Category Archives: Damo’s Daily Blog
A city built on precipices, a perilous city.
Great roads rush down like rivers in a spate,
great buildings rush up like rockets
Shows – 55
Hangovers – 5
Today’s highly enjoyable day began with a tidy up of mi pad. A couple of weeks of flyers, notes & clothes had basically been accumulating & the place was a complete tip… I even washed up fer feck’s sake! A tidy house is a tidy mind, & thus empowered, the foundations for a fun slice of the Fringe pie were laid. Stepping out into the blinking noon sunshine I pottered up Leith Walk, slowly being absorb’d by the buzz of humanity that rushes around the centre of toon like the atomic particles of Uranium. However, dead still, as still as a forest in winter, were four Chinese folk squatting lotus-style in the yellow uniform of FALUN GONG. They were sat at the far east end of Princes Street, next to the statue of Wellington, & behind several poseters taped onto the floor. They were squatting eyes closed & silent, but the images & text on the posters spoke volumes. Apparently the Communist regime in China is torturing its way through the Falun Gong community, whose truthfulness, compassion & tolerance is changing people’s life for the better. Its a bit like Buddhism meets Tai-chi meets meditation.
Leaving the Falun Gong folk I went up to my first show of the day, MUSE CHANTEUSE (15-20 / 14.30), at SPACE CABARET on the North Bridge (from 22-27 / SPACE@Jeffreys Street / 18.35) . The venue is a Parisian style hotel bar, & I found a wee comfy corner to watch the show. This is a wonderful little cabaret piece, blending LISA BYRNES’ own material with famous classics such as Habenera from Carmen, My Funny Valentine by Rogers & Hart & La Vie en Rose by Edith Piaf. She is a trained opera singer & this tells in her flawless, inspiring voice, delivered with a great confidence. Her accompaniament is a lovely fellow called Chris Taylor, whose fingers danced across his keyboard like cats on a hot tin roof. Cats, thats right, they were cats, & Lisa a purring pussycat, & indeed the show’s theme was the Owl & the Pussycat, a liebmotif they occasionaly brought into the show’s rich & varied soundscape. Of the songs my favorite was one of Lisa’s creations, Fare thee Well, a poignant Burnsian beauty inspired by her grandmothers journey to Australia for love; leaving friends, family & country behind forever. I couldnt find any youtube footage of the show, but here’s a clip of Lisa singing opera in a far grander setting than a hotel bar.
At the same time as I was getting mi high culture, miss Katie Craig went reviewing for me at VENUE 13. & I shall leave you in her more than capable literary hands. In fact she’s reading our one of her short stories on the 27th August at the Book Festival’s Spielgeltent @ 4PM…
At the outset of “Dr Apple” the diminutive “Miss Hyde” bursts on to
the stage. With her sassy New York vowels and thick red rimmed glasses
She looks for all the world like a miniaturised and half baked version
of the secretary from Ghost Busters. She hands cookies amongst the
audience, assuring us they are “pretty loaded” and explaining that we
all now part of a neurological experiment. It’s Doctor Apple’s last lecture of the term, and things are about to go throughly awry. The explosion of dance, music and comedy that follows is the most refreshing antidote to the horror-porn of Irvine Walsh imaginable. Sure, it’s a little wide eyed and optimistic: it definately makes LSD look like a fantastic idea, perhaps even a sollution, and the grusome possibility of it’s links to schizophrenia, for example, are skimmed over as lightly as a stone hopping across the river. Thank goodness, really, because what we have instead is a well executed attempt to honestly convey the experience of the drug: spacial distorition, the loss of the ego, a dislocation of sound and meaning, all are depicted on stage creatively, originally, and most of all convincingly. Some of those in audience who laughed nervously as they bit Into their cookies may well wonder if they’ve been laced after all. What gives solidity to the madness are the sharp and witty lines, the tender portrayal of character, the bright bursts of song and explosions of dance.
Mark Junek’s sensitive portrayal of Apple, a man on the verge of collapse, is deeply endearing and hurt little by his looks- Apple is extremely easy on the eye. Indeed, every member of this young New York cast is a stunner, so much so that it’s quite distracting. When Apple’s ex wife begins to plague his fantasies I can’t help but wondering when these beautiful youths had time for all this life to happen to them. Ultimately: the show is lighthearted and fun. Nessa Norwich steals the show as hide: more bouncy than a trampoline, cookier than cookies and looking, through the acid-gaze of apple, as though she has been illustrated by Dr Zeuss.
