McNeil & Pamphilon: which ones were they?

Ones who gave out badges at the end of their show, yay! I do like a show that has free badges at the end. That was in the Pleasance Dome in 2011, the show was McNeil & Pamphilon: Which One Are You?, which besides sketches had them looking at their differences and how fans have their favourite of the two (I was definitely a Pamphilon). These two are very funny and play off each other brilliantly, they’re so relaxed and endearing it felt like watching two pals bantering in the pub, keeping everyone else thoroughly entertained and happy just to listen.

Okay at times they seem disturbingly close, like when McNeil had to touch Pamphilon’s balls – it’s there in my old Fringe diary, followed by “(rubber glove and lube)”?! McNeil also drew the short straw in the fashion stakes, Pamphilon looks cool in anything, but McNeil can make the same clothes look crap, demonstrated to make the point (oh, it was well made) by borrowing a hoody from an audience member. Old diaries are fun, apparently the School Rabbit Sketch was VERY sick and funny, I’m sure it was, wish I had one of those memories that can actually recall details! I gave them four stars.

We saw them again in 2012, this time in the Baby Grand at the Pleasance Courtyard, a small, hot room, so, much like most venues then. Threading through the show was Pamphilon’s body-swapping machine and the joke that he fancied McNeil’s mum. Another four stars given.

2013 was the first time they brought Go 8-Bit to the Fringe, and more badges! Yay! Despite never having been much of a videogamer, I thoroughly enjoyed it seeing the enthusiasm and competitiveness it brought out! And the horror of some of the forfeits the lads, as team leaders, had to endure, well Pamphilon mainly. Forfeits like downing three shots of cheap vodka, eating a jar of chillies, getting dead-armed by all the winning team. All good fun, and worth five stars!

Oo, 2014 it went hi-tech, instead of, please switch off your mobile, it was, switch it on, go to the website and vote for who you think will win each video game. Umm, I didn’t bother, ok, so more like I was still getting used to my first android phone and didn’t really know what to do. Just as well, turned out that one lucky person who voted would then be randomly picked to play in the next game, aargh, like seriously, no way could I have done that! Hmmm, back down to four stars!? I did note that the forfeits weren’t as cruel as the previous year’s, was that a reason to lose a star?

As luck would have it, flicking through tv channels on 5th September 2016, I settled on a show on Dave hosted by Dara O’Briain, he’s usually a safe bet. Then, oo, isn’t that Steve McNeil, and there’s Sam Pamphilon, blimey Charlie, Go 8-Bit’s made it on to the telly! Nice one. Hang on, why is it Dara’s? No, it’s not yours Dara, it’s Sam and Neil’s, give it back! That was literally my thought process over the time it was on. Hey ho, maybe Dave wanted a bigger name to be able to entice viewers in. There’s been two series shown so far and another coming up next year. Well worth a watch, with a few beers, natch. It’s still great to see how competitive and focused some comedians can be, yeah right, Calman, it’s just a game!

Shame they don’t do the really cruel forfeits  😆

 

Nick Helm on Dave

I was just flicking through the telly channels when I happened upon Eat Your Heart Out With Nick Helm. Huh? Nick Helm has a food programme now?! Mr Shouty was conversing in French and later showing off his few words in Portuguese, all in lovely mild manner. Hmmm (looks into the distance, head to one side, a hazy wibbly-wobbliness takes us back, back…)

Friday 3rd August 2012, rushed home from work to get to the Pleasance Queen Dome in time for Nick Helm: This Means War. My choice, I just really like the poster, very Flashman/ Rik Mayall’s Bombardier, it worked for me. I had heard he was quite loud, quite loud?! He came on singing a Motorhead song, well, shouting it, then he seriously ripped into some of the audience, boy, was I glad we were well back in the middle of a row. One poor chap ended up on stage peeling spuds and being yelled at for most of the show, but while we felt the fear we enjoyed the show anyway.

