Caterpillars, hedgehogs and sperm – all in one day!

Friday of week two is a good day to take off work and Fringe, most years I’ve done this; it was always a day for seeing pricier shows that were on the Friends of the Fringe list for me and Bud, always beginning with Shakespeare for Breakfast, we’d snaffle any croissants left on nearby seats at the end. This year it just happens to be one the days I’ve taken off work, but thinking about it, it is indeed a perfect day to Fringe. It’s shortened the working week, woohoo, which allows for later shows on Thursday night; it’s far enough in that the list of possibles has been whittled down from it’s original unwieldy size; it’s also far enough in that other possibles are in the mix, from chatting to flyerers, tips from people in queues, reviews.

Just as well I didn’t go to any late night shows on Thursday night – the first show I saw on the Friday started even earlier than Shakespeare for Breakfast! Okay, so only five minutes earlier, but still, my Fringe Friday tradition of running to get to the first show on time ain’t gonna end with early starts like this! Headhog was only on for six days of the middle week, the blurb was that a man has a scan after having a fit and discovers he has a hedgehog living in his skull. No one can explain how it got there and removal of it is (obviously) unknown territory.

Headhog was a charmingly absurd play; a great concept to mull over. I liked Malcolm, the turmoil he was going through was well played out. When he becomes more concerned by the “why me?” than “how?” the scene with the ecologist and philosopher was great – amusing and exasperating. Some of the play felt a bit clunky but overall it was well done, with a lovely melancholy ending that was somehow quite uplifting.

Two hours later I was back in the same venue, Paradise In The Vault, in the Annexe room, one of the best smaller venues; the seats are generous and comfortable, with a reasonably tiered-height between them, it’s also got a good record with me for good productions.

The Man From Verona was a very funny, dark comedy, quite farcical at times. It is quite a small stage but the set was well-conceived to maximise use of every part of it. Everyone was great in it, especially Mama – don’t mess with a mafia matriarch! Rocco, her henchman, had some wonderful moments. The Man From Verona himself is a mafia don/landlord, Harry,  who spends a lot of the play dead, but is very effective when he’s alive. Blaze and Jimmy, our secretly-in-love couple are the ones we’re rooting for, will they get to be together? Will Jimmy ever be able to leave the bathroom?

From Paradise in The Vault on Merchant Street it was a quick jog over to the Space @ Surgeons Hall, with just ten minutes to spare before The Very Well-Fed Caterpillar started. Another trustworthy venue, I see they’ve moved their Box Office to just inside the gate, probably to cut down some of the noise in the foyer though the queue inside was still regularly told to hush – with more and more people joining in the sssssshhh-ing for a laugh.

The Very Well-Fed Caterpillar is one weird show! It’s extremely quirky and absurd, a great piece of high-energy physical theatre and hell the delivery is fast, it can be tricky to keep up with the plot at times. I followed the basic story, Caterpillar likes eating, can’t stop, won’t stop eating, demands all the food his subjects have, a complete tyrant hated by all; through a portal he meets and falls in love with the Butterfly King, a good, beloved ruler; Caterpillar tries to change his ways, err, the ending escapes me! No matter, the destination is unimportant, the journey there is loads of fun with this talented, enthusiastic bunch.

After a breather, a beer and a bite to eat, I headed to Boteco on Lothian Street for Privates: A Sperm Odyssey and though it’s a PWYW show instinct told me to buy ticket upfront; good call as a lot of folk had tickets, I doubt many without made it in. Oh my, how much utterly joyful daftness can one hour contain??!! Blimey, never have sperm been so funny! These three chaps, Luke Rollason, Christian Brighty and Tom Cufzon have created one bloody wonderful show. And I’ll never hear the name Darnell again without a smirk on my face!

So, four for four, and it was only half past six! At this point of such a brilliant Fringe day picking the next show is trickier, it’s like, it’s gone too well, don’t mess it up. I decided to take a chance with Ava Beaux: The Mysterious Tales of Poe at the Revolution Bar as part of PBH’s Free Fringe. The blurb promises macabre minds, magic and gothic tales. Ava has been at the Fringe before and I’ve always been a tad tempted so tonight was it. Well, it was lovely, good magic and a charmingly dark sense of humour, but it came across as too rehearsed and some how contained, she needs to get wilder?! The venue wasn’t the best though for her show, too many distractions which hampered the ambience Ava was going for. I did enjoy it but not half as much as the previous shows.

