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!

 

 

 

The loveliest man on the Fringe

This award I would give to Aidan Goatley, he really is a lovely chap. I first saw him doing his show Ten Films With My Dad at the Voodoo Rooms in 2013. Since then there’s been The Joys of Retail, Mr Blue SkyThe Year of the Goat and this year’s Aidan Goatley is the Vicar’s Husband. Each year he has still also done Ten Films… which I love, it probably helps being a similar generation so the films are very much part of my own cultural references.

There was just one fairly obscure old black and white war film, with a young Thora Hird, that I didn’t know; I took a friend to see the show last year (any excuse to go back again) and she creased up in hysterics as she immediately recognised the film because of the young Thora Hird. On thinking, that same friend also almost ended herself at Year of the Goat when Aidan was slagging off his wife’s hometown, it only turned out to my friend’s hometown too! (she did agree with him)

You will have never seen a rant ranted as politely and so Britishly as Aidan Goatley rants, and I do find myself nodding and in fits of giggling agreement, for example, “street food” – if it’s indoors how can it be “street food”??! Totally with him on that one, a little favourite rant of my own in the last year or two. Oo, and Avatar, don’t get me started!! It’s wonderful to hear someone able to put voice to my own rants with so much eloquence.

I went to see this year’s new show The Vicar’s Husband  at Sweet Grassmarket and thoroughly enjoyed it, and not just because it’s in an air-conditioned room! That, of course, is a bonus, but on the other hand Ciao Roma did have the most sumptious ice cream to aid cooling. This year Aidan is also doing a few Ten Films … as podcasts with a different guest each time to chat about films, but sadly it’s also the last year he’s going to do Ten Films… So for one night only he’s doing Ten Films With You Pricks a look back at some of the horror stories of his time performing it. I have kinda mapped out my last few days of Fringe but, oo, I may have to work some jiggery-pokery to fit it in.

So if you happen to read this in Edinburgh before 25th August 2018, you still have a chance to see one of my favourite ever shows!

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Don’t worry madam, he’s a trained stunt dog.

Another sweltering night in Auld Reekie, the cars go swooshing by outside, the occasional drunk screeches her boyfriend’s name, a nearby gate gratingly squeals open and clatters shut again. Ah, the Gotham effect! Love that show, sooo stylish.

And a duo who definitely have their own distinct style would be The Establishment, not unlike a couple of really creepy henchmen, who you may be fooled into thinking are just buffoons but they’re really creative geniuses in the art of psychological torture. Do go see them😆  This year they’re doing two shows, Fool Britannia which runs right through to the final Sunday and Le Bureau de Strange just two nights where they’ll have “very special guests”. I’ll fit in Fool Britannia but I have a number of late night shows to choose from and at my age beauty sleep is essential!

Another duo, possibly the most distinctively recognisable duo at the Fringe for more than ten years are Gamarjobat; a mohawk-sporting, shades-wearing mime comedy act from Japan. Yeah, I know, mime, a word that can inspire almost as much disdain as juggler, but these guys are seriously and uproariously brilliant at it! They should be, they’ve been doing it for yonks.

The first couple or so years I think they were just a street show, then in 2006 Bud and I saw their first proper Fringe show and the following two years. In 2008 was probably the first time the second half of the show was The Boxer not a million miles from Rocky in it’s storyline, this was mime on another level, to this day a standout Fringe moment for me (and probably Bud too, he was a big fan of Rocky and got bits that I missed). They still perform on the street when they’re here, so even if you don’t go to the show you can catch them, still mohawked!

It’s only rock’n’roll but I like it!

So last night was a bit of alright! I was in the Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68 come August, very nice but rather warm, real ale in the bar) for the launch of Logan’s Close new EP “Fried Bangers.” Sold out so it was very packed and very warm. I got there shortly after the second band came on (sorry to Shredd, I’m sure you were awesome too), Ayakara who were pretty fine. There was a good contingent of their fans in the crowd (they knew the words!)  After procuring myself a pint of Joker IPA I found a good spot to see the band and be faintly wafted by what air-con there was from time to time, unfortunately as usual some beanpoles took up their strategic positions to block at least half the band from sight at any given moment.

Pardon me a little rant here. So okay, I am quite a shortarse but even average-sized humans can’t compete with those guys and they do like to go centre towards the front. Beanpole may not have been the correct word, that suggests tall and thin, these guys are pretty often quite broad, not easy to see around! There should be a line three-quarters of the way back that anyone over six foot has to stand behind – it’s not like they wouldn’t be able to see over our heads!!    And breathe.

