The Culture Show at the Edinburgh Festival - Part 1 The Culture Show

The Culture Show at the Edinburgh Festival - Part 1

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Welcome to The Culture Show at the Edinburgh Festival, where we aim to


separate our arts from our elbow. This is distracting. Coming up, we


have the fringe debut of an 0s -- 80s icon. We have a giant, that is


illegal in several countrys what he's doing now. He have tributes to


Mr Pinter. Edinburgh has it. Guys, On tonight's show, two Marks, Ten


Plagues. Marc Almond and Mark Ravenhill tell us about working


together on musical theatre. Robert Rauschenberg. We check out the


first major exhibition of his in 30 years. Homage to Harold. John and


Julian tell Simon about their passion for poetry. Ruby Wax talks


to me about Losing It. Her show on mental illness. We may be up north,


but at the theatre, we are heading east. We have theatre from China,


Taiwan and Korea. AS Byatt tell us about her latest


book and festival virgin, Michael Smith, takes the 24-hour endurance


test. First up, a tale of two marks, Marc Almond and Mark Ravenhill. One


is a 1980s new wave pop star, another a prominent playwright.


They have teamed up together to create a show called Ten Plagues,


which had its world premier in Edinburgh earlier this week. They


spoke to Miranda Sawyer and told spoke to Miranda Sawyer and told


Humanity is obsessed with its own demise. We see the apocalyse in


every epidemic, AIDS, swine flu, E- Coli from bean sprout. Which will


be the plague to wipe us out? It is this and more that Marc Almond and


Mark Ravenhill explore in their new piece, Ten Plagues.


Almond plays a man who bears witness to the carnage brought by


the plague in London, in the graveyard the city became.


# As it fell # One face turned


# And I saw that it was you # You are talking about the plague in


1665, but it has modern resonances. You can take it at different levels.


You can take it one man's journey through the great plague. There was


lots of other levels to it as well. Every year, we seem to have new


pandemic that we are threatened with. Outcomes of fear things and


the tabloid things and the crazy behaviour. Going back to AIDS and


HIV when it first started in the early 80s.


# To die # To sleep


# A chance to dream # I would not have written this


unless with my own experiences with HIV. I had a trauma when I was in a


coma after a big epileptic fit due to AIDS and my parents were told


there was no chance he would recover.


For me, it is about other things as well. It is about loneliness as


well. As well as solitude. About surviving through something. Then


you feel you are a different person and you cannot relate to people in


the same way. # Sometimes I feel I've got to


# Runaway # It was 30 years ago that Soft Cell took a northern soul


classic and transformed it into a sleaze pop anthem.


In 2004, he was involved in a motorcycle accident which nearly


killed him. This left him in a coma for two weeks and initially


destroyed his singing voice. I felt I was in fragments and had to put


things back together again. That took maybe a few years to do that,


just dogged determination really. I lost my short-term memory, which


made things like memorising lyrics to songs really well I could not


remember. I had to use cue and lyric sheets on stage for quite a


while. I could never have done something like this two years ago.


It is an achievement for me, for my recovery, that I have come this far


to do something that is probably the most difficult piece that I've


ever done. # I've come to say goodbye


# Still I almost kissed you # I almost kissed you


# But you stopped me # Said I found a tumour


# And pulling up your shirt showed me the tobg en hard -- token hard


and round # A contagion # We have both shared


this feeling of having a near-death experience, or possible death


experience and surviving through it. I think that when you come through


something like that and you do survive, you get a thing like a


survivor's guilt. There is the flip-side, which is the survivor's


arrogance, which this character has. You have cheated death. So it is a


total two sides of the two coin. There is the guilt and the


arrogance as well. That That leads to the question, do you feel like


it has improved your life to have discovered you are HIV-positive or


to have had a motorcycle accident? It has fired you into other areas


that you might not have reached? always say it has been a good


experience for me which sound creepy. I did discover so much


about myself and the loyalty of my friends and about the world around


me through that experience that I can't imagine not having had that


experience. Most of the stuff I found out through a lot of


suffering and lo at of -- a lot of I like to think that I'm better


than I was before. I'm put together in a different way. I'm a kind of


better than I was before. A new improved Mark? Improved, not in


physical ways sometimes. I think certainly as a more rounded sort of


centred person. I feel I'm not afraid of death any more. I feel


I'm not afraid of things like that any more. I'm not afraid of things


happening to me. When something awful happens to you, you think,


throw it at me and I'll take it. And Ten Plagues is on at the


theatre until 28th August. If you would like to find out what the


panel made of the play, then tune in tomorrow night, BBC 2 at 11pm.


