From depictions of damnation to communion, Scotland's culture minister has had an eventful Edinburgh Festival that has defined the word eclectic.

This week, The Herald spent a day at the Festival with Michael Russell, who is enjoying his first festival season in the post, and he provided his own reviews on a variety of different shows, exhibitions and events that he attended.

He also found time to express some disquiet about the future of the city's biggest festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, saying that it faces some "very substantial questions" in the future, including questions over its size and scale - this year it has 2098 shows in its programme.

Mr Russell has been busy in the past 10 days, attending and speaking at events at the Fringe, the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

In a packed day, we saw two works at the Fringe - a new version of Chekhov's Three Sisters set on a canal and a one-man show, Walden, at the Dovecote Studios - as well as popping into the Rough Cut Nation display of graffiti art at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The day ended in the peace and tranquillity of the Cathedral Festival Eucharists at St Mary's Cathedral.

Why had the minister opted for Three Sisters?

"I like boats and I like Chekhov and this combines both," he said. Walden - a seminal work by US writer Henry Thoreau - is one of his favourite texts, he added, and the religious ceremony, including communion, linked to his childhood love for Anglican hymns and ceremony.

Walden was well acted but a little long, he felt, while Three Sisters was both challenging and beautiful, with some startling acting from its three female leads. The closing Eucharist provided "some piece and stillness in the heart of the festival city", and he praised the cathedral choir's beautiful rendering of Bruckner's Ecce Sacerdos.

The minister also had high praise for Faust, the Goethe classic being staged in grand, and unflinching, style by Silvio Purcarete at the Lowland Hall in Ingliston, as well as qualified praise for St Kilda, the multimedia theatre production that tells the tale of the Scottish island evacuated in 1930.

He said the government should have a "light touch" on the festivals, but did express concerns over the future of the biggest festival, the Fringe, which this year features several Scottish productions backed by the government's Expo fund.

"The Fringe has had its difficulties, I think Kath Mainland, the new chief executive will make a difference, but there are very substantial questions about the future of the Fringe," he said. "I've not taken part in that debate publicly in this festival, but I recognise the issues there, and all those involved are going to have those issues to discuss.

"There are the usual questions - is it too big? Is it unmanagable? But there are some other, profound questions - has it become too difficult and too expensive for certain kinds of promoters? And are the promoters a power in the fringe or is there another dynamic in the Fringe? "

Mr Russell, however, maintains the answers to the questions facing the Fringe do not lie with central government.

"I think the Expo fund contribution to the Fringe is what we can be concerned with. But it is not within our gift to say that we will make it cheaper to take part, because there are too many variables. If there are any answers to these questions, they are not ones where you can say the government should do something about it', that is not where we are at," he said.

Mr Russell added that talk of the festivals should not forget the contribution of the Tattoo, which has now performed to 12 million people in its history.

Of his own contribution to this festival - a rumination on his favourite poems at the book festival, followed by a chat with Ian Rankin, the creator of Rebus - Mr Russell said: "I don't want to be immodest but I think his own event went reasonably well and was well attended.

"Then I interviewed Ian Rankin, which was much better attended."

The Culture Minister Give his Verdict 3 Sisters at the Millennium Link, part of the Fringe: "The three actresses Francesca Hyde, Josephine Rogers, and Jessica Stanley were personally engaging; their take on Chekhov was very original. Initially the intimacy was intimidating, but they make wonderful use of the shape of the boat. I thought it was quite beautiful towards the end and quite disturbing in a way. I imagine one or two people would initially think: how the hell do I get off this boat? The answer is - you don't." St Kilda at the Edinburgh International Festival: "I enjoyed it, I think it's an important work. A Belgian company performing in Gaelic and French is unusual enough in itself. Reservations? The first act is too long; it needs more punch. I thought subtitles were absolutely essential - with them it would have worked better. But it is a unique work and one that needed to be seen at the festival. It exemplifies what the festival is about: it's about the freedom to do things you wouldn't get the chance to do otherwise." Handel's Judas Maccabaeus, opening night of the EIF: "I thought it was wonderful. William Christie has the reputation as the greatest baroque conductor of the age and I don't think there is any doubt that this is true. The work was received by everyone with enormous enthusiasm." Walden at the Dovecote Studios, part of the Fringe: "It is a great environmentalist text, indeed it is a bible of the environmentalist movement. Henry David Thoreau thought and wrote things that many people don't see. But I think an hour performance was too long. Ewan Donald is very good, but there was just not a spark in it. Having said that, I am glad that I saw it." Faust at the EIF: "Faust is what the festival is for. It's on an enormous scale, it's inspirational, quite scary, but an enlightenment work. And with a curious twist on it: their version is very different in that Faust is redeemed by love; in our version, he is damned. But it works triumphantly well. It was absolutely great." Ian Rankin and himself at the Edinburgh International Book Festival: "I don't want to be immodest but I think Mr Russell's own event went reasonably well and was well attended. I also interviewed Ian Rankin, which was much better attended. He was in good spirits."