It was a very good year (part III)

In 2013 even the turkey was quite awesome in it’s awfulness and it still holds the record for my quickest exit from a show, somewhere just under twenty minutes! A few days before this traumatic experience I was wandering down an old town close when I heard a beautiful song that quite charmed me, I went to investigate the source – a young man who gave me a flyer to his Free Fringe show.

The show was Masters of Drip at the Fiddler’s Elbow, in the programme blurb it was described as “sketch theatre”, well it wasn’t comedy that’s for sure. I do vaguely remember enjoying the first sketch, the second one went downhill, the third made us envious of the folk who’d scarpered after the second sketch, by the fourth we knew what we had to do! See, between each sketch the Masters went “backstage” (a side room from the stage area) which folk quickly realised was a good time to run. When a couple more left after the third sketch and the fourth didn’t show any signs of better things, Bud and I were ready to leap up and legged it – leaving about seven folk left.

If you read my previous post you may recall that the Fiddler’s Elbow was the venue that also played host to the very popular Captain Morgan and the Sands of Time, which happened to be the show on straight after Masters of Drip! Indeed, the queue for Captain Morgan had already started outside when we escaped. I almost felt sorry for Masters of Drip, almost.

One show I didn’t see in 2013 was a one-woman play written and performed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, somewhere within the depths of the Underbelly, called Fleabag. Six years later she’s done a final sell-out run of Fleabag at the Wyndham Theatre. Ticket prices may have somewhat increased between productions!

In the interim Fleabag became a tv series with two seasons; in May this year Waller-Bridge was drafted into the James Bond writing team; then in September she went and won three Emmys for Fleabag – best lead actress in a comedy series, best writing for a comedy series and outstanding comedy series, like wow. And if that wasn’t enough, the lady has only gone and got herself a contract to make tv shows for Amazon!

It makes me wonder about the futures of this year’s crop. Does a story like this inspire them to work harder knowing it can lead to great things? Could I have witnessed the early performances of a future Oscar winner? A national treasure thirty years hence? And the people at the previews of Fleabag – they saw it for just six quid a ticket!

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It was a very good year (part II)

2013 saw McNeil and Pamphilon Go 8-Bit! Okay so if I just saw those words it would mean nothing to me, but the pic and blurb informed me it was about classic videogames. I had never been into videogames or particularly understood the appeal, but, well it was M&P so hilarity was expected. And how! So I didn’t know any of the games, but from my distance it was an entertaining hour of anthropomorphic insight; comedy, rivalries and the most evil forfeits (I really felt for Pamphilon by the end). The sheer enthusiasm and joy of watching a bunch of comedians mucking about and having a laugh was just a pleasure.

Go 8-Bit! embraced the new multimedia, these were young, tech-savvy comedians, or least, they knew someone who was! The following year the tech went even higher, the audience participated on their mobiles! Needless to say, I didn’t, and just as well as interaction meant you may be picked to play the next videogame – that would not have been pretty! The technology and interactiveness really fascinated me, but only as an observer.

The Pin was our opener that year (was or were? The name of comedy act, but it’s a double act) two fresh-faced youngsters, Ben Ashenden and Alexander Owen. It was the first preview which is possibly why they seemed to be trying too hard for the first while, but then it became much funnier as they relaxed. My journal says “They do have potential. ☆☆☆” I have seen them since and indeed, they’re doing well, they’ve even had the 6:30 comedy slot on Radio 4. I’d say that’s doing well.

2013 was our third outing to see Max and Ivan, who had moved into the Pleasance Queen Dome for Max and Ivan: The Reunion (they were going up in the world!)  The show was nominated for Best Comedy, though for me whilst it was slick and very well-done, it didn’t tickle my funny bone quite as much as their previous two shows. Indeed, the first time I put “A very enjoyable show, even though poor Holmes had broken his ankle… ☆☆☆☆+”, yes, Max Olesker had broken his ankle but he carried on and even got laughs out of it. Radio 4 beckoned and they’ve had two series of The Casebook of Max and Ivan with some great guests like June Whitfield and Reece Shearsmith!

Ah, I’ve just spotted on Thursday 15th at 14:10 I saw Sock Puppet in The Cellar at the Pleasance Courtyard. It was a monologue about a murderous possessed sock, and my first encounter with John-Luke Roberts. What a bloody fine year it was!

(To be continued……)

 

It was a very good year (part I)

2013 was the year the Free Fringe got really quite exciting, no longer was it just stand-up comedians in back rooms of pubs, there were proper shows to see! Or, at least, that was how my buddy and I perceived it. Casual Violence: Om Nom Nominous in the Voodoo Rooms was one such show, so good we went to see the company’s other non-free show the next day; the live musical accompaniment was a fine asset!