The late Robert Rauschenberg was one of the most influential artists


of the 20th century. He has been celebrated this summer at


Inverleith House, where they have hosted an exhibition of his work,


the first major one in three decades.


Alastair Sooke went along to take a look. Look how the light falls on


that fifth chin. You've really got me. Magnificent!


Cardboard boxes. Household junk, mundane objects -


nowadays we are used to art being made out of rubbish. It was much


more unusual in 1950s America. Robert Rauschenberg believed that


art can be made out of anything, light bulbs, empty bottles. Even a


stuffed goat. He said he thought a picture was like the real world if


it is made out of the real world. Which if you think about it makes


sense. Rauschenberg shot to fame in New


York 60 years ago. He is often mentioned in the same breath as


Picasso. His work is not seen all that often in the UK.


Now, three years after his death, Inverleith House is hosting his


first major British exhibition since 1981, with more than 30 of


his late works on display. For more than half a century,


fuelled by inorder napbt amounts of bur born, he challenged our


preconceptions about what paintings and sculptures could be. His


fearless experimentation proved influential. Today, he is


recognised as the godfather of a whole host of avant-garde movements


from the 60s and 70s. He studied at the liberal Black Mountain College,


in North Carolina. Where his teachers encouraged experimentation.


After settling in New York, Rauschenberg developed his unusual


combine style. He merged paintings, news print, photographs and found


objects into striking collages which were a combination.


Just over here is one of the first works you will encounter in the


exhibition. It is from a series called "Gluts." He made them in the


1980s. There was a glut in the oil market. He would drive around,


trawling the streets savaging for odds and ends. Car parts, broken


petrol pumps, street signs, that sort of thing. He would take them


back to the studio and transform them into these elegant and refined


metal collages. Like most of the gluts, it is not


just a dead exercise, if you like, ins a thethics. That is the thing


about Rauschenberg. He was always commenting on American society. The


gluts are all about greed. Greed is rampant, he said at the time, I am


trying to expose it, trying to wake people up. I simply want to present


people with their ruins. There's one detail of the work that


really intrigues me. You can see here at the bottom of this big


green free way sign, what would have spelt out "county" now it


looks like it spells out an inflammatory word. This detail is


what drew him to use the sign and incorporate it into the work in the


first place. This is his way of deliberately referring to the


blighted racial history of America's south, the land where he


himself was brought up. Throughout his career, Rauschenberg


experimented with silk screening images on to a variety of different


surfaces. Like Warhol, he started to use silk


screens in the early 60s. Where as Warhol would show the same thing


again and again and again, Rauschenberg offers these random


visual imagery. In this case, mostly his own photographs,


including that highly suggestive elephant's tail, over there in the


right-hand corner. He was so drawn to collage he found it the right


medium of living amid the chaos and overload of the 20th century.