If you’re looking for a show with an anti-drugs message for the kids avoid this at your peril- they’ll be writing to Santa asking for some sweet sweet candy- but if you’re in the market for fun, this one is not to be missed.
Back in Damoworld I went off to see a free show at OPIUM on the Cowgate. My reasons for doing were football related. I’d met a Spurs fan who was doing a show on the evening that Tottenham had been drawn against Hearts in the Europa league. Thus, expecting a rowdy atmosphere I thought I’d check out his show on the day of the game (today). Unfortunately, with it being a 17.15 show all the Spurs fans were near Tynecastle at the other end of toon (Spurs won 5-0 by the way). It was still a good crowd, however, & we were in for a treat. The title of the show, THE SINGLES COLLECTION (19-23 25-27 / 17.15) has no real baring on its content, but this is soon forgotten as we enter the cockney comic mindset of Tim Shishodia and Andy Davies. Of them, Shishodia has more kudos (Winner Cavendish New Act 2010, Leicester Square New Comedian of the Year 2010) but it is Davies who takes the senior role, with Shishodia coming across as his backward sidekick. This only heightens the chuckling, however, & the hour is great fun. The comedy itself was super-classic, with Andy Davies revelling in the art of telling hilarious stories with dody punch lines (the journey is the destination I guess) & Shishodian a master of surreal yet sexy one-liners (tha’ts sexy in the ‘I’ve just pissed myself fashion’). A great way to spend yer tea time…
From the Cowgate I quickly sped to VICTOR POPE’S latest show, which was defintely a yang after the recent yins. There were only four people there, two of whom were in their 70’s & definitely didnt get the prostitute song. Still, after the show me old pal Ro Campbell was cycling past the venue on his too-small BMX & gave me a couple of comps for his comedy show, UTTERING BAD SHILLINGS (16-28 / 22.35) at THE STAND COMEDY CLUB 4. Thus with Victor in tow we went along & had a barry old time. I’d met Rowan when I first moved to Edinburgh 7 years ago – he was going out with the cousin of my ex-birds ex – & I’ve seen him slowly work his way up in the comedy world. He’d decided to be a stand up comedian in the Shetland Islands of all places, resulting in 48 14-hour crossings over the stormiest ferry route on the planet, just to get to his mega-bus. Roll on a few years he’s now the Scottish Comedian of the Year 2010 & is about to go on a two month tour of Asia!
Apparently, him actually being Australian didn’t go down well with the Glaswegian crowd at the awards ceremony last year & he got pelted with plastic bottles on the stage. Yet he has Scottish roots (he’s a Campbell) & the experience inspired him to seek out his Scottish identity, the result of which is his totally endearing, often hilarious, highly creative show. We are taken on a journey through time & space, via a mushroom trip at Eyres Rock & a comedy gig in Perth prison to a bunch of tattooed lifers, to discover that his great-great-great grandparents were both Scottish convicts sent to Australia. After all the theatre Ive been watching my mind has become attuned to a good story, & to see it blended into stand-up was inspiring to see.
After Ro’s show he said I could hang with him awhile & gain an insight into the life of a comedian at the Fringe. After his show he had to race across town to headline a Scottish comedians night the UNDERBELLY, which resulted in him cycling & me jogging our way across town. With my hooded top up it looked like a scene from Rocky. We made the show with seconds to spare & Ro literally walked into the theater & onto the stage, sweating & breathless, & went straight into his set. I’d heard most of the jokes back at the stand, but found them even funnier actually, & its interesting to see how joke-virgins respond to material. After the set we then returned to THE STAND – this time the main venue – for more late night comedy. It was nice to see Ro finally relaxing, bantering with the fellow purveyors of his craft & guffawing loudly to the artists.The show is called POLITICAL ANIMAL – compered by wild-haired ANDY ZALZTMAN (22-25 / 00.00), which sees four different comdeians from around the festival perform each night. Of them, I found Richard Sandling’s character – SPAK WHITMAN – to be absolutely hilarious, whose social poetry is side-creasingly funny & is satirically superior to all those poets who take themselves so seriously! He got a show at THE CANONS GAIT (20-28 / 14.25) & I will definitely be going to check it out. I didnt stay til the end, though, what with all the day’s award-winning comedians I’d massaged mi funny bone enough, & the laughter had all-but dried up – but I left Ro with a hug & a thank-you & walked back hame in the warm glow of contentment.