I didn’t see Nick Helm again until 2015, well to be fair, in 2014 he only did two nights at the Pleasance Grand at £15 a pop, that’s ’cause he’d made it on to the telly in Uncle. Then in 2015, he appeared on the Free Fringe with a catchy show title, Nick Fuckin’ Helm: My Edinburgh Hour. This time, a young chap at the front who hadn’t clapped and laughed enough was made to sit behind Nick on the stage so that a more appreciative lady could gave the seat, again I was glad to be well back in the crowd! It was another very entertaining show, especially as the venue sound limiter kept cutting out the microphones whenever he sang – it’s not like Nick Helm really needs amplification in a room that size anyway!

So, his new tv show on Dave, well I really enjoyed it. Him and a mate just go places, eat loads of food and meet the chefs who cook it, and he’s quite sweet actually. There were two half hour shows together, the second had Nish Kumar as the buddy, he’s another chap who’s doing rather well these days. I saw him doing McNeil and Pamphilon’s Go 8-Bit back in 2013 and 2014, yes, at the Fringe it was theirs, not Dara O’Briain’s.

More about that later.

 

 

Never babysit an anxious hound.

Really, don’t! Even in the night I’d be disturbed by my door opening as he checked I was still there. So no fringe shows, just walking and more walking. We did take a brief trip down to Portobello beach for a run on the sand followed by coffee at Miro’s on the Esplanade, ok, so we had cake too. Damn fine coffee, friendly table service, scrumptious sticky toffee cake, just a shame pooch wasn’t one for chilling and watching the world go by. Thankfully he went home this morning, yay.

So from paranoid pooches to good bears – I much prefer a Goodbear! Goodbear are a comedy duo, Henry Perryment and Joe Barnes who are now finely tuned to tweaking funny bones. This is the third year I’ve seen them at the Fringe and they just get better and better. This year the Apres Vie Hotel is the setting for their strange, often rather creepy, creations in sketches which twist in the most unexpected ways. It’s the twists that they do so well and they’re so charming too. I predict great things for both of them.

Also back was Aidan Goatley doing an updated version of his 2013 show Ten Films With My Dad, which was a free show at the Voodoo Rooms, next he moved to the room downstairs at Ciao Roma. TOP TIP – buy some of their icecream if you’re going to a show at Ciao Roma because i) it’s bloody roasting down there, and ii) it’s sooo good, I would recommend a scope of the sea buckthorn with a scope of the mango, heaven in a tub!

Last year Aidan moved on to the paying Fringe, which was ironic as I bought a ticket at the Half Price Hut for £4 – I always give a fiver at free fringe shows! He is an hour of joy and amusement at life’s foibles, there is an occasional slight rant, like last year’s about “street food” on which I am in total agreement with him. This year’s rant was about Avatar and again I find myself supporting his stance, quite obviously a man of intellect and taste. Highlight was his telling of going to Chicago with his Dad, with his synopsis of Escape to Victory a close second. He’s finished his Fringe run for this year, worth remembering his name for next year.

Let’s make this a trio of rib ticklers and mention Sleeping Trees, who have moved to Pleasance Dome this year, once again at the Movies: Mafia, Western and Sci-fi. The live score is superb and adds so much to the show. The physical and verbal comedy of these chaps is outstanding with some surrealism thrown in for good measure. They’re also doing Sleeping Trees and the Chocolate Factory again at the Pleasance Courtyard on Friday and Saturday evenings, it’s not in the Fringe Programme so almost feels like a cosy secret for the fans. Which reminds me I really should get a ticket!

 

What’s Monday without a little drama?

That’s all I heard of a conversation as I meandered to the Pleasance Courtyard on my way home this evening. With so many wannabe thespians in such close proximity there’s bound to be some tears, or at least dramatic flouncing before bedtime.

I decided to pop in as it had dawned on me that I hadn’t been in so far this Fringe! This is a very strange occurrence, how could I have not seen a single show at preview time at the Pleasance Courtyard?! The last time this happened was 2008, and then I saw four shows there the first weekend, ah the preview prices may have continued to the Saturday for some shows and back then the 2for1 days were the first Sunday and Monday. The Pleasance Courtyard has always been good for comedy acts, but at higher prices, and they never appeared on the Friends of the Fringe 2for1 list, hence early on cheaper shows were a must.