Rauschenberg attributed his style in part to his mother, who used to


make his clothes for him out of scraps of old fabric. Similarly his


images have a distinctive patch- Rauschenberg was forever


experimenting with materials, with performance, with technology. The


results were often playful and ingenious, like this completely


borchingers creation, part painting, part sculpture, part windmill. His


watch words were multiplicity, inclusion and variety. If this


doesn't exemplify that, I don't know what does. Usually the motor


is activated by sound. For this exhibition, you can also trigger it


It used to be fashionable to say Rauschenberg lost his edge towards


the end of the 60s. It's true that some of his later work lacks that


deliberately crude, rough hewn energy of his celebrated combines,


which made his name. As he got older, Rauschenberg's art became


progressively sleeker and glossier, shinier, literally, as he


experimented with silkscreening images onto metal. You could argue


he was reflecting the way the world had changed. You can't help but


warm to the genial, impish, free spirit that animates all his art,


Robert Rauschenberg's botanical vowedville is on at Inverleith


House until September 2. This weekend sees the start of Edinburgh


Book Festival with nearly 800 authors taking part in 17 days of


reading and events. Amongst them is the esteemed AS Byatt who's here to


discuss her new work Ragnarok, which sounds like a fantasy play,


which will be turned into a film starring Sean Bean. But it is in


fact, she tells, Mullan, a reworking of an ancient Norse myth,


which is very close to her heart. AS Byatt is one of the most


important writers in Britain. Successful as an academic, critic


and cultural commentator, she's most famous for her novels, in


particularly Possession, which won the Booker Prize in 1990.


AS Byatt is a wonderfully, fearlessly intellectual writer. All


her novels are packed with passages of botany or art history or complex


literary paradi. What's extraordinary about her is


something child like, a delight in the primtive pleasures of story


telling. All her books are about the rediscovery, retelling of old


stories. Her latest book Ragnarok, which means the Twilight of the


Gods, retells an ancient Norse myth about the end of the world, but


combines the story with Byatt's personal account of reading the


myth for the first time as a child in wartime Britain.


She was a thin, sickly, boney child, like an eft, with fine help. Her


elders told her not to do this, to avoid that, because there was a war


on. Life was a state in which a war was on. Nevertheless, by a paradox


caliphate, the child may only have lived because her people level the


sulphurous air of the steel city, full of smoking chimneys for a


country town of no interest to enemy bombers. This book is not


exactly a novel really. It's a retelling of Norse myths, but it's


also a book about your childhood, evacuated to the English


countryside during the Second World War. Why did you want to do those


two things together, the story of yourself and the story of Norse


methology? -- mythology snfrplts I accepted the publisher's invitation


to do the myth because I was interested in retelling myths.


had no hesitation about which myth I wanted to write. Then I made


several attempts to write the end of the gods in Norse mythology and


I couldn't get the right tone of voice. So I thought, "What is


happen sning" I went back to my pretty well lifelong relationship


with this particular myth. I thought if I can distance myself by


putting myself as a child into the story, so in fact, the child is


only there as a kind of instrument. I'm not trying to write


autobiography. I'm not very interested in autobiography as a


form. The child is there to make the myth both more distant and


closer. You say you didn't hesitate about which myth you were


interested in. Why didn't you hesitate? Why is Norse mythology so


gripping to you? When I was a child, my mother gave or I suspect Lent me


her book. I thought it was a real story about the nature of things.


This is terrifying and powerful. Asgard and the gods relates the


stories of Norse mythology including the tale of Ragnarok the


destruction of the gods themselves. In her retelling of the myth Byatt


draws paralegals between this apocalyptic story, the dem nation


of the war, and the destruction of the natural world taking place


today. Do you remember this Eden- like experience of nature and the


uncertainty and violence of war being alongside each other somehow?


I do. I thought of the natural world and the trees and the corn


fields and the hedges and the birds in the sky as being a kind of


permanent natural form that would outlast me. It had been there long


before me. And it would be there long after me. I thought of the war


as a human thing. The war had taken my father away. He was fighting in


the Air Force in Algeria. What was happening to him and where he was


weren't visible, weren't imaginable. I had no images of them. I was


wondering if the Norse myths were especially vivid to you because


they took you into the zones of fear and apprehension and violence


too, that were only at the edge of your actual vision or imagination.


I think they did satisfy me. They satisfied my knowledge that things


were not good. Yes. Despite the fact that I was constantly being


told that things were all right. I knew the world was not a good place.


I had great trouble with gentle Jesus meek and mild. That didn't


say anything to me about the nature of things, the Christian religion,


at all. Whereas, this sort of story that drops you in real disaster.


"Hungry creatures, hungry men will eat anything. The battle winners


feasted among the dead bodies, which were being torn at by


creeping, crouching beasts. They gripped each other and fell about


the fire, fornicating with whoever was to hand. They bit and kissed


and chewed and swallowed and fought and struggled and waited for the


world to end, which it did not, not yet. They ate each other, of course,


in the end. "Why do these Norse myths seem so resonant to you now?


