Edinburgh Festival Diary: Alan Cumming returns for book festival and a bagel party

Alan Cumming’s Robert Burns-inspired International Festival show may have moved out of Edinburgh and onto Perth, but the stage-and-screen star was back in the city for a double engagement.

First up was an in-conversation event at the book festival with National Theatre of Scotland director Jackie Wylie, who reported that Cumming’s show Burn was generating standing ovations in Perth Theatre.

Cumming said: “Apparently they’ve had to open up the seats in the gods for the first time since the panto.”

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A book festival tradition is for the host of the event to give their guest a brief introduction, regardless of how well known they are.

Alan Cumming is portraying Scotland's most celebrated poet, Robert Burns, in the new dance-theatre show Burn, which is currently touring Scotland. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

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    For Cumming, this included a reminder from Wylie of his many and varied stage and screen roles, including God, the Devil, the Pope, Hamlet, all the roles in Macbeth, a superhero, a Smurf, a James Bond baddie, the MC in Cabaret and a starring role in the Spice Girls movie.

    Cumming recalled how had faced cultural snobbery from journalists over his choice of roles – and the irony of this coming from the tabloids.

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    He also revealed how he was going to spent the evening back at the heart of the global celebration of culture – at a party to celebrate the signature snack created in his honour at Bross Bagels, the empire run by former New York stand-up comic Larah Bross.

    Cowan’s quips

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    The New Town Theatre was certainly no place for cultural snobbery on Monday lunchtime with broadcaster Tam Cowan, one half of the duo behind BBC Radio Scotland’s Off the Ball football programme.

    During his event with journalist Graham Spiers, Cowan, a regular after-dinner speaker around the country, regaled the audience with numerous gags which would never make it onto the airwaves – after sticking the boot into Masai Graham’s “best joke of the Fringe” winner.

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    The discovery the George Street venue is a masonic hall when it’s not in use for the Fringe was an open goal to Cowan, who was seated alongside Spiers in enormous throne-like structures.

    Cowan admitted he had been having great fun at the expense of Kenny Macintyre, the new host of Radio Scotland’s Sportsound programme, and a self-confessed Rangers supporter.

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    Cowan said: “You would never guess that it’s a masonic hall – look at these chairs. Kenny has asked me to take one of these home. He says it would look lovely in his living room.”

    Last-minute must see

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    High up the list of venues I’m planning to tick off a visit to in the final week of the festivals is Riddle’s Court, the 500-year-old gem tucked off the Lawnmarket stretch of the Royal Mile.

    The former home of philosopher David Hume has become the new hub for Greenside’s programme. Among the new offerings for the final week of the Fringe are two shows with near identical titles – but very different sounding pitches.

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    Lighthouse, by Early Doors Productions, promises a thriller focusing on a trio of lighthouse keepers set off the coast of Angus. Lighthouse: An Immersive Drinking Musical, the latest show from Emma Award winner Jacki Thrapp, is said to be packed full of original “drinking songs and step-dancing numbers” as a pub owner and her customers battle to keep a New York watering hole open.