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Thursday, 9 August, 2001, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Are Edinburgh's reviews going soft?
Downtrodden by the reviews?
By BBC News Online's Darren Waters in Edinburgh

The Edinburgh grapevine is shaking and it's only day five of the festival.

The talk of the town is Gregory Burke's debut play Gagarin Way.

Burke is being hailed as a new star and his background as former a dishwasher makes the dish rags-to-literary riches story even more acutely interesting.

Journalists and critics roam the town all hoping to spot a new literary or theatrical talent first.

And every writer and performer on the Fringe is also skulking around the town hoping he or she will be the one that is spotted.

Bad reviews

The Perrier award made stars of Stephen Fry, Dylan Moran, The League of Gentlemen, Jenny Eclair, Lee Evans, Steve Coogan and Frank Skinner.

While on the stage Tom Stoppard was discovered through his Fringe production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

With so many productions, of course the standard cannot be uniformly brilliant. But surprisingly there are not that many bad reviews to be found.

Fifteen shows have been award five stars so far from reviews appearing in The Scotsman,, the Edinburgh Evening News and The Guardian and 25 shows have four stars.

'Make or break'

Reviews, especially those in the Scotsman, have a huge bearing on the success of a production.

Eric Nightengale, director of Man in the Flying Lawn Chair, said a review in the paper could make or break a production.

"It is the single most important thing that can happen for sales. With so many shows people look to the Scotsman and the stars system, especially if they are in town for a few days."

Nightengale is sweating on a appearance by a reviewer from the paper who was to attend the production on Wednesday night.

"I've told the cast about the reviewer. There is no way to hide it because word gets around."


Andrew Easton, deputy arts editor of the Scotsman, said: "Those who are performing certainly are aware of how important The Scotsman is.

"I get about 20 calls a day from companies asking us to review their production and I've started getting calls from those asking why they got three stars and not four stars and those asking why they only got two stars.

"People do get upset."

The paper's festival website says: "Don't fall prey to all the gushing on promotional flyers and five-star reviews from the Aberfoyle Advertiser."

But there is gushing aplenty in the Scotsman itself.

I've not managed to find one production that has been thoroughly trashed, panned and ridiculed, however, which does seem unusual, if not downright suspicious.

Where are the withering and corrosive reviews?

BBC's Darren Waters
"Where are the withering and corrosive reviews?"
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