I, when I started working on it, I realised that as well as fitting my


childhood sense of being threatened, they fit more and more closely to


my sense of what the world is like now. All these gods did was eat and


trick people and go to battle. And they weren't, in a way, capable of


saving themselves from disaster. I feel that we live, we do live on a


planet which is threatened and in a society that is threatened by


ourselves. We are those stupid gods. "She blew at the sand and hooked up


the creatures with her spiked tongue. She loved and sucked and


swallowed and spat out the debris. She was always hungry and always


killed more than she needed, out of curiosity, out of love, out of


insatiable businessiness." There seems to be a pleasure, a


fascination in stories of what an absolute catastrophe would be like


that people keep returning to. Fplgts this is very true. I suppose


that this is because you have an image, a story, with which to


think out the unthinkable. It's easier to think it out with a story


than try and imagine yourself in a catastrophe, which just fills you


with panic. The strange thing is this very, very old story, which


ends in this black winter should be very unconsoling, but it's also


just still as captivating I think. Lots of new readers will discover


how captivating these Norse stories are. Thanks very much for having me,


inviting me into your home. Thank you.


AS Byatt will be speaking at the Book Festival on Sunday, August 28.


If anyone can get away with writing and performing in a comedy show


about mental illness, it's our very own Ruby Wax. She found prominence


as an aSerbic comic before a break down stopped her career dead in its


track. She's back. But is this part of her rehabilitation? I asked her


to my own venue called Room with a Sue - forgive me - to find out.


That's a taste of Edinburgh! After studying at the Royal


Shakespeare Company Ruby Wax became part of the comedy elite, writing


Not the Nine O'Clock News and starring alongside Jennifer Saund


ers and Dawn French. She's interviewed Madonna and Pamela


Anderson. Now she's in a new show alongside her friend Judith Owen.


Because we have a lot in common. A, we both like smoked mackerel. I


used to go out with her husband. That's really the truth. I swear to


God that's true. She's still laughing about that one.


LAUGHTER The show in itself has a clever


meknoix it, two voices as one. That's you and Judith. I've rarely


seen a synergy like that on stage. Do you enjoy sharing the stage?


have her there it's like mummy's home. That's how we can do this


show. If you were doing this alone, I couldn't. It would be too much me,


In the show you talk about four years and four months of a lapse


since you had a depressive episode. Did it come on suddenly? Or was it


a slow puncture? You know, we don't know whether it's nature or nurture,


when I was a little kid, I always ended up kind of in this awake -- a


waking coma. Then eventually somebody said you've got clinical


depression. Not that I'm embarrassed. So many


people are coming down with this and with mental thing. One in four.


It's more than the flu now. One in four, so one, two, three, four,


it's you. I got it, yeah and you too a little bit. Actually that


whole row is not well. I knew it was going to be funny. I had heard


it was moving. I thought those are going to be the bits where the


reserves, low middle class Susan is a bit squeamish, doesn't want to


hear about other people's pain. I was totally take an long by all of


it. We toured mental institutions for two years. I said if you can


make a schizophrenic laugh, you're in. It took a long time to figure


out how do you take people on a roller coaster ride. It is about us


all. Everyone would know this, that we all have no man you'll. We


always think the next guy knows what they're doing and they're


pretending to be an adult. Then we get the appropriate clothes and go


yeah, yeah. We never know. You say it's not a show about mental


illness, it's about trying to make sense of the world in a general


sense. Yeah and understanding in a funny way really what's on the


bottom line of what marriage is about - it's cash. What love is


about - a couple of hormones and then it's cold turkey. Some people


would say I'm cynical. If your husband is making �250,000


a year plus bonuses, you, as a wife, have no rights. You must take care


of the house, take care of the kids, have sex with him wherever and


whenever he wants. You must stay young and pert to death do you part.


