Other great cities have magnificent buildings, great parks & gardens –
man has made beautiful cities by his work; but Edinburgh possesses
gifts straight from the hand of god
Shows So Far – 39
Hangovers – 4
Today was another late starter, up at the GILDED BALLOON for the intellectual esspresso that is THE SCHOOL OF NIGHT (4-18 / 17.15). Now, Ive seen improvised comedy before, & improvised songs & all the hip-hop shit, but this a masterclass in the art of bardery. We are given six guys – three of which are part of SHOWSTOPPERS by the way – who are led by the Goader of the Rhapsodes, Sean McCann, a flamboyent master of ceremonies who straddles both stage & stairwells with the eye of a renaissance painter, overseeing proceedings & never letting the vibe dwindle below seering. The rhapsodes then bound their lyrical way through a series of ‘games’, such as reading through an audience members book & carrying on the tale themselves when bid to do so. Tonights books were Dracula, The Three Muskateers & The Scotsman’s book of Scottish words the by the way. The 70 minute show concludes with a Shakesperian-style play, beginning with a an English sonnet & rollicking through several acts of hijinks & Iambic pentameter. Todays fare was Gordon of Hawaii & was proper wacky! A fantastic piece of entertainment, it gives one faith in the bardic tradition & a personal succor to my love of the sonnet form (see the Ediniad above.) The crowd loved to see such expressions of the soul of poesy, among which were the male members of the FITZROVIA RADIO HOUR, who joined me in a morethan generous applause.
After the show it was time to sound engineer for VICTOR POPE, which saw him give his best performance yet. It was helped by a large Saturday crowd, including a wee gaggle of drunken hen-party style girls who treat his show as a karaoke. In the crowd was a couple of cool kids from Glasgow. The guy, Kev, works on KCC radio in Liverpool, hosting the afternoon DRIVE TIME SHOW (15.00-17.30, mon-fri) & was taking his lady friend out to the festival. Somehow he ended up at Victor’s gig, & was absolutley loving it. In the photo below he’s the guy on the right
After the gig I invited him to see his fellow Weegie, THE WEE MAN at THE PHOENIX on Broughton Street (15-29 / 20.15). Its a great wee pub teh Phoenix & ive been in some proper states there – it attracts some reyt carachters, but Ive never seen anyone quite like the WEE MAN there. Between catching his show last year & seeing him down the Phoenix he’s become an internet sensation for his bonkers happy hardcore tunes (see my blog for the 2nd August). This year’s set was similar to last years, including the moment where he downs an audience member’s pint! Also from last year was getting a couple of guys up to help him with a tune by beat-boxing. It was great fun watching both Victor & mi new best mate Kev being chosen! This year’s show is called THE NEDATOR, a parody of the Arnie classic, which is actually the name of a funny-as-fuck fifteen minute film which begins the show… enjoy
At the end of the show I told him he should write a fuckin sitcom, & asked whether my instinct was right in him being actually middle-class & the ned was something of a persona. “Something like that,’ he replied & handed me a flyer for another show he’s doing at the Phoenix, teh sketch show ENDEMIC (18-27 / 22.45) where he appears alongside 5 other comedians as simple, clean cut Neil Bratchpiece. Here’s an extract from an interesting interview with the Sun newspaper which gives us more about him…
But is this new man Neil anything like his Wee Man persona at all?
“Sort of,” he says, sheepishly. “The first time I got steaming was on Buckfast when I was 14.”
But that’s where any similarities end. Neil, from Motherwell, left Dalziel High School with five Highers – four As and a B – and went on to graduate from Glasgow University in English literature and film and TV studies.
The Wee Man came from a part in his stand-up comic act, after he started gigging from the age of 15.
He says: “I originally called myself Scratchy. Then that became The Wee Man.
“To be honest, I think I prefer anything to Neil. It’s such a nothing name. There’s no zing to it.
“But I created him because I was fed up with the amount of comics who were taking the p*** out of neds.
“So I decided to do my act from the neds’ perspective. I became a spokesperson for the ned, to give them a voice.”
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again & again
Alexander McCall Smith
Shows So Far – 35
Hangovers – 3
The Fringe is something of a garden of artistry, when come August every plant blooms at the same time. Some, like the Lady Boys of Bangkok, are perrenial & flower every year. Some, like the productions of Shakespeare, are ancient Yew trees, whose mother plant slowly spreads across the garden. As a flower is the beautiful result of a year of element nourishment, so a show is the end-product of a company’s/performer’s perspiration – the veritable tips of the iceburgs of effort. As I’m patrolling the Fringe, at every show I attend I am plucking a bloom & slowly arranging them in the bouquet of this blog, whose perfume fills the air as long as the Fringe continues, attracting punters bee-like to the shows with their pretty aromas. Then once the fun is over I shall preserve said flowers in an archive, to be enjoyed as pressed petals by posterity…
Today was a late starter, I didnt even stir til 3PM, by which time hundreds of shows had started, been played out, & concluded to varying degrees of applause. About 4.30 I stumbled up to Luke’s pad for a couple of bottles of wine – less a hair of the dog & more the whole coat! From there I proceeded to THE INFINITE DELUSIONS OF VICTOR POPE (5-27 – not wednesdays – 18.50) at the JEKYLL & HYDE for a spot of sound engineering. Day by day he is slowly honing his set, but even so the audience are deepely divided bunch. Some acclaim him a the greatest genius since John Cooper Clark, others’ walk out half-way throu shaking their head in disbelief. Meanwhile I’m banging a bongo & passing shaker makers out through the audience, forming something of a hippy jam-band. Victor’s set is a series of comedy songs, through which he dons articles of clothing to accentuate each number, from a dentists’ glove for his song My Dentist is a Psycho, to a medallion for his cover of Slick Rick’s number Treat her Like a Prostitute. This is probably the highlight of the show, for just before singing it he gives us his top ten anti-comments for his you tube video of the song, among which are;
fucking gringo!!! is this whitey really trying to be Slick Rick? madra le! Someone had better shot this fake! ZERO MTR CREW
omg please die ASAP… slcik rick is 1 of my favourite rappers. dont ruin classics. funny tho…. as in laughing at u. not with u. lol @ irish accent
Word up! Fuckin white shit ass fucks!
After the show I went up the Cowgate & the wicked venue there, the subterraneanesque CAVES where Just for Tonic are hosting their shows. The one I attended is called MOONFISH RHUMBA (4-16, 18-28 – 20.30), a very comfy sketch show etched in the ether by a couple of cockney comdey comperes. With one guy plucking funky strains from his guitar & the other like oozing cool like a seventies pimp, they are like the bastard love children of the Flight of the Concords & the Two Ronnies. Very funny stuff & the audience loved them, especially when a number of the guys donned long wigs & joined them on stage for the lesbian song. I was sat – more led down on several chairs, actually, crusing off the liquer – at the back & while there I noticed the unsung heros of these shows. One guy was sat with a laptop on his lap, conjuring the complex sound effects with perfect synchronicity. By him was the sounds & lights guy, another vital cog to the show’s overall effect. We audience members rarely notice them, but where would the ‘stars,’ & the show, be without them!
I had a little time to kill before my last show of the day at THE MERCHANTS HALL, so kicked back down at the JEKYLL & HYDE to see this Irish comedian I’d been chatting to before & after Victor’s shows. His name is AIDEN KILLIAN, an immediately likeable young Dubliner, whose show TAKE THE RED PILL (4-28 / 21.21) has an interesting marketing gimic. He basically gives out red capsules of gelatine with his flyers, whose placebo effect had me raving the other day! The show is based upon his battle with the banks over a house they tried to reposses from him. The guy took them on, howvere, & won, resulting in both a very witty show & a warm feeling from the auidence as we connect with the common man. As it was a free show, come the finale he went to the door & took money from the punters as they left. He scored two tenners from two seperate guys on dates (who were obviously trying to impress their birds in an effort to get laid), & another £44 in coins. He says that’s a common amount, & he says he’s turning a small profit, so good on him.
