For the month of August however, it is a temple to the true Spirit of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and plays host to one of the most exciting and eclectic programmes in the city – Universal Arts.
Run and curated by Edinburgh-based arts & culture champion Tomek Borkowy, this is Universal Arts’ 21st year at the Festival Fringe. This year they once again bring a diverse international programme of theatre, music and dance to delight and entertain within the marbled corridors of the New Town Theatre.
With two striking performance spaces – the aptly named Majestic and Mysterious – and its own dedicated bar & refreshment areas, when you climb the steps into the New Town Theatre, you feel like you have been transported into a place where Culture is recognised, respected and revered.
Here, we preview the intriguing selection of shows on offer as part of 2010’s Fringe.
Theatre-wise, Universal Arts’ programme features well-known performers and an award-winning work from Poland.
Likely Lad Rodney Bewes performs in his own one-man adaptation of Three Men In A Boat, combining his natural warmth and charm with the well-loved tales of Jerome K Jerome.
Meanwhile, Fringe stalwart and master of the one-man show Pip Utton breathes life into Charles Dickens, promising to peel back the layers of the novelist to reveal his innermost thoughts and desires.
Teatr Praga from Poland complete the trio of theatrical works, with More Light Please, an award-winning play exploring the conflict between dreams and reality as young Natalia leaves her native Poland to join her father in Dublin. Featuring a soundtrack by The Tiger Lillies (Martyn Jacques from the band is going to play live at the performance of More Light Please on the 8th August), this moving yet funny play looks to be well worth catching.
With the sad demise of The World Festival, it’s wonderful to see Universal Arts featuring a varied programme of musical performances. Drumming, dance and singing from South-Western China features in the colourful and exotic Rhythm of the Drums: Song of the Cicada, a celebration of the culture of the Dong and Miao minorities of China.
Then comes India’s leading Jam Rock Band Something Relevant with their live set Feels Good To Be Live. Featuring a seven-strong band, their music is an uplifting fusion of rock, funk, soul & hip-hop and will transport you from Edinburgh’s austere surroundings to the bustling streets of Mumbai.
Music and comedy combine in Rainer Hersch’s homage to Victor Borge, which sees the radio and TV comedian retell the life of the 60’s legend through song, piano and comedy.
And then, of course, there is that glorious collision of musical styles that can only be Barockestra…
Physical theatre and dance is well-represented too, with flamenco superstar Miguel Vargas’ Rhythms With Soul, guaranteed to fill you with Spanish passion and fire.
The Czech company 2Landa bring children’s fantasy The White Dalmatian. Colourful and joyous with a moral message, this is a rare chance to see the Czech Republic’s biggest-selling children’s musical ever.
2Landa also bring another musical show – Desire. Telling the tale of wrongfully-imprisoned Ben as he escapes to follow his dreams and desire for beautiful Czech musical star Karin, this original and bold production has once again enjoyed sell-out runs in its home country.
Nochty Productions is a joint Russian / UK company, and bring their physical production of The Lonesome Foxtrot to the New Town Theatre, a romantic interpretation of a classic Russian tale of the power of love in the 1930s.
Lastly, there is Era Schaeffera. In a production that defies categorisation, this 80-year old Polish master of the avant garde presents a performance featuring the Polish National Radio Orchestra, a quartet and soloist and a live theatrical performance all played out against an interactive multi-media backdrop.
Performed at the Venue 150@EICC this rare visit from Poland’s most prolific artist promises to be something special and unique, transcending genres and cultural attitudes in a production that would not look out of place on the Edinburgh International Festival’s programme.
Tomek, Universal Arts Artistic Director, has a belief that Culture is a vital part of society’s fabric, and without investment in it, we as a nation run the risk of being thought of as poor cousins by some of our more artistically-enlightened neighbours. His impassioned open plea to Universal Arts’ audience to rally around the Cultural banner is heartfelt and genuine – and his 2010 programme is an ideal opportunity to pledge your support by taking in at least one show at this forward-thinking, daring – and precious – venue.