As the night was still young I took a wander up to the Squares, Bristo and George, plenty of ambience there. Flyerers, buskers, young chaps trying to hang on to a high bar for 100 seconds (a tenner a shot, £100 to any who can do it, I’ve seen many try but none succeed), bright young things out to party, older things blethering to other old things only met in Edinburgh in August. The melting pot that is Fringe.

Toodle pip!

 

 

Shaking all over……

You know me, I do like a little Shakespeare with my Fringe! As ever, I’ve had my breakfast date with C Theatre, of coffee and croissant and their latest shenanigans, and as ever they were bloody brilliant! Shakespeare for Breakfast don’t flyer or have posters around the town, at least I’ve never seen any of either, the blurb in the Fringe programme is fun and intriguing enough to pull in newbies (and just having Shakespeare in the name helps) and there’s plenty of fans like me who go every year.

This year’s frolics put Romeo & Juliet in two warring coffee shop families. The puns were flying thick and fast with fine comedic timing; for all the fun these guys are wonderful actors who are skilled at their craft, making it look effortless. I see this year they’re also doing an evening show Shakespeare Up Late! at 9.35pm, the blurb reads “from sex toys to soliloquies”, I think we get the idea! Yay, it’s at C Aquila aka Roman Eagle Lodge, a favourite (if a tad warm) venue of mine. I shall be getting me a ticket.

Last week saw the wonderful Tim Fitzhigham and Thom Tuck take to a makeshift stage in the basement of Black Medicine to perform Macbeth in one hour. And if that wasn’t absurd enough, each day they had a different director adding to the mix, the evening I was there it was Ahir Shah, okay, so I’d never heard of him before but he was rather lovely and very funny (worth checking out, I think).

Tim and Thom together with Shakespeare, it doesn’t get anymore Fringe than that!!! Both eloquently silly, nonchalantly charming, achingly funny, and bloody good at what they do! They did include plenty of actual Shakespeare along with the laughs and Thom ended up in a long black dress and a wig as Lady Macbeth, yeah, I did half expect that to happen! I do hope they team up again another year, the chemistry between them is too wonderful not to be repeated.

The Owle Schreame are back with A Midsummer Nights Droll. So that’s Shakespeare with the dull, boring bits taken out and the comedy bumped up (not a thousand miles from what Shakespeare for Breakfast do today, but this is from 350 years ago). That’s the very abbreviated version, if you go to see them at Gilded Balloon Teviot (at 10.45 in the morning!) then you’ll hear a history of Droll from Brice Stafford at the start of the show – its worth going just to listen to his magnificent voice.

Actually it’s an whole ensemble of magnificence and mischievery, performing with glee and boisterous enthusiasm (the singing of Cuckoo’s Nest was particularly bawdy). And Titania! Be still, my beating heart! Beautiful, strong, coquettish, a woman who knows what she wants – never was Titania so lovely!  Oh, and a special mention to Cobweb, Peaseblossom and Mustard Seed, a talented wee trio. The lion costume has had me musing on my Halloween costume this year, I reckon I could make myself a pretty good mane like that!

So I’ve seen three of Will’s big ones and have noticed there’s also Noir Hamlet on at theSpace @ Venue 45, that would make up a nice set I reckon.

Anyhoo, my bed awaits.

Adieu, kind friends.

Just a quickie! Matron!

The trouble with Fringing is finding time to tell you about it, so I’m stealing some sleep time to mention a few highlights so far. Crikey, I need a fan on here, it’s a warm humid night after a warm humid day with the odd monsoon shower thrown in.

Shakespeare for Breakfast are on top form again this year, they’re so good and the writing is very witty and sharp, loved it. Goodbear and Sleeping Trees both 5☆ but I think Goodbear can have a + too (my scoring my rules).

Laser Kiwi, yay , brilliantly bonkers, incredibly bendy and I ❤ Imogen. And from Australia comes Echoes of Villers-Bretonneux, written and directed by Shane Palmer; I saw him in full gear flyering on the Mile, well, I do like a man in uniform so I was persuaded! Poignant and understated, quite moving.

The Shark Is Broken is directed by Guy Masterton, so of course it’s great, and fan of Jaws will love it. And last but definitely not least, I’m not long in from Nick Helm’s I Think You Stink, which I utterly and thoroughly loved. If you’re a fan of Rocky Horror then this is for you; great songs, great cast (including Rob Kemp, yay) and bubble wrap!!

Nightly night, sleep tight.

Who needs a good bear, when you have Camels?

Ok, so I mentioned in So long, farewell, ta-ra, toodle pip! three shows I’ve seen but hadn’t mentioned before, well, they’ve gone now anyway! Bloody good shows they were too!