For my last show of the day I was joined by the lovely-as-lillies Katie Craig at the MERCHANTS HALL on Hanover Street. We found ourselves amid very Georgian decor, with portraits hanging from the walls including an original painting of Mary Queen of Scots. The show we giggled through was CHIMPROVISATIONS (4-20 – 22.30) by an amenable group of young ‘uns called MONKEYS WITH PUNS from Exeter. There are 4 guys & two girls & they take us on a fun ride of very funny sketches, before allowing a guest comedian the floor to break things up a little. Then they turn to improv games, including the one from Mock the Week where they have to give us ‘Things people wouldn’t say at a…’
They are an absolutely charming bunch, with as swift a wit as Ben Jonson & the ebbulience of a school outing, they crack the snappy whip of quipping with a fun-loving polish!
After the show me & Katie hit the Voodoo Rooms, whose classy bar seemed a perfect desert to our amusing main course. It was there that we met a couple of random punters to the festival – who are just as important to its life-blood as the performers. It was a father & son team, with dad a human rights lawyer & lad just about to start uni at the London School of Economics. They’d been in town a week & caught only comedy, seeing some of the leading names. The chances of me meeting them on another occasion are slim indeed, but loving our conversation it made me realsie that there is more to the Fringe than the shows – for here a vast cross-section of humanity mingles in festive merriement, & all who attend are enriched mightiy by the experience!
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
Far set in town & smoke I see
Spring gallant from the shadows of her smoke
Cragged spired & turreted, her virgin fort beflagged
Robert Louis Stevenson
Shows So Far – 30
Hangovers – 2
Raining again! Yet, as we apprach the 1/3 mark off the Fringe, spirits remain high among the myriad campers. This morning I was double booked, resulting in the first occasion when Damowords had two reviewers – myself & Paul – out in the field at the same time. My show was SANS MOTS (11-29 / 13.25) at the C VENUES – ROMAN EAGLE LODGE. This show is all all about Tuscany’s curly-haired MATTEO CIONINI’S passion for the universal art of mime, & had both child & old un’ giggling away as he presented his various tales, clowns & escapades. He came across as something of an un-moustached Charlie Chaplain, the highlight of which was his orchestral conductor. This was an energetic blast thro Motzart’s Eine Kleone Nacht Musik, full of dead-pan humour, such as controlling the CD with his baton & turning it into a machine gun. The most amusing moment came from an unexpected source – a baby had been crying on & off through the show, but was suddenly silenced by the shows own (invisible baby) who’s recorded cries completely drowned out the flesh & bones version. These were being handled behind the scenes by ANNA CETI, who’s own show I would see later in the day with Paul. She met Matteo at university in Turin, & they’d agreed to support each other’s one-person shows during the Fringe, reaffirming the good energy of their friendship. As for SANS MOTS, it was a great hour of the kids & the kid within us all!
A member of the audience was the young, attractive, as-dappy-as-me CRESSIDA BROWN, artistic director of London’s OFFSTAGE THEATRE. She’s not bringing a show up this year, but instead is one of the judges for the TOTAL THEATRE awards. They’ve been going since 1987 & are recognised nationally and internationally as a benchmark of achievement. The idea is that a team of twenty judges will try & see every show that’s on at the fringe, then on or around the 17th of August stay up all night on coffee, red bull & amphetamine, arguing with each other over the winners. It’s nice to see how everybody has a role to play in such a massive festival – & how everyone just has to be here in my beloved city. Over to Paul…
Macbeth on a dreekit afternoon!
I was looking forward to MACBETH at the NEW TOWN THEATRE (12-28 / 13.00h)by Icarus productions this afternoon as it would be my first play of the festival in the more traditional vain of theatre. And I wasn’t disappointed! Opening with a dramatic sword fight on a darkened set with a full moon shining down on the actors, and immediately we are transported into the world of Shakespeare. From here the classic begins as the three witches plot the wicked downfall of Macbeth and the Murder of King Duncan. The stand out performance goes to Lady Macbeth played by Sophie Brook whose sinister plotting and eventual downfall is preformed pitch perfectly. I think I am in love(maybe for the third time this week!) The use of the moon was very atmospheric turning to blood red at moments of treachery, and then becoming a full force of dark nature in the scene where Macbeth becomes lost under the spell of the witches. In fact all the moments of treachery and bloodshed were absolutely thrilling, sending chills down my spine, especially when Macduff’s wife and son are murdered. Absolutely spine-tingling!
I am by far not an expert on Shakespeare or ‘the Scottish play’ but on a miserable wet festival afternoon it isn’t bad to be transported back to the dark days of Scotland in the year 1000 A.D.
Go and see!
Tango of the heart!
After a couple of beers in Sandy Bells I went to see AN IMAGINARY HISTORY OF TANGO (C Aquila, Venue 21 4-14 16-29 / 4.55pm). I wasn’t convinced at first but Anna Cetti’s performance and love of tango soon sucked me in. Using puppetry, dance and video projection, Anna takes us through her intimate love affair with the tango. The audience participation (which for once relaxed me rather than have me in fear of my life) that had a member of the audience being crowned ‘king of the tango’, was very funny indeed, and was all part of a bigger picture to explain the wider social etiquette and rules of the ‘milango’ tango halls.
But this was not just about the tango. We were also treated to philosophical ponderings as Anna explores and compares Plato’s symposium to jammy dodgers biscuits! What a rant she gave us! Excellent! During this surreal philosophical lecture I got to thinking about the symposium and its musings on love, when before I know it, Anna has us all picking another member of the audience of the opposite sex to see how long we can look into each others eyes. And I am beginning to realise this is more than just theatre I am experiencing, as I question the hidden secret meanings of a simple glance.
While I am recovering from this experience Anna suddenly changes mood and takes us into a heart felt love story of a woman who is unable to ask a man she loves to dance with her, and once again questions are being asked. This time about our endless search for love and the hopelessness of it all. The dance of love indeed!
For the finale (or so I thought!) Anna tango’s majestically around the stage in the best dance of the show. But its not over yet! She now enters into the audience and with an elegant outstretched hand invites us on stage to dance (we have no choice as by now we are all cast under her spell). And so the show finishes with me waltzing with a girl from Australia I have never met before. I didn’t expect that! Just like I didn’t expect to be dreamily walking home to write these words with my heart a little bit lighter.
Bring on the rain my dear sweet Edinburgh! It matters not when Anna is in town!
Back in Damoworld , after sharing Anna’s wonderful performance with Paul, & tangoing with a middle-aged German lady, I went down to sound engineer for VICTOR POPE, where my lady friend Caska had turned up. She agreed to afterwards join me for a show entitled SAMANTHA’S HOT LINE (12-27 / 20.05) by the bubbly Sophie Gatacre &, like me, had an enthralling hour with this mad bird from London. The story is she was once married to a rich stockbroker, who had ran off with his secretary, abandoning Samantha & their son Sebastian. In an effort to keep up appearances (& buy Sebastian a horse), she’s turned to phone sex, resulting in several hilarious ‘personas’ for her booty-calling clients. From the bucking bronco cowgirl to the holy nun she gives us a canny insight into what goes on in the minds of lonely men. At one point, during her naughty teacher routine, she even gave a member of the audience a pants-down spanking, causing the guys mate to cry out, “THIS IS FUCKING SURREAL!” A great piece of one-woman writing & showmanship, she even gave out free wine at the end of the show!
