Not the last night of Fringe 2020

The last night of the Fringe, the final push. No matter that so many venues have already closed a day or two earlier, it’s not over til the Pleasance and Gilded Balloon close the bars! Years ago Bud and I got serious on the importance of a great final night, no random show would be the last memory of our Fringe.

Over the years last shows included Otis Lee Crenshaw (three times), Rich Hall, Adam Hills, the Penny Dreadfuls (twice, and Humphrey Ker’s solo show), the Les Clöchards, then in 2013 we met Will Seaward and a new tradition was born. Alas last year he didn’t do the final night (I know, how very dare he!!), his last night was the Sunday, what ever was I to do!? Never fear, his fellow Rouletteers were keeping on to the bitter end, and a fine job they did too. Stupendous!

Interestingly, if Covid hadn’t come along this year, I would have had to start a new game of Who’s Last? See last year was the last of Will’s Spooky Midnight Ghost Stories at the Fringe. Sure, shows, companies, faces come and go, I know that. I do hope my favourite faces make it back again or are at least still being creative wherever they may be in 2021.

Oh, and there’s been the Edinburgh International Festival Fireworks on the final Monday for the last five years. Since they moved to the final Monday I stopped going to watch them in Princes Street Gardens, instead I wander down The Mound to catch a part of it, then I’m off to Fringe again.

I shall leave you with a few pics from last nights at the Fringe…

20180827_220059Something’s afoot at the Castle

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The dark truth of the Fringe……

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….sweat and tears, is what some performers take away with them after an August in Edinburgh!

 

Some trees are remarkably talented

Top Tip for fringe shows – film one performance of the run. Best to do it, oo, a third of the way through the Fringe, that way you’re nicely settled in, having fun with it, the mid-Fringe weariness hasn’t hit yet, you’re feelin’ good! Film it, one, for prosperity, and two, so that if there should be some huge catastrophe where live entertainment is banned, you’ll have something to show the fans (to remind them of happier times!).

Those wonderful Sleeping Trees did just that, so last night I enjoyed Sleeping Trees: Sci-Fi? for a second time. Mmm, when did I first see it, me thought, oo, turns out it was four years ago today! It was in Pleasance Two, so a good view and not too hot, one of the better venues. It’s a cracking show, in my diary I gave it five stars, quite right! Thoroughly deserved. At five o’clock in the afternoon it was after sleepy hour, which is just as well as there’s a lot going on and all at break-neck speed.

And it’s all done with brilliant musical accompaniment and punctuation! Sleeping Trees: Western had been great the year before but this score was even more intrinsic to the action. The drummer and keyboard player provide the perfect soundscape for a sci-fi tale of epic proportions, and they look to be really having fun (well, the drummer didn’t seem to mind being almost mauled at one point). The sound and lighting were spot on too, I do remember being impressed the first time, but possibly being more removed from it this time I noticed the overall production more (well, I know what I mean).

It’s standard Hollywood blockbuster fare: prologue, bad guy gets locked up, a child is taken faraway for safety; twenty years later, bad guy gets out, aaand I’m not giving any more of the plot – you may get to see it sometime. I’ll just say you won’t figure out how the hero Charlie Sprogg, a pig shit farmer, is going to save the day!

Sleeping Trees bring all their many talents to bear here, the writing, their physicality and vocal delivery, the attention to every detail. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to see this again. Now, I just need to see Sleeping Trees: Spy as I haven’t seen it yet, oh, and if there happens to be a recording of Sleeping Trees and the Chocolate Factory?!? Just sayin’.

Looking forward to what they’ll bring to town next year.

Toodle pip!

 

 

241 – Nice but no 42!

The thunder storm just couldn’t hold back any longer! The rain hammered down, the thunder and lightening went on for hours. Don’t reckon I’ve ever seen such a thunder storm over Edinburgh before. On an average 241 Tuesday night there would be plenty of folk about, plenty having to stand in queues in the torrential rain waiting for their next show! They hope it’ll be worth it, well, at least it was a cheap ticket – some shows won’t even be worth it at half price! They’ll sit listening to the rapturous applause at the end thinking, Huh? What? with soaked-through footwear, a still soggy jacket, knowing they’re about to go back out and get even soggier, all for something that barely raised a chuckle.

Okay, so I painted a pretty crappy picture there, but such can be the luck of the Fringe. Take, for example, the first two 241 shows Bud and I went to see. Two by Jim Cartwright, hmmm, remember my cautionary tale about April in Paris? Well, this was like the second time I saw that, all vitriol and plain meanness (I do intend to see One again one year, hopefully as it’s meant to be done). Later that same Sunday we went to see Rich Hall and Mike Wilmot – Pretzel Logic, hmmm, this came across as a self-indulgent wheeze, dreamt up late night in a bar and written on the back of a cigarette packet. Sorry but that’s how we both felt walking out of the Assembly Rooms at one in the morning. How could the brilliant Rich Hall do that to us? Oh yes, he was the bee’s knees to us, sure the show had it’s moments, all his, but not many. We decided it must all be Mike Wilmot’s fault for leading our hero astray!

The Monday was way better with five great shows through the day, faith restored! Since that year 241 Monday was usually a day off work to see five acts, until the year Bud was leaving Edinburgh when we made it six – well, we had to shift up Shakespeare For Breakfast from it’s usual slot. Oo, that was the day we saw Thom Tuck perform Scaramouche Jones (epic), there was an Aussie sponge called Bruce (gritty antipodean epic), yay, Sleeping Trees: Western (possibly my favourite of all their shows), Tom Neenan: Andromeda Paradox was fine (but not one of his best), ending appropriately with Max & Ivan: The End.

Some wonder how one can see and actually take in five shows in one day, well, sometimes the show after lunch may not totally recalled (Tip, don’t have a big, heavy lunch or you WILL doze in the next warm dark room you enter!). Looking back at all the 241 shows that I saw between 2002 and 2015 there are only six that I have absolutely no recall of whatsoever (I’m surprised there’s not a flicker for Opening Night of the Living Dead at C Cubed in 2009, hmmm, nope). I’m quite pleased with that, after all, it’s not necessarily all my fault I don’t recall them!

There are seven shows I would love to be able to unsee, nevermind not being worth half price! Two, I mentioned above, another two God, Inc and The Story of Funk I have spoken of before. They are my Top Four worst 241 shows, fifth place goes to Carnival of Souls a multi-media arty thing performed in the Cameo cinema 1. It was so not our thing, Bud would have happily left early but I wanted to stick it out hoping to find something to like about it, I didn’t.

See, I feel good because I could easily spot the few I have not enjoyed, the vast majority have been good to bloody excellent. There’s so much variety I would be hard pressed to shortlist my favourites. It would take a lot of thought and right now the sun is beckoning me out. Indeed, it’s a beautiful day oot there.

Where’s my sunglasses?

Toodle oo.

 

241 anyone?

Wow, it’s muggy out there today! We were promised thundery showers all through today, but now today’s here they’re not gonna happen ’til the early hours tomorrow. It’s so muggy that Arthur’s Seat has vanished in the haze, or someone nicked it….

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Today would be Two For One (hence forth 241) Tuesday if it wasn’t 2020. Yesterday should have been 241 Monday, not that I have bothered about it much since Bud left town. Oh boy, we were happy bunnies when they introduced 241 days; three days of previews (well, evenings), a rest or maybe a trip to Tarquair Fair on the Saturday, then back into the fray!

Ah yes, originally when the 241 days were introduced they were the first Sunday and Monday of the Fringe, that was in 2002. It wasn’t until 2010 that someone realised that there would actually be plenty of bums on seats on the Sunday without inducement, Tuesday on the other hand – so the day was switched. I know these dates because last night I had a scout back over my Fringe bits and pieces, well, it started off with “I should do something about the 241 days”…. a few hours later I realised it was almost time for Buffy, no time left to blog (and last night’s episodes were particularly fine, especially Hush). So many memories, a few winces and a couple of “that means absolutely nothing to me”.

Oo, the heavens have now opened, and there goes a good low rumble of thunder. We may not have a Fringe this year but we still have monsoon showers, er, yay?! There was a brief but dramatic downpour yesterday evening as I strolled round town past many Not Fringe Venues, it started at six just as I approached Teviot Square. This year it’s a bunch of skateboarders getting soaked; there’s quite a community of them gather in the Square most days, quite happy at the Fringelessness of it.

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You know what? I’m feeling rather peckish . I’m going to have some tea …….

To be continued.

A noble failure!

Woohoo! I actually saw a Fringe show tonight! Yay! And it was at a very respectable half past seven in the evening unlike it’s real Fringe time of midnight (in Monkey Barrel One). What was this wondrous happening? I hear you cry. Why, it was The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society and when the name says Alternative it means Alternative (yes, with a capital A), oh, and quite Absurd too.

It may not have been late on, but it was as live as current circumstances allow and it kept it’s usual running time of two and three quarter hours (at least that’s if it doesn’t run over). Our hosts John-Luke Roberts and Thom Tuck were on fine form; well, John-Luke’s lockdown look is a bit Charlie Manson and Thom’s gone weirdly blond, but they’re fine. Or noble failures, I should say.

The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society is as Fringey as it gets, I’m glad I spotted it was on and booked a ticket (now it almost feels like August). So, I had to watch it on my tablet, but I had the sound on through my bluetooth speaker to keep listening as I finished sorting my tea out (lasagne with a side of broccoli). There were thirteen acts to get through so it all fair cracked along.

Stand outs for me were Deborah Frances-White, Joz Norris, Johnny & The Baptists and Colt Cobana. Okay, so Colt was just chatting but that’s fine by me, the man has a most charming voice and manner! I’ve never actually seen Johnny & The Baptists before but I would see them again, much fun. Ah, Joz Norris, an odd individual, but sweetly bonkers, I think he might actually be a selkie. Deborah Frances-White had us play a fun little game of “1932 or C Venue show”; was it a 1932 news story or the plot of a show that appeared in a C Venue? Some of the news stories were so bizarre it was tricky to call, but I reckon I got more right than wrong.

A most entertaining evening, only slightly spoilt by a glimpse of Messrs Cruise and Pitt in Interview With The Vampire, oh, the horror. Luckily Buffy was soon starting over on E4. They’ve now got to when Buffy intertwines with the first series of Angel, I should dig out the dvds, hmmm.

Well, it’s late so I shall leave you. I shall leave you with a note I wrote down while listening to ACMS, Am I my own Santa?

Toodle pip!

He acted with Will Hay, you know!

Oh hello there! I’ve just been watching six scene snippets from the theatrical play Oh Hello on Facebook; back in April Facebook suggested I might like it, being theatrical and all. Oh ‘ello, thinks I, this rings a bell. Hmmm, a one man play about Charles Hawtrey, ah yes, indeed, on watching the first little scene it took me right back to God knows when. When, when? So I spent bloody ages skimming over my old Fringe calendars – nothing! I started them proper in 2004 so it must have been seriously ages ago, I had to delve into my box of tickets (thankfully kept in ticket holder envelope thingies each year) an age of reminiscences later….. Tuesday 6th August 2002 at 20:30 in Venue 13.

Ah Venue 13, I have a soft spot for Venue 13, not really sure why. It’s an obscure little venue in Lochend Close down off the Canongate (that’s the bottom part of the Royal Mile). I couldn’t tell you what it is the other eleven months of the year, maybe a social centre. It is a bit off the usual beaten tracks but Venue 13 has done me well over the years, certainly nothing awful springs to mind but a number of gems do. Each year I wonder if it will be swallowed up into one of the big companies, but it’s stayed independent and long may it remain so! Oh, and it’s also very close to the Kilderkin, a great real ale pub on the Canongate.

Oh Hello was written by Dave Ainsworth, who I think was performing it too (I know that he did perform it elsewhere around that time). Why did Bud and I pick it? See, Charles Hawtrey was part of our youth, our culture, a favourite in the old Carry On films, one of those wonderful comedy actors who make it look so easy. He had an air of bewildered but twinkly charm, which could have been from all the alcohol it turns out.

Watching the clips from this new production it felt like I’d seen it just last year, the writing is so sharp and memorable; and, as when I saw it, the performance really captures the essence of the man. Charles is played by Jamie Rees here, his Charles Hawtrey impersonating Kenneth Williams – brilliant! The last clip flips from ominous humour to pathos, I was left with a lump in my throat just like the first time.

I think it was meant to be at the Fringe this year (another logarithmic reason for Facebook to suggest it to me), so that’s not happening. The plan is for it to be up next year, do hope so, I’m quite a fan!

Toodle pip!

 

If the audience can’t go to the theatre…..

Ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs, meine damen und herren, naiset ja herrat. Hi peeps! I was just flicking through the tv channels – can you guess what film almost sucked me in? It was tough but I managed to switch it off.

Earlier this evening I did watch Twelfth Night on YouTube from National Theatre Live. Most excellent! I saw it when it was shown in cinemas and was delighted that it’s been included in their lockdown #NationalTheatreAtHome run. This is a brilliant production but particularly outstanding for me were Tamara Lawrance as Viola and Tamsin Greig as Malvolia (yes, that’s right, they’ve made Malvolio a woman!). I’ve loved Tamsin Greig since Black Books, she was a big part of why I saw Twelfth Night in the cinema, and by god, she was magnificent.

There’s seven days to catch Twelfth Night on YouTube until Thursday 30th April when another NTLive production is shown. And what a treat next week! Not just one but two!! Well, the same play with the leads alternating, that’s Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller as Frankenstein and his creature. I was lucky enough to catch both versions at the cinema and will no doubt see both again over the course of the week.

There’s certainly some great theatre and music to be had on the internet to keep us going in these troubled times. I’ve recently been delighted to watch scenes from Oh Hello, a one man show about Charles Hawtrey, on their Facebook page; and how delighted was I to hear a spooky poem featuring Clarence and Louloulou the other evening? Very, very, indeed. More about those later.

Oh, and I have acquired Spotify on my phone (for my daily walks) and am enjoying playlists from the lads at Logan’s Close, so many bands I’ve never heard before, but in the main really good.

Sweet dreams!

 

And I thought 2020 was going to be an auspicious year!!

It’s official, August in Edinburgh is cancelled. No art, no books, no classics or comedy, not even the cavalry! The Military Tattoo, the International, Book and Art Festivals along with the Fringe are now cancelled for 2020 in light of the COVID-19 situation; it ain’t going away anytime soon. Even afterwards life could take some time to get back to normal, and that’s those who haven’t lost their loved ones, their jobs, their businesses.

As I’ve taken my daily exercise I’ve been pondering which little local businesses will go under as a result of being shut so long. Oh, the government may say there’ll be help but I’m sceptical it’ll be anything like enough. As if Brexit and the ongoing negotiations with the EU weren’t bad enough, COVID-19 came along and really stuck the boot into 2020.

Wherever you are, I hope you and yours are well, and please, remember the words of George Michael – you gotta gave faith. And if you can do just one kindness, give someone a smile (today I remembered reading a poem years ago about an infectious smile and how we should pass it on), it might just be what they need.

I’ll leave you with another Pete Standen; the Scott Monument, instantly recognisable even if it is surrounded by devastation.

Goodnight, and may your God go with you.

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Strictly speaking, he should be oot!

Yes, this is a post about Strictly, all about Strictly, you’ve been warned! It’s just before the Sunday dance-off show. Who’ll be in the dance-off? Who won’t make it to next week’s Final? Can Chris Ramsey defy all the nay-sayers and go all the way?

Nah, I don’t reckon so. Even if his fans keep him out of the dance-off, I don’t think he’ll have enough voting for him in the Final. Or, maybe getting him to the Final would spur on his fans even more to get him the Glitterball. If Chris and Karen make it through, the fans of whoever goes out tonight will be fuming and probably determined to vote just so he won’t win. Let’s not forget the Anton factor – this would be his first ever Final in the show and there’s a lot of love for him out there. I think the voting masses will keep him and Emma out of the dance-off, which could lead to an even bigger groundswell in their favour. And the other two pairs? Both excellent, clearly the best dancers, usually I would want one of them to win, but this year? Hmmm.

I like Chris Ramsey, I liked that he was happily doing a thank you for his time on Strictly even before taking part in the quarterfinal dance-off last week, he reckoned his great run was at an end (I could have told him foxtrot v samba, my money would be on the foxtrot). I liked his quick comeback to a comment on his face during his rumba “I was thinking of that mistake in the viennese!” Yes, he comes across as a lovely chap, why have I never been to any of his fringe shows? Why?

On checking back through my old fringe programmes, I clearly missed the window! It maybe didn’t help that he was often next to Chris Martin in the programme. No, not that Chris Martin, the comedian Chris Martin, but, well, I have a bad aversion to that name so would have quickly turned the page. Looking back, Ramsey did have very odd hair styles, I could snapped a few to show you but, well, I like him, we’ve all had bad hairdos.

Chris Ramsey burst on to the Fringe in 2010 with Aggrophobic at the Pleasance Courtyard, performing every day from the first preview night, no middle week night off for this lad, right through to the final Monday night. He was back at the Courtyard again for full runs in 2011 and 2012, I say full but he only went up to the Sunday night. Obviously things were going awfully well for him because he’d made it by 2013, just three nights of Feeling Lucky at the Underbelly Bristo Square at £15 a pop! Chris returned again in 2014 and 2015 to big venues, Pleasance One and Assembly George Square Theatre respectively, each time in the latter half of the Fringe so no cheap previews and no 241 days.

Yes, I didn’t pick up on Mr Ramsey in his initial Pleasance runs and by 2013 he’d done a Noble and priced himself outside my range. Come back again, Chris, do something odd and fringey! Come back, you have my attention now, and my admiration for getting so far n Strictly. It’s the first time I’d be happy if the best dancers didn’t lift the glitterball!

 

 

 

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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