Those are the rules. I didn't make them up. You did make them up


right, I did, but they're right. The show ends, I don't want to


scare people off. We finish the show and we say, if you have


anything you would like to say. I don't know what happens in the room,


they feel like I've never said this before. They feel contained and


safe. They don't feel self- indulgent. I love that people go


"My husband hasn't left the house in 20 years." You think that's a


bad thing. Wouldn't it be something if it was


four in four and we could tell each other what we were thinking. Can


you imagine what a wonderful tribe we would be? Do you think your


success sometimes is a prison, you've created this personality,


who is a bit like you, the real Ruby. Bits are dissimilar, but it


was so successful that model that it traps you. Is it hard to break


out and being a bit more serious? stupidly or smartly, made the


American an idiot. But I was only loud because I was so nervous. You


know it was like ter receipts. I was saying lines. I was really


nervous. People think I'm that person. They come up to me and go


"You're obnoxious!" And I think, well if you paid, I'll be whatever


you want to be. Now we want to be famous for the


sake of being famous. We don't even want the skill. We just want to be


on TV and we'll do anything on it. You want me to eat my mother-in-law,


toss her on the barbeque. Five years ago, I was going to be


kicked out of TV, I thought I'm leaving the party first. Then I


thought I'd go to school and get my brain back. She's going to Oxford.


I'm not saying I'm doing well, but I'm in there. You're doing


neuroPalace tisity. This is serious stuff. Yeah, I have to write a


masters. Instead of writing like everybody else, they're letting me


write another one-woman show about how your brain does work. You're


doing a performance for your MA? Yeah. If you could have one thing


out of these two what would it be, funny or happy? To be happy. That's


great. Because I don't think you would have said that five years


ago? No, I would think nobody would like me if I wasn't funny. Now I


don't give a, whatever that word is. Now when I go to a dinner party and


somebody asks me what I'm doing. I say I'm doing the same thing you're


doing, I'm dealing with heart ache Ruby Wax is at the UnderBelly until


29th August. If you have never been to the Edinburgh Festival, you are


missing out, you are missing out on crowded streets, inflated


accommodation prizes. You are also missing out on the most exciting


and vibrant arts festival in the world. Michael Smith confessed he


had never been to the festival. We sent him on his own endurance test.


Could he survive the pace? Could he cope with 24 hours of this city?


Stay tuned to find out. I've never been to the Edinburgh


Festival bfrplt people go on about it like it is a magical reality in


its own bubble. It sound more like a state of mind than a place. I'll


go and see what the fuss is about. The first port of call is Royal


Mile. It is like a feeding frenzy. Hundreds of facting trying to snap


up punters for their shows. It is What can I say? It was bedlam out


there. I thought I'd better go and check into a hotel and dump my


stuff off before I got stuck in. Have you got a room for Mr Smith?


Here we go. You're in 27. If you could just


sign here. You've got a lot of balls coming in


here! I'd only just arrived. It seems


like everywhere you turn in this town there's something weird going


The thing about Edinburgh is it's not just one festival, it's loads


all bundled together. Now f you've never been here before it is


difficult to get your head around the scale of it. It is like 45,000


performances and averages out at 2,500 shows a day. You can do it


from dusk till dawn if you like. They asked me to check out some of


the more physically demanding shows here. It is clear I need a lot of


energy to get through all of this. It wears you out just watching some


of these acts! There's plenty of other ones which


demand a lot more from their audience.


They've told me to bring some shorts along for this show which is


set in a gym in for a penny, in for a pound.


This is sink or swim. It is the first ever comedy show performed on


exercise bikes. You've come to watch me. Good!


It's a funny show that really. It's about a sort of fitness instructer


in his mid-life crisis or breakdown. We were the sort of fitness group.


I got really involved because you were physically involved with the


cycling. You felt more part of it. I can't believe this act.


It was good fun, that! It's a crazy thing this festival,


you know. We're only halfway through the first day. I amount


nabgered already. Apparently we have -- knackers already.


Apparently we have a dance Martha thon next. I'm not much of a dancer


-- a dance marathon next. I'm not much of a dancer. I don't know what


is going on. I have been given this number. I have walked into this


hall and my number corresponds to my feet. I'm dancing with this


lovely young lady tonight. You have to move your feet at all


times or you'll get eliminated. Basically you are paired up with a


complete stranger and you have to dance for four hours. It is


terrifying. I think the most important thing


for people to know is it is not a dance contest. It's more like an


endurance test. You are not necessarily going to be judged with


the way that you are dancing. Not - I'm not trying to


underestimate you. It is half painful and half a good


laugh this. I looked around the room and saw an old man dancing. I


realised he was a better dancer than me. I took a breather and


forgot to keep my feet dancing and they disqualified me immediately!