After the show me & Caska went up to the FOREST CAFE, where I hosted the nights music. ROSIE WILBY & MIKE DR BLUE MCKEON plugged their shows & enjoyed the stage, while VICTOR POPE palyed with his drummer from GINGER & THE TRAMP & did the same. I did my TINKY DISCO at the end, & got folk boogie-ing about a bit. I’ve got another show on the 20th down Leith & these are my meagre contributions to the Festival. 3 years ago I played a nobhead Israeli soldier in a pro-Palastein play, which was pretty cool to do, but I much prefer the pace of two shows in a month. Even so, playing last night counts as a show, so I guess I might as well put on a wee film of mi disco… hope you enjoy it…
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
Furthganyan Embro folk come hame
For three weeks in the year
& find Auld Reekie not the same
Fu sturrit in a steir
Shows So Far – 25
Hangovers – 2
This morning, as I went to see my first play of the day, I picked up the ‘Three Weeks’ bi-daily broadsheet containing 30 reviews. One of them, unfortunately, was for VICTOR POPE’S first show, & really slates the guy. I mean, come on, it was his first performance for god’s sake (it was that bad) but there was no allowance for settling in given at all. If the lady who made the review (I know where you live darlin’) saw yesterday’s gig, she would have written a completely different, & probably wonderful review. A cursary glance through the rest of the reviews gives us many a negative vibe. I dont know if you’ve noticed, but I havent slated one show yet (tho privately I might have), for I realise the effort that goes into creating a performance & yanking it half way round the world at one’s own expense. Instead I’m more about the essence of the show & shall leave the opinions & attendance to the watcher. Who’s right is it anyway to criticize someone else’s hard-wrought work! Either better it yourself or shut the heck up!
Lunchtime today, after hiking through another soggy city, I found myself at SWEET VENUES at the Apex Hotel on the Grassmarket. The play I was presented with is called THE REALM OF LOVE OR FOLDING LAUNDRY (5-14 / 12.20), from the American PERIHELION PRODUCTIONS, which is is something of a recurring dream come to life. Its author, Karyn Traut, had said dream one night & wrote it down, the word-seeds that would one day blossom into this extremely relaxing flower of thought. The main part is played by a cute actress (Anoo Tree Brod) in her 30’s, who defines the sovereign Realm of Love to a gentlemen ‘friend’ (Brian Westcott) as she folds & plays with her washing, at one time donning a towel like a bridal gown. It is more of a monologue than a play, with the guy helping the narrative ebb & flow. This made it possible that the two actors (she’s from North Carolina & he’s based in Alaska) could rehearse over Skype – as far as they know a world first! At the end of the show the playwright & actors sat down for a discussion, which centred on the ambiguity of the man & woman’s relationship – a deliberate device by Mrs Traut. A soothing & reflective show, with many a poetic flourish, it was like having a nice bath with bubbles listening to classic FM with a glass of Chardonnay, especially immersed in that lovely Carolina accent!
I spent the rest of the afternoon at the SUMMERHALL at the far eastern edge of the Meadows, a new venue for the fringe, swarming all over the old Royal Dick Veterinary School. My ever elegant mate Bonnie is front of house & very kindly gave me full access to a couple of shows. The first number was No.52 – TO BE OR NOT TO BE.. OR WHATEVER IT WILL BE (7-16 / 14.30), a wyrd mix of singing & physical theatre, which tells the story, rather operatically, of life in a common suburban household. The O’Reillys are actually TWO’S COMPANY THREES A CROWD, from Rose Bruford College in London. They start off singing the Lord’s Prayer, & sing other classics throughout, such as the Pater Nostra in Latin, & some South African numbers such as the very special tones of Siya Hamba. Around that they present a disharmonoius domestic (yet real) habitat, with dad, wife & teenage daughter sometimes conversing all at once, yet not to each other, finishing with a great bellow from dad. The sensation of seeing this play was like rushing through a wind tunnel, an image invoked when one of the actress started vacuuming up. A surreal, niche affair, but definitely worth watching.
Having an hour or so to kill between shows, I had a great hour wandering around the art installations of the SUMMERHALL. The most interesting was an exhibition of 20th century French artists, CHRISTAIN BOLTANSKI’s work, by local art dealer, Paul Robertson. I knew nothing of the artist himself (im a poet y’see), but had a fascinating tour round the – extensive collection with a wee biog to boot. It tunrs out Boltanski’s dad was a jew hiding under the floorboards in Nazi-occupied France, who nipped out one night to plant the artists seed in his mum’s womb. Born in fear & darkness, then, Boltanski explored these themes, yet always retained a freshness that inspires his collectors. One piece I saw was the Malmo 1993 phone book, with an errata page of all those peopel who died that year – quirky, yet pricey at £2.500. He was also one of the pioneers of mail art, some of which formed the centre piece of Robertson’s colelction. Back in 1966 Boltanski had found some metal boxes, filled them with trinkets such as meager pieces of fabric & cuttings of his hair, photographed the contents, & sent photo & box off to galleries, frineds & even randoms from the phone book. Roll on 50 years & one of those boxes sets you back £20,000!
The bottom crust of my Summerhall sandwich was the incredible TRAUMATIKON (6-20 – 16.15), again from Rosebruford, & what a panapoly of personalities graced that stage. It was more of a school hall than an actual theatre, with chairs L-shaping the larg-ish room. But what this did is thrust you right into the centre of the action, which is pre-dominantly set in a restaurant. It felt as if I was actually eating there myself, especially when members of the 25-strong cast, all youthful & litheful, turned to talk to me from time to time. The show is something of a romp through the twentieth century, from Muhammed Ali to some flamenco dancer I never caught the name of. The ensemble are all dressed in stylish black, with ghostly face-paint & strutted around the stage like a Broadway musical. The soundscape was immense, a combination of pre-recorded sounds & three excellent musicians (piano, double bass & djembe), while the movement & sheer synergy of the collective was awesome. It was a compendium of caricature & a banquet of bohemia, from the gigantic winged Valkyrie to the ciggarette smoking photographer letting off her sporadic flashes as she stalked the stage like Jim Morrisson. Even though the collective were often all speaking at once – recreating the hub-hub of the restaurant – it never, ever jarred, & was at times as sweet as honey. The show is long – an hour & an half – but after the conventioanl hour, the tables were all cleared away & we were presented with an avant garde cabaret of the Circus Dramatika Abstractica. Of the acts presented, the dad from No.52 had two hot ladies on chains as his lionesses, clawing & hissing the audience. Very dramatic stuff, & the very feline brunette, sporting silk gloves & high-heels, as she squatted poised to pounce, is the most beautiful objets d’art I have seen thus far this fringe. At the end of the show, co-founder of the Traverse theatre Richard Demarco got to his feet & clapped vigorously for a lot longer than anyone else. He was quoted in the company’s programme so I guessed these guys are his babies & damn right he should be proud!
On the way home (to type this up) I met Paul Fletcher, who was reveiweing ROSIE’S POP DIARY for me. Its great having him on board – both reviews have been to notch – & tomorrow Ive given him two assignments. Here’s his from today anyway…
I have temporally decamped from the grass market and the military tattoo for a few days and set up office in the new town of Edinburgh on a quiet street called Bellevue(beautiful view in French). Therefore my itchy trigger finger has relaxed and the zombie military loving tourists of Edinburgh are safe. For now!
Today I went to see ROSIE’S POP DIARY at the TRON BAR (4th-28th – 18.20). A one woman show of music, stories and comedy, where the aforementioned Rosie boldly stands on stage and retells her stories of when she was a journalist for ‘making music’ magazine and lead singer in her band ‘Wilby’. With the help of a slide projection the audience are treated to the life and times of a journalist\musician living through the Britpop 90’s. The stories are funny and interesting, especially when she reads some of her fan mail, and we get a secretive glimpse into the mind of fanatics expressing their confused adoration. Being a kid of the 90’s myself I enjoyed walking in to the music of Suede and harking back to this era in a nostalgic way. The real gems of the show however are Rosie’s songs, which are beautiful and tender. I loved ‘This time’ and ‘You amaze me’, which both made me wish I had bought her ‘Precious Hours’ album back in the day! Is it still available Rosie?
