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  😆

 

A late contender

So it’s almost over for another year, already some venues have reverted back. The flyerers have been making a big effect today to fill that last performance, all those I’ve chatted to have loved their time in Edinburgh and would come back again another year if the opportunity arises. It’s even been good weather this weekend, so I’ve been out getting a few more photos.

About now I start composing my Fringe Top 20, oo this year there’s a few in there for top spot. On Friday I went to the Underbelly warren in the Cowgate (very surprisingly the only time I’ve seen a show there this year) for Nick Coyle:Queen of Wolves, ok so I’d been hoping it might Half Price Hut at some point but I finally bowed to my instinct and bought a full price ticket. Like, cor Blimey guv’nor, so worth every penny.

This was outstanding, as a naive, nervous Bronte-style governess he was very good, and he can play the cello. Yes, it was a comedy but the horror aspects were quite chilling. The moving chair and falling books, the sounds around the house, the incessant sound of the rain, all really kept the tension going. Nick Coyle kept his audience gripped from start to finish, and that finish! Well done, sir! If I wore a hat I would take it off to you!

 

Shine on Elsie Diamond

The end is in sight, this time next week Edinburgh will seem so bare and empty, sigh. So to cheer myself up from the impending gloom I took myself off down to CC Blooms to the exquisite Elsie Diamond in her new one woman show, The Sensible Undresser. I first saw Elsie last year as The Sensible Dresser, where she recounted tales of a dresser in an Opera House who has dreams of being a great singer; some hilarious stories, some bittersweet and a singing voice to raise you up or break your heart, oh, and a finale from Les Mis that really showed her vocal prowess and other charms!

Did I mention Elsie is a burlesque performer? Costumes are put on behind a screen at the side of the stage to be teased off again to music, and give the girl a couple of large feather fans, wowzah! Hubba hubba!

This year’s tale of the Undresser is about Joanne who on seeing a burlesque show decides to become Winnie Sparkletits, from underdog to success to saggy tits to final self-awareness and acceptance (and another astoundingly good final number). The costumes are brilliant (love that headdress), voice as stunning as ever, beautiful, sexy, smart, saucy and charming! All in one delightful package!

Wowzah!

 

 

 

 

Theatre Spaces

On a quick perusal of my fringe timetable theSpace@ venues have featured a lot for theatre shows I’ve seen. Over the last few years more and more small venues are becoming part of bigger companies which have also opened up more venues in central hotels. I suppose it’s no bad thing if smaller venues can benefit from the support and assistance of a larger umbrella company. Certainly theSpace@ North Bridge and Surgeon’s Hall have ticks against them in my book, Jury’s Inn has been great but it was also the venue of one of only four shows that I’ve ever walked out of in thirty years.

Space on North Bridge has now moved into the first floor of the hotel, rather more pleasant than it’s original location there. Edgartown is playing there at lunchtime. This is a fabulously macabre dark comedy with steampunk costumes and a cast who can rachet up the tension and creepiness with ease.

Space@ Surgeon’s Hall has the impressive Lord Dismiss Us by Boys Of The Empire Productions, who’s first play back in 2008 stood out from the crowd for me. A play with plenty of humour and drama brought out brilliantly by a very talented cast. And is it just me or does the English master have a slight look of Littlefinger from GoT?

Also at Surgeon’s Hall was Droll. Okay, so it was at 10 in the morning and only cost £8.50, this week it’s moved to theSpace on the Mile at 5 past 10 in the evening and costs £13, it all adds up! Whilst queuing I quickly recognised one of the actors as being previously part of Broken Holmes Productions (oo, they were always worth seeing), so that was a plus. Drolls are from when theatre was illegal in the 17th century, almost completely forgotten by history and not performed since then, until now. It certainly had a charming, devil-may-care enthusiasm which swept the audience along with it.

Now along to Sweet Grassmarket where we find Not: Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a farce done in the best possible taste! Plenty of saucy innuendos, high drama, clipped accents, manly chests and fish-net stockings, what more could a moose ask for? Certainly Happy Idiot have pulled off a triumph with this hilarious retelling, they’re on my fringe-dar now.

Crikey, it’s late now, but I do want to mention one more gem. It’s finished now but worth mentioning not only because I managed to get a ticket from the Half Price Hut, nor because of the Free G&T (that’s Edinburgh Gin and Fentiman’s Pink Grapefruit Tonic Water, devine!) but because The Gin Chronicles at Sea was yet another great romp. Done as a 1940’s radio play with four actors playing all the parts and a Foley artist (who was a joy to watch), it was a tale of intrigue and adventure with a large dose of comedy thrown in.

The venue itself, St Marks on Castle Terrace was beautiful, an old church with a three quarter balcony, a first visit for me, that’s one of the bonuses of the Fringe, we get to see inside some amazing buildings that we otherwise would never go in.

 

Seeing double

I do like a good laugh (really? I never would have guessed) and there are plenty to be had at the Fringe, as long as your Fringe-dar is working well. You’ll know it needs resetting when the third show in a row just doesn’t work for you (it happened to me some years ago, I still shudder remembering that day).

My fringe-dar was working well when I first picked up on Goodbear a few years ago. This year it bleeped at The Intimate Strangers: Mr Bond. Yes, it’s working fine, these two are very good. They have some great ideas and twists, some pure genius, but there’s something not quite right yet, something needs something!? Heck, I’m only a moose, sometimes words fail me. I do hope they return, I want to see them back next year, I’d definitely get a ticket.

Another duo new to me are Studio 9, though I think they are Fringe veterans from another show. These two are what I think The Intimate Strangers could be, again great writing and ideas, these two have a great chemistry and perfect timing with each other, needed for the pace they go at. Really liked the seagull sketch, one of those that sneaks up and grabs you by the funny bone.

