THEY say politics is showbusiness for ugly people. But one SNP chief is hoping to cross the divide after swapping the corridors of power for a stage at the Fringe – the first ever starring role for an Edinburgh councillor.
Musical maestro Cllr Richard Lewis – now dubbed “Jerry Lee” by rivals – is tuning up for a one-night classical bonanza with international mezzo-soprano Andrea Baker to perform an hour-long show at St Andrew’s and St George’s West later this month.
But the city’s culture convener is well drilled in high-pressure performances having clashed publicly with opponents and campaigners in May last year over his decision to close Leith Waterworld.
And having enjoyed a sparkling career before entering politics – as a pianist and conductor for acclaimed European orchestras – the councillor for Colinton/Fairmilehead is looking forward to dazzling crowds with music rather than party rhetoric.
The show, Scotland – A Journey in Music and Song, is aptly named for the formidable nationalist councillor and will explore the country’s influence in the world through the works of Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and Debussy, among others.
He said: “It’s not often that I can marry my previous background and my job.
“I think one of the other criticisms of councillors, in particular, is that they come from a legal background or one with more traditional professions or have just gone straight from university to the council and then to be MSPs, so I just thought I have this other profession and skill so why cover it up?”
Not wanting to be outshone, Cllr Lewis’s party leader in Edinburgh, Steve Cardownie, has moved to debunk claims of a precedent being set, claiming he “starred” as a cadaver in a Festival play in 1999.
“I performed as a dead body in a play called Feast During the Plague with a Kiev theatre company about 15 years ago,” he said.
“I wanted to help them get publicity so I agreed to be the dead body that had died of the plague, and the audience had to walk over and one guy tried to make me laugh and then I got wheeled off in a coffin. I’m glad to see Cllr Lewis following in my footsteps, but performing in a play is a harder role than the one he’s doing.”
Karen Koren, artistic director of the Gilded Balloon, also said she thought the show would be a great success.
“Of course, it’s the Fringe and anyone can take part so it’s a great thing for him to do, especially to find out how it is as a performer,” she said. “It would be very interesting to see a councillor out leafleting for his own show!”
Tickets for Scotland A Journey in Music and Sound can be bought at www.tickets.edfringe.com