Rosie doing stand up
It is through these songs that the show has its real strength and we got a much deeper glimpse into who Rosie Wilby is. I think it also because these are not comedy songs that this show has an edge over the countless other comedic shows in town at the moment. This is a show about the soundtracks to our lives, about how we change through the years, about how things that’s seemed important when we were young are maybe not that important. Things change, people move on, and it seems for Rosie this is a good thing!
After three hours writing I ventured out into the now sock-soaking wintry weather for my last show of the day, LOOSER WOMEN (11-29 – 22.45) at the GILDED BALLOON. It’s basically ITV’s Loose Women but much ruder. The writers are Suzanne Portnoy & Tim Fountain, & their mouthpieces are the three comediennes, a bolshy KAREN DUNBAR, a heavily pregnant WENDY WASON & cute RACHAEL PARRIS. What follows is an often hilarious hour of sexual revelations, the highlight of which was their recreation of the coital chit-chat a group of 18-year old cockneys, who’d been given a crate of stella & recorded by the writers. The bulk of teh show is made up of contributions from the public, delivered with accented panache from the three ladies (except Karen Dunbar’s Northern Irish, which is comically terrible). For any couples out there I reckon its a great piece of late-night foreplay & definitely left the auditarium with a semi.
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
A city forms the folk conceived there
& we see the Edinburghers pass
Shows So Far – 21
Hangovers – 2
While south of the border England’s cities are one-by-one descending into mayhem, bloodshed & looting, north of the border, Scotland’s capital is carrying on its annual festivities serenely. I mean, I’ve lived in Scotland seven years now, for the simple fact there’s a lot less nob-heads up here. Admittedly, the percantage of nobheads is roughly the same, but there’s only 5 million souls up here, scattered over a vast area. Indeed, Edinburgh is a joy to live in, very cosmpolitan with more of a village vibe than modern European capital. But for one month it becomes a veritable Mumbai of the muses, swarming with ballet dancers & graphic artists, comics, singers & novelists. A big shout out should go to the guys & girls who work at the 300 plus venues, an untriumphed army of youngsters that steer HMS Fringe through the endless oceans of August.
Some of these are the friendly female staff down at Venue 13 on LOCHEND CLOSE- where I caught BROKEN WING a couple of days back. It was there, as everyone was getting changed practically in the street, that I met the producers of the show, who very kindly gave me a comp to see A NIGHT’S TALE (5-12 / 10.30). The company is called UNKNOWN THEATRE & are based in Cardiff, & their story is refreshing. Voluntary ran & fund-raising mental, on a shoe-string budget they charge only a couple of quid to the kids for room hire & get proffessional thespians in who teach the kids there for a cup of tea & a wagon wheel. This is evident from the great harmonies, eloquent speech & graceful acting of this bunch of teenagers singing & dancing through a perfectly pleasant children’s story. It tells the story of Billy Morgan, who follows the Bwca (pronounced Booker) into a magical land which on the edge of destruction fileld with trolls, Faerie Queen’s, wizards & music. The latter was played by four guys to the right of the stage, of which the musical’s writer, James Williams, was plonking the keys. A thoroughly entertaining affair, I loved the leibmotif of the Troll Dance & the bubbling enthusiam of the cast. They must love musicals, as they were, coincidentally, sat next to me at the Showstoppers performance as me on Thursday! Keep it up guys!
The centre-piece of today’s tryptych of showmanship was the rather delightul FITZROVIA RADIO HOUR (10-29 / 16.00). The stage is like a car-boot sale, full of bric-a-brac which is used to make the clever sound effects for the radio plays performed in front of ‘studio audience.’ It takes one back to the bygone days of the 1940’s when the family would huddle round the wireless to hear tales of crime & derring-do. For the live punter the five elegantly dressed cast members – three men & two women – don different head-pieces to bring the plays to life. Its a real slice of middle England Im not used to this far north, & a real hoot to boot. A nice touch is the yellow scripts which the actors carry round wuith them – sometimes reading, sometimes remembering the lines – very realistic. We even get boards held up from time to time telling us to applaud, laugh or do a Nazi hub-hub! Throughout the show we had sporadic advertisements & name-dropping for Clipstone’s brand of tea which were proper funny. Of the four plays presented through the hour, my favorite was TIN. Set in Cornwall, it tells the story of an evil London syndicate wanting to flood a mine in order to raise the price of Tin. Cue drowning men gurgling in bowls of water & a playing card placed in an electric fan to simulate drilling. A real good-time riot of fun & frolics, being both a tribute to the inventiveness of the radio age & the company that has rekindled it for the 21st century.
My final show of the day was UNCLE TOM: DECONSTRUCTED at THE SPACE @ JEFFREYS STREET (Aug 9th, 13th 5:20PM / Aug 10th 3:20PM / Aug 11th 9:20AM), & I was joined at the performance by my erstwhile reviewer, Paul Fletcher, who will now be taking up the words…
I would like to round up all the rioters in London, get them on tour busses and bring them up to Edinburgh. I would then point them in the direction of the Edinburgh Castle and the military tattoo! Do your worse boys and girls! Set me free from this relentless night after night of military pompous and fanfare right outside my window! Grrrrr!
UNCLE TOM: DECONTRUCTED (Aug 9-13, Various times @ Venue 45) by the Conciliation Project is a musical play which puts the 1852 novel ‘Uncle Toms Cabin’ by Harriet Beecher Stowe on trial. It is a show that challenges our preconceptions of who we think black Americans are. And it seems that most of our conceptions come from the above-mentioned book. The characters in the play are split into two groups. On the one side, the southern slave owners, who with faces painted completely white, give a very sinister demon like appearance. On the other side are the black Americans, who do a wonderful job of playing up to their stereotypes at one moment, and then quickly slipping into a more true portrayal of the human condition under slavery the next. The singing and dancing is great, and at some points very moving. ‘Swing low sweet chariot’, and ‘Go down Moses’ are two highlights.
The performances are exaggerated but to a pitch that works very well, which captures the suffering of slavery, as well as the hypocrisy of the so-called Christian-loving slave owners. I especially enjoyed the scene where a slave auction turns into a satire of a catwalk show, the actors strutting their stuff like models, moving their hips and chains in time to the cheesy music. The slavery of human flesh still exists today! Great Stuff! Another scene that also impressed me was when 19th Century slavery was compared to the modern world of sports, and a young black athlete is checked out for his potential to join the college football team! “Don’t worry about getting an education”, the white coach mockingly laughs, “ We will sort out all that! You’re just here to play football! Make us win!”
However being quite cynical I began to think towards the end of the play that this was a classic situation of preaching to the converted. I was sure the middle class audience had already thought about all the issues raised and come to the same conclusions. But thankfully ‘Conciliation Projects’ had a surprise up its sleeve for me! Once the play had finished and the actors addressed the audience to try and get us to share our emotions about the play (I squirmed in my chair having a deep-seated fear for public speaking!), and I ended up speaking to the guy next to me who was over from Oakland, California. He told me that the issues dealt with in the play are issues he has to deal with everyday in America. He was very moved by the play and he made me realise its not just about preaching to the converted! How foolish I am! It’s about having the opportunity to express frustrations and emotions about what is happening in the world right now! And as the actors read off a list of racial atrocities from around the world, from Rwanda to New Orleans, I realised that all this is very important, and just because in my cosy little world I am free from racism it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be screamed about and expressed! It can only be therapeutic! It can maybe even change things! Which is what art and expression is all about! Isn’t it?
Answers on a postcard!
Then I arrive home and switch on BBC news and see the riots are spreading across the country, and the people in charge are predominantly white, while the perpetrators are predominantly non-white! And I have to ask myself! How much has really changed?
