Monday, 16 August 2010

The Chocolate Ocelot's Fringe - Monday

Lashes on pillow: 1
Lashes on eyelid: 1 :(

It is raining. Sodden Japanese are trudging up Tokyo Steps outside window, while soberly clad workers are walking to the office. But not us, haha!

Looking back at previous day’s blogs, am concerned that am starting to write like Rorschach. Not sure if this is entirely healthy. Can see dog carcass in alley far below.

Today is to be the busiest, maddest day for us so far, squeezing in the maximum cheapity 2-for-1 shows that we can. Resolve to write up blog at end of day, while events still fresh.

Decide on army surplus combat trousers and walking boots today, combined with long black sweater. Looks a bit funny put all together, but am trying to strike a balance between utility, rainy appropriateness and attractiveness. It works if you only look at my top half or my bottom half.

Over to old Assembly Rooms on George Street to see friend of friend Timandra in Your Days Are Numbered. Horribly early start for Fringe event – 11:25am. Show is very good – all about probability of death from various causes. Spot Simon Singh in audience, sporting baby in frontloading papoose. Say hello to Timandra and chum Matt Parker very briefly after show, but she can’t stop to talk cause needs to tidy up before next show comes in. Quickly ask to see her outside in a few minutes. Herself thinks he hears her mention upstairs bar, but this turns out not to be the case. Two slowly nursed cups of tea later, we come downstairs only to see Timandra in ‘members-only’ lounge area on ground floor. We don’t have special Fringe passes, unlike, it seems, 50% of the bloody audience in this first week. She is only thirty feet away, but engrossed in own laptop, so doesn’t see us. Cannot go into members zone cause would be momentarily cautioned by 17-year old helper girl in official Assembly Rooms t-shirt, so walk away disappointed.

Then go outside to munch on packed lunch – home made chicken sandwich. Almost immediately choke on third mouthful, as I occasionally do. Panics me for about five minutes until obstruction goes down. Am now most grumpy – almost choked to death and have been denied hanging out with a genuine Fringe performer, which is most important thing in world to me right now. Sheer depth of own star-struckness know no bounds. Am unable to express disappointment to Herself, because am embarrassed by stalkerish fascination with showbizzy people, even though really really really want to say hello to Timandra and talk about numbers and comedy and shit. Puts me in well bad mood for rest of day. Cannot express reasons for bad mood, coz by anybody else’s standards, is a very silly reason. Am so star-struck, it is tragic.

Grumpily march to Hill Street Theatre near George Street to see Call of Cthulhu. Theatre has lovely, big, squishy sofas for waiting on, which imperceptibly lessens bad mood. CoC is unexpectedly a one-man show, and is damn-near unfathomable if you don’t know the story well already. Good, deep, unworldly mood music though, and weird green and red lighting. The episode involving the Louisiana swamps is the best bit.

Heavens open.

Umbrellas initially stand us in good stead. What an odd phrase – do things ever stand us in bad stead? Or adequate stead? At any rate, umbrellas do their job at first, but as the spitting becomes a shower becomes a torrent, they show increasing signs of stress; one of the legs of my one gives way and it starts to flap wildly on one side, like a strangely circular black bird. With no head. And a handle. Herself’s umbrella fares much worse, and turns inside-out in the gusts. She has not mastered the seasoned brollier’s trick of flipping it rightside-out with a short, sharp thrust of the arm, so I do it for her. It’s what I’m there for. Being a fair bit shorter than me, her umbrella comes up to just about eye-level on me – this makes walking side by side in the rain a perilous affair for yours truly. The rain forces us to walk apart.

Off to the see the Dog Eared Collective at scummy Underbelly. In the rain, it has become even more moist and humid in there. The Dog Ears are slightly unusual, not just because they are a rare 3 women / 1 man group. The first year we saw them, they did Barnaby Brown: Orphan Extraordinaire – a sort of Dickens piss-take. Last year and this though, they’ve done a series of short sketches loosely strung together. Some of which work. They’re certainly energetic though, all leaping around in silly beards, The smallest of the women (who has a touch of the Jimmy Krankie to her) is used as a battering ram by the others. One of the women really reminds me of one of my female relatives on my dad’s side, but would feel weird asking her if she’s my cousin Lindy.

