Puppets, hippos and an accordionist

It’s really warm out there and really busy, so many people everywhere! So many people who have totally forgotten everything they were ever taught as kids about crossing the road. The human gene pool could do really without them. They’re quite often the same people who walk two or three abreast across the pavement and expect you, the oncomer, to step into the road to avoid them; I used to, every time, now I check myself and carry on my own path, let them moved aside instead – so many times they completely, like a refusal to give way, keep coming on, then are astonished/annoyed that I expected from them what they expected from me (it is in fact less, I just expect the courtesy of being able to walk on the pavement, they expect me to walk into the traffic). And breath, rant over, humans, huh?!

Space Hippo is a case in point of how dumb humans can be; why is a hippo sent into space? – because all life on earth will be wiped out in five years and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. Yes, you’re right, there is absolutely no follow-on logic there, this is the bizarre premise of Space Hippo but considering some the world leaders around today, hmmm. This is like an epic sci-fi movie, but told using shadow puppets projected on to a large screen. A poor female hippo is captured and sent into space, this is her story, meeting aliens, being used, lied to, befriended, getting caught up in an intergalactic war and ultimately discovering the power within herself. I told you it was epic!

The two puppeteers are amazing using over two hundred shadow puppets whilst also performing all the characters’ voices. The story whips along with laugh out loud bits along with wry and poignant moments; it is quite out there but if you see it, I’m sure it will charm you too ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A very different puppet show is Famous Puppet Death Scenes, this is dark, very dark, unsettling, grotesquely funny. Oh, it’s very funny if you have a macabre sense of humour; lots of puppets die, one poor thing dies over and over. The puppet show stage set is impressive and there’s quite an Edward Gorey feel to the whole thing. Mind, the first death will make most think of Monty Python as the big foot comes down. Catching strange and wonderful shows like this and Space Hippo is what the Fringe is all about ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

Famous Puppet Death Scenes has an air similar a Tiger Lillies performance, their music would be the perfect accompaniment to it. Speaking of the Tiger Lillies, they’ve finally returned to the Fringe with a new show One Penny Opera, I have a ticket for next week, yay.

And now, something completely different Accordion Ryan’s Pop Bangers playing at the Counting House as part of the Free Fringe and popping up in various places during the day. He is the sweetest guy, a gentle, laidback soul, who (you may have worked it out) plays the accordion, rather well. The show is mainly his twist on popular pop songs but he sneaks in a few of his own compositions (I do like the Holister song). He arrived in Edinburgh a few weeks ago now, I first saw him performing at Whistlebinkies’ Open Mic Night and made a mental note. At 22:15 in an evening it’s a good time when folk will be up for taking a chance on a free show. He is highly entertaining with his mix of music and comedy, not for the prudish though! I’ll probably go see him again before the end of the Fringe ⭐⭐⭐⭐

That’s your lot for today, I’ll leave you with a pic of my latest Fringe mementos. The programme from Famous Puppet Death Scenes with a selection of cut-outs on the back to make my very own puppet death scene; and the Mochinosha Puppet Company’s comic book/flyer for Space Hippo (what a great idea!)

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!