I have seen a good deal of life in Edinburgh, a great many characters
which are new, to one bred up in the shades of life as I have been
Shows – 51
Hangovers – 5
This morning I popped round to Donna’s pad with mi pen & paper to take notes for her review of OUT OF ABINGDON. Seeing as it was such a sunny day & she had the day off, she’d decided to hit the charity shops down Stockbridge. This gave me the perfect oppurtunity to check out the recently opened JUNGLE CITY exhibition at the BOTANICAL GARDENS. For the next few weeks Edinburgh’s most gorgeous greenery is playing host to a large host of tigers, orang-utangs, crocodiles & an exotic parrot-thing, each one a plastic canvas for the artists of Scotland. There were some very interesting creations, from the Orang Utang made out of postcards to the chequerboard, plastic tubed crocoldiel. A neat move is that they are all standing on wooden boxes marked fragile – a clever nod towards their endangered status. The idea is that they will be moved into spots around town in September, & a month later be auctioned off to raise funds for the preservation of the real things. Me & Donna had a great half hour walking among them, & some of the aesthetics were top notch. Funnily enough there was as Celtic & a Rangers tiger, which shows how sectarianism seeps into every facet of the Scottish psyche.
From there we hit the affluence of Stockbridge, which feels refreshingly normal considering whats happening in the centre of town. While I read thro a book on Minoan Crete in the very fine Oxfam bookshop, Donna bought 3 pretty dresses for £21, & you could tell our recent brush with the visual arts had inspired her choices. From Stockbridge we walked up into town, pausing on teh Mound to soak in teh atmosphere. Its quite a hub of Fringe traffic, with queues for the Virgin half-price ticket booth blending with crowds ringing the two free entertainment sectors. After this square area one is chanelled along a narrow passage, with the national gallery on one side & a row of stalls on the other. These sell all manner of ethnic goods, from stone carvings to photographs of Edinburgh, & are always bustling with ladies bending their backs to get a better look.
After the passageway we ascended the hunchback of the Old Town to descend into a busker-friendly Grassmarket. Of these ephemeral entertainers, these two young guys, THE SHOWHAWK DUO, were the most amenable.
We now settled down at THE BEEHIVE INN, watching the buskers over a couple of beers. The place does have the best beer garden in Edinburgh, but when you can listen to top music & people watch why bother. As we had a bit of time to kill before TWONKEY’S CASTLE, we thought we’d check out a couple of the Beehive’s free shows. The first was DAVID LEE NELSON’S STATUS UPDATE (5-28 /15.45), a hybrid affair of stand-up comedy & an angsty video diary about breaking up with his wife. One minute I’m flung into the world of American comedy clubs (jokes about hockey, blacks, pot & sucking dick for pot), while the next I’m squelching around without mi wellies in the tears of his soul. It was good fun ‘n’ all but I was thinking to myself, get over it lad, she’s not coming back. I think he’s realised this though, for after seeing a facebook photo of her with a guy with a handlebar moustache, he took the moral highground & actually deleted her from his friends. Well done that man!
Then came the climax of the Beehive session, & PAUL VICKERS surreal show, TWONKEY’S CASTLE. Meeting up with his brother, VICTOR POPE & his mum Anne (see yesterday), we found ourselves right at the front & in the midst of the action. Words cant really describe what goes on in Paul’s mind as he floats from piece to well-written piece, delivering his puppet-peppered comedy with a dead-pan relish. He also sings, & bloody well at that, which gave the show a category of Cabaret. But its not cabaret – you cant really label it. Perhaps Vic Reeves & Des O Connor high on helium gas while Monty Python dance about them naked is kinda close, but its an hysterical ride through a man’s imaganation, & a mind thats growing confident with his material. He’d unleashed Twonkey on the Fringe last year (see you tube below) & where next Mr Vickers… Twonkey’s Space Station?
After the show I bid a farewell to Anne & remarked on how wonderfully she’s coping with both her sons being mad-as-hatters performers. I think she’s buzzing really, not many mum’s can say theyve seen their kid do a show at the Edinburgh Fringe, let only both of them. Apparently it was her mum who set the boys off on the path, making them do puppet shows about the Royal family in their early boyhood.