Am now soaked from mid thigh downwards. Obviously downwards. Combat trousers rub uncomfortably against skin as we settle down for Aleister Crowley play. I will clearly be wet for many hours to come. What I’ve just done there is called foreshadowing. Dan Brown taught me that. However, unlike in his books, the dampness of my clothing will not later turn out to be a vital plot point.

The Crowley show is very good – it’s in a venue we’ve never been before, just on the southern edge of North Bridge – s’always good to try out a new place. It is a one-man show, our second of the day, and not a million miles from Cthulhu in style and set-up. The chap himself is suitably shaven-headed and bulky, though I suspect he’s padded his shirt a bit. Not sure if Crowley was actually Welsh, but that’s how he sounds. It does give the show a strange Under Milk Wood quality. Dr Foot and HFM have already seen this and given it a qualified thumbs up, which was mainly to do with the fictionalised death of the character at the end. But it was entertaining nonetheless.

Down to the Gilded Balloon (currently occupying the Edinburgh University Stdudent Association building in Bristo Square) to see Doon Mackichan in Primadoona. Very accomplished one-woman show about actual recent events of her life – mainly plummeting career and son getting leukaemia. Needless to say, is all very actressy and worthy. But there are funny bits as well. Am fascinated by weird pock-marked stippling on her back. Either she’s been practising lying on a bed of nails, or those are some serious acne scars.

Off to Udderbelly (gigantic inverted purple cow. Honest) to see Brazil Brazil. Join queue after finishing off now-mangled chicken sandwich, only to discover some minutes later that queue is for a different show. Not only that, but we are in the wrong location entirely. Herself’s previously impeccable map-reading has taken us to George Square, not Bristo Square. I think. Put it down to innate dyspraxic mongness. Return to Bristo Square, wherein correct venue is located. This is where we saw male a capella group The Magnets last year. Udderbelly must specialise in man-candy, as Brazil Brazil is built mainly around five exceedingly fit young men displaying both their capoeira skills and their incredible abs.

And now, a brief note on capoeira. Herself booked this show; you could not get me to see capoeira otherwise. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have touched it with a bargepole, but she sneakily sold the show to me as ‘some sort of music and dance act’. Capoeira, for those of you who don’t know, is ‘a fusion of dance and martial arts, born on the streets of Brazil, among the slaves’. It sounds better in a broad Brazilian accent, believe me. Street dance and martial arts. God help us. Scientifically formulated to appeal to the posey element of society, and those people who really want to be elven Wardancers. Capoeira is the sort of thing dabbled in by your mate who’s a bit of a show-off. Basically, any activity that features in a BBC ident is slightly, well, pretentious, like doing tai chi by a loch, wheelchair people playing basketball, and capoeira in front of the London skyline:

Apart from the synchronised swimming hippos – I like them. Insert rant about what I pay my licence fee for here.

Oh yeah, and another thing, a special secret combat dance? Really? I find that highly unlikely:

- Hey Eduardo, what is that the humble slaves are doing over there?
- Oh, that is nothing Paulo, it is just a simple, humble dance that they practise, to while away the long hours of captivity.
- But my friend, they seem to be jumping and kicking and punching quite a lot. It does look an awful lot like they are practising some sort of martial art.
- Ha ha, you are so suspicious Paulo. The slaves, they would never turn their beautiful rhythmic close-contact dance moves to violence and use them to attack us, their brutal and cruel oppressors. To think such a thing is madness.
-You are right Eduardo, what am I thinking? Come, let us draw closer and admire the grace and power of their humble ‘Driving The Foot Into The Bastard’s Head’ number.

Hmmm, I don’t buy it.

Ok, back to the show. There is hardly a cubic inch of body fat on that stage, certainly not on the Brazilian dancer/showgirl creature, with her suspiciously implanted chestal region. Feel a bit sorry for the trick footballer they bring on, because his ball skills are clever but mainly consist of him sitting on his bum doing keepy-up. Catchy samba music is a bit too Girl From Ipanema for my tastes, but is all very energetic and jolly. A couple of the capoeira boys look like they’re from Apocalypto, with their top-knotted hair and lean bodies. Bet none of them have any trouble pulling audience members, boys or girls. Feel exceedingly unfit and unattractive after watching them. God knows how the old people or the boy in the wheelchair down the front feel. Maybe it’s just me. People stand up and applaud at end. I do not do this. Others do because they are sheep.