Another shocker, I’m not seeing anything in Pleasance Two this year, I’ve seen the list of shows there and not one appeals to me, which is a shame because as venues go, it’s a pretty good one. The seating is well tiered, only someone freakishly elongated could block the view of the fellow behind. It’s been sometime since I haven’t seen a least one show there.

So I wandered around having a nosy at all the little and not so little changes. I noticed the inside bar looked different through the window so popped in for a look, ye gods, it’s bloody awful now! Even worse than what’s been done to the Peartree, a few streets away, which has just recently been reopened after extensive work at the expense of losing the Blind Poet next door, becoming just another part of the Peartree. From two great old pubs, they’ve made a modern dull, could be anywhere, lounge bar. Bloody vandals!!

Well, that’s quite enough drama for one night. Toodle pip.

 

A cautionary tale.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Way back in the early 90s I went to see a new play by John Godber performed by the Hull Truck Theatre Company, April in Paris. Bloody marvellous it was! A sharp and witty piece about a middle aged couple who win a trip to Paris, well, she wins it from one of the many competitions she likes to enter. They have problems like any couple but through all the sarcasm and moans its clear they do love each other, it’s just dark northern humour to hide their soft sides. The two who played the couple really excelled at bringing the script to life. One of my Fringe highlights to this day.

In any year at least one company will put on a John Godber play, some years have seen as many as three Bouncers and you can often have a pick of which production of Shakers or Teechers to see. April in Paris seemed not to reappear so often and I must admit I wasn’t sure if it would be as good again, but in 2003 it resurfaced in a little venue off the Royal Mile and as I’d waxed lyrical to my Fringe Bud about it, we went.

Oh dear, oh my. Remember I said they loved each other really? Well, these two clearly hadn’t read their own blurb in the Fringe Programme  that it was a “warm-hearted comedy”, it was devoid of love. The vitriol was incredible, oh it was the same script, but said meanly with bitterness. I walked out at the end completely flummoxed by the experience. I tried to explain to Bud that it was really a very good play, not sure he was convinced.

And so that’s why I rarely revisit past favourites by other companies. I couldn’t go through that again! On the other hand, I doubt anything could ever be as misinterpreted as that again!

Who?

Yes, I am referring to the new Doctor, Jodie Whittaker (just had to check that – one t or two, it’s one of those awkward names like Paterson), a Yorkshire lass and a fine actress. I do wonder if she can conjure up that otherworldly quirk of the Doctor, but so far since the Doc’s revival the choices have all been great, unlike some of the later reincarnations in the first run! And changing the Master into Missy was worked so well, Michelle Gomez was magnificent, so it’s not like the Doctor is the first timelord to change sex.

So, I got to wondering last night whether, in years gone by, did a young aspiring Jodie ever appear in a Fringe production? No, I don’t know, but I like the thought that maybe I saw the future Dr Who in a Fringe production. Maybe there’s a future Doctor performing this year, who knows?! Ok, so if you’re not a Who fan you may not be so tickled by this idea, but imagine if watching a Bond movie it dawned on you that you once saw Daniel Craig in a tiny fringe venue in a production of Bouncers? All famous actors began somewhere so why not at the Fringe?

The Fringe also has plenty of old luvvies at the other end of their careers. Well, when I say end I don’t mean, erm, oops, just not spring chickens anymore?! Rodney Bewes is back yet again, can’t keep him away! Twenty years ago he turned up with a little boat he’d built himself to do Three Men in a Boat (afterwards he was signing copies of the paperback, I still have mine!) and I don’t think he’s missed a year since. Some years later he left the boat at home and put on Diary of a Nobody, the last few years he’s been regaling his audiences with his own life story, forever a Likely Lad, a lovely gent.

