Best Fringe Thursday Ever!!

Well, blimey charlie, what a day Thursday turned out to be! From the sublimely hilarious to the ridiculously surreal. So first off, after throwing a quick strong coffee down my neck, I sprinted up to Pleasance Dome to get a ticket for Courtroom Play: A Courtroom Play with only a few minutes to spare (I should start timing my sprints up to Pleasance Dome and the Gilded Balloon, see what my record times are).

Chosen purely because Thom Tuck is in it – along with a bunch of real talents, I can now say. Not that I’m recommending it, but it is seriously and utterly brilliant. Tuck, first as nasty price of corporate work then the judge, was in his element (and always on the right side of silliness), presiding over the case and advising us, the audience, how to react by way of paddles with instructions like “gasp”, “oooh”, “hubbub”; once admonishing us for an underwhelming response. It says in the Fringe programme blurb “it’s Legally Blonde meets Hot Fuzz”, I’d say it’s an Ealing Comedy updated to the 21st century meets Hot Fuzz. It is so well written, it’s sharp, witty, daft and playful. Ooo, what a way to start a day!

Next up Other People’s Teeth at an old favourite venue of mine, the Roman Eagle Lodge up behind the castle. Wow, intense and dark, the blackest of humour, unnervingly unpredictable characters. All three actors were great but Tom Claxton as Sol, jeez louise, I actually once knew someone very similar to Sol, Claxton had me rather unsettled at times. Another great production at a great little venue.

From there I had to do a fast trot over to C at Chamber Street for my next show, which unfortunately was then way up the stairs at +3, sheesh, was I warmed up! And in +3 there’s no chance of cooling down again! This is why it’s always important to grab a flyer to use as a fan. With Stand and Deliver it was back to lighter comedy and how! Great use of lighting effects, class choices of music (Tarantino-inspired, I’ll warrant), ambitious fighting scenes, well-timed comedic acting of an impeccable script; all made a fine production even finer.

Phew! After all that I did need some sunshine and cool breezes. On sauntering past the Gilded Balloon I noticed a pooch with enough room on his bed for another one, so I rested up a while, we chatted, he mentioned the chap in the seat was actually part of a Fringe show called Matt and Ollie Are … Dads! so we parted with me clutching a flyer. Enough of the fresh air – I went and bought a ticket to head once again down into the bowels of McEwan Hall (aka Underbelly, Bristo Square).

What a great day I was having, yet another cracker! A father and son are off on a trip and as they sit together the father tells father/son stories set throughout the ages, actually quite odd, dark, surreal tales, which turn out to be stories of their own family history. All delivered with natural wit and dark but daft deadpan humour. Four for four so far, I had one show left to see, would it measure up to the others…..

The last show wasn’t on until 22.45 at the Gilded Balloon; as I meandered up I bumped into Will Seaward doing his flyering bit for his midnight show, just time to hug and howyadoin. Then into the heat that is the Dining Room, umm, it’s warm in there and it was late, reasons why I may have closed my eyes a couple of times.

The Moa Show began with the writer/performer Jamie McCaskill just chatting with the audience before he sets the scene as the interior of a pub, The Junction, where we focus in on three drinkers, these three are magically transported (yeah, just go with it) to another place where they try to find a moa. Yes, moas are extinct, but hey, go with it (um, is the plural of moa moas or moa?) they, or at least Carl Michael believed in it. Carl Michael was my favourite of the characters all acted by McCaskill. Yes, it’s a one man surreal-as-hell play, but go with it! Think a gentler David Lynch in New Zealand, go with it and you will see a Kiwi fly, oh yes! Be warned, this show has a relaxed almost stoned vibe that carries you home, puts you to bed, and then the Moa takes over your dreams!!

Night, night, everybody, night, night!

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Stannah Stair Lift to heaven?!

 

 

The Mid Fringe Blues

Halfway through Fringe is Point Knackered, folk feel all fringed out, tired from never enough sleep, the flyerers don’t even try to summon up any enthusiasm, the flyered don’t even notice the flyerers anymore. Some shows with a full run can lose a bit of their sparkle in this dip. Maybe with awareness of this maudlin moment, many shows take a day off this week; this can catch folk out (me included), as one didn’t spot the one pale date in the middle of the run, this year 13th, 14th or 15th, and head expectantly to the venue only to be told, no show today!

Even I, looking through my possibility pieces, find my enthusiasm flagging, this is when more pieces get screwed up and flung in the general vicinity of the bin. Nothing I want to see is coming up at the Half Price Hut, gonna have to be more stringent in my planning, the Fringe Fund wallet doesn’t bulge anymore. This morning the HPH part of the Fringe app wasn’t even working, aaargh!!!

And then, something in the air changes….. it’s the second wind!

The app is back up running properly and three of my possibilities are at the HPH today!! Yay! Woohoo! No rain forecast today; Brendon Burns is over his tonsilitis; everywhere everyone will be picking up again, miraculously recharged and ready to take on the world, well, Edinburgh. Flyerers will be over enthusiastic and annoying again, yay!

So I shall have me a strong cup of coffee and head out to see some shows.

Toodle pip!

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!

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.

 

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!

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.

 

 

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.