It was a very good year (part III)

In 2013 even the turkey was quite awesome in it’s awfulness and it still holds the record for my quickest exit from a show, somewhere just under twenty minutes! A few days before this traumatic experience I was wandering down an old town close when I heard a beautiful song that quite charmed me, I went to investigate the source – a young man who gave me a flyer to his Free Fringe show.

The show was Masters of Drip at the Fiddler’s Elbow, in the programme blurb it was described as “sketch theatre”, well it wasn’t comedy that’s for sure. I do vaguely remember enjoying the first sketch, the second one went downhill, the third made us envious of the folk who’d scarpered after the second sketch, by the fourth we knew what we had to do! See, between each sketch the Masters went “backstage” (a side room from the stage area) which folk quickly realised was a good time to run. When a couple more left after the third sketch and the fourth didn’t show any signs of better things, Bud and I were ready to leap up and legged it – leaving about seven folk left.

If you read my previous post you may recall that the Fiddler’s Elbow was the venue that also played host to the very popular Captain Morgan and the Sands of Time, which happened to be the show on straight after Masters of Drip! Indeed, the queue for Captain Morgan had already started outside when we escaped. I almost felt sorry for Masters of Drip, almost.

One show I didn’t see in 2013 was a one-woman play written and performed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, somewhere within the depths of the Underbelly, called Fleabag. Six years later she’s done a final sell-out run of Fleabag at the Wyndham Theatre. Ticket prices may have somewhat increased between productions!

In the interim Fleabag became a tv series with two seasons; in May this year Waller-Bridge was drafted into the James Bond writing team; then in September she went and won three Emmys for Fleabag – best lead actress in a comedy series, best writing for a comedy series and outstanding comedy series, like wow. And if that wasn’t enough, the lady has only gone and got herself a contract to make tv shows for Amazon!

It makes me wonder about the futures of this year’s crop. Does a story like this inspire them to work harder knowing it can lead to great things? Could I have witnessed the early performances of a future Oscar winner? A national treasure thirty years hence? And the people at the previews of Fleabag – they saw it for just six quid a ticket!

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A Poster Is Not The Show

See what I did there? I’ve heard it said that the songs in Mary Poppins Returns aren’t memorable – poppycock! Ok, so I don’t remember the words much but I often find myself humming them, even whistling them on occasion (when did whistling tunes go out of style?)  Anyways, the song A Cover Is Not The Book has been making Jeremy Lion, a bygone Fringe performer, pop into my head. Why? Because I judged and made presumptions about Mr Lion from the poster.

And here it is in all it’s glory!

2019-02-18 23.11.30Nothing about this poster appealed to me, not even the Perrier Best Newcomer bit – we hadn’t always seen eye-to-eye Pez and I about what funny actually is. This was 2003, the year of God Inc. the only show Bud and I had ever walked out of at that point, and not just because it was running an hour late!! The show we caught after God Inc was thankfully also running late, but it really wasn’t up to much and hadn’t been worth our mad dash to catch it. We’d also had the pain of watching April in Paris (see A Cautionary Tale), I was in no mood to waste more money on a dubious poster!

2019-02-18-23.23.15The following year Mr Lion returned with a new show; The Guardian described it as “Play School meets Hellraiser”. Actually on that description I’m surprised we didn’t give it a punt!

Looking at the posters again now, they are perfect for the show they were advertising; all the colours and tones have an old-fashioned, yester year feel. It’s the 50s and 60s and Butlins again (I do have vague memories of Butlins holidays as a young calf!) He’s the children’s entertainer who wants to be anything but that, but he keeps going with what he thinks is entertaining (and educational) with the aid of the odd drink or two or three or ……

So when he returned yet again in 2005 with Jeremy Lion – What’s the Time, Mr Lion? Bud and I decided we should give him a go, after all, three years in he must be doing something right! Even then we bought tickets for 241 Monday, 18:25 in Pleasance Beyond (by’eck I’ve seen an awful lot of shows in that hut over the years,  worth a post of its own at some point). OMG!!! One of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen to this day! So good we saw it twice, both immediately having agreed that we had to see the show on the last day to check if he was still alive!! Surely no-one could drink that copiously through an entire month and live to tell the tale?! We debated long into the evenings how much may not have been actual alcohol but decided he really was drinking that much, wow. We drank plenty ourselves at the time but even we would have been under the table against old Lion! And the belching – he could have done a masterclass, such was his talent. It wasn’t just about the drinking and the belching though, it was a brilliantly conceived, written and performed show. Total Fringe. We both felt thoroughly miffed with ourselves that we’d poo-pooed his previous shows.

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Did he come back again? He reappeared in 2010 moving over to the other Pleasance presence the Dome. It had taken five years to have sobered up and now be looking back fondly thinking what fun to do it again. Mind in those five years he’d got older, could the liver take such punishment again? He now had the very enchanting Lucy Porter as a wife and a child on the way (she was at show we went to, looking very pregnant). Ah, she’s married to Justin Edwards, Jeremy’s alter-ego, I’m not sure there’d be many takers to be Mrs Lion. He’d obviously taken time to reflect on life, the world, the times, and so his final Fringe show was Jeremy Lion Goes Green, an environmentally-aware show, which as usual with Lion went awry with arguments with his pianist, daft props and, of course, drinking. We did murmur to each other that he wasn’t drinking as much, until, to quote from my Fringe diary “Finding bottles of Malibu in his bit of the desert was the start of the end and the finale was a marvellous rendition of Ten Green Bottles that he decided should be ten empty bottles to recycle – so he drank a lot of them.” I notice I said “a lot” rather than “the lot”, well, the mother of his child was looking on 😆

 

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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!