Assembly boss sure venue will take city centre stage

Les Dennis

Les Dennis

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THE first productions to be performed at the revamped Assembly Rooms will put the Festival spotlight back on the city centre, its Fringe director has claimed.

Tommy Sheppard, who will run the new Fringe venue when it reopens in July, said the venue’s eclectic summer programme would help to stem the outward drift of Festival shows to less central areas of the Capital.

The News can reveal that the Assembly Rooms will showcase 40 productions throughout August, boasting headline acts including comedian Stewart Lee, Fringe favourite Camille O’Sullivan, Still Game’s Greg Hemphill and a theatre performance by Les Dennis.

Several world premieres will be unveiled including The Intervention, starring The Fast Show’s Arabella Weir, Jan Ravens from Dead Ringers and Mike McShane of Whose Line Is It Anyway? fame.

Mr Sheppard said the venue, which is undergoing a £9.3 million facelift, was being restored to its “former glory”, the result of which will impress old admirers and attract new fans.

“Without a shadow of a doubt it will be the most luxurious and comfortable venue there has been at the Fringe,” he said.

“When we bid for [the contract to run it] we promised to put on a world-class programme – a multi-genre bill of theatre and music. We have quite a high-profile programme with a bit of the more experimental stuff in there.

“We are feeling pretty chuffed with ourselves as we have done a pretty remarkable job from a standing start.”

He added: “It’s Assembly Rooms’ 225th year as a venue and it has been entertaining the people of Edinburgh and visitors for the last 30 years.

“It’s probably been the central venue for the Fringe and our intention is to take that as a point of departure and get it back to the heart of the Festival.”

Dennis, who is set to make his debut at the George Street hub this August, said: “I’m so excited about coming back to the Festival itself.

I was with [the show] Certified Male in 2007 at St George’s West and I had a great time.

“I’m thrilled to be playing [the Assembly Rooms] because it’s such an iconic venue.

“I can’t wait to see what it’s going to look like after its refurbishment and it’s an honour to be one of the first people to perform in it after it reopens.”

The Assembly Rooms closed in December ahead of an 18-month redevelopment to preserve the crumbling building’s future. In March, the News told how celebrity chef Jamie Oliver will spend £2m transforming part of the venue into an upmarket restaurant.