Now, although I like Edinburgh very much, and visit on a pretty regular basis (not least because Mr Liz claims at least twice a year that "something may have changed" at the Scotch Whisky Experience, thus necessitating yet another trip), I have never actually been when the Edinburgh Festival is on. There are two probable reasons for this. Firstly, I am mildly claustrophobic, and just thought of the vast number of people likely to descend upon this fair city at Festival time makes me feel a little anxious. What I suspect to be the real reason, though, is the vague notion I have of what the Festival might be like - a notion that involves an entire weekend of picking the wrong things to see, thereby earning oneself the pleasure of sitting through a selection of fairy tales performed entirely through the medium of dance and/or mime, or perhaps some scary, shouting, wild-haired thespians banging on drums whilst loudly proclaiming the complete works of Ibsen in Norwegian, and possibly backwards.
I do understand, of course, that the Festival is (probably) not really like this. I know plenty of people who go every single year, and who speak with passion and excitement of the times they have discovered a true gem lurking amidst the Hungarian drummers - a thrill I myself will never experience. Fortunately for me, I did manage to catch up with one of these gems in the altogether safer environs of The Lowry Theatre last week, as the Hartshorn-Hook production A Tribute to the Blues Brothers - Live made its Manchester debut after three successful seasons at the Fringe AND a run on the West End. This is essentially an hour and a half of insanely catchy music interspersed with the odd key line from the original film, and is exactly the kind of way that EVERYONE should spend Thursday nights: sitting in a darkened theatre wearing sunglasses as two men - one thin, one fat - sing great songs accompanied by enthusiastic and talented musicians, and doing a small, surreptitious dance at the back of the box during the second half to help burn off the big fat portion of confit de canard consumed before the show (actually, this might just have been me).
The show has apparently now played to over 10,000 people (9,995 more than have seen the Hungarian shouty Ibsen, no doubt), and is the only one in the UK licensed to use Jake and Elwood, the Blues Brothers characters. As if that wasn't enough, Hartshorn-Hook Productions (founded by Louis Hartshorn and Brian Hook five years ago) are a Manchester-based company, so whilst Jake and Elwood have now packed up their bumble-bee suits and moved on from our fair city, you should certainly take the chance to see them next time they're in town - keep an eye on the Hartshorn-Hook website for details of upcoming shows.
As for me, I'm off to plan my next holiday - I hear Edinburgh is just LOVELY this time of year...