Me dance partner looked so disappointed. I thought I better


not ask for her phone number! It's been a pretty full day. I've been


on exercise bikes, on a dance marathon. Apparently I have no idea


what it is, but the next thing I am going to I am going to get into


some pyjamas, so I am looking forward to that. Last up was hotel


Madire. Based on the myth of the mother who kills her children. The


critics are going crazy for it. I found it hard work. It is a


demanding piece for the audience. It goes on from midnight to dawn.


It's so long you even get to bed at one point. I tell you what I don't


like about this thing, it's totally patronising, man. They dress you up


like a little kid. The show deliberately invades your personal


space. It is designed to put you off guard. Everyone else seemed to


be an eager victim. I had been at it all day and was getting frazzled


at this point. Well, the dawn is up now. I've done


my first full day at the Edinburgh Festival and you know, some of it I


have really liked and some I have not been so keen on. I guess that's


part of the festival experience, isn't it, really. I cannot believe


how much you can fit into a day really. The thing is though there's


three weeks over it left. I think now I'm going to get off to bed.


I'm going to say good night. Good night.


Mr Smith is currently lieing in a darkened room wishing we would all


fobg-trot off. We will send him on -- foxtrot off. Harold Pinter was a


noble laurri yet. It is his poetry which is the source of inspiration


for this festival, with Julian Sands, directed by John Malcovich.


Pinter's poems are often blunt, opinionated and unashamedly


political. It's not so much the slow motion sword fighting of his


dramatic dialogue, it is more like being hit over the head with a


sledgehammer. I am curious to find out whether Julian Sands and John


Malkovich can turn it into a drama and whether they can make this one


of the biggest draws on the fringe. Now, look here, he said. This is a


beak. This is a pause. And this... Is a silence.


Harold Pinter started writing poetry at 11 years old. It is his


powerful plays that brought him acclaim. All my life I took the


same. Play up, play up or play the same. My mother and father, all


along the line, follow the line we can and you won't go wrong. Never


afraid to speak his mind his opinions have not always met with


universal approval. Critics have not always appreciated his verse.


Maybe sap skands and Malkovich's apparents will -- Sands throw new


It is repeated as a memorial tribute after he died. John had a


recording of this event in Los Angeles. You put it on your iPod.


And John had the idea that this could be worked uch into something


more than just a poetry reading. -- worked up into something more than


just a poetry reading. How did you commit to reading poetry for Harold


Pinter? His illness had impaired his reading voice. He asked me,


spending time with him, working on each poem, very closely. It sound a


bit quaint reading poetry, but there ain't nothing quaint about


Harold Pinter. There are no more words to be said. All we have are


the bongs which suck out our blood. And all we have are those which


polish the skulls of the dead. theatre works are famous for


agonised control of dialogue and conversation. Is that earful


language evident in the poetry as well? The earful language very much


so. It is not the same language. You could hardly believe it was the


same person. Of course some of the poems have a


great violence of verbal and great tenderness. This is sort of


Harold pure. Harold Pinter unplugged.


You hold my touch in you. Turning to fasten you the one shape of our


look. I hold your face too. Always where you are. My touch, to love


you, looks into your eyes. When you met him did you get a


sense that he was mellowing at all in his old age? You know, no.


Harold had within him a physical presence a Kennetic power. Like a


wounded beast. That panther-like athleticism I think he had. No, he


did not wilt into a sweet old geezer. Vehemently left wing he was


defiantly anti-war. The United States, it is a country


run by a bunch of lunatics with Tony Blair as a hired thug. You are


a fan of his work. Are you a fan of his politics? I don't know if I am


a fan of anybody's politics particularly. I work with mooist,


Marxists, Communists, socialists, left-wingers, centralists, right-


wingers. Really any group you could name. I never have a problem.