Alone now (Donna had gone off too, trying to re-organise her mind after Twonkey’s onslaught), I went to catch the last show of the day at PARADISE IN AUGUSTINES. This is at Saint Augustines church, where two theatres have been built & a number of interesting plays put on. Mine was EXCLUSION, from newly formed WHOOP N WAIL theatre company. This play is their first production & gives us a blend of Prisoner Cell Block H & the X Factor. As the audience enter the theatre they are given three seperately coloured badges, corresponding to the coloured pockets on the grey uniforms of the three prisoners. The raison d’etre of the show is to raise public consciousness as to the effects imprisonment has on women, & is delivered with panache. The three actresses play both gaurd & prisoner & work well together in whatever combination the plot gives us, as it leads up to the climax of teh audience choosing which prisoner should be released. Actual prison life is portrayed well, from the mundanity of folding laundry to the illicit fun of home brew, while there is also modernist film footage in an X Factor style, which breaks up the action cleverly & dramatically. An engaging play, this, & a window into a world we would prefer to be curtained off.
DAYS THIRTEEN & FOURTEEN
When I looked out in the morning it was as if
I had waked in Utopia
Shows – 44
Hangovers – 5
Todays blog has a wee theme – that of the lovely, heart-warming topic of prison! One cannot know how important one’s liberty is until it is taken away from us. Hemmed in by four walls in a life of mundane monotony, the prisoner would give anything to merely walk among woods, let alone wander through Edinburgh at Fringe time. A week or so back I was in the Forest Cafe & stumbled upon a fanzine/small press convention where a pal of mine, Nicky Melville from SHELLSUIT MASSACRE, was selling some of his work. He was recently the writer in residence at HMP Edinburgh & this very morning I was looking through the small book of prisoner writings called Routine he’d compiled & given me at the Forest. They basically describe a prisoner’s day & I’d like to give one as an example;
Watch according to Jim
Go back to get lunch
Wait in cell for shed call
Read my books
Have a smoke
Have a wash before tea
A far cry indeed from all the fun of the Fringe. With this imperfect prison existence in mind I went to see the play RELEASE (16-29, not wednesdays, 14.00) at the PLEASANCE KINGSDOM. The young company is based in Chatham, Kent, & the play was devised by the actors themselves, after researching their material with real offenders. What we are given is a riveting piece of drama, telling the stories of three recently released prisoners & the people who’s lives they touch. Its really realistic by the way, & the desperation that these social-outcasts must feel is played pitch-perfect. The cast is only three-strong – a Scots lad, an Asian lad & a lassie – but they do marvellously well when changing accents & personas for their various parts. Combine this with some wicked moments of multi-media stagecraft, such as subtitles in a nightclub, & a fiery finale to never forget, it was a pleasure to see such a modern play sweeping majestically over a similarily modern topic.
Walking thro toon I was given an impromptu, once-in-a-lifetime performance of LETS GET ARRESTED by this pissed up druggy called Steve. I saw him running up & down a pedestrianized Rose Street, yelling & barging into folk. The climax of his show began when he knocked over a wee boy, resulting in members of the public restraining him & calling the cops. A few minutes later seven cop cars were inching into Rose Street, the first of which coughed up a female copper who immortalized our star with the line, “Steven, what ye ap tae!?” “I’ve just been doon the alcoholic problem clinic!” he replied, earning the answer, “That’s no excuse!” & a bundle in the back of her car. The other cops then began to take witness statements as I mused back on the earlier play, Release. It’s highly likely that young Steven has served time before, & is a prefect example of Release’s sentiment. During the play I learnt that only 27 percent of men & 13 percent of women offenders get a job when they return to ‘reality,’ the first steps on that slippery slope to recurring criminality!
My final piece of prison-themed ‘entertainment’ was at the INTERNATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL at CHARLOTTE’S SQUARE at the west end of the New Town. It is the largest in the world & consists of several marqueed ‘theatres’ where punters can watch authors splaff on for ages for a tenner a time. There is also a bookshop & circular, circus-style Spiegletent for beer, food & free entertainment. For two weeks every year all aspects of the literary cosmos – readers, writers, publishers, booksellers & agents – all gather in the salubrious Georgian surroundings for a good old-fashioned chin-wag. Its not particularly elitists, howver, & the grounds are open to all. If anyone wishes to sample the vibe, I reccomend going along to the free AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL IMPRISONED WRITERS SERIES (13-28 – 17.45).