Where was I? Being gently wafted before getting another pint of Jokers and wading back in to find a spot to watch the Close. This time I was at the side, a better view than I would have had in the now packed out centre, but no wafts to cool me down. Oh, the lads were on top form! Just, just, bloody marvellous, shit hot, astoundingly awesome! These are the guys I’ve been waiting for, finally a band worthy of the rock’n’roll crown hung up since the demise of Nick Johnson and Bluefinger!

I first saw Bluefinger in 1988 in the then Preservation Hall and followed all incarnations of the band until Nick left Edinburgh for Spain permanently  (he had been semi-regularly coming back over to play but had decided it was time to stop) and was sadly killed in an motorcycling accident about a year or so later in 2010. Bluefinger were a force of nature, even when it was only Nick on guitar and Ed on flamenco box drum, they rocked up a storm in Whiski on the Royal Mile during the Fringe in 2007. Bud and I would wander in late after a show, sit at the bar and soak up the vibes, and when Ed would do his box solo in Not Fade Away, wow, people would get up from their seats, crane their necks, a mass movement towards the band to see how one guy’s hands could create such a sound. Ed was always good but some nights he was totally “in the zone”, man, I will never forget how great those nights were.

Aaand, back to Logan’s Close again. Indeed, I get the same feeling of blissed-out happy watching them; Big Nick would approve of them inheriting his crown. But will they be playing Edinburgh during the Fringe – you may wonder, oh yes!! If you’ve read my early posts you may have spotted that I must have broken my self-imposed Fringe Code if I am aware of this fact. Okay, so I get emails from the Fringe whenever a new batch of shows are up online; I just had to check if the Ukulele Death Squad were coming back (yippee, they are), at the same time I noticed the Close were playing, and at a venue I’ve never been to before, ooo.

I also spotted Bon the Musical, yes, a musical about Bon Scott!! I’m not sure how I feel about it, if they don’t get it right it could be terribly wrong! Maybe I’ll check reviews before I commit to it, at £12 a ticket that could be a big mistake. Mind there’s always the chance they may put some tickets for sale at the Half Price Hut. There’s also the fact I am still a Friend of the Fringe which brings the benefit of 2for1 tickets for a long list of shows which this year includes all three shows mentioned above 😊. I could purchase pairs of tickets, then offer the pleasure of my company and a half price ticket on Facebook, I could, it might be quite fun.

Toodle pip!

 

 

Paddington: The Fringe Show.

I just went back to see Paddington 2 for a second time, almost seven weeks after I first went to see it – I guess it’s a success, not many films stay on the big screen that long these days. Once back home I did that thing folk like to do these days, looked up the film on IMDb to see who’s done what where. But what! What! Tim Fitzhigham and Dan Antopolski were both in it and I missed them? Oh, and Cal McCrystal had a cameo besides being the Physical Comedy Consultant. FYI all Fringe favourites of mine.

Justin Edwards and Richard Ayoade were also in it, didn’t miss them, well it would be hard not to spot Richard Ayoade, who, incidentally, was being directed by Paul King (director of both Paddington films) in Garth Marenghi’s Netherhead the first time I saw him at the Fringe many years ago! One last tentative Fringe connection Tom Conti, well, I’ve seen him in town in August – up to see Nina?

In fact the first evening I saw Paddington 2, I saw Justin Edwards twice as he also had a part in The Death of Stalin (oh yes, two films in one evening with a trip to Nando’s sandwiched between them, well, I do have an unlimited viewings card). At the Fringe Justin Edwards had a magnificent creation the children’s entertainer Jeremy Lion, possibly one of my Desert Island Fringe Shows! More on him another time.

It is great when I see folk who I’ve seen in small, sweaty venues on the big screen, guess it reflects how long I’ve been fringing. Both Paddington films are excellent, having all the elements in the right proportions to make cinematic classics, and they came from a guy who first directed at the Fringe. What an inspiration! Crikey, I’ll be singing Circle Of Life next!

Next film I’ll go see may well be Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri by Martin McDonagh, who also wrote the bloodiest play I’ve ever seen, or will probably ever see again, at the Fringe,  The Lieutenant Of Inishmore. See another Fringe connection!

 

 

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!