It’s that time of year again. The Edinburgh Festival is both a blessing and curse, as it can make or break careers. Even The Guardian recently acknowledged that it’s increasingly pricing out young actors, playwrights, directors and so on as landlords hike prices up to astronomical levels, meaning you’d better have rich parents or patrons bankrolling you.
Annie Griffin’s savage film satire Festival which was released in 2005, doesn’t go into the financial vagaries, but rather casts a caustic lens over the venal nature of awards ceremonies and dreams of newbies doing the festival for the first time, eyes wide with hope.
Lyndsey Marshal’s sweet actor, Faith Myers, arrives ready to perform her monologue about Dorothy Wordsworth. She befriends a fellow thesp ‘Frere Mike’ (Clive Russell) playing a paedophile priest, and the two end up navigating very different festivals
Meanwhile, monstrously narcissistic comic Sean Sullivan (a perfectly pitched Stephen Mangan) arrives with put-upon assistant Petra (a heartbreaking Raquel Cassidy) ready to screw and manipulate his way through the month. But he’s met his match in snide journalist Joan Gérard (a bitter lemon Daniella Nardini) and emerging stand-up Nicky Romanovsky (Lucy Punch).
Add to this volatile cocktail a hippy Canadian performance troupe and other assorted oddballs and it’s utterly explosive. The much missed Ian Smith also deserves a mention as the BBC’s resident ass-kisser Nigel, always looking for food, booze and freebies.
As an insider, I must admit that Griffin’s obversations are absolutely spot-on and resonate more with each passing year. I’ve been chatted up by comedians and writers looking for a good review and have witnessed the backstabbing and bitching. I’ve also seen some incredible work that changed the way I think.
So the zingers are often dismissed as too dark but sadly, Griffin got it right – there’s a lot to like about the Edinburgh Festival, but a lot of bullshit too. The cash cow is increasingly out of control.