The Hawke Papers at the Blind Poet (loved that pub, alas, no longer there, that fine old boozer has been absorbed by the Pear Tree) was an interactive murder mystery using the full space of the pub for us to move around, look for clues and talk to the various characters. It was popular for a morning show, we missed out one day but were given a signed flyer and told to be there twenty minutes early the next day to be sure of getting in!

We heard that Death Ship 666 at the Three Sisters was very good and very popular and at 10:45 in the morning! After one miss we made it in plenty of time on the second attempt, great show, dubious venue. It may be fine now (I haven’t seen any shows there for a few years) but the back of the Three Sisters used to have a whiff of stale urinals, watching a show distracted from it, but hanging around waiting for a show to start was not pleasant!

The Free Fringe show that sounded right up our street was Captain Morgan and the Sands of Time at what was the Fiddlers Elbow at Picardy Place – ours and every other bugger’s street. We’d heard it was popular so headed down a good twenty minutes early, apparently not a hope in hell said the guy who came out to count the queue.  The next time we were just over half hour early, so did we get in? Argh, by a gnat’s crochet, no!!! We were right at the door, next in, sorry, jam-packed full!! Now fainter hearts may have given up at this point, not us, another evening another even longer wait (forty five minutes) but, yes, we made it in! Was it worth it? Absolutely! Two actors, one musician (yes, more live accompaniment), lots of characters including Poseidon, a Lovecraftian creation played by the actors together.

2013 was the year we saw the wonderful Aidan Goatley for the first time, another visit to the Voodoo Rooms to see Ten Films With My Dad, a Free Fringe show. It was also the Fringe we finally scaled the mighty Arthur’s Seat, not once but twice, to see This Arthur’s Seat Belongs to Lionel Ritchie, a gala spectacular of Barry Ferns and friends (not quite at the top as it was a very windy squally day) and then Barry on Arthur’s Seat, which poignantly turned out to be the last time he’d do his solo show up there – his knees had decided enough was enough.

Here’s a little collage of pics from the Arthur’s Seat shows. See, you can tell it was a proper Free Fringe show – there was a doorway to go in through and it’s where he stood with the bucket at the end 😆

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Last but never least…..

Yes, I know I said “tomorrow night” over a week ago, but I’ve been busy! Yes, busy, sleeping, working, eating. I haven’t even got round to seeing Tarantino’s new film yet, though I did manage to squeeze in Toy Story 4 (again), well, it is such a perfect film (to me, maybe not to you, but it is to me) and it left me feeling all happy and fuzzy.

Happy and fuzzy are good, see that’s how I like my last evening of the Fringe to be, I like a happy, bittersweet ending. But what did I do this year? Will had already left, I felt a tad bereft! Why, Mr Seaward has been rounding off my Fringe since 2013, yes, that’s the year before he started his Spooky Midnight Ghost Stories. Let me take you back…….

Monday 26th, it was a balmy evening, myself and a few friends were drinking in the Pleasance Courtyard, well, continuing drinking after the wonder that was the final Monday show of Tim Fitzhigham: Challenger (there are those who will remember the significance of it being a final Monday show for Tim, I shall just say, legendary!!). Flyerers were hovering around, desperately trying to tempt punters into one last show; we all had work in the morning and the alcohol was fast taking effect, so no amount of cajoling could sway us but we lapped up the attention. We had a right laugh with them all, generally waylaying their spiel with “So how’s your Fringe been?” plenty were happy to sit and blether before heading off to find more potential victims.

As we sat basking in a warm alcoholic glow, and I’ll quote from my Fringe diary here “a ruddy-faced, Crystal Tipps-haired chap came over to entice us to his show, we explained it would be too late (11.30pm) but invited him to sit down and join us a while and he did. Turns out he did the Bouncy Castle shows a few years back ……….Inevitably we later decided to head to Teviot to see him.” Yes, that was Will, and we were all so charmed and drunk that we agreed just one more last show would be fine!

So we turned up for Will Seaward: Socialist Fairytales! in The Turret, front row seats, we had no fear, we had more beer! I do recall Will got one of my friends up on the stage to play a witch, the idea being he had to fight the witch and she should try to get him to the ground, he wasn’t actually expecting her to almost succeed! He admitted later that she wasn’t as drunk as he’d thought, but she was drunk enough to be determined to achieve what he’d asked of her. What a great Fringe ending, and with that a new tradition was born.