And the idea that people will agree with your perceived or alleged or


real politics, of which I don't have much, by the way, but the idea


that they will is mental. I mean.... He thought that Bush was a mass


murderer, you don't have to sign up to that idea to get involved with


the work. No. When you're an actor or director you're always, your


actual job deaf fin nations is to pre-- definition is to pretend you


are someone you're not, doing something you don't, somewhere


you're not. # You're lovely with your smile so warm


. # I've got woman # Crazy for me


# She's funny that way # You are the promised kiss of


sunshine. The fringe throws up an image of


people sort of roughing it sometimes, washing their underwear


in the sink and handing out flyers down the Royal Mile. You are two


established Hollywood stars. Is there a sense of going back to


basics? I don't think we got away from basics, I have been washing


socks for 30 years. Yes, that is a lot of hand-washing. This is part


Breasts, bottoms thighs, the whole palava. I raise my hat to my


uncensored sister, who shone the light of love of those around her


who lusted longest on her black suspender. Harold was an only




This is a celebration, isn't it, it's called a celebration. It is a


celebration. It began as a memorial tribute. But now it's absolutely a


celebration of someone who called himself the luckiest man in the


world. I might well be enigmatic, tas turn, terse, prickly, explosive


and forbidding, but I have also enjoyed my writing life and indeed,


my life to the hilt. It's a real no-frills performance. It's


somebody on stage with a book. But you really get a sense of Pinter's


character developing. What carries is is Julian Sands, who has a great


respect and dedication to the text and the man. He really means it and


he really feels it. So did I. And Julian Sands in a celebration


of Harold Pinter is on until August 21. We're spoiling you this week,


with two Hollywood legends. Margaret Cho is a household legend


in the States. But she's a controversial figure with her


material often risque and sexually and politically charged. Think of


her as a Korean cranky. We asked her along to explain the world


according to Margaret Cho. It is a very strange profession that I've


gone into. It's hard on my family. They're freaked out. Or they were


freaked out about it, when I decided I was going to be a


comedian, I told my mother. I was 13. I said "I want to be a comic."


She said, "Oohhh, maybe is better Some people are raised by woofls, I


was raised by drag queens. She say certain smells bring you back to


childhood. Like my friend says when she smells wood burning in the air,


she's reminded of Christmas when she was five years old. The smell


that takes me back is balls in pantyhose. That's tights to UK


viewers. I'm sorry if you came to the show


and you didn't know me or anything and you didn't know what you were


coming to see. This is what it's going to be like, you saw my


picture and oh, I love Chinese things. Oh, let's go. I love


crouching tiger, hidden dragon. I'd love to go see Memoirs of a Geisha,


it's fabulous, acrobatics. Let's go. It's not going to be that, so


My poor father put me into the care of gay men because he knew they


could teach me what he couldn't. He knew that gay men knew about art


and literature and fashion and music and most importantly, he knew


that gay men knew how to teach me about men. That's why I am the way


that I am. If I could pick, I would rather be


a gay man. Like, to me being a gay man, it's got to be the greatest


existance possible for a human being. I think if you're a gay man,


you're probably near the end of your reincarnation cycle. You've


got a couple of life Times left to be fierce, just work! I work


towards legalising gay marriage in America. We don't have it in every


state and we should because it's important. To deny a gay man the


right to bridal registry, that's inhumane. And people ask me, well,


are you gay? I don't know. I just don't care who you are. I want you


to want me. I'm not bi, I'm I. It's been tough, like, I've been


living in the south. I've been shooting a TV show called Drop dead


Diva. We are in a small town in Georgia. Peach Tree City, Georgia,


where I am the blackest person there.


I'm ice cube. That's weird when your apartment is the ghetto, the


gay neighbourhood and Chinatown. I was being interviewed on a radio


show and the DJ asked me, "What if you woke up tomorrow and you were


beautiful?" I was like, "What?. He said "Yeah, what if you woke up


tomorrow and you were blonde, you had blue eyes, you were 17 years


old, you're thin, tall and beautiful?" I was shocked. I was


like, erm, I'm already beautiful. If you can't see it, I feel sorry


for you. I think it's so important to feel beautiful because I think


beauty is power. For people like us, beauty is vital. In Edinburgh,


beauty is absolutely essential. When I was a little girl people


would tell me that I was ugly. My grandmother would say, "Your face


is bloated beyond recognition." My grandfather would say, "You know


they tell us that you and me are ugly, but they don't (BLEEP) ."