And back into the Who-verse, Sylvester McCoy is popping up this year to do a new comedy play – you can’t keep an old dogter down (sorry), or their companions, 2014 saw Katie Manning at the Fringe. She and Susan Penhaligon played two aging actresses in a retirement home, a charming bittersweet play. Katie Manning played Jo Grant the first companion I really remember and I suspect I wasn’t the only one there because of old memories!

Oo, and if all the brouha over the latest Doctor has amused you, check out Jodie Whittaker is Doctor Who by the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre on YouTube, it may just tickle you.

Shakespeare for Breakfast?

Oo yes, please! Complete with coffee and croissant! As the show starts at 10 o’clock (well, possibly by 5 past 10 by the time everyone’s squeezed in), first breakfast may have been rushed or missed altogether, so a second breakfast is quite welcome. Mind, if I have a few minutes spare I prefer to grab myself a coffee from Caffè Nero at Blackwells. The croissants are on serviettes on the seats, the folk who don’t want one generally place them on the next seat along until if you’re one of the later arrivals you’ll have to unearth the last seat on the row from the mound of croissants. TOP TIP if you’re doing the Fringe on a small budget, hang about afterwards and clear up the spare croissants, a packet of ham slices and a bit of cheese, sorted!

You may have noticed how I used the word “squeezed” earlier, I do not lie, the show is often sold out and the seats are very narrow, there is NO room for long legs, big bottoms or wide shoulders. Depending on the size of your neighbours you may find yourself sitting slightly uncomfortably  to slot in with them. Be assertive! Get yourself comfy and sit your ground (unless you’re sitting next to me!). And don’t think you can leave a crafty seat free for some breathing space, as the venue fills up everywhere is scrutinised for room, that seat will be filled!

Another TOP TIP, on your way into C+1 be sure to find yourself a sturdy flyer if you haven’t been organised enough to remember your fan! Oh yes, it’s gonna get warm, really warm, but you can at least take some comfort in the fact that you would be way hotter if the show was still in it’s original venue C+3.

By now you may be wondering if Shakespeare for Breakfast is really worth the early rise, the pain and discomfort, but yes, it is, well, most years it is (I cannot lie there has been the odd dodgy year). Indeed this is testimony to how good C Theatre are!! For myself and many others, this is one of our great Fringe traditions, this is sooo Fringe! I haven’t missed one since my first in 2002, a panto of Romeo & Juliet. “Hello Nursey, ‘ows your floury baps?” we’d all holler whenever the dame, sorry, Nurse came on.

It is a great way to start a day at the Fringe. Yes, but you haven’t said anything about the show itself, well, it’s Shakespeare with a twist. Sometimes it’s based on one of his plays, sometimes it takes characters from all over the bardverse and puts them in a modern situation. It’s Shakespeare and it’s silly and there’s always a song at the end. Nuff said.

Great Shakes & not so great shakes.

Y’know I really should do my blog earlier in the evening but I always allow myself to get sucked into catching up on the other blogs I follow …… two hours later! I procrastinate by reading the Procrastinator’s Day Off, oh the irony!

Anyways, old Shakey, how many ways have I seen thee? Let me count the ways. As straight no-messing-about productions go I’ve not seen many, Coriolanus was memorable, Venus & Adonis less so but for the venue it was in. Hamlet I’ve seen as a Panto, performed on a bouncy castle and something called Fat Hamlet, which I have absolutely no recollection of!

I do have a fond but vague memory of A Midsummer Night’s Dream re-write where the set was just a huge old sofa in a student flat; they sat on it, sprawled on it, clambered over it, hid behind it. Yep, the sofa was the star.

Then, of course, there’s the Scottish play. In 2000, we had the one man retelling of it with Homer Simpson taking the lead. Checking back, apparently I also saw a Japanese production of it that year, you might think that one would have stuck in the mind! More memorable was Macbeth Pruned & Henry V Pulped by the Flying Pig Theatre way back in 1997. Henry V was done Tarantino-style but it was Macbeth as a “if it can go wrong it will” amateur theatre show that was hilarious. We bumped into the cast two nights later queuing  for another Macbeth retelling, they were very happy to hear we’d enjoyed as they didn’t seem too positive, but just as we’d buoyed them up, the show we all saw deflated them again.