Preach on Conciliation Project!
Back in my world (its Damo now), I had to slip away before that talk at the end & sound engineer for VICTOR POPE’S largest, warmest audience yet. Im really enjoying being his lovely assistant, passing out bongos & shaker makers around his audience. This Thursday he’ll be playing with Luke as GINGER & THE TRAMP, down at my Forest Gig. Ive got another artist to play now, Mike ‘DR BLUE MCKEON’, who’s doing his own free show at the same venue, JEKYLL & HYDE (4-12 / 14-18 – 21.30).
So after a pull-out & an addition, here’s the new flyer for Thursday
The Forest Cafe – Bristo Place
THURSDAY AUGUST 11TH
10PM – 3AM
With Support from
GINGER & THE TRAMP
DR BLUE MCKEON
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
Edinburgh is a hotbed of genius
Shows So Far – 17
Hangovers – 2
Wandering the festival seeing all these shows reminds me of travelling around India. Every day is a state & every venue is a town. Both Darjeeling & Chennai have a central shopping area as all the Fringe venues have a stage, yet all are very different in size & content. However, of all these stages, there’s is only one where the acting takes place in an actual restaurant, & that is the FAULTY TOWERS DINING EXPERIENCE (4-30 / 13.30 & 20.30) at the B’EST RESTAURANT on Drummond St. Waking up rough as a nun’s chuff I shook VICTOR POPE into consciousness, who I gave my second (forty quid) comp to as a thank you for his infinite generosities. We got to the restaurant not long after, with VICTOR overdressing completely, as if he was going for a job interview. The audience all mingled outside & were treated to Basil Faulty & Manuel bantering with each other & us, setting the scene & seating us at our tables inside. What followed was two hours of hilarity as scenes from the series’ were renacted about us as we ate our three course meal; such as Manuel losing his rat under the table. The Company is Australian, led by its Sibyl, & is 13 years old now, but still seems as fresh as a daisy – I guess that the timelessness of such classic comedy. God bless John Cleese!
Next up was THESUES IS DEAD (9-14 – 16-29 / 18.15) – at the C SOCO on Chambers Street. The company are called THE EFFORT, & are based in Brixton Hill, south London. Now, I know Brixton quite well, & have had many a madcap night down the 414 club on Coldharbour Lane, Britain’s most dangerous street. The last thing I expected to find coming from such a ketamine-soaked country was such high brow theatre as this. The story was first crafted by Euripides, then modernized by Racine, before Robert Bruce Boswell’s 19th century English adaptatioin. Finally, the Effort – led by the BBC’s young Jonathon Rowe – radically morphed all this into a fast-paced psychological thriller – but done in classical verse. The story is set in the age of King Minos, before even the Homeric Mycyneans took control of the island – a mythological story older than Moses! Back in the modern day, there was no breath between the scenes played out passionately by the four young actresses & a Hektor-style actor. You can tell the women outnumbered the men as the colours of costume, lighting & bewitching stage design were co-ordinated wonderfully. It was a treasure to be treated with such consummate maturirty from such a young ensemble.
My next show was an absolute wonder. I’d been given two tickets to see FLAMENCO FLAMENCO (9-14 / 16-29 – 20.10) the EDINBURGH COLLEGE ART & being on my todd, a young lady behind me was lucky enough to get the other ticket. Her name is Gabby, from Melbourne, who’d just hanging out at the festival getting culture before going to study in France. She’s already majored in English Literature, which was an added bonus. Anyhow, the theatre was impressive, with statues in the hallway & epic paintings draping the walls, & the show itself was diamond. The guitarist RICARDO GARCIA, was as able as a master sitar player, & his two dancers were equally as powerful – a classicaly trained Nicole Kidman & handsome Javier Barden, whose hair swirled like a dress as he whirling dervished round the stage. The effects that Flamenco music can create, with only one guitar, castanets, a soapbox, body-slapping & foot-stomping can on occasion feel like a vast orchestra is playing. Couple this to the elegant swirling of the lady & the powerful bull-like strength of the man, & its one show & a half. The penultimate section saw our musical matador perform a series of solo dancers, incraesingly in complexity & energy. You could literally hear the quickening of the ladies’ hearts in the room – especially cos the guys pants were so tight you could make out every contour of his bum crack. Honestly, the way the women were gasping & sighing it was just like being down the bingo. At the very end, after a standing ovation, we were told the Spanish Consular-General had honoured the performers with a visit. This was cool, but as I absorbed the show I imagined a small Spanish village, with a young beauty dancing in her mother’s dress, while a ten year old girl watched on mesmorized – for this is the true roots of Flamenco. Ole!
Completely buzzing after the show, I took Gabby on a wee guided tour of the town, from a mixed doubles poetry slam at the FOREST CAFE, to WHISTLE BINKES, where my mate Cameron hosts the monday night open mic. I even played a few songs to help him get things going, gaining a free beer in the process. The place was packed, actually, a great central drinking hole that has always felt like an international youth hostel. On bidding Gabby farewell, I set off for my last show, but was caught up by the energy created by this band playing outside THE TRON. They & those about them were proper jumping & it was nice to stay awhile. It tunrs out they are called TRELESE, & hark from Kansas City USA. This is the fourth time in a row they’ve been over here & they just busk themsleves around town. I Like them so much, I gave them a gig supporting my live disco on Thursday, which I guess I’d better start promoting (see end).
My last show of the day, DEBBIE DOES MY DAD (5-27 / 23.00) at the BEDLAM THEATRE, was also American. Apparently Bobby Gordon’s dad was a porn star, who’s early advice (to an 8 year old Bobby) was ‘Grab yer dick son!’ & thought if all men would just grab their dick there would be an en to all the world’s problems. I found myself sat at the back of the theatre as Bobby’s fiance was filming the show. He’s a handsome chap I guess, in his mid 20’s, whose show grew out of performance poetry in Los Angeles. It is rather like a coming of age movie, as we are shown several scenes from his early life, revolving around the sole stage prop of a bed. In some way every scene is connected to dicks & sex, concluding with him coming furiously at the same time with an invisible girlfriend in a very realistic manner. It was kinda weird, tho, as his missus was right behind me, sniggering away at her man pretend-fucking on the stage. Only in LA!
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
Each is indubitably & absolutely Edinburgh
Each is proudly & consciously different from the rest
Shows So Far – 13
Hangovers – 1
With the recent Tory Arts council cuts cutting the trembling throat of regional theatre, suddenly the Fringe has become important again for our beloved, board-treading companies. To the punter on the street this means an increase in quality, & my first show of the day, Leila Ghaznavi’s BROKEN WING (9-14 / 17-20 – 11.45) is easily the best play I’ve seen so far. From the outside, venue 13 – HARRY YOUNGER HALL – looks unspectacular, with a couple of gazebos & two portakabins uncermoniously dumped outside to form the HQ. The actors were getting changed in the toilets at the front of the building for gods sake. However, never judge a book by its cover, for inside one is presented with a wonderful, comfortable theatre & a serene ambience. BROKEN WING’s own stage was an sensous eastern affair, with Persian carpets hanging from the ceiling with sable silks draped over the stage liitered with rose petals. The play itself was a beautifully written piece, played out by Americans, full of realistic fast chat & nail-on-the head Islamic culture. They told us a very engaging, thought provoking story. Essentially a young girl who had been orphaned by an earthquake in Iran had attached herself to this man & shared his bed from the age of 5 (they married at 16). Roll on to the present day & an American photographer has moved into their household – resulting in them falling in love. Subsequently she was stoned to death for adultery – & tho we dont witnness so brutal an act – the poetic description was enough to get me squirming! One of the neatest things about the play was the click of a camera that seperated scenes.
