up’, a song which is best known with Westlife singing it, but in fact Kennedy made it a hit when he sang it with Secret Garden. He didn’t actually sing it into the microphone and instead walked among the audience belting it out with no microphone at all. I think he got a shock when he saw Julian Clary sitting in the back row.
So at 9.45pm it was all over and I needed to eat, having not done so all day. Everything seemed to be shutting up, but in the end I found an Italian place just round the coerner from my hotel on Hanover Street, Bar Napoli. It proved to be an inspired choice and proved to be one of the best meals I have had in many a year.
Tomorrow, I’ve got five shows to see. Better get some sleep then.