Amnesty was set up fifty years ago (1961) in an effort to free two young Portuguese men who had been jailed for raising a toast to freedom (the Portuguese were still clinging on to Goa at the time). The casue soon spread, fostered in that especially volatile decade that was the 1960s – a time of great social upheaval & unrest. Today’s talk was about the 60s themselves, where the writings of four prisoners were read by four modern authors. Of the writings, it was the poetry & story of Denis Brutus (read by George Makana Clark) which pleased me most. He was a black South African – imprisoned on Robben island for example – who’d been shot in the back once for trying to escape. Surviving this he was instrumental in getting SA kicked out of the 1968 Olympic Games & subsequently the entire movement. Hearing his words reminded me of poetry’s ability to record emotion & zeitgeist with just a handful of words & images.
Of all these dissident expressions of intellectual protest, the gem has to be the letter written by Martin Luther King on April 16th 1963, from the isolation of a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama. While in liberal England the Beatles were opening up the human relations with their chart-topping single, From me to You, Birmingham was the most segregated in the entire United States & King had flown eagerly into the lion’s maw. It was read out by Vivien French, a prolific children’s author famous for her Tiara Club stories & her Tales from the Five Kingdoms. She read with great distinction, & by the end of the long letter, with King apologising for its length but saying there was little else do do in prision but think & write, I was verging on tears. King was saying stuff like the airtight cage of poverty & how no motels woudl accept him so he had to sleep in the corner of his car & how his first name was never Martin but always nigger. A sobering day, then, one sent, I think, to remind me that, although Im having a barry old time up here in the Scottish capital, in this Goan pleasure bubble, the world is still full of vast imbalances. Despite the vast imrpovements made America way in social equality, Mr King would still be dreaming, I believe…
So this is it, the eye of the storm, the heart of the show, day 14 of 27, the number of lines in a sonnet, the number of stations of the cross, the number of incarnations of the Dalai Lama thus far. A time to take stock on what I’ve witnessed – great acting, funny-as-fuck comedians, graceful movements & quick-witted improv, moving writing & stagecraft to stir the soul… keep it coming people I’m havin a bloody ball!
This afternoon I ventured out into the rain to see acclaimed writer & actor Steven Berkoff’s OEDIPUS (18-29 / 13.20) at the PLEASANCE GRAND theatre. He’s acted in a Clockwork Orange & Rambo, early nudges in the right direction towards him producing this classic piece of drama. What a sensational piece of writing from the lad, turning the words of Sophocles into a wonderful blend of iambic pentameter & cutting half-lines, yet still mainting a thoroughly modern flow. The story is old, from the time of the Theban legends that were sung by the Greeks as they camped outside of Troy. Yet this tale of a guy murdering his father & marrying his mother still resonates, via Freud, through the modern psyche. Berkoff’s interpretation often grips you in the solar plexus & keeps your eyes & ears on every nuance of the action. This takes place before a vast Dali-esque backdrop & around a large table. There the chorus of 8 guys move about in grotesque synchronicity as a fantastic Oedipus plays out his tragedy. His wife, Jocasta, played by an enigmatic Anita Dobson (I saw her husband Brian May in toon the other day by the way), flows about the stage with menacing allurement & the whole package is a remarkable tribute to the timeless magic of theatre, born from the well-springs of the Elusian mysteries & still captivating onlookers today!
Come evening tide I went to sound engineer VICTOR POPE on the occasion his mum came to town. If it were my mam coming up & I was playing his material, I would have edited it to about 3 minutes worth. However, he ploughed on regardless &, depsite the flashes of mysogony & wanking jokes, she loved it! After the show she took me & Victor out for supper next door to the Jekyll & Hyde at the Edwardian tea-shop style Dogs restaurant.The Dogs
We were joined by Victor’s elder brother, PAUL VICKERS, the one-time lead singer of psychadelic-poet-storm band THE DAWN OF THE REPLICANTS. He’s doing his own show, TWONKEYS CASTLE, the sequel to last years shows TWONKEYS COTTAGE. Its a surreal mad-cap laugh & has been getting good revies & tomorrow I’m off to see it with the ‘family.’ A funny moment occured when one of the Dog’s lovely waitresses recognized him & said, “My hands stink of cheese because of you!” raising my expectations of an interesting show. The food was tasty by the way, a duck starter & a steak main I couldn’t even manage a supper come bedtime!