I was joined for my next play – THE DICK & THE ROSE (8-13,15-20,22-27 13:30) – by Victor Pope. This was at the very plush POINT hotel, near Lothian Road, & Im still trying to digest the play. The company, OUTCAST CAFE THEATRIX, are from a small town called South Lee in Massachusis, a tight ship ran by its eccentric director. The show is his baby & he announces each scene with a thespian relish that is almost pantomime. The play is a very visceral, erotic affair, accompanied by a whole host of different instruments, from skiffle washboards to acordians, banjos & a cello. This very avant garde story is about sex & its consequences, & uses a highly unique piece of scenery. You could call it a giant quilt with holes in, from which sesame street puppets, human heads & a giant penis emerge, the latter snaking across the quilt form erection to erection. A warm & visually splendid affair, I’ve never seen anything quite like it in my life, & still feel a little dazed writing about it. While watching I realised how cool Edinburgh is at this time of the year, with flash-fires of creativity bursting out all over the city at any given moment. The muses are definitely in town & are having to clone themsleves just to keep things ticking over.
On the way to my next culture-nugget I found myself in the Grassmarket, the great tourist-friendly square at the foot of the castle. In the bygone days before football 30,000 people would flock there to see an execution, but today, on the very spot of the gallows, I found an ebbulient bandmaster driving forward the euphoric music of Britain’s first Guggenmusik band, GUGGE 200. It was invented in Switerland & means ‘Happy Music’ & indeed, the team of tubas sucked up all of my worldy woes! There were several drum kits on trolleys (& one pram) trumpets, bass drums, tamborines & over fifty smiling band members up from Bournemouth.
Just off the Grassmarket is Paul’s house, who’d joined me for a couple of plays the other day. It was then that he offered to join my ‘staff’ & assist me in my reviewing. He’d already been down to the brass band to tell them to shut the fuck up (to no avail) & was happy to leave the Grassmarket for the short walk to the top of the Royal Mile & the C TOO venue for WHAT IT FEELS LIKE (8-21 – 16.30) from the young, funky, innovative ENCOMPASS PRODUCTIONS. So, with a fanfare of friendhsip & a roll of literary drums, I would like you all to meet your new reviewer, give it up ladies & gentlemen, for MR PAUL FLETCHER;
You would think living in the grass market with an excellent view of Edinburgh castle would be an ideal location to enjoy the festival, but being obliged to listen to the military tattoo every night and having to hustle your way through the crowds of tourists, just to buy a pint of milk, can all become a very frustrating experience indeed. So much so that I want to climb up to my roof and start picking off the tourists with an AK-47! Die! Die! Die! You fuckers! Die! Aaarrggghhhh!
But Wait! Stop me now! Am I really going to turn into another Edinburgher bemoaning how the freaks of the art world disrupt my peaceful city every year?! No! Definitely not! Because underneath this world of zombie like tourism are small cozy venues where fringe productions are lighting up the dark.
Today I saw WHAT IT FEELS LIKE by “Encompass productions”, a play which explores the dream states of near death experiences. It tells the story of Nicholas Harper, who while lying on an operating table after a car crash, has a near death experience. The story takes place in his subconscious, a dark “in-between” reality where we find “Lester and Simpson”, two characters who are apparently there to assist him in his unresolved issues with his long term girlfriend Sarah. From here the play goes on to be a study in human relationships as the audience are treated to different scenes extracted from Nicholas’s memories with Sarah. The play explores the themes of betrayal, jealousy, and how we not only lie to our partners but also lie to ourselves. With the help of “the Aspects”, eerie actors dressed in black, we are further treated to some stunning physical theatre (the lovemaking scene was a thrilling piece of choreography). The play builds to a harrowing finale where Nicholas’s unconscious reveals its very sinister depths. But this is not all doom and gloom, as the well-written characters of Lester and Simpson spatter the play with humour, which serve to pull us further in to this well constructed dream world. Supported by an excellent original score, which had the woman sitting next to me in tears by the final scene, I cannot not recommend this play enough. A feeling shared by my fellow audience members whose very gracious applause said it all!
So what does it feel like to be living in Edinburgh at this time of year? Well who gives a shit about the military exploits on the castle and the annoying badly dressed tourists (buy some decent rain gear you look stupid!) when Encompass Productions are in town with their electrifying play!
After the play (moving as hell by the way) I bid Paul adieu & a happy reviewing & toddled down to the JEKYLL & HYDE to sound engineer for Victor Pope, after which we began a drinking session that didint finish until 4AM. We beganin the SPIEGELTENT, where Edinburgh’s best live band, THE BLACK DIAMOND EXPRESS were playing. Unfortunately, they were late getting on & I had a show to catch, but in the name of supporting your local artists, here’s a you tube link & their myspace. They’re a passionate group of bohemians & aplaying round about town through the festival, including next saturday again at the Spiegeltent & 25th August at the Book Festival in Charlotte Square. Apparently the gig was wicked, spreading love thgrough a large, plush tent bustling with eager music lovers & I was told the stage slowly filled up with hot, dancing chicks playing shaker makers!!
My final show of the day was the famous, SHOWSTOPPERS: THE IMPROVISED MUSICAL (5-16/18-28 – 22.50). It was performed at the GILDED BALLOON in the main hall of the Student Union – & massive space (in fringe terms) that was packed to the rafters. Its easy to see why as what occirs on that stage is pure genius. The idea of teh show is that every night, from suggestions by the audience, a completey new, once-in-a-lifetime musical is summoned up from the psyches of the cast & performed with a flourish. Stage left is the director of operations, who deals with the audience & rises from his chair from time to time giving the cast its plot, often hilariously. Stage right are two musicians, a keyboard player who is the mainstay of the music, & a saxplayer/percussionist as his right hand man. The singers are three women & three men who not only make up songs on the spot, but improvise comedy inbetween. Absolutely brilliant. Tonights unique show – DANGEROUS RE-ENTRY – was set on an International Space Station, set in 2050, wih Barack Obama & Vladamir Putin cyrogenically frozen awaiting the discovery of a new planet. The themes of teh songs were Gansta Rap, Sondheim, Abba & Gerswhin, with a romantic sub-plot to boot. The best part was the creation of an alien, with one of the girls standing behind another simulating weird alien tentacles, & the tentative threesome suggested by our recently unfrozen world leaders!
After the performance I rejoined VICTOR POPE, meeting up with Bonnie from Linkey Lea (& all her cute mates), plus THE BLACK DIAMOND EXPRESS for a drink at Cvenues bar. At first glance its something of a school disco, but we turned it into at least a sixth form bash & the place was proper jumping. On getting home in the wee hours I realised I’d been in the field all day, for the atmosphere during Festival time grabs you by the goolies & swirls you about toon, refusing to let go until finally, & exhaustingly, you make it to bed… good night!
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
Coming back to Edinburgh is to me like coming back home
Shows So Far – 11
Hangovers – 1
Its amazing how, during Festival time, so many otherwise obscure spaces are metaphysically turned into theaters of dreams. This morning’s world of illusion was at the CABERET VOLTAIRE, a night club just off the Royal Mile. The bouncers there do mi nut in, but the only guy standing outside the door early this afternoon was Chris Coxen. He’s a Bostonian who’s spent the past year or two on & off down London, working his comedy magic. I had a nice chat with him, observing the little black dots above his Freddie Mercury moustache which indicated its fakeness. Once inside the venue I was pleasantly surprised to find just four comfy leather mocha couches next to the bar facing a great black curtain. There were about ten of us all together, including the barman, a sound guy & Chris’ comedian mate TOM WEBB who was Mc-ing the show. This was the spelndidly titled SPACE CLONE AUDITION (6-28 / 14.30), the idea being that the audience had to choose which one of Chris’ comedy carachters should be cloned by the US government to send to space to represent mankind. Thesse were a groovy Bermudan club singer & his hairy chest, an expert on motivation, a guy who loved thunder (!?) & an agressive karate expert. Oftentimes bonkers I was guffawing on many occasion, tho was gutted when my favorite, the Bermudan Club Singer, was beaten into second place by the Karate expert as the audience applauded their votes. It was a comfy way to start the day, from the squidgy couch to Tom Webb’s homely bantering with the audience. Nice guys!
