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Edinburgh Festival 99 Tuesday, 17 August, 1999, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Dannii mania hits Edinburgh
Dannii Minogue: Thought to have left with racing driver boyfriend
BBC News Online's Edinburgh Festival correspondent Matt Grant gets to grip with Dannii Minogue and learns a few tips on surviving the Edinburgh Fringe.

Dannii mania has all but taken over the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year. The lesser-known Minogue sister (none the less a much-spotted creature) is a mile ahead of all the other performers in the publicity stakes and scarcely a day goes by when her appearance fails to generate stories in the Scottish press.

Edinburgh Festival 1999
Her publicists' efforts to keep secret details of the production she is appearing in have won maximum publicity for the show - A Journey to Macbeth, directed by Toby Gough - plus of course Dannii herself.

Just when the initial fanfare of having such a big name at the Fringe had started to wear off, it was reported she had stormed out of rehearsals and raced off with her Formula One boyfriend Jacques Villeneuve. Not true - everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

Then the classic villain, a tabloid photographer, entered the plot. He attempted to snap Dannii during a rehearsal. Although the media had been invited to the performance, taking pictures was banned.

The rest of the cast - of whom no-one has ever heard, let alone bought a swimwear catalogue from - jumped in to protect Miss Minogue's honour.

Outside performances are at the mercy of the British weather
The angry mob surrounded the offending paparazzo, keeping him prisoner until the local constabulary turned up to haul him off.

With all this free publicity, you would imagine getting to see Journey to Macbeth would prove as difficult as finding a seat for Blue Room when Nicole Kidman unveiled the show - and herself - in London.

But calls to the box office prove the opposite. Yes, of course you can get tickets, they say. How many do you want and when for? At this point, you remember Nicole Kidman is a Hollywood actress who stars in films for fees totalling millions of dollars and Dannii Minogue is mainly notable for the way she spells her name.

The nice woman on the phone is also keen to stress refunds will not be given in the event of bad weather. The Dannii experience takes place outside in the Botanical Gardens and it seems some members of the audience had complained. In Edinburgh, even during August, a clear blue sky can turn to rain in seconds and with no warning. Summer Bay, it ain't.

Do we have anyone in from ... ?

Of course, no-one would want to discourage Australians for coming to the festival. Alongside the Irish, they make up a good chunk of both performers and audiences.

Audience make-up can be judged easily at the Fringe. This is because so many stand-ups continue to warm up their larynx by asking a series of questions based on: So, do we have anyone in from ... ?

It's a prehistoric line, but one that still gets a crowd going. Scotland gets the biggest response, but then it has the home advantage. Ireland is typically the runner-up.

Jacques Villeneuve: Dannii Minogue's Formula One beau
English people on the whole realise they are likely to be picked on if they identify themselves and stay quiet. While Americans suffer the same fate, they either don't realise or don't care.

Australians, on the other hand, shout louder than their combined body mass would suggest to be possible and are also among the most persistent hecklers.

One comic taking on the Fringe Sunday crowd claimed to have the ultimate comeback for tough audiences from Down Under. The words "Pippa's not your real mother" could silence even the hardest of them, he promised. Don't say it to Dannii, though. She might storm off with Jacques again.

Famous for 15 flashbulbs

Barred from taking pictures of Dannii, the paparazzi have fallen back on hanging around outside film premieres hoping someone famous will turn up.

Rumours that Ewan McGregor would put in an appearance were proved untrue
Rumours that Ewan McGregor would attend the opening night of the International Film Festival proved fruitless. But whenever anyone stepped out of a chauffeur-driven car the flash-bulbs popped just in case.

At one point, a young boy ran across from his group of friends. "Who was that," he demanded, electrified by the prospect of celebrity. "Dunno," the press pack chorused back at him.

No words on our sponsors

A row has broken out at the fringe after small-time promoters turned on their bigger rivals, accusing them of having lost sight of the spirit of the festival and having become obsessed with money and corporate sponsorship.

The prize for the best commercial announcement, however, goes to film festival director Lizzie Francke. Reading a long list of sponsors at the event's opening she reached mobile phone makers Orange. "That reminds me," she said, staring at one member of the audience, "could you please turn yours off."

See also:

16 Aug 99 | Edinburgh Festival 99
18 Aug 99 | Edinburgh Festival 99
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