Susan Morrison: Whatever happened to good old outrage?

The Jim Rose Circus at the Udderbelly
The Jim Rose Circus at the Udderbelly
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IT was 71 years ago that Edinburgh gave the world the greatest of all arts festivals, and then followed it up a year later with the birth of the fringe. Post-war baby boom.

The fringe turned out to be that second child. We all know them. The oldest one was the goodie two-shoes who wowed the aunties at Christmas with pitch-perfect renditions of Goldfinger, complete with Bassey hand gestures.

No, hang on, that’s me. I was that first child. Then came The Pest. He couldn’t compete with the sheer talent so he resorted to attention grabbing and stuff the artistic integrity.

He was particularly keen on physical stunts, doing one-man shows such as ‘Leaping from The Rocks at Dunoon’.

There was the follow-up show, called ‘Getting Stitches After Hitting the Rocks in Dunoon. With Your Face’.

Outrage, that was the name of the game, and outrage used to be the fuel of the Fringe. It was usually misguided.

Every year, Jim Rose and Moira Knox would have an outrage-off. Mr Rose was an American chap who rolled into town with his circus of people shoving their faces in broken glass or doing unspeakable things with holes in their tongues.

Moira, true to the great surname she bore, thundered biblical opprobrium down from the council chamber. Such outrages, she demanded, should be shut down at once, even though, as she frequently said, she “hadn’t seen the production.”

Quite why Moira, a Tory, got her gussets in a tangle about people happily exercising their right to hammer nine-inch nails through their delicate bits has always mystified me. For one thing, the nails were sourced from local businesses.

Moira is no longer with us, Jim doesn’t come over any more, and in 2013 the extraordinarily talented Adrienne Truscott performed her boundary-busting show while naked from the waist down.

It’s not about the outrage. We really have seen it all before. It’s about the talent. Or lack of it.

So, if you have a valid point to make about the state of the world which you can illustrate by standing in a bath of jelly, naked, with the words to 1970’s Hallmark greeting cards being cast on your body while operating two weeping glove puppets on either side of you, then rock on, laddie.

The nakedness will neither offend nor outrage, but you’d better be good with those glove puppets.