What of all the other shows you’ve seen, Brucie, I hear you ask (mooses have very good hearing), and you said you’d tell us more about the early shows?! Yes, I know, but it’s hard in the madness that is Fringe to keep all one’s plates spinning. So I’ll press on and rundown my shows til I had to depart Edinburgh on my mission of mercy.

Preview Friday I managed six shows, yup, six, but that was from ten in the morning ’til one the following morning! The Shakespeare For Breakfast crew were on top form again!! I was surprised how many seats were left, hopefully they’re now selling out with their excellent modern twist on The Taming of The Shrew. A great start to my day!

Next up, new to me Camels, which excitingly was in part of the all-new singing, dancing underneath of McEwan Hall; very modern and entered via the blob thing in Teviot Square. Oo these chaps are good, recalling my Seeing double post from last year, this comedy duo make up for a lack of Goodbear this year! Tom Neenan’s: It’s Always Infinity was another corker from him (maybe not quite to the heights of last year’s Attenborough) it took a wee while to pull me in, but by the end, with the by-then obvious punchline in sight, the audience were all sitting cosily in the palm of Tom’s hand. What a piece of genius writing, long may he grace the Fringe with his wit and style! I did spot, though it took me a while, that the chap in the video clips was non other that David Reed from the Penny Dreadfuls (as is Thom Tuck).

Next up was a show in a big blue box, from Switzerland, umm, the humour just didn’t translate for me, and I’m going to leave that one at that. I recovered myself with a curry at the Mosque Kitchen for tea, first visit this Fringe and it won’t be the last; good, quick, tasty grub. I finished my day at the Gilded Balloon with first the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre: Superheroes, finishing with the wonderful Will Seaward now telling his ghostly tales in the Dining Room. The SFSPT:S was good but having seen plenty of trial bits previously on their Facebook page, I think some of the dumped bits were better. If you hadn’t seen them, then the show is perfectly fine with plenty of laughs and groans, and some rather obscurer fanboy jokes. Then the clock struck twelve and it was Will Time!! Nuff said really, another late hour of terrifying tales and howling horrors but in a bigger room this year!

And then it was home to bed! Well, it’s time for me to maybe venture oot into the rain. It’s been chucking down all day, hence my catching up here. Time to book a few more shows, methinks.

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!

 

It’s the wrong order, Gromit!

So I ummed and aahed and settled on getting preview tickets for Tom Neenan: Attenborough and Shakespeare for Breakfast. I have a very finite Fringe Fund (which I diligently put money into every month) compared to a seemingly infinite number of shows I’d like to see. Previews will be the cheapest way to see them this year – I could have chanced Tom Neenan being at the Half Price Hut for a midweek performance but no, he is rather good, so preview it is.

This irks me because neither show is in the right place.  S4B should be on the Friday of the second week and Tom should be around then or the third week, but why? I hear you ask, because they should! Did you (anyone over 50) used to make compilation tapes, which though only 60 or 90 minutes in length would take at least twice as long to put together because the tracks had to be in the right order? Well, my Fringe has a right order too, or it did up until a couple of years ago when after eighteen years of fringing together, my Fringe Buddy up and left to explore pastures new.

As I mentioned in Perusing the Programme, I like to be organised, in previous years I would have tickets for shows throughout the Fringe by now, we would have booked our days off work, probably already used up half our quota of Friends of the Fringe 2 for 1 tickets. Yes, I would have organised everything with the cutouts of shows and my timetable sheet, each show in the right place, enough time in between shows, not putting all the best shows together, spreading them through as cheaply as possible. I like some order, then the spaces can be played with. Bud on the other hand was perfectly happy to merely agree on what to see, actually organising anything was not really his forte, he enjoyed the Fringe too, as long as he just had to turn up.

Now the only planning ahead I do is sorting my Previews out and the odd one or two other. I am still a Friend of the Fringe though it won’t benefit me much anymore. But why not take other friends with you? Oh, I may to a few shows, but they’re not really bothered about the Fringe, and organising others? Oofph, I was spoilt with Bud, it was easy, we both really got each other and wanted similar things. I have a pile of cutouts for shows I’m hoping will be at the Half Price Hut, a pile for Free Fringe shows and a pile of “Buy a ticket or Pay on the door.” It does have a certain thrill to it, not knowing how the next three weeks will pan out!

Hey Ho, it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry, or tapas tray, if you’re feeling peckish!

 

 

 

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.

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.