& today’s winner of the space cloning competion is… Danny Morsel
While I was watching the show the heavens burst open, the weather turned Autumnal & the game of spot the tourists bagan – ie, shorts, t-shirts & sunglasses with the coat at home in Inverness! I had a couple of hours to kill til my next show, so I had a pint at the Counting House, with one eye on the outside stage there & a young lassies singing to a few soggy drinkers, & the other on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday, where the English football season had just started. Down at Turf Moor, on the day the Clarets legend Jimmy McLLroy received his MBE, Watford sailed into a 2-0 lead. However, 2 debut goals in the last 13 minutes, from Charlie Austin & new-boy Keith Treacy saved Burnley (& me) from the opening day blues. Talking of football, Hearts have just drawn Spurs in the Europa league, which means Edinburgh’s gonna get even busier come August 18th.
My next dose of culture was at ZOO SOUTHSIDE, on Nicholson Street, & a one-man performance of Shakespeare’s poem, THE RAPE OF LUCRECE (6-14 / 16-28 – 17.15). The theater was a largish square room draped completely in black, chairs ringing three sides. This added a quais-globe-like aspect to GERARD LOGAN’S recitation of Shakespeare’s poem. Our immortal bard had written it early in his career, deviating from the stage in order to makes his name as a proper poet & maybe make a little cash. The story tells us how a woman of ancient Rome, Lucrece (rhymes with peace) is raped by a certain Sextus Tarquinius & unable to bare the shame kills hereself in front of her husband. The performance was compelling, & vast swathes of time were swirling about the room; We witnessed a 2000 year old story, the pure, unadulterated words of Elizabethan England dancing off Logan’s masterly tongue, & the atmosperic lights & soundscapes of the modern stage. It was lovely closing one’s eyes from time to time & letting the magic of iambic pentameter conjure up the same visions our illustrious poet saw seer-like 400 years ago. The bard within was really enjoying the versification of Rime Royal, a poetic form of seven lines (rhyming ababbcc), one of the few forms I havent employed in my own work. Here’s an example from the Rape;
O, that is gone for which I sought to live,
And therefore now I need not fear to die.
To clear this spot by death, at least I give
A badge of fame to slander’s livery;
A dying life to living infamy:
Poor helpless help, the treasure stol’n away,
To burn the guiltless casket where it lay.
The heavens were still drenching the city as I slip-slopped home. Luke was doing VICTOR POPE’S sound tonight, freeing me up to go home to do some writing. After finishing this blog, & with my hangover ever present & it still fucking chucking it down, Im just gonna cook up some grub, catch up on mi Eastenders with BBC iplayer & wait for the Burnley goals on The Football League Show… what festival?
Edinburgh is a real classy city
Shows So Far – 6
MUMBLING (Multi-media blogging) is the opera of literary art. Where Wagner used stage design, lighting, music, poetry & costume, the modern-day blogger has, in addition to his/her text :- photography, film, footage, flyers & probably many, many other f’s. With this in mind I thought I’d take mi camera for a spin, inspired by the visit of RICHIE LEWIS FEENIE. He’s a pal of mine from this festival I used to put on down my ex-lassie’s farm (Jock Stock), & a real sweet fella. As we were building up the festival he used to make us signs for the various zones & stages we scattered round the field. These days he’s a full on professional graphic designer & after exhibiting work all round Scotland, this morning he drove over from his home in Fife to set up some pieces in HAS BEANS COFFEE SHOP on the Royal Mile (Canongate). The proprieter there, Graham Kenny, is one of Richie’s clients & a few weeks back at a pub across the road they mutually agreed to hang up Richie’s work. The paintings were nudged into finalty by Richie seeing one of his old rave-buddies, Alison McWhirter’s work down in Dumfries. That they used to jump about the house to the Stone Roses seeps out from every speckled pore of his Pollock/Squires inspired pieces.
While waiting for Richie to arrive I thought I’d take out my primitive camera & potter up to the Princes Street Gardens, with the sun all glorious & everyone in a happy mood. Taking the first photo led me down to see the group in the corner of the first picture below, who were putting on a free performance in the park. I got chatting to the director, Andy Paris, who filled me in on their interesting journey to Auld Reekie. The company is formed from two seperate unis on both coasts of the US – from Seattle, Washington & Lewisburg, Pensylvania. They are exponents of a new form of thetare, called Moment Work, which has plenty of physical motion integrated within the story, where evry piece of furniture has a sub-plot! The play itself is called THE AMERICAN FAMILY (5-6 8-12 – 22.15 / the space @ north bridge) & consists of every young member of this large cast telling emotive stories from thier lives – ie this one guy watched his dad get beaten up by drug-dealers in his car at the age of 5!
From the Gardens I meandered up to the Royal Mile, just as Richie was trundling down it in his wee car, crammed full of paintings. As he unloaded the works I kept an eye out for the predatorial vulturesque parking wardens, then after a brief interview & photo left him to his hanging while I went off to a show. This was LIGHTS, CAMERA, WALKIES at the GILDED BALLOON (3-9 11-16 19-29 / 14.00 – 15.15), another corporate leviathan that this time has taken over the gorgeous Student Union of Edinburgh Universty on Bristo Square. I was directed to the Billiard Room & a spacious theatre, whose stage sported something of a giant kennel. It was a snappy as hell play written by young Tom Glover, a rising star in the comedy spheres – a BBC sitcom finalist no less. The story is set in Hollywood & tells us of two (invisible) dogs competing for the starring role in a movie. There were only three actors playing every part, but the excellent accents conjured the illusion wonderfully. Indeed, my favorite part of the show was their brillaint recreation of a hollywood set, a constant whirl of motion & voices as the actors toed & froed from behind the kennel playing various parts, including an incredible ‘luvey dovey’ Richar E Grant would have been proud of. A thouroughly enjoyable show full of witty one-liners with a driving plot to boot.
Quickly dashing across town I met my good mate PAUL FLETCHER, a local film-maker who’s just come back from a three year stint in Paris making love & money. We soon found ourselves in an elevator at the plush Jury’s Inn, ascending to the eigth floor. Now Paul’s one of my ‘intellectual’ mates – tho of course not averse to a mash-up – & we were absolutely delighted to be presented with the play TO HOLD AN APPLE (6-27 / 15.10) about the artist Paul Cezanne, the author Emil Zola & the German poet Rilke! It has been brought over by a bucnch of highly intellectual New Yorkers led by AS Zelman-Doring, the play’s writer. She was magnificent as the grumpy old Cezanne, mainting the Coleridgian ‘suspension of disbelief’ magnificently. Honestly, despite being a cute woman in her twenties, she pulled off the old man persona with so much aplomb as she shuffled round the stage with her walking stick, especially the facial gestures. Her two lovely assistants wre philosophizing & poeticing all teh way through the show, with the apples being painted, munched & mused over. The writing was great & well researched, mentioning the Dreyfuss Affair & even using one of my favorite texts – Rilke’s ‘letters to a young poet.’ I thought Id recognized it & asked Ms Zelman-Doring at the end if it was so, which impressed Paul no end. Twas a dream to watch & in thaty dream I watched. The play has been recently selected by Christoper Hampton (writer of Dangerous Liasons) to be performed in the Oxford University’s New Writing Festival by the way.
