What ever happened to the sideburns?

So back in April Logan’s Close played the Voodoo Rooms with a new addition of a keyboard player – fine. Next thing, the new pics on FB only show four guys, four plus one should be five? Was it an aesthetics thing – sorry only four to a photo, five would be too much!? The drummer with the great sideburns seems to be oot of the picture, literally. The Close have a new single out soon, no doubt they’ll play Edinburgh to herald it’s arrival, and we’ll see who’s in or out. Same drummer, new drummer, drum machine?!?

It’s reminded me of one of my favourite Fringe acts, Dead Cat Bounce. They wrote a rather magnificence song about the day they fired the drummer, performed at the end of the show literally as though the other three had just agreed earlier that day to fire him. Nine years later I still laugh when I hear it, absolutely brilliant, but then Dead Cat Bounce were top class comedy writers and performers as well as being great musicians. They would most definitely be one of my Desert Island Fringe Acts!

Ironically it was the keyboardist who left the band just over a year later. Sadly the remaining trio only played the Fringe one more time in 2012, it wasn’t quite the same without Mick; and it put Outsized Orthopaedic Shoe and Four Lads off the playlist, shame. In 2013 they called it a day, well, playing live, until in 2017 they apparently did a 10th anniversary reunion show, and there’s a DVD of it!! I must hunt one down. I shall keep on with the occasional stalk to see what they’re up to, in case they reform proper!

The Penny Dreadfuls, particular favourites of mine, were originally a four-man sketch show when my buddy and I first came across them in their Victorian sketch show Aeneas Faversham. It was our favourite show that year, silly, surreal, clever, witty, and thoroughly British! The following year they pulled it off again with Aeneas Faversham Returns, by George, even Bud’s elderly maiden aunt loved it, especially the Invisible Man sketch – the one part we feared she would disapprove of! Why? Specimen 626 had escaped from the lab and they had to find him, he was invisible, at least to them on stage, we could all see Specimen 626 who was stark bollock naked! He was prancing around, jiggling about between the others talking trying to put them off, he even did a cartwheel across the stage! By the following Fringe Jamie (aka Specimen 626) had left them. Had the naked cartwheels been too much for him? So 2008 saw the Penny Dreadfuls down to a trio for Aeneas Faversham Forever, and they’re still loosely together, every now and again popping up on Radio 4 and Radio 4extra, besides following their own solo careers, occasionally popping up at the Fringe. David Reed is up for  four nights with Inside the Comedian and of course, Thom Tuck is up as usual doing lots of silly things with lots of silly people.

Just to show you there were originally four Penny Dreadfuls and also what an awesome act they are……

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behold, the Penny Dreadful playing cards! Yes, they didn’t just do badges, they had decks of playing cards! Three years in a row! The chap at the back of the middle card is Jamie. I wonder what became of him? And can he still cartwheel?

 

Now how do I put it in my phone calendar?

Yay! Today those lovely people at Assembly finally announced that their Edinburgh Locals £5 Tickets offer was back on again this year. I wasted no time in re-checking my cuttings and making a decision which six to go for (there’s a maximum of six and up to the end of the first Sunday night). I quickly got it down to nine, but which other three to drop? Ummm.

As it’s his final tour ever (so he says), Stewart Francis: Into the Punset would have been a definite contender but that 8pm timeslot knackers up so many other shows so no; plus he’s doing a full run and is on the Friends of the Fringe 241 list, so I may get to see him later with a chum. Modern Maori Quartet: Two Worlds was a thought. Yes, I saw it last year but it is really good – and at only a fiver! On the other hand my cuz may pop up for a few days and he’d love them, and I’m already going to their Garage Party show.

Also dropped for now as it would be the wrong time of the Fringe, much more suited to be a final week show (no, I don’t know why, it just is) is the magnificently titled John-Luke Roberts: After Me Comes the Flood (But in French) drop splosh splash drip BLUBBP BLUBBP BLUBBPBLUBBPBLUBBP!!

So what has made it into my Fringe diary? The lovely Sarah Kendall with Sarah Kendall: Paper Planes, and it’s just occurred to me, yes, indeed, same time same venue as two years ago! Also from Oz The Long Pigs claiming to be “spine-tingling original theatre” showing at the Roxy, very few duds seen there. Staying antipodean, Laser Kiwi a surreal sketch circus troupe, at a fiver it’s worth a shot.

Fringe regular Guy Masterton is directing The Shark is Broken, apparently a true story set during the filming of Jaws (what else with that title?) It is at eleven on the Sunday morning which could be hard after Saturday night, but I’ll just have to force myself to go straight home after Nick Helm’s I Think, You Stink, a musical comedy horror at the Roxy. And finally those Silly Funny Boys the Sleeping Trees, I wonder if they know what it’s about yet?!

Ha, who needs 241 Monday and Tuesday? If I knew how to spell it, I’d spell a long, fruity, loud raspberry. Yeah, I’ll be well into my Fringe before they even come round (bitter? moi?)

Toodle pip!

 

So a phoenix, a bear and a monster walk into a bar….

Actually it’ll be myself going to the bar between shows 😊 Yes, the full Fringe programme is out! An intense first check through over three days, eighty two cuttings, several G&Ts and some of teeth gnashing later, I have bought my first batch of tickets: twelve previews and the Sleeping Trees’ Christmas Special. Yay!

First preview night this year will be Nick Helm: Phoenix From The Flames, Ben Pope: Dancing Bear, and Alice Snedden: Absolute Monster. Nicely spaced over the evening and not too late to bed afterwards. Nick Helm, just because! Ben Pope, umm, is it the bear thing? I have seen previous good reviews for him (and who didn’t smirk on seeing the  words pope and bear so close together?!).  Alice Snedden I know nothing about apart from the blurb in the programme but she’s a kiwi and that’s enough in my book to warrant a preview ticket.

20180825_171401And on kiwis, I’m off to the Modern Maori Quartet’s Garage Party on the Thursday night, looking forward to seeing them again (that’s yours truly with three quarters of them last year)

I don’t have a ticket yet for the wonderful Sarah Kendall, but as her previews are £8 I’m holding off in the hope that Assembly will do the locals’ tickets for a fiver thing again (just up to the end of the first weekend I think). There’s another five or six shows in that particular queue; if Assembly don’t come through for me they’ll all go into my Half Price Hut hopefuls pile.

The Sleeping Trees: Christmas Special is just on for one night so I had to, had to, had to get a ticket! Well, actually I got two, the show has the Fringe Friends’ 241 offer on it, so at £15 for one ticket (yikes), it made sense to get the second ticket – I’ll sort out a chum to chum me later.

Oo, I’m starting to get a bit excited now. Only fifty days to go!

Sweet dreams!

 

Bears and foxes and sockses, oh my!

Yes, there’ll be bears and a fox and a pair of socks at the Fringe this year, yay! After a year off Goodbear are back with Dougal, no, not the dog, it’s the name of their new show. Oo, I might even make that a first night show, it’s always good to start well and I’m sure Mr Barnes and Mr Perryment will not disappoint me.

The Abbott and Costello of the sock world, the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are back with Roll Up! I’ve been following their show development throughout the year on Facebook, bits have come and gone, and there’s plenty of video footage. I expect it honed to perfection by August!

And the Fox? Why, it’s my childhood hero Basil Brush! Apparently he sounds slightly different these days, but it was forty plus years ago when I was watching him on the telly. If only he’d come to the Fringe in 2015 – he could have met up with his old pal Rodney Bewes (this tablet wants to make him Rodney Beers! No, tablet demon, it’s Bewes). Mr Rodney was Basil’s side-kick in 1968, he’s the first one I can remember. After that there was Mr Derek, he stayed around a few years and was very good, but my favourite side-kick/straightman was Mr Roy, I loved it when he would grab Basil’s snout in exasperation to shut him up (while trying not to laugh).

Turns out Basil first appeared on telly as a support act to a magician before getting his big break with his own tv show. He was very influenced by Terry Thomas, he liked the charm and droll wit, and was always seen wearing a cravat (and comparing his clothes to now, he definitely had a better tailor back then, probably Saville Row). The stars were all queuing up to be on his show, Lulu, Cilla Black, Demis Roussos, to name a few, all eager to duet with him. Yes, Basil was so popular he even made a cameo appearance in The Goodies Rule-OK? 

Indeed, I shall have to go see the Fox, why, I learnt all my wit, humour and sarcasm from him (and Dougal, yes, the dog, and Brian). I wonder, will he still talk about Dirty Gertie from Number Thirty?! Does he still have that laugh? He must still use his catchphrase. Until next time, my friends,

Boom! Boom!

 

….then the armadillo said to the bishop….

Hello peeps! No he didn’t – I have no idea what the armadillo said, which I suppose means he could have said it after all! Way back one of my first posts was about the effects of negative advertising on fringe-goers, this title is to test the effect of false advertising. If you’ve read this far and intend to continue on, well, yay!

So I happened to glance at one of the update Assembly emails and noticed that Sleeping Trees have gone for the Ronseal approach for their show this year; no messing just Sleeping Trees: Silly Funny Boys.  Indeed they cannot be done for false advertising, they are as funny as they are talented with silliness in spades, and the brilliance of a show title like this is it says everything about them but nothing about the show itself (most likely because they haven’t written it yet but wanted to get a good slot).

They have been very busy; last year’s Edinburgh Fringe show Sleeping Trees: World Tour is still touring the world, they were at the Adelaide Fringe earlier this month, then a quick hop to Melbourne before coming home to Blighty. Even then they still have a few performances to go. Phew! A new show, new ideas, new jokes must be quite an attractive prospect after such a long run. I can’t wait to see it!

Oh yeah, for those not familiar with old British tv adverts, the Ronseal tagline quickly became part of the vernacular “it does exactly what it says on a tin”.

Toodle pip!

A Poster Is Not The Show

See what I did there? I’ve heard it said that the songs in Mary Poppins Returns aren’t memorable – poppycock! Ok, so I don’t remember the words much but I often find myself humming them, even whistling them on occasion (when did whistling tunes go out of style?)  Anyways, the song A Cover Is Not The Book has been making Jeremy Lion, a bygone Fringe performer, pop into my head. Why? Because I judged and made presumptions about Mr Lion from the poster.

And here it is in all it’s glory!

2019-02-18 23.11.30Nothing about this poster appealed to me, not even the Perrier Best Newcomer bit – we hadn’t always seen eye-to-eye Pez and I about what funny actually is. This was 2003, the year of God Inc. the only show Bud and I had ever walked out of at that point, and not just because it was running an hour late!! The show we caught after God Inc was thankfully also running late, but it really wasn’t up to much and hadn’t been worth our mad dash to catch it. We’d also had the pain of watching April in Paris (see A Cautionary Tale), I was in no mood to waste more money on a dubious poster!

2019-02-18-23.23.15The following year Mr Lion returned with a new show; The Guardian described it as “Play School meets Hellraiser”. Actually on that description I’m surprised we didn’t give it a punt!

Looking at the posters again now, they are perfect for the show they were advertising; all the colours and tones have an old-fashioned, yester year feel. It’s the 50s and 60s and Butlins again (I do have vague memories of Butlins holidays as a young calf!) He’s the children’s entertainer who wants to be anything but that, but he keeps going with what he thinks is entertaining (and educational) with the aid of the odd drink or two or three or ……

So when he returned yet again in 2005 with Jeremy Lion – What’s the Time, Mr Lion? Bud and I decided we should give him a go, after all, three years in he must be doing something right! Even then we bought tickets for 241 Monday, 18:25 in Pleasance Beyond (by’eck I’ve seen an awful lot of shows in that hut over the years,  worth a post of its own at some point). OMG!!! One of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen to this day! So good we saw it twice, both immediately having agreed that we had to see the show on the last day to check if he was still alive!! Surely no-one could drink that copiously through an entire month and live to tell the tale?! We debated long into the evenings how much may not have been actual alcohol but decided he really was drinking that much, wow. We drank plenty ourselves at the time but even we would have been under the table against old Lion! And the belching – he could have done a masterclass, such was his talent. It wasn’t just about the drinking and the belching though, it was a brilliantly conceived, written and performed show. Total Fringe. We both felt thoroughly miffed with ourselves that we’d poo-pooed his previous shows.

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Did he come back again? He reappeared in 2010 moving over to the other Pleasance presence the Dome. It had taken five years to have sobered up and now be looking back fondly thinking what fun to do it again. Mind in those five years he’d got older, could the liver take such punishment again? He now had the very enchanting Lucy Porter as a wife and a child on the way (she was at show we went to, looking very pregnant). Ah, she’s married to Justin Edwards, Jeremy’s alter-ego, I’m not sure there’d be many takers to be Mrs Lion. He’d obviously taken time to reflect on life, the world, the times, and so his final Fringe show was Jeremy Lion Goes Green, an environmentally-aware show, which as usual with Lion went awry with arguments with his pianist, daft props and, of course, drinking. We did murmur to each other that he wasn’t drinking as much, until, to quote from my Fringe diary “Finding bottles of Malibu in his bit of the desert was the start of the end and the finale was a marvellous rendition of Ten Green Bottles that he decided should be ten empty bottles to recycle – so he drank a lot of them.” I notice I said “a lot” rather than “the lot”, well, the mother of his child was looking on 😆

 

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Some Lillies are Tigers that bite

Last night I headed down Leith to the recently re-opened Leith Theatre to see a performance of The Last Days of Mankind by Karl Kraus featuring the The Tiger Lillies. No, didn’t know anything about it, but the poster suggested a hard-hitting, provocative piece of theatre about man and war, and The Tiger Lillies! Oh yay! If they were providing the music, then definitely hard-hitting, plenty of sarcasm and black humour and no shying away from man’s vileness and depravity. It’s been just over five years since I saw The Tiger Lillies at the Fringe, way too long…….

The first time I saw them was 2004, performing Punch and Judy at what was called Pod Deco, this was an odd pop-up venue in the much-loved but sadly closed-down Odeon cinema on Clerk Street (I saw many films there, it was a proper old cinema). This was no family-friendly puppet show – the big clue being the blurb in the programme, “A lurid operetta, with supporting cast of shadows, glove puppets and rubber blow-up dolls. Step into the dirty, chaotic and violent world of Punch”. Yeah, violence and blow-up dolls, but still some idiots brought children along, only to leave before the second song was over! My friend who’d introduced me to the TLs told that when he’d seen them the year before at St Stephen’s the singer warned a mother with two children, she waved him off only to skunk out during the first number!

Punch and Judy was like nothing I’d ever seen or heard before, grotesque, heart-searing, beautiful, depraved. I came out needing a good shower to cleanse my soul – this reaction became my benchmark for a good TLs show. To paraphrase Eric Olthwaite, their humour is black, very black, even the white bits are black. Not for everyone, given the lyrics, but the music itself is sublime; a trio of very talented musicians who will spell-bound you and Martyn’s voice will stay with you forever.

Described as “an avant-punk Brechtian cabaret trio” the Spiegeltent was the perfect venue in 2005. We felt transported to another era, just without the thick cigarette smoke that would have been there. They returned to the Spiegeltent in 2008 with their 7 Deadly Sins. Loved, loved, loved this show, a brilliant set of songs, a burlesque dancer and a puppeteer/clarinetist with little angel wings who seriously looked like Timothy Claypole (a character from a long-ago children’s tv show).

The next two years the TLs were in the Pleasance Beyond, a soulless, functional, modern theatre with no ambiance at all. The performances were great but after the sleazy atmosphere of the Spiegeltent, well, it wasn’t the same overwhelming devineness, they were a band on a stage.

It was 2013 before they returned to the Fringe, playing at the Underbelly’s Cowbarn (aka Reid Concert Hall). A much better venue for them, I seem to the remember the lighting being really good, especially the uplighting on the bass player’s face, fair gave me the willies it did! Another great show with the usual crowd around their CD stall afterwards, they are quite prolific doing all sorts of musical projects, so there will always be new CDs to procure. Sadly I haven’t seen them at the Fringe since, so when they put a picture on Facebook with the comment Watch out Edinburgh, ooo.

So I got me a cabaret table seat in an old slightly dilapidated theatre, even walking in the ambience was right, a piano was centre front in amongst the cabaret tables, percussion at the right wing, bass in front of the left wing; liking it. Two gents with paled faces sat at desks on either side of the raised piano. The Tiger Lillies walked on to their instruments and played…

What a theatrical performance! Everything just outstanding!! The Last Days of Mankind was written in the early twentieth century, satirically charting the war and it’s effects on humanity as the author saw it in Austria; the collapse of civilisation in Europe at the time. Apparently the original play has over 200 scenes, almost 500 characters and an estimated 10 day running time! This new adaptation had a cast around 30 (from all around Europe), 35 scenes and a running time of about 3 hours, phew!

The whole theatre was the stage, with scenes emerging from the sides, the back of the central aisle, even the balcony! Pictures and film clips were projected on to the backdrop and curtain of a sparse stage. Martyn moved between the piano and stage to serenade us with his sarcastic dark wit (his accordian was a thing of beauty, always fancied learning to play one). It was a breath-taking, thought-provoking, mesmerising evening. My cabaret table seat was great, sometimes being right next to the action, but I am quite tempted to go back before it finishes to see it again from the balcony! After all, god knows when the Tiger Lillies will come back to town.