TWONKEYS CASTLE – 17-28 / 18.15 @THE BEEHIVE, GRASSMARKET
While I was out dining, I gave my review tickets to mi good pal DONNA SYME, who went up to THE JAZZ BAR to see Australian duo OUT OF ABINGDON (15-22 / different times). I buzzed her the next morning for her opinions & was told she’d had a great time – the music easy to the ear & soothing for the soul & I wholeheartedly agree (Im listening to the CD they gave us right now). The performers are Tina on double bass & Warwick on semi-acoustic & the chemistry they share is really relaxed, spreading the heart-warming vibe all through an attentive audience. They share vocal duties, hers flowing like liquid & his powerfully husky like the singer from Morphine. They played for an hour, blending their own well-crafted songs with covers such as Sensitve Kind (JJ CaLe), Clap Hands (Tom Waites) & Glory Box (Portishead). The musicianship was excellent, especially the unique accents & unusual techniques rising from Warwick’s finger-picking. Donna said it was just the right songs she needed to hear at that moment & left the Jazz Barr uplifted & ready to drink!
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
There is no habitation of human beings in this world so fine in its way…
as this, the capital of Scotland
Shows So Far – 42
Hangovers – 4
Woke up with Luke on my couch. He’s renting his flat out to some students up for the weekend, a common way for Edinburghers to make some cash. A few years ago I was on Scotland Street in the New Town & renting mi quite cushy flat out for loads o money. Anyhow, the key was on a string through the letterbox, & after cutting a new one for my ‘guests’ didnt put it back on the string. Then, just before my cockney thespians arrived, I nipped out for some trinket or other – forgetting that the key was no longer on the string & was on the kitchen table, locking me out. Then the guys arrived in their car & the only way for me to let them in was by smashing the back window. I was in a hurry you see, heading to Ireland or something, & even to this day I still have a wee cringe about it from time to time. I then asked them for teh cheque & thy goes, “We’re not givin’ it to a burglar!” Better out than in, though, & I’m hoping by talking about it I can exorcise the ghost!
With the sun shining I woke Luke up & offered him my spare ticket to the FOODIES festival at Holyrood Park. For those who don’t know Edinburgh its a stunning setting, flanked by the Queen’s palace & the highland-scape of Arthur’s seat. There’s always events there, from Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army doing manouveres there in 1745, to the forthcoming FUN DOG SHOW (21st Aug – 11Am-3PM) where anyone can enter their dog in competitions like waggiest tail and basic agility. Today, however, it was all about food & drink & was the best tenner a punter could spend so far.
The festival had been on since Friday & I thought it would be a pleasant change from the theater & comedy (though I did sound engineer for VICTOR POPE after the event). It is essentially a great market place, with stallholders paying 600 quid each for the chance to show off & sell their wares to both the public & retailers. For me & Luke this was something of a christmas day, as we free-sample our way from stall-to-stall, getting drunker & drunker by the glass. Our main base was this gin stall who kept bringing out samples on trays all afternoon. After hitting it off with two ladies, we could then get four glasses each, resulting in 16 glasses per tray. To suffice it to say we were very soon completely reekin’!
We’d met the ladies at a whiskey tasting session, for Glenrothers single malt, compared by this cheery, balding big guy who taught us how to really appreciate a whiskey. First you must tip your tongue in with a wee waggle, as if one is engaging in cunnlingus, to get the sweetness of the whiskey. Then, taking a large sip, one must ‘chew’ the whiskey to distribute the flavour around the mouth. It was quite a revelation, actually, as I usually just neck the stuff straight & burn my insides in the process. Suffice it to say Luke had nailed all four of his samples during the lengthy opening talk on the history of Glenrothes distillery, & we both mineswept the marquee on the way out, competing to get the biggest glass of our own unique blend of Glenrothes!
The festival wasnt just about getting hammered by the way, there was a vast array of foodstuffs from all over the country; funky fudge & dynamite salami, chilli balsamic & Chiltern chutney, it was an Alton Towers for the taste-buds. Every hour there would be a couple of live cooking sessions from some of the top British TV chefs. We also had some entertainment laid on, culminating in a great show from Edinburgh motown band THE SOUL FOUNDATION. A curly haired black dude leads his well-dressed band -lads & four cute birds in red dresses through some proper classic tracks, which had me & Luke dancing with two new women in the sunshine. Of the four women, all were mums – some married, some single – but all of them getting away from the kids for the day. There were still a few bairns around, however, & at first the SOUL FOUNDATION’S dancers were all toddlers – but by the end of the afternoon they had a massive crowd all getting on down.The Soul Foundation
Here’s a link to their MYSPACE by the way…
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH
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