Cho dependent is on at the Assembly until August 29th.


This year's international festival kicks off tomorrow. For that we


need to look east, because it's all about Asia and Asian culture. I


went to talk to the festival's director Jonathan Mills to find out


Since its foundation in 1947, the aim of the Edinburgh international


festival has always been to embrace global culture. Director Jonathan


Mills has made it Asia's turn in the spotlight, turning it into a


discovery where those from Asia share their talents with us in the


far West. Last three years, you've tackled


the blurring boundaries of Europe. You've looked at Scottish


enlightenment and the new world. What does this year bring? A very


different theme, a bridge between Asia and Europe. I want to make the


point that there's a lot that's really familiar aboutation culture


that we take for granted. The fact that anyone who's fascinated by


martial arts, who's seen a Bruce Lee movie has had an experience


rather like pee king op ra. There's a lot that I want to bring to


people's consciousness and celebrate.


We in the West have been guilty of casual orientalism, a shoddy


stereotyping. Is this programme your way of redressing that


balance? I'm not quite doing that. What I'm trying to do is suggest


that artists have been mixing it up for centuries and artists have a


much greater understanding of different cultures. What I'm really


saying is that be led by them in their curiosity into Asia. Your


starting point, I gather was the Peony Pavilion. The greatest


Chinese poet of the late 16th century died exactly the same year


as Shakespeare. They're identical contemporaries. In the peony


Pavilion, if there's a contemporary to Shakespeare is the Chinese


experience of Romeo to Juliet. The love interest is already debt and -


- dead, it's actually a dream. It's a beautiful elegy.


The focus seems to be on Shakespeare. You have a Korean,


Taiwanese and Chinese take on three Shakespearean classics. It's fair


to say that shake peer is an obsession with artists across


aishya. One thinks of films like Thrown of Blood as his tribute to


Shakespeare. We have three great tributes to Shakespeare and three


different versions of that. The most standard, I guess, if you


can call it that, it's magical nevertheless, is the version of The


Tempest. And the magical aisles and their


stormy brooding poet triare no longer in the Mediterranean, but


the south China sea. And focusing on comedy as well. Whereas we in


the West are preoccupied with notions of tragedy. They look at


the more playful elements in the text. It's very compelling and


beguiling and very funny. We've also got a one-man version of King


Lear, imagine that, for all of its monumentality brought down to the


single tragic figure of Leer. An extraordinary actor playing a range


of roles and techniques. It suggests to us that actually our


version of King Lear as the person at the centre of power, who


abandons everything and abdicates power and everyone is treacherous


to him actually, there's a different version of King Lear. It


suggests that he was only -- always lonely and his decisions to on


diKate only reinforce what was really there in the first place,


which is that we're all alone, and especially if we're powerful. It's


a very different take on one of our greatest tragedies. There is also a


very different treatment of Shakespeare on offer from the


Shanghai Peking opera this year. The thing Shakespearean adventure


is a hamlet that you'll never ever seat like of again, in a company


that you only see once in perhaps a decade, a company of this calibre


in the UK, the shang eye opera company doing the resenk of Prince


-- remake of Prince zedong. Some would say this is cynical because


of the collapse of financial markets in America and Europe, we


look perhaps to the east to provide the essential arts funding. How do


you respond to criticism like that? I would love to be able to indulge


in the sort of instant cynicism that you describe, because what I


mean... This has taken years to generate, what do you mean instant?


This is part of a five-year programme, where I thought in


keeping to the original ethos of the Edinburgh Festival, which was


always going to be about embracing the world, and one of the important


parts of the world that we haven't embraced for a little while was


Asia. It is a festival that looks at many facets of the different


cultures, different stories, different attitudes that one can


find across Asia. You share this beautiful city with the fringe


festival. Do you ever weigh anchor in town and see show that's aren't


connected with the festival. course, this is the week I can do


that. It's almost impossible. I enjoy this moment in Edinburgh's


calendar especially for that. expect to see you at 2am drinking.


The international festival begins tomorrow. That's about it for this


week. Join us next week for more Edinburgh fun and madness. I leave


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