Toodle pip!

 

 

 

Damned statistics!!

Pardon me for not blogging recently and now I’m back just to have a rant! I have this particular rant every year around this time, every year? I hear you ask, yes indeed, let me tell you all about it, you might want to make yourself a cup of tea first…….

Ready? Then I’ll begin. Edinburgh Fringe 2018 put a post on Facebook to announce another record breaking year with ticket sales up 5% on last year. But Brucie, surely that’s good, isn’t it? Ah, but, dear friends, that statistic doesn’t really mean much on it’s own. The next statistic was just laughable, that ticket sales were up “a whooping 52% on the 2009 figures”, I should bloody hope so considering how much bigger the Fringe is now!

They also attached an article from The Scotsman about the latest statistics from the International, Book and Fringe Festivals, which was a bit more illuminating as it pointed out that in 2017 there were 53,232 performances of 3,398 shows compared with 56,796 performances of 3,548 shows this year. Hmmm, so that 5% increase in ticket sales isn’t a big deal considering the increase in tickets on sale, was it even enough for audience percentages to remain the same?

Oo, I was going to mention that the Pleasance audience figures were up this year, but on reading and re-reading and re-re-reading that part of the article again I rather think that bit is somewhat ambiguous (at least I don’t think it’s very clear). I think they are up, but not as much as I thought on first reading. Hurrah for the spokesman for Space UK, he said attendances were up 11% and they had a 20% increase in sold out performances. At least that does mean more bums on seats.

See, that’s my point! A 5% increase in ticket sales doesn’t mean diddlysquat on it’s own. So there was 5% more bums on seats, but if the overall number of seats for bums to sit on (ie, the number of seats available for every performance of every show) has also increased by 5% then there’s no real increase at all and a 6% increase in seats would mean audience numbers are down – audience statistics would be a far better way of judging whether the Fringe was more successful than previously.

Also, might one enquire how many tickets were sold at the Half Price Hut? After all, every ticket sold there is kind of like half a ticket, and let’s not forget the Friends of the Fringe 2 for 1 tickets, again they’re like half tickets too. They might make a company feel better seeing more faces but if all the tickets sold were at half price, how much of a comfort is that?

As a punter I love the Half Price Hut, it is a necessity with the Fringe having become so huge to help some shows get folk in, I check it most days hoping one of my possibles comes up. On the other hand, there wouldn’t be such a need for it if the Fringe had a slightly smaller huge choice of shows. Ok, so no one outside of the big acts makes any money, but if a show with tickets priced at £8 only manages to sell tickets at £4 it’s not doing well at all, surely?

Now I’m feeling despondent for all the little shows trying desperately not to sink beneath the waves of the great ocean that is Fringe. I do love the Fringe but sometimes I wonder where it’s going.

Nighty night  x

 

 

Post Fringe Blues

Hi folks! I’m writing this from the doldrums, the pit of despair, aka postfringe-Edinburgh. Motivation is currently a four-letter word. My get-up-and-go got up and left with the Fringe and all it’s accoutrements. My joie de vivre has taken on the tone of Marvin, “Life? Don’t talk to me about life.” Was it only six days ago it all ended again? I was still in full Fringe-mode this time last week (eleven o’clock Sunday night).

This time last week in the rather warm Monkey Barrel 2, I was trying to see round a rather large gentleman to watch some bad wrestling matches. Yes, I finally got round to going to Brendon Burns and Colt Cabana Do Comedy and Commentary to Bad Wrestling Matches and can confirm you need know nothing about wrestling to enjoy this show. It may help to know something or be a fan, but just an enjoyment of hilarious video clips is enough, and the banter between Burns and Cabana is a joy to behold, like some old married couple. There were a few guests on to add to the mix and chat, the last of which was John Hastings; he must always have a lot of posters up as I’ve never seen him but I knew who he was  (unlike the other guests).

Then, what happened at the very end of the show made me very glad I’d finally gone ….. Brendon announced it would be his last time of co-presenting it!! His reason being he’s getting old – er, 47?! Old? It was quite touching the emotion in the room, while everyone tried to stay very manly about it! Ya big softies! So I’m very glad I finally made it to BBACCDCACTBWM for Burnsy’s swansong, now I wish I’d been earlier, like six years earlier.

Toodle pip!