Steve Cardownie: The day I corpsed on my debut at the Fringe

Almost half of the tickets for the booming Fringe were sold in Scotland. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Almost half of the tickets for the booming Fringe were sold in Scotland. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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A record-breaking Fringe festival has drawn to a close and the city will now face a couple of months of relative peace and calm before the onset of our winter festivities.

The world’s greatest cultural festival has surpassed all previous ticket sales and has exceeded expectations. With 2,838,839 tickets issued, the Fringe has recorded its highest ever take-up and maintained its record of increasing sales for six years in a row. More than 900 Scottish companies participated in the event, showcasing their performances to an audience drawn from all quarters of the globe.

With almost half of the tickets being sold in Scotland it lays to rest the myth that the festival season only exists to attract for tourists. The Fringe has developed over the years and now produces an eclectic ­programme of events which caters for all tastes. Detractors are diminishing in number and Edinburgh’s citizens have demonstrated their support of the festivals by means of several city-wide surveys.

READ MORE: Edinburgh Fringe crowds grow by nearly a million in a decade

Some years ago I had the opportunity to actually appear in a Fringe play when I performed as a dead body in Pushkin’s A Feast During the Plague which was brought over to the Fringe by a company from Kiev. Theatre on Podyl went on to greater success with other performances, the most notable of which was Iago, based on Othello and staged at Infirmary Street Baths.

Although I no doubt disappointed some people in that I was only acting, being laid to rest in a coffin with the lid firmly placed down was quite an experience but hardly likely to attract Oscar-winning accolades.

The play set in the Baths attracted the attention of the BBC and featured in their morning programme which highlighted the innovative use of odd venues that were associated with The Fringe. The Baths closed to the public at its usual time and was then transformed by the play’s director Vitaly Malakhov into a setting for what was a breathtaking performance.

It opened with Desdemona appearing at one end of the pool in candlelight and swimming the 25 metres to the other end to be plucked out of the water by Othello. The audience was spellbound and remained captivated throughout. This was truly the essence of the Fringe and provided memories that will last a lifetime.

Of course it can be a bit hit or miss but festival-goers are generally ­better off for the experience, particularly when it comes to the younger element. Their experience of theatre enhances their wellbeing and can lead to a lifelong love of the performing arts.

READ MORE: Steve Cardownie: Aung San Suu Kyi’s not fit to be linked with our city

For instance, the Edinburgh International Festival takes great pride in its community involvement and actively engages with schools and community centres. I was delighted to see my son perform in a dance ­routine at Holyrood Palace as part of the festival and I praised him for being an International Festival performer as opposed to me, his dad, who only appeared in a cameo role as a cadaver in the Fringe.

When all is said and done there is no denying that Edinburgh’s festivals enhance the quality of life of its citizens, young or old, and I for one look forward to next year’s offering!

Don’t delay, chaps – get a prostate check

Some time ago I wrote in this column that I had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, which only came to light when I asked a nurse to check my PSA count when I was having a routine annual blood test.

I advised men over the age of 40 to do likewise and ask for a check which cannot be denied by a GP if insisted upon. Had I not asked I would be blissfully unaware that I had this condition to this day and would not have been offered treatment for the tumour through the NHS.

Having considered all my options I have decided to go through the procedure of brachytherapy, which just takes a few hours and entails the placing of radioactive pellets which, after nine months’ activity should kill off the cancerous tumour. I decided on this course of action as it afforded me the greater chance of “keeping my pecker up” post op.

I only return to this subject to remind men of a similar age (and younger) that they really should get a prostate check-up. Like most cancers an early diagnosis has a greater chance of securing a cure. I had and still have, no symptoms, so it is by no means certain that the lack of tell-tale signs denotes the all clear.

I am grateful to our health service employees whose hard work and dedication may ensure that my bedroom gymnastics are not consigned to a distant memory and that there will still be lead in my pencil.

Elderly will pay for folly of Brexit

I recently had good reason to reflect on the dedication and endeavour of care workers.

At the age of soon to be 95, my mother resides in a nursing home in The Highlands and every time I visit her I am seriously impressed by the care and attention that the staff express when carrying out their duties.

The staffing of such units is no easy task as other employment opportunities are on offer to potential candidates and provide a more appealing role than the care of old and infirm people but this gap has been plugged by dedicated people who have arrived on these shores from eastern Europe.

Recent statistics have shown that more people have left the UK than have settled here in the last year and care homes are likely to bear the brunt of this exodus.

Brexit has played a role in this development and I hope that people who voted to leave do not have to pay the cost of this folly. £350 million a week to the health service? Suckers!

Suits you, sir

I was recently in Slaters, the men’s clothing outfitter in George Street, being measured for a suit when Peter Chesney, the store manager, asked me if I would like buttons on the fly. I told him no – I would pay for them like everybody else!