Aaaand back to 2019. For the first time ever I took the final Monday off work, well, I did have my guest still up and thought I might start some tidying round (Yeah, right, the tidying was never gonna happen). I’d bought two tickets with my Friend of the Fringe deal to see A Midsummer Night’s Droll on the Monday morning before my guest headed for the train, however a late change of plans meant an earlier train back, so I ended up going on my own, ho hum. Not that I minded, I’d picked that show as they’re one of my favourite companies of the last few years and I’d get to see Titania again! Yay!

So what did I finish 2019 with? Well, the tried and tested method myself and Bud had, was to see again something we’d seen near the start and really rated, something silly and totally Fringe. Previous last shows have included Jeremy Lion, Otis Lee Crenshaw, the Les Clöchards, and the Penny Dreadfuls (three times!). Something silly and totally Fringe, a surefire brilliant show I’d seen before…..what a minute! What about an added bonus of a show seen – but also not seen before, a show as random as the spin of a wheel! Russian Roulette!

As Will had departed, our host for the evening was Sullivan Brown (looking very dapper in a sparkly jacket), presiding over the night’s production of Chekhov’s The Seagull. I’ve never seen The Seagull before – some may say I still haven’t seen it. Oh, it was marvellous, I was riveted! The plot seemed a little bizarre but hey, it’s Russian, maybe that’s how they roll. I felt for Konstantin, and poor Nina getting dysentery, and the chap who had a faberge egg for a head!! I wasn’t expecting Rasputin to show up, and that impression he did of Christopher Walken? Mind-blowing! But how did Donald Trump get there? Okay, so I remember that it turned out to be set in space, but did I miss some time travel bit?! Oh yeah, that roulette wheel may have had something to do with it 😆

Toodle pip!

 

Sunday ponderings at Chez Bruce

I just was up pottering round the kitchen, so I stuck the radio on (decided it didn’t really become me, so I put it back on top of the bread bin), ah, Just a Minute, yay!  Wait, what? That Gyles Brandreth was getting a tad presumptuous declaring who got a point, Nicholas will sort him out ….. er, Mr Parsons? Um, not there! But this show was clearly recorded at this year’s Fringe, where is he?

A scramble round to locate an object with Google (no, I don’t have Alexa, I don’t reckon we’d get on) and a few minutes of frantic tapping later, and I’m ok, he’s ok, phew! Well, he is getting on, 95 years old and has only missed one other JaM recording, coming in after the start and not hearing his dulcet tones is definitely cause for concern.

Gyles Brandreth did make a pretty good go of being chairman, is he looking to the future and making a bid now for the seat? Yes, sadly it will inevitably happen at some point, Nicholas will ascend to that great game show in the sky – just think of all the marvellous line-ups available! On the one hand Mr Brandreth does like to talk at length and battle his corner against his opponents, would he want to give up the cut and thrust of competing? On the other hand, listening to him, he may well relish the power to award points and to pontificate chairmanly, hmmm.

Would Just A Minute even continue without Nicholas Parsons at the helm? To many this would be unthinkable. After all, we can always jump into the archives for classic Parsons JaM, if we so wish. Indeed, I am in the “unthinkable” party, but, isn’t it great hearing newer voices come on, getting to grips with JaM? Unlike some comedy shows, comedians cannot rely on their bank of material for JaM, they have to be quick-witted, attentive and eloquent. The show today had Mark Watson on it, a lovely funny chap but his speech pattern does seem to naturally include a lot of hesitation (ok, and he’s fairly new to JaM as well); I did enjoy Kiri Pritchard-Mclean, I thought she found her spot somewhere through the show, then really got into it, her name is now on my radar.

It has been said that Just A Minute will finish when Nicholas Parsons goes, but didn’t we all think the same about I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue after Humph died? I for one quickly recognised Jack Dee as a very natural successor, his deadpan, irritable style fitted in perfectly. But thankfully that time is not is not yet upon us (he says, just quickly checking BBC News), and long may that be so. In fact, if Nicholas Parsons makes it to 100, I think that day should be declared a National Holiday, who’s with me? 😆

Ladies and gentlemen! Will, Clarence and Louloulou have left the building!

My, Mr Will is a popular fellow! I put up a pic of him and myself from Sunday night on Facebook – never had so many likes for a pic before (I’m telling myself they’re all charmed by my good looks😆). But what’s this? Sunday night? Why didn’t I save my return visit to WSSMGSVI until the last night of the Fringe as is my usual? Because he was deserting us a day early, that’s why! Not only that, but Sunday night’s show was the last ever (yeah, that’s right not just of this Fringe but all Fringe) of Spooky Midnight Ghost Stories! What! No more Spooky Midnight Ghost Stories to give me the willies? No more adventures for Louloulou and Clarence? Well, not at the Fringe anyway, but I do believe it’s not the last we’ve heard of them…………

What a great finale it was to a brilliant run of these last six years. Sillier, spookier and surrealier than ever, yes, I’m having surrealier as a word, bite me! We oooed and aaahed, screamed and shrieked, we egged Will on as he tried to warn us of impending doom, he beguiled us with his tales, neatly lacing them together by the end. The end was met with rapturous applause, as were his many thanks to crew, friends, everyone at Gilded Balloon Teviot, any time he paused basically. Some lovely person even made him a cake dripping with blood (strawberry icing) to mark the occasion.

I took my leave going on for two o’clock, as the survivors headed for one more drink to see Will off. Oh, I was tempted to join them but I was also feeling very knackered from too many late nights and early mornings with my houseguest. Ah, the end of another era, but such is the nature of the Fringe.

So, what did you do on the final night, Brucie?

I’ll tell you tomorrow.

Toodle pip!

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And then it was over 😢

And I am one frazzled moose! The late nights have caught up with me, but no rest for the wicked! I have been wicked, or at least very remiss, in my lack of ukulele practice this last week preferring instead to gad about the Fringe. It rather showed tonight at class as we practiced our tunes for the Big Beach Busk at Porty on Saturday. Yikes, I am so not ready for it!

I need more sleep, like, so much sleep, not even strong coffee was keeping my eyelids open at work.

Here’s a pic from last night’s fireworks.

Nite, nite, peeps!

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Ring, ring! Yorkshire calling Edinburgh!

Suddenly in August I get phone calls “So how’s Edinburgh? I was just wondering…..?” The rest of the year hardly a peep, not that I mind that; I did think I’d gotten away with it this year, usually a call comes at the start of August not half way through. Of course, I still have things I want to see, and my moose cave, well, when I say it’s a pit, I mean it’s really a pit right now, like the pittiest pit ever, August is not a month for cleaning.

And what to take them to? Good call that I bought two tickets with my Friends of the Fringe discount for Sleeping Trees: Christmas Special, if they don’t find that funny they’re dead to me! I’m thinking of Privates: A Sperm Odyssey too, any excuse to see it again, truly epic in silliness. Eggs Benedict at Em’s Kitchen is a must. Oo, yay, Logan’s Close are playing at the Cowshed tonight at 10pm, its probably gonna be heaving, but not to be missed.

I should go and at least do some washing up,  I suppose. Show willing, play the host. Wonder if I’m gonna get a call that they got lost after leaving Waverley Station? Said they knew where to come, hmmm.

Toodle pip!

 

Caterpillars, hedgehogs and sperm – all in one day!

Friday of week two is a good day to take off work and Fringe, most years I’ve done this; it was always a day for seeing pricier shows that were on the Friends of the Fringe list for me and Bud, always beginning with Shakespeare for Breakfast, we’d snaffle any croissants left on nearby seats at the end. This year it just happens to be one the days I’ve taken off work, but thinking about it, it is indeed a perfect day to Fringe. It’s shortened the working week, woohoo, which allows for later shows on Thursday night; it’s far enough in that the list of possibles has been whittled down from it’s original unwieldy size; it’s also far enough in that other possibles are in the mix, from chatting to flyerers, tips from people in queues, reviews.

Just as well I didn’t go to any late night shows on Thursday night – the first show I saw on the Friday started even earlier than Shakespeare for Breakfast! Okay, so only five minutes earlier, but still, my Fringe Friday tradition of running to get to the first show on time ain’t gonna end with early starts like this! Headhog was only on for six days of the middle week, the blurb was that a man has a scan after having a fit and discovers he has a hedgehog living in his skull. No one can explain how it got there and removal of it is (obviously) unknown territory.

Headhog was a charmingly absurd play; a great concept to mull over. I liked Malcolm, the turmoil he was going through was well played out. When he becomes more concerned by the “why me?” than “how?” the scene with the ecologist and philosopher was great – amusing and exasperating. Some of the play felt a bit clunky but overall it was well done, with a lovely melancholy ending that was somehow quite uplifting.

Two hours later I was back in the same venue, Paradise In The Vault, in the Annexe room, one of the best smaller venues; the seats are generous and comfortable, with a reasonably tiered-height between them, it’s also got a good record with me for good productions.

