Jinglin’ Geordie to host Fringe play about pubs

The Jinglin' Geordie on Fleshmarket Close is hosting a Fringe show this August. Picture: Greg Macvean
The Jinglin' Geordie on Fleshmarket Close is hosting a Fringe show this August. Picture: Greg Macvean
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IT is one of Edinburgh’s most historic and unspoilt bars, which for decades has lured in politicians, lawyers, business owners and journalists.

Now the Jinglin’ Geordie watering hole, on Fleshmarket Close, is to get a starring role at the world’s biggest arts festival – hosting a play about the demise of traditional pubs.

The Jinglin’ Geordie isn’t a spit and sawdust kind of place, but is just a good old-fashioned boozer.”

Colin Valentine

One of the most intimate performances at this year’s Fringe will unfold within the close confines of the pub, which is hidden off the Royal Mile, shortly after it opens to the public.

A Liverpool-based theatre company chose the Jinglin’ Geordie for the show after examining a number of potential sites in the heart of the Capital suitable for “a play about a pub, in the pub.”

Audiences are being promised “a glimpse of the last days of its existence” and an insight into the life and relationships of the troubled landlord.

The Jinglin’ Geordie was named after 17th century goldsmith and money-lender George Heriot, who on his death left a bequest for the creation of a hospital for “fatherless bairns.” It went on to become a leading independent school.

The bar was hugely popular with staff emerging from shifts at the offices of the Evening News and sister paper The Scotsman until a relocation to the Holyrood area in 1999, but it has thrived thanks to a loyal clientele. Along with festival-goers, they will be able to enjoy the 90-minute show – being staged by Wag The Tale Productions – for free each day from 11.15am.

Writer and director Scott Murphy said: “The play was originally performed at a theatre in Liverpool, but I had the idea to put it on again in a pub, as it’s entirely set in one.

“A lot of Liverpool’s pubs have shut down over the last 20 years or so, which was one of the main reasons I wrote the play. We’ve staged it in four real pubs to build it up for Edinburgh and the idea is we’re bringing theatre to people rather than them having to go to the theatre.

“It’s set in a pub that’s been sold off by the brewery and the landlord is dealing with the fact he is losing his business. His wife has died and his son, who is a heroin addict, has come back onto the scene. It’s the dying days of the pub, but the title also reflects the relationships between the characters and the closure they need.

“The over-arching theme is that lots of pubs are being shut down simply because the drinking culture in this country, like a lot of working-class traits, has been kind of demonised over the years. Pubs have become a rich man’s game.”

Colin Valentine, chair of the Campaign for Real Ale, said: “The Jinglin’ Geordie isn’t a spit and sawdust kind of place, but is just a good old-fashioned boozer. There is a good smattering of them in this area, with the Halfway House right beside it, the Scotsman Lounge up on Cockburn Street and the Hebrides down on Market Street.”

Closing Time is at the Jinglin’ Geordie from 14-21 August.