The next show, in an increasingly busy day, was TRICITY VOGUE’S THE BLUE LADY SINGS BACK (6-27 / 18.05) at the SPACE ON NORTH BRDGE. Boy O Boy what a show! The idea is she’s a painting of a blue woman in an art gallery & gets up to musical mischief a la Night in the Museum. Her dulcet voice sang a series of set piece numbers in differing costumes (but always blue), the best of which was her interpreatation of a golden head-dressed Indian Goddess, Saraswathi-stlye. She actually sang in Hindi & placing blue gloves on two female members of the auidence & getting them to stand behind her dancing, produced an electrifying tantric, multi-armed effect. She also look sexy as Geena Davies in thelma & lousise (the epitomy of womanhood) during her cat-tailed rendition of a song called Pussy CAT BOYS, wandering round the audience mewing & purring to their strokes. In fact, there was a lot of audience participation & she even got me up on stage (mildly terrifying), god bless her! At certain points during her show I’m like, this is the best, or at least most entertaining stuff Ive seen so far this Fringe. Unfortunatley I had to leave ten minutes early to rush across town for Victor Pope’s 2nd gig (a vast improvement on yesterday by the way), so if you’re reading this Tricity, thats why I slipped away, & not because I was hitting myself about getting up again!
After snatching some food & writing time at mine, I was out again at night for a show at C CHAMBERS STREET- my fifth of the day = sore feet – picking Paul up again on the way. This was THE DEMON BOX (3-25 – 22.20), a quarter part of the Wagner of Psychiatric Prisons, STEV HYNNESSY’s theatrical tribute to Homicidal maniacs. It is part of a quartet of plays that the actors have stored in the minds in a Kempian Queen’s Men fashion. On this occasion it was Richard Dadd, a Victorian artist who was bidded on by Osiris to murder his father, giving us the line, “Alas! Dadd’s dad is dead!”
The same four actors take part in every play, like the four elements formicng a pefect cohesive ecosystem. This particular play was highly entertaining fare, where the intricate foibles of insanity were perfectly performed. There was this sacrily cute, elegant as waterfalls bird floating about stage as a Shakesperian Ariel, whispering madness into the ears of the players, & the show employed of the best endings Ive ever seen on the stage.
After the show me & Paul joined Victor Pope & Luke (the guy who burnt down mi mates tree) & hit the toon, ending up at C Venues outside bar on the Cowgate. Now, the Cowgate’s normally full of puke & vomit, but come festival time its full of posh totty & particularly interesting chat. The beer was a slightly stepp 3.20 a pint – not quite as pricy as Ireland & three beers get you change from a tenner for two bags of space raiders (beef & pickled onion please)! But come the festival no longer does one have to go to the casinos for a drink after 3, for half the town’s open til 5AM – every night! Happy days!
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
With there being no Fringe this year,
We are revisiting DBB’s Daily Blog of 2011
I felt at home five minutes after my arrival in Edinburgh
Charles de Gaulle
Shows So Far – 2
This morning, & a rainy one at that (welcome to Scotland folks), I pottered down to Leith to do a bit of banking. While there I remembered a company called GEORGIAN ANTIQUES had placed a couple of entries in the fringe guide, so I drifted along to their warehouse at Pattison Street just at the start of the Leith Links. I was soon met with 5 gallery-like floors of posh bric-a-brac :- crystal chandaliers, Welsh dressers, grandfather clocks, stag-heads, model galleons, military uniforms, rocking horses, chaise longes & the such like. They have set up an exhibition there called MADE IN SCOTLAND where one can wander around the warehouse orienteering style, finding the rare treasures & reading about them as you go. The theme is that they are all 100% Scottish, such as Orkeney Chairs & pieces from Whytock & Reid. For me the coolest were these very elegant porcelain carpet balls. Find the hidden sweeties for wealthy adults, yes, but great fun all the same. On the third floor one finds a small but bustling display on golf, for it was on those very links that the games first recorded rules for ‘Gowff’ were written down in 1744. The jewel of the antiquities was this large solid silver club with silver golf balls hanging off the shaft, a modern replica of the prize of that same 1744 tournament. The slight whiff of dusty stuffiness that permeated the place only served to enhance the experience of olde-worldiness.
With the rain still falling I joined the massed ranks of brollys & macs for another hike up the Royal Mile. The Flyer-gangs were still out in full force, but the make up on various painted faces was definitely smudging to nothingness. Toward the top of the mile, on Johnstone Terrace, I came to C AQUILA’S ROMAN LODGE & one of the most amusing shows I’ve ever seen. If yesterday’s bunch of kids averaged about 6 years old, this bunch were all toddlers, escorted by their young & scrummy mums. Wondering what I’d let myself in for I took my seat in the corner & awaited events… & was soon laughing my ‘ead off. The show is called HURRY UP & WAIT (4-15, 17-29 – 14.40), from Queensland, Australia, & is apparently for kids. Theres a kid in all of us, however, & the Beano style antics of the two carachters perched on their stools either side of a big red clock had me in stiches. The idea is they are passing time thro increasingy daft episodes, Norman Wisdom stylee, all mimed to a wicked soundtrack. Honestly, the show’s appeal is universal & practically perfect for a member of the chemical generation, especially the full on psychadelics of the show’s finale. The adults were laughing as hard as the kids, whose giddy laughter reminded me of one of the kural mused 2000 years ago by the Tamil Saint Thiruvalavar;
Voices of giggling children
Lovelier than flutes
Come evening it was time for Victor Pope’s opening show at the JEKYLL & HYDE… lets just say we are in a heightened state of unpreparedness. As his sound engineer I was panicking through the first song, twisting nobs & dials furiously in an attempt to get his acoustic guitar working – only to find he’d forgot to turn it up. Half way through the show I found the light box, which helped things a little, but the show wasnt the greatest he’s ever done. Still, a good chat over beers diesecting the show & searching for improvements to costume, banter & song order & we’re off – & like a horse stuck temporarily in the box at the Epsom Derby tomorrow we’ll be joining the field. It was a nice vibe down the Jekyll – lots of ‘free fringes’ circulating, handing out flyers & mingling in anticipation of the marathon to come. Of them we caught the act who was on before Victor, called JAMES LOVERIDGE & OTHER LOSERS (4-27 / 5.35-6.35). He’s a young cockney comedian & is gonna be supported by his fellow cockney comedian mates.
Another touch at the Jekyll was this guy giving out free tickets to a show called DRY ICE (4-28 / 22.40) by award-winning poet & playwright, SABRINA MAHFOUZ, who seems to be doing quite well on the London circuit as these quotes can testify;
‘An invaluable theatrical voice’
Ryan Romain, Associate Director, Theatre Royal Stratford East
‘Her poetry is startling, provocative and thought provoking’
Suzanne Gorman, Connect Director, Soho Theatre
‘Sabrina is seamlessly at the cutting edge of spoken word’
‘A stand alone voice amongst the gaggle of the live literati’
Here’s her poetry – http://www.thepopuppoet.com/
Anyhow, me & Victor set off through town, passing Dobby from Peep Show in the street (shes doing a one woman show) & she looked a lot cuter than on the telly – I think she’s lost weight! We eventually reached the UNDERBELLY, a corporate theatre-monster that has taken over one of Auld Reekies nightclubs, filling the caverns with stages. The performance of DRY ICE took place in a stony arched chamber, lit darkly with about thirty seats climbing over a square, black stage. It was a sultry way to end the day & Sabrina was wicked, taking on the role of a young stripper shpieling off anecdotes about her life with a mixture of poetry & dialogue that was apparently assisted in development by David Schwimmer (Ross from Friends). She effortlessly took on the voices of carachters from dodgy black sex-seekers to posh birds at a dinner party. With her shock of scarlet hair, clad in tight leather black pants, bottomoed off with emerald green boots, she was very hot indeed. Her best angle was when she led on the floor between the legs of her white, plastic chair, the audience looking down on her dusky eyes, perfectly curved nose & peachy-pumpkin cheek bones. O yeah, her show was great as well, a real talent!
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH