Friday, 13 August 2010

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Friday

Should probably say up front that Herself has persuaded me to make a daily blog of our week at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. That should make the first few paragraphs a little less confusing.

Up stupidly early. Herself cannot sleep. Panic that a power-cut will leave snake bereft of heating lamp during our absence and he will freeze to death. In August.
Arrive at Kings Cross far too early, catering to Herself’s fear of train cancellation and other latenesses.

Discover we are booked into first class coach – surprise treat from Herself – hurrah!
Share table from London to Peterborough with mother and young daughter. Daughter happily playing with Tinkerbell activity book, which does look rather fun. Mother seemingly wincing in embarrassment at daughter’s noise, but honestly she was no trouble at all.

Heft laptop out of bag in order to read naughty scanned-in comics en train. Disappointed to find the power points on the train aren’t working. Boo hiss. Laptop battery depletes within five minutes, four minutes of which is taken up by it powering up. Pants.

Resort to reading new Dan Brown book – The Lost Symbol. Intrigued by plot as ever, predictably annoyed by shitty characters. ‘Langdon completed his regular fifty laps of the Yale swimming pool before breakfast. He was trim, an all-American water polo player.” Gack. What’s the betting he’ll end up in some water-based peril before the book is through? Not as bad as the clumsily foreshadowed parachuting episode in Angels And Demons though.

Mother and daughter replaced at Peterborough by elderly husband and wife. She is plump, overly tanned and has several scars on chubby arms, as if someone’s had to surgically remove malignant melanomas. He is ruddy and has a neat white moustache, not unlike Windsor Davies or that bloke who’s really the dad of the guy from Coupling. Oh you know, the one with the funny eye. He does not speak too much, but we know his name is Gordon. We know this because his wife uses it in every sentence. And she doesn’t shut up. The poor bastard.

Herself is reading a worthy scientific physio book. Try to look interested. Am reading about Dan Brown’s latest freak killer – this one’s a murderous tattooed mega-mason.

She passes me a note asking if we should tip the first class coach staff. Am reluctant, because even though one of the chaps was most entertaining and topped up our complementary mugs with a cry of “Coffeelina? Milkalina?”, one of the other blokes was a surly miserable bastard who looked like he’d been dismissed from a North Sea rig for overbearing macho behaviour.

Pass note back to Herself, having drawn a willy on it. I laugh.

A single man across the aisle is reading a beaten up copy of Heart Of Darkness and is wearing a fabulous multicoloured shirt. I approve of both. He drops his apple and it rolls under our table and against my feet. He beckons for me to throw it to him, but Gordon’s half-helpful outstretched hand deflects my underarm toss, and the beleaguered fruit once again hits the floor. How soon I plummet from hero to zero.

Fat woman continues to harass poor old Gordon about whether they should go and see Tap Dogs or Annie (starring Su Pollard) for her birthday. Gordon grunts and tries to finish his Daily Mail scrabble puzzle.

Mrs Gordon mercifully falls asleep, and then less mercifully knocks her half-full beaker of Diet Coke over the table, somewhere near Berwick Upon Tweed. Fortunately my Dan Brown book and freshly-washed jeans soak up most of the liquid. The Gordons fail to apologise.

We snooze. We reach E D I N Braaa. Dan Brown book has swollen to size of phone book. Recognise Robin Ince getting off the same train as us and almost catch his eye, but then realise he is somewhat mediocre comedy-wise, and fortunately he passes us by. Mainly being “Ricky Gervais’ mate” is no grounds for a comedy career, unless you are the legend that is Karl Pilkington.

Up the hill to the Royal Mile, and heft our cases into our castle-overlooking apartment. A quick loo break later it’s down to the Sainsbury’s on Morrison Street to stock up on Custard Creams and some other less essential foodstuffs.

Return to apartment just beating the heavens as they open somewhat torrentially. Haha – fuck you, rain :)

First cup of tea in apartment. Blag the Wee Bobby mug.

Worryingly, am beset by unsociable wind condition. Hope no-one notices. Too late. Herself detects situation using her amazing nostrils.

First show – Toby Hadoke at the Underbelly. Man I hate the Underbelly – three or four identical floors of damp vaults bodged into performance areas and bars, lots of bars. Every year the Underbelly becomes the lowest point of the city into which all the young and dumb come to drink themselves stupid and annoy the arse off me when I’m trying to enjoy a late-night show.

Toby Hadoke is funny, inoffensive, and a bit specialised. That’s to say, it helps if you already know that only two episodes of the original Quatermass Experiment TV series survived the BBC’s wiping policy. He is also a stickler for the correct placement of apostrophes, which I applaud of course. His Now I know My BBC show is a bit like his Dr Who show which we saw a couple of years ago. Funny, a bit sad, but generally upbeat. I do think he overplays the misty-eyed moral of the story at the end of the show though, just like when he got a bit mawkish doing Dr Who. It just doesn’t feel genuine when he starts pausing and gulping and tearing up. Be a bit more English man! And swear a bit more. It was definitely lacking a well placed Fuck or two.