Come to regret choice of clothing – look stupid and mannish. Reach the conclusion that this summer’s fashion for the young ladies is shorty short black tights and flat shoes. The accompanying massive hair and eyelashes are no surprise. Not sure I could carry it off at my advanced age. The fashion for a certain sort of skinny young man seems to be a close-fitting checked shirt, which in my day would have screamed ‘NERD’ in pocket-protected, bespectacled capital letters. Strange how things change. Also, the popular style for boy-hair is this weird, slightly bouffant, tousled affair with much covering of forehead. Hmm.

Next, Plague! The Musical at C on Chambers Street. Am expecting the cast to be mainly young people, as this venue seems to attract them (see: innumerable Discworld adaptations in years gone by). But am pleasantly surprised by adult cast. Most amusing production and well sung, but as is often the case, the central boy/girl pair seem a bit weak – maybe it’s just that the characters are soppy and uninteresting. Liked the eccentric performance by the Alchemist – all very Terry Gilliam. Nod off several times during show. The day is taking its toll.

After Plague! The Musical, stop for late night nosh at strange triangular cafĂ© by statue of Wee Bobby. Two microwave-reheated slices of pizza are just what’s needed. Flick through ubiquitous Fringe magazine looking for decent pictures of acts to scrapbook later. See flyer for a play featuring the actor Clive Russell. Realise this is the man I saw a few days ago, who played Tim’s scary editor in Spaced.

Then head south to Pleasance Dome for final show of the day, a BBC Comedy Presents thing. This is one of those showcase affairs where you don’t know who going to be appearing on the night, and the listing gives you an unreasonable expectation of seeing well-known acts by listing past appearances by French and Saunders or Vic and Bob (probably both about twenty years ago). It’s actually being recorded for the BBC website, not proper telly, so is a lower key affair, which is probably just as well. Have sat through quite a few TV recordings in my telly-struck past, and know how long those bloody things can go on for. Distinctly recall having to sit through retakes at the end of the Danny Baker chat show, while he re-recorded questions for his interviewees, Who Had Already Gone Home. Also remember being asked to laugh uproariously to gags on Men Behaving Badly which had already been delivered, and fluffed, a couple of times.

We sit at the back of the room at the Dome, partially obscure by a pillar, so are safely out of comedian-interaction range. Am in no mood for bantering with stand-ups at this hour of the evening. We are just behind the cameramen and producer (including the requisite semi-pointless young woman with clipboard who just wanders back and forth), which is quite interesting. You can see the producer’s concerned face when one of the mikes starts to pop.

The host/compere is Carl Donelly, an afroed ginge who makes me think of Steve Merchant. He is decent enough, but ends up stumbling though the intro as much as the guest acts subsequently stumble through their turns. The main sticking point for all of them is a Beeb requirement to not swear much, and I think every single one of them Fucks at least once, so much retaking of punch lines is required, with nice words inserted instead. Yorkshireman Tim Wigginshaw (or some such) is alright, but soon completely loses his thread due to sweary retakes and unsuitable material. Two Episodes Of MASH are very good – love the deliberately non-funny sketches and the way they all just peter out. The Irish rappers Abandoman are alright – clever how they improvise raps about members of the audience and objects from their pockets, but if you pay attention, you can see that the songs have a basic framework that the incredibly Irish singer Rob just has to slot a few personalised bits into.

Final stand-up is… God, I can’t picture him at all, or his name. I think he was quite good. But it was sooo late at night.

Completely shattered by time BBC thing finishes and trot home as fast as we can. At least tonight we have not ended up at the pigging Scumbelly last thing, which saves us a killing climb up two long flights of steps from the Grassmarket.

Too tired for telly, as it is gone 1 am, so sit on collapsed sofa (please Mr Landlord, some new springs), and read new Alan Moore comic – Neonomicon. It seems to be a sequel to The Courtyard, so much gurgling in Aklo and strange bescarfed freaks.'s_The_Courtyard

Peel ‘DEAD’ sticker off sweater, a memento from Numbered show some thirteen hours earlier, which has survived a day of rain and trudging much better than I have. It takes sizeable amount of black wool from sweater with it.

Utterly fail to write up blog last thing, as planned.

Shows seen: 8 - far too bloody many
Flyers collected: 1 – grumpy face was on
Steps taken: unknown. Bloody miles.

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