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!

 

 

 

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?!

 

 

So long, farewell, ta-ra, toodle pip!

No! Not me! I’m still here! Many shows only come for one week, so now just as the party is really getting going, some are packing up and leaving us. Nevertheless, their flyerers were out yesterday, desperately drumming up one last audience. I bumped into the delightful pair from Uke Belong To Me on the Royal Mile still flyering only an hour before their final show and Stiffs were about; saw them on Friday evening, a great two-hander, I except to see more of those young chaps in the future.

The Aspirations of Daise Morrow finishes today; a beautiful production with live music, served up with brash aussie humour and pathos. It’s a shame that the heavens have opened and today all day is forecast wet, wet, and more wet! Yup, at the realisation that the boys of the Ukulele Death Squad are soon to depart us, the Edinburgh skies are already sobbing. One last soldout show at Leith Depot tonight and before that something at the Book Festival, that’s gonna be soggy, guys! I saw them last night for their soldout Assembly show, awesome, just one thing could have made it better, if we’d been able to get up and dance (more on that later). I’d set myself up nicely by nipping into the Cowshed on the Cowgate to catch Logan’s Close set earlier on, the place was jumpin’!

Let’s hope the skies cheer up soon, after all, tomorrow is another week! New shows will take the slots vacated. So it’s goodbye from them and hello to them others 😆

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Bruce goes to London Town

Oh yes, I’ve popped up to Lahndahn Tahn, not to see the queen but to drink copious amounts of cider. Today starts the last ever London Drinkers Beer & Cider Festival.  I was down for it last year and thoroughly enjoyed it (so many ciders I’ve bever tried before) so here I am again for the last one.

Last night I went to the theatre, as one does when up in Lahndahn, I saw The Birthday Party. It was a stellar cast and brilliant performances but I have not a scoobies what was going on!? I did really enjoy it, sometimes understanding is not necessary, like when watching a David Lynch film!

So I shall make steps towards the sweet (medium or dry) nectar. I may not be up to any more blogs for a few days!! If you’re there do watch out for me though I may be difficult to see as I am an SEP as Douglas Adams termed it. More on that later.

Toodle pip!

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.