Before this show, every time I walked past the nondescript sign on Nicolson Street imploring me to give the Scientologists a try, I was tempted to stop. Although I've never joined a cult, I've always been fascinated by them - we've all heard the stories about naked dancing and ecstatic sex with strangers. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I've now been through the looking glass and have lived to tell the tale.
So how was it? Do I now believe in nothing but the collective divinity locked in all living matter? Am I certain of Enlightenment if I keep up the monthly payments to an account in Gran Canaria? No, unfortunately nothing that exciting. At least Jim Jones and David Koresh kept the name of their movements vague enough to retain an element of mystery. This cult, on the other hand, does precisely as advertised.
The enraptured devotees howled with joy when their eponymous hero came onto the stage, dressed in a gorilla costume and a tweed jacket. He then proceeded to sit down on a rocking chair and began rocking. And that's it. But that wasn't it, was it? For while an uninitiated observer like myself just saw a man in a cheap outfit on a chair, those who truly understood the transcendental importance of his actions were transfixed. Large sections of the audience rocked backwards and forwards in time with their master. At various points, people erupted into impromptu applause. But the object of their attention took no notice. How could he? His cause was too sacred to pause for even a moment. So he kept rocking.
There were sceptics. After about ten minutes people started to drift out. But the movement would not broach dissent. 'Judas!' came the call from the faithful. 'Apostates!' Even I caught a lash from their barbed tongue. Hearing me make a disparaging comment about their leader to the friend sat next to me, a girl turned round in her chair, quite of her own accord, and chastised me: 'This is the best show of the Fringe! You're ruining it for yourself. If you open your mind, you'll enjoy it.' Pointing out that each was entitled to their own opinion she retorted that 'yes, you're allowed to not like it.' Though by her tone it was clear she thought I was deranged. When the prophecies were realised, there would be no mercy for people like me.
And so it went on, for about an hour. People made offerings: pairs of glasses or spare jackets. Each time the crowd cheered. At one point someone came back from the bar with a pint and reverently left it by the rocking chair. Eventually, as suddenly as he had appeared, the hallowed shepherd got up and without even glancing at his flock, left the stage. He had done what he could. Now it was up to the masses to spread the truth themselves.
I left, making sure I wasn't being followed and headed straight for Nicolson Street. After surviving this, the Scientologists would be a doddle.