LOUIE Steven Witt was “the umbrella man”. In the aftermath of John F Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963, Witt was identified in real-time footage as the incongruous figure on the sidewalk brandishing an umbrella on the warm, sunny day in the Lone Star State when Lee Harvey Oswald opened fire and JFK was killed.

Witt maintained he was just an ordinary feller in the wrong place at the wrong time – but his swirling antics with his black brolly became a focus for conspiracy theories ever since. Was Witt giving the not-so-lone gunman a signal when he unfurled his umbrella on that cloudless day in Dallas and the gunman pulled the trigger, terminating the 35th presidency? And if so, who was he working for?

It’s from Witt’s cognomen that Colin Bramwell takes the title of his Edinburgh Fringe show, featured at Summerhall this year. The performance doesn’t focus on Witt – but a different kind of conspiracy theorist. With a tormented mane of hair, a gussetless suit, flip-flops and a wet bead of mania in either eye, Bramwell’s Umbrella Man is born and bred in the Black Isle. Rosemarkie. The voice is definitively small town and Highland, world-curious, but world-naïve. We’re a world away from familiar Landseer clichés here too. The show is funny, but isn’t couthy. True to life, it has an emotional context, but its feelings are handled evasively, and are less than directly disclosed.

This Umbrella Man was born years after JFK’s demise – and yet and yet – he believes the earth is flat, and hopes to prove it. A recent escapee from the Subway sandwich chain, we meet him marooned in Cambodia, a havering barfly with a story to tell. If all of that sounds unnecessarily wild – just give it room to breathe. One reviewer described Umbrella Man as a “special oddity that’s Scottish through and through”. I particularly I liked that line about being a “special oddity”. That’s exactly right. Capturing the special oddities of different places and the language and people who live there is one of the things which make good drama so transporting.

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One of my more unpopular opinions is that Scotland has a representation problem, and our representation problem isn’t always what we think it is. Watching Umbrella Man in Edinburgh last weekend, I was reminded of how encouraging it can be to hear the world, relayed back to you in your own voice, or something broadly approximating it, peopled by characters you recognise from your life and times, with a way of being which chimes with what you know.

One of the most boring features of urban West Central Scotland is its tendency to universalise from itself to every corner of the country.

Not so.

I grew up in mid-Argyll, but can count on the fingers of one hand the times when I’ve seen or read any art which meaningfully evoked the kind of place I called home during my formative years.

“How can you miss something you’ve never had?” might sound like a greetings card moan, but it can take a while to realise the weight of an absence in your life, whatever byway community you are from.

You forget how rarely you hear life relayed to you from this perspective. You forget how rarely we hear an articulation of special oddities that are Scottish through and through, which aren’t Mean City knock-offs, period pieces, or charmless tales of po-faced toil, digging brownly over the kaleyard.

I’ve quoted the exchange at you before. In Alasdair Gray’s novel Lanark, McAlpin asks an intelligent question. “Glasgow is a magnificent city,” he says. “Why do we hardly ever notice that?” Thaw’s response has always intrigued me. Because, Thaw says, “nobody imagines living here”.

“Think of Florence, Paris, London, New York. Nobody visiting them for the first time is a stranger because he’s already visited them in paintings, novels, history books and films. But if a city hasn’t been used by an artist not even the inhabitants live there imaginatively. What is Glasgow to most of us? A house, the place we work, a football park of golf course, some pubs and connecting streets. That’s all.”

The exchange between Gray’s characters was one of those lightbulb moments for me – and the light it cast sheds far beyond the city his characters were discussing. There are countless places in our culture which we don’t live in imaginatively.

Gray’s novel was a compelling attempt, in 1981, to live imaginatively in a Glasgow – or more precisely, to live imaginatively in parts of a Glasgow.

And as the School of Art smouldered down to its roots in 2014 and 2018, you could almost see Gray’s smoky hand directing some of the public reaction. Fire is vestigially terrifying, but by living imaginatively in it, Gray helped make the institution on 167 Renfrew Street the kind of space that many people who’d never had the chance to test the light in the upper studios, or browse the dark wood of its art nouveau library, wince as the flames twice tore through the space.

The National: The Glasgow School of Art was gutted by fires in 2014 and 2018The Glasgow School of Art was gutted by fires in 2014 and 2018

August, there is a statutory requirement for folk to fall about themselves in comment pages to argue that the Edinburgh Festival is either a Disney paradise or a subrealm of the Hells. This is an annual ritual. Like all good rituals, the paraphernalia, positions, roles and characters are all extremely well established. The conundrum, essentially, is this. Is the Edinburgh Festival a lurid Mr Hyde ravishing Auld Reekie, or wholesome Dr Jekyll, bringing a much-needed magic to the Athens of the North? These clichés are also mandatory.

For some, the Edinburgh Festival is a hulking monstrosity, which sees the self-belief of a thousand freeform comics, pished mimes, amateur choreographers, theatre kids, asymmetric haircuts, rape gag comedians and professional Mes condense somewhere near George Square. The lurid plastic of this totem temporarily humps and bumps over the Old Town, elbowing elderly residents into the gutter of the Cowgate and pissing unrepentantly from the balconies above the West Bow.

Enfeebled by generations of philosophy students and surrealist comedians, the boundaries of reality have grown thin around the Potterow. The dungeon dimensions are inclined to spill in. Festival critics talk about Showfolk in the perilous tone of a community elder with a pitchfork in one hand, a flaming brand on the other.

There’s something to this. There’s certainly a quiet part of me that flinches as much as the next introverted scribbler about the prospect of a town suddenly pebbled with large-bottomed strollers, bike lane blockers, with every gunnel crammed with extraverts at play.

But as shows like Umbrella Man demonstrate, the Edinburgh Fringe can be a platform for voices, who speak like neither Jekyll nor Hyde, and remind us what we’re missing.