Let’s talk about Bill

Last post I mentioned Bill Bailey and the place he holds in my Happy box, which got me remembering all the other great stuff I’ve seen him do. Really, he’s popped up more times than I would have guessed off the cuff. So here’s a potted history of me and Mr Bailey……..

Apparently he first came up to the Fringe in 1994 as part of a two man show, going solo the following year, then, third time lucky he was nominated for a Perrier 1996 (not so lucky that he won but hey). This was around the time I began to really embrace the Fringe, I didn’t see him perform but I was aware of him. Oh yeah, by 1999 Bud and I were fans, we were yelping with delight when he turned up in the tv comedy sitcom Spaced as the owner of a comic book store!

2000 saw Bill on the telly again as Manny Bianco in the totally and utterly brilliant Black Books. Not for everyone, mind, but my fancy was well tickled by it. Bill, Tamsin Greig and Dylan Moran were great together, usually stuck bickering in Bernard Black’s (Moran) bookshop (in three series very little took place outside of the shop and it’s living space behind). Mind you, I don’t think Dylan Moran was stretching himself much – from what I’ve heard from friends (have I ever mentioned our Fringe game, Meringue, and its origin?).

In 2002 Bill became one of the team captains of my favourite tv panel show at the time Never Mind the Buzzcocks battling against Phil Jupitus’ team, presided over by quiz master Mark Lamarr. Oh, that was great entertainment, if at times a tad cruel to some of the guest panellists. Lamarr actually became less caustic with his humour as time went on, his teddy boy solid as a board quiff soften too. Then Lamarr left and after a series with guest presenters youngster Simon Amstell took over the chair; it was like the humour of early NMTB again but meaner, Amstell obviously wanted to make his mark but his needling and determination to get a rise out of his victims just got annoying at times. In 2008 after a second series with the new chair and with eleven series under his belt, Bill took his leave of the show; I’ve read that Bill revised his attitudes to comedy around this time, “cruel” comedy was shown the door.

Meanwhile, when not filming series of NMTB, Bill was back at the Fringe. In 2003 he brought us not only his new show Part Troll but he also acted in Guy Masterson’s all-star cast production of 12 Angry Men. Bud and I saw and thoroughly enjoyed both (mind, that “all-star” thing seemed to mean stand-up comedians). To our delight two years later he trod the boards again in The Odd Couple with Alan Davies as the other half (another Guy Masterson production). That was, of course, the first time we saw Bill’s band, not listed in the Fringe programme just on the Gilded Balloon’s own.

Those are my stand out BB moments, since then he’s acted on the big and small screen (oo yeah, the Dr Who Christmas Special in 2011); there’s the guesting on panel shows and he’s presented various programmes on topics from baboons to orchestras; tours around the world, books, radio shows, and a load other stuff!! A man of many talents, indeed. Just last month he published a new book Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to Happiness, that’s so on my Christmas list! Oh, and last month he also joined this year’s Strictly Come Dancing!! Oh yay, another excuse to talk about Strictly. I suspect my UK readers knew that was coming ūüėä.

Toodle oo, chaps.

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 Cl√∂chards, 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

Oooo! Ahhh!20180827_220205

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: Mafia¬†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!