Oo, another duo I saw early on, The Establishment, playing at the Omnitorium this year. I caught them towards the end of the Fringe last year, an unexpected delight of whimsy and absurdity, so glad they’re back. The Omnitorium is a great venue for them, being odd and quirky with a slight air of anything could happen. The show is ridiculously bonkers, as two terribly British chaps they are wonderful but there’s a sinister layer underneath bubbling away. I did feel the material was a bit thinner by the end, but still entertaining.

There was a bit recently on the BBC News website about whether comedy duos have had their day, judging by this lot I’d say there’s new day dawning for duos.

A turkey and a Tuck.

Goodness me, it’s the final week already. More shows finished at the weekend, new shows take their places and I have my eye on a few I’m thinking of seeing. As I’ve mentioned before I’ve seen this year’s turkey, its always good to get it out of the way, of course I could yet see another one! So what was this travesty of theatre that deserves the title of turkey?

Oh dear, I can hear my old mother’s voice, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!” Sorry mother, it was Egg at Bourbon Bar as part of the Free Fringe. It was a packed out room, whether the rest were more up on what to expect, whether it was just their sort of thing I don’t know, but I just found it too pretentiously arty and she was too softly spoken to be heard at times. I try to find something to like about it and from the applause at the end others did seem to like it, though I noticed a number of folk walking past without putting anything in the bucket. Bad form! Only a show one walks out of early is worth nothing, if one is there til the end it’s worth at least some spare change or my usual is a fiver.

At the other end of the Fringe spectrum, I seriously enjoyed Thom Tuck’s show An August Institution, at 3pm at the Dragonfly. A wonderful hour of silliness and a rather bizarre make-over, I suspect those who got a lot out of Egg, may not appreciate Mr Tuck’s humour.

Well, I’ve enjoyed it since I first saw him in the Penny Dreadfuls’ Aeneas Faversham back in 2006, bloody excellent show it was! Saw them each year after that and when they all did solo shows. Thom was the one who continued to come up each year to do a variety of shows, including on the Free Fringe. His show one year even got enlongated into a short series on Radio 4! I saw his Scaramouche Jones in 2015 which delighted and moved me (it’s in my diary for 2025). Yes, I reckon he’s become an August Institution and long may he remain so!

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!

 

The bastard lovechild of Brian Blessed

So did that get your attention? This is a man who attempted alchemy to make gold, when that didn’t succeed he tried to become a supervillain, eyepatch and all, and now, still with gold in mind, this year he’s back in Edinburgh recruiting for an expedition to find El Dorado. He also lures innocents into the Gilded Room at midnight to scare the bejesus out of them with ghostly tales – it’s not called the Wee Room for nothing!

I am, of course, referring to the wonderful Will Seaward, a veteran of the Fringe. A most eloquent and exuberant fellow, full of mirth and wisdom. As when he did Alchemy, this year’s afternoon show (15.30, Heroes @ the Hive, Niddry Street) Will Seaward Goes to El Dorado, has been well researched so there’s plenty of learning with the hoots of laughter. Who knew there’d been so many attempts to find El Dorado? Who knew the Vatican may well know where it is? Who knew so many thousands died looking? And so many dangerous creatures waiting to pounce on you along the way? And he’s so jolly about how evil (but cool) most explorers were – still a touch of the supervillain there, perhaps?! I was enthused and stoked enough to sign up but I’d probably end up doing all the donkey work (I’m an educated moose, you know), no, plus this moose would find the Amazon a tad hot.

As I mentioned, Will also has a midnight show at the Gilded Balloon telling Spooky Midnight Ghost Stories (part IV). To be honest you’re more likely to pee yourself laughing than from fright. This is a gloriously silly show, though at times through the narration I noticed how hushed we’d all become as we lapped up every word, only to burst into hoots of laughter again a second later!

He is, as I would say, sooo fringe, definitely worth a punt on one or both shows, you may end up on an expedition to El Dorado! But could Will succeed in finding El Dorado, I point you to the heading, he is the bastard love child of Brian Blessed, an intrepid explorer who’s climbed mountains, gone to the North Pole AND he’s been on an expedition to the jungles of Venezuela, hmmm.

 

 

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.

 

Croissant for brekky, soup for dinner.

So I went to Shakespeare for Breakfast and was so impressed that on my way out I bought a ticket for Dickens for Dinner! Just to clarify, it was the meal some call lunch, but that really wouldn’t have the same ring, would it? Oh, it was chicken soup with a bread roll.

Yes, S4B was excellent, worth getting up for (and I made it in time to grab a coffee at Cafe Nero). The writing was really sharp with great gags and some really good soliloquies, all performed brilliantly with great comic timing. I really liked the touch of transposing MacBeth, or MacGarry, to an allotment society takeover, double entendres almost wrote themselves. Even the song at the end was really good (it has been a weak spot sometimes). Special mentions go to Duncan King, MacGarry and Lady MacGarry (and all their other roles) for their most excellent performances.

I did have a quick scrambled eggs on toast for first dinner before I headed back out, well half past one is rather late for me. The soup wasn’t too bad, wonder what they could put on for tea?

Okay, so D4D wasn’t as good as S4B, but it was still a very jolly romp, setting A Christmas Carol in the 80s with Scrooge in the music industry, cue a game of Spot the Song Lyrics throughout the show, reckon I got most of them. Again, very funny and sharp writing.

And if you like your classics straight, the same company are performing The Tempest up at C South, that’s St Peter’s at Lutton Place, in the gardens, which I can vouch are very lovely. Now if these bloody showers would just clear up!