That would be Elsie & Norm’s Macbeth. See, Norm wasn’t taken with all that flowery stuff Shakespeare came out with, so he’d rewritten Macbeth, proper northern stuff, like, and with wife Elsie and various cuddly toys they were going to perform it to us. If my memory serves me right Banquo was a large cuddly panda (with added sheet as a ghost) and yes, Fleance was a small panda. But the most interesting Fringe history fact is that Elsie was played by Pip Utton! Yes, he who is known for his brilliant monodramas playing such as Adolf Hilter and Maggie Thatcher. A quick look in this year’s programme shows he’s doing his Greatest Hits, methinks he won’t be including Elsie, but he should!!

Oo , I nearly forgot, in 2002 at what was the Gateway Theatre on Elm Row, in a small, very hot room, about a dozen folk sat with binoculars to watch Tiny Ninja Theatre presents Macbeth. The actors were dime store figures and inch high plastic ninjas, Mr & Mrs Smile as Macbeth and his Lady were particularly good. Though the audience couldn’t help a chuckle or two, the cast played it very straight, bit of a juxtaposition. I was very sorry the company didn’t return to the Fringe.

There’s only one other company I really have to mention when it comes to Shakespeare at the Fringe, but I’ll leave that til breakfast.

How would you like your Shakespeare, madam?

As you can imagine there’s plenty of Shakespeare at the Fringe, in all manner of states, pruned,  punked, as panto, in the park, on bouncy castles, and occasionally the odd straight down the line, no messing, performance of the bard’s work.

Probably the first company who took pruning the Bard to a new art form were the Reduced Shakespeare Company. I never actually saw that show, but in 1996 I saw them perform The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged). I did see them again, no idea which show it was, I just remember a rousing song of “Everybody hates the French” which pops back in my head every year around the time of the Six Nations Rugby. Anyway, I digress…

In any year there’ll be a variety of takes on the likes of Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this year take your pick of two Comedy of Errors. One is by a “vibrant young cast (who) bring the story right up to date”, the other is “Shakespeare meets Ska, Two-tone and Rudeboy”, all sorts for everyone. Personally I reckon Mr S would have approved of these adaptations  (so long as he saw some royalties!)

I do like to try to see something of Shakespeare each year, makes me feel cultured, y’know. Besides that endeavour,  since 2002 I’ve had Shakespeare for Breakfast once each Fringe – it starts at 10 o’clock in the morning, that’s ridiculously early when I’m on a day off work. S4B are a great company and though I don’t “recommend” shows generally (more on that later), this is one show that is sooo Fringe, go see!

Well, it’s very late so I’ll say toodle-pip, more on old Shakey next time.

 

The secret love child of Brian Cant?!

Ok, so I know he’s not but that’s what my buddy and I both said as we left after seeing Felix Hayes in The Pickled King back in 2003 and when he returned to the Fringe in 2006 with two shows, nothing we saw dissuaded us of this fact. They look similar (well, two eyes, a nose and a mouth) but the essence was the same. Essence? Have you ever met someone who was so incredibly like someone else but as much inwardly (if not more) as outwardly in appearance? That to me is the essence and Felix’s smile, his infectious almost childlike joy in absurdity was so Brian Cant.

The Unsinkable Clerk was a great romp of a play but Them with Tails was absolutely wonderful, so good we went twice! Them with Tails was improvised stories for kids, and out of the mouths of babes came weird and wonderful suggestions, things beyond the reasoning of rational adults. We did later contemplate how funny an adult version of the show would be but decided that what made it so good was the totally innocent suggestions which made for some tricky storylines, as opposed to a too-knowing adult crowd who would be trying too deliberately to set up laughs.

There’s a little game I sometimes play, Desert Island Fringe Shows, where I’m shipwrecked with various Fringe shows, well sometimes I go for the companies so that they can put on other shows and other times it is just the one show they have to perform over and over again! Either way Felix Hayes would be there.