The main thing is though… I could do what he does. I could. He’s only talking about telly from the 80’s in a slightly amusing way. It’s so easy. So he’s got psoriasis; I’ve got eczema. And I can trump him with the TG card, if I so wished.

Apparently he’s met all the people who make Dr Who, the jammy swine.

Then we have 20 minutes to trot across town to the Ghillie Dhu off Princes Street to see Frances Ruffelle, a massive crush of mine from the 80’s, ever since the school Dance production of Les Miserables. On way, impress Herself with ability to identify someone as being oriental from the back (it’s just something about the shape of head).

The Ghillie Dhu is a strange multi-level bar-restaurant, peppered with candlelit dining tables and nice comfy sofas. It looks like a converted church. After some delay, Frances Ruffelle, my teen heart-throb, comes on. She is still well fit, but a looking a bit ropey around the facial area. And the hair is all big and wild, doubtless to show she is a free spirit. A very loungey hour ensues, consisting of singing on top of pianos and jiggling amongst slightly embarrassed male members of the audience. The music steers dangerously into jazz-infested waters on several occasions, but the rest of the time it is nicely bluesy/torchsongy. A Scottish-Chinese dude and his mate wander in after the show starts and chatter and text throughout. He rattles the ice in his glass every time Frances goes past. This may be his cultural way of showing admiration. Or maybe he’s just a dick.

At one point, Frances Ruffelle digs out a dusty old cloth cap, and I think she’s going to do some numbers from Les Mis, but instead she just does a quick spoof of the opening lines of that one about being alone (doesn’t narrow it down much, I know…). The show ends and I’m glad I got to see her up close (jiggling boobs and all), but am unsure if it was wise to revisit an old crush. She’s well-preserved and has a great voice, even though she only did that great little-girl tremulous thing with her voice once or twice. But she did look, well, a leetle bit skanky.

Wander past Miss Behave’s The Crack venue on the Norloch and get to the new Assembly Rooms/Hall/Whatever to see Tripod Vs The Dragon. Have no idea what to expect. Should have expected a fire alarm and a forty-five minute delay, coz that’s what we got. Herself starts to slowly starve, so she scampers off in search of food. Blag some jelly beans from young ladies advertising an improv musical show. Pretend to promise to come the next day, though am secretly averse to improv after too many traumatic incidents at the Comedy Store in Leicester Square. Herself returns with choccie bars to stave off hunger pangs.

Eventually troop into converted ancient lecture theatre. Tripod Vs The Dragon are surprisingly good. Turns out to be a comedy musical re-enactment of a D&D adventure. They even go on about Edition 3.5 and rolling up stats. The bespectacled brunette with the three Aussie guys has an amazing voice, a bit Cerys Matthewsy, and does a good song about being a big ol’ red dragon. View of stage largely obscured by enormous bobbing head of Tallest Man In Edinburgh sat directly in front of me. Unforch we have to sneak out before the end, coz it started so late. Manage to escape without being mocked. But we will never know what happens after the bit where the fighter has stabbed the red dragon lady with the spear of knowledge.

Trot back to Underbelly for last show of the day – Sound & Fury’s Private Dick. It is now 11:30 pm, and Underbelly reeks of beer. This is only the first day – hope we don’t have any more laties here, or it’ll be like the Bethany Black gig from last year – absolutely ruined by drunken young knobheads in an audience of twelve people.

Sound and Fury dragged me up on stage last year during their Sherlock Holmes show, in an hilarious mix-up between me and Herself who was the one who had actually volunteered pre-show. This time round it’s a much more ramshackle affair – this is clearly only the first or second time they’ve done their gumshoe spoof. Much fluffing and forgetting of lines, but all managed with much good heartedness and gusto, so all is forgiven. Musical numbers not so hot, and a fair bit of padding to stretch material out to an hour. But at least they didn’t get me up on stage in front of a hundred people to play a musical hall performer this time.

Clear out of Boozybelly at 12:45pm, knackered and starving. Have had nothing to eat apart from Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, and Herself is starting to go vague and peculiar. Soon the madness will set in, so we locate a late night foodery on Grassmarket and buy some nosh. Back to apartment for beans on toast (me) and cold tin of macaroni (her). Watch half an hour of The Land That Time Forgot. Way too much time wasted by McClure faffing around on a Nazi U-boat. He should be in with the dinosaurs by now. Shattered – fall asleep reading crinkly Dan Brown. 150 pages in and very little has happened. There is a severed hand in a building. Robert Langdon spends a lot of time talking to a tiny objectionable Japanese woman. Another woman goes to a lab in a warehouse and has lots of flashbacks. The tattooed giant is mysterious and annoying.

Remember I had two apples in rucksack all day which would have staved off starvation earlier. Bum.

Shows seen: 4
Flyers collected: 8

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