The Man From Verona was a very funny, dark comedy, quite farcical at times. It is quite a small stage but the set was well-conceived to maximise use of every part of it. Everyone was great in it, especially Mama – don’t mess with a mafia matriarch! Rocco, her henchman, had some wonderful moments. The Man From Verona himself is a mafia don/landlord, Harry,  who spends a lot of the play dead, but is very effective when he’s alive. Blaze and Jimmy, our secretly-in-love couple are the ones we’re rooting for, will they get to be together? Will Jimmy ever be able to leave the bathroom?

From Paradise in The Vault on Merchant Street it was a quick jog over to the Space @ Surgeons Hall, with just ten minutes to spare before The Very Well-Fed Caterpillar started. Another trustworthy venue, I see they’ve moved their Box Office to just inside the gate, probably to cut down some of the noise in the foyer though the queue inside was still regularly told to hush – with more and more people joining in the sssssshhh-ing for a laugh.

The Very Well-Fed Caterpillar is one weird show! It’s extremely quirky and absurd, a great piece of high-energy physical theatre and hell the delivery is fast, it can be tricky to keep up with the plot at times. I followed the basic story, Caterpillar likes eating, can’t stop, won’t stop eating, demands all the food his subjects have, a complete tyrant hated by all; through a portal he meets and falls in love with the Butterfly King, a good, beloved ruler; Caterpillar tries to change his ways, err, the ending escapes me! No matter, the destination is unimportant, the journey there is loads of fun with this talented, enthusiastic bunch.

After a breather, a beer and a bite to eat, I headed to Boteco on Lothian Street for Privates: A Sperm Odyssey and though it’s a PWYW show instinct told me to buy ticket upfront; good call as a lot of folk had tickets, I doubt many without made it in. Oh my, how much utterly joyful daftness can one hour contain??!! Blimey, never have sperm been so funny! These three chaps, Luke Rollason, Christian Brighty and Tom Cufzon have created one bloody wonderful show. And I’ll never hear the name Darnell again without a smirk on my face!

So, four for four, and it was only half past six! At this point of such a brilliant Fringe day picking the next show is trickier, it’s like, it’s gone too well, don’t mess it up. I decided to take a chance with Ava Beaux: The Mysterious Tales of Poe at the Revolution Bar as part of PBH’s Free Fringe. The blurb promises macabre minds, magic and gothic tales. Ava has been at the Fringe before and I’ve always been a tad tempted so tonight was it. Well, it was lovely, good magic and a charmingly dark sense of humour, but it came across as too rehearsed and some how contained, she needs to get wilder?! The venue wasn’t the best though for her show, too many distractions which hampered the ambience Ava was going for. I did enjoy it but not half as much as the previous shows.

As the night was still young I took a wander up to the Squares, Bristo and George, plenty of ambience there. Flyerers, buskers, young chaps trying to hang on to a high bar for 100 seconds (a tenner a shot, £100 to any who can do it, I’ve seen many try but none succeed), bright young things out to party, older things blethering to other old things only met in Edinburgh in August. The melting pot that is Fringe.

Toodle pip!

 

 

Still the loveliest man on the Fringe!

After seeing thirty six shows in the first eleven days I took a bit of a breather, that’s not to say I didn’t wander out to savour the atmosphere, chat to flyerers, mooch around Bristo Square. Mind, I didn’t go out any more than necessary last Sunday, a very very wet day indeed; the old moose cave did need a bit of a tidy round too.

Tuesday I dipped my toe back in, going to see the loveliest man on the Fringe, Aidan Goatley, once again at Sweet Grassmarket. Mr Goatley has a brand new show this year Aidan Goatley: Happy Britain Part I. I knew about his idea to find the centre of all 105 counties in the UK and to ask who ever he finds there what makes them happy, but what happened? Why Part I? Let’s face it, it was a pretty huge undertaking, so bad news – he didn’t manage it as quickly as first envisaged, as so often happens in life; good news – there’s Part II to look forward to next year (touch wood!).

We hear all about the ups and downs of his attempt, along with amazing stories about the folk he’s met on his travels, oh, I could have sat and listened to him all evening, such a wonderful raconteur. Alas the show came to an end, a lovely end which sent us all back out into the world uplifted, glowing with warm fuzziness (like the old Ready Brek advert). In fact after getting home that evening I just had to dip back into his book Never Eat The Buffet at a Sex Club* (*contains no food or sexual references), a collection of his previous work. It was almost like he was in the room reading to me 💛

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