Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Return of the Chocolate Ocelot’s Fringe - Saturday

Our first morning in Edinburgh. I discover that the shower is decent sized and comes with a movable head. This is in sharp contrast to a shower we encountered recently while staying in Belgium. It was big, ridiculously big – a purpose built stone booth capable of accepting 4 people at a time, but unfortunately it only had the one immobile showerhead fixed into the ceiling. Perfect for Cheval, the star of A Town Called Panic (coincidentally also Belgian), but less than ideal for a human. It also looked a bit Auschwitzy.

Herself is up with the lark, unlike myself, who prefers to rise with the Sumatran Twoextrahoursinbed bird. As is her wont, she nips round the corner to the Saturday Farmers’ Market on King’s Stables Road to seek out various foodstuffs. I myself am not that bothered with farmers’ markets – I can see the fine and noble reasons for supporting local producers and encouraging a diverse range of goods, but the end result is usually a load of stalls selling slightly different sausages that you pay 50% more for. She returns from said market with a few items to sustain us later on, including a curious breaded product called a cheese swirl, a flat round doughy affair containing as much sesame seed as cheese. Not one to eat on a first date.

I spend the morning blogging the previous day, and feeling guilty about so readily accepting the verb blogging into my life. Unlike last year, I am trying this time to post each day up within 24 hours, rather than leave it a week so I have more time to spellcheck and what have you. Consequently I am now finding that my blogging (there I go again) is taking up more of my actual Fringe-going time than before. This is mainly due to my inability to type on my new laptop (the keys are spaced out differently), and the enormous amount of time it takes to correctly format the text on Blogger (cutting and pasting from Word is a trial in itself, and don’t get me started on positioning pictures). I resolve this year to keep my daily entries shorter and not to wander off onto side issues.


First event of the day – Auld Reekie Roller Girls at the Meadowbank sports centre east of the city centre. We walk from our flat, down Cowgate, past Holyrood and the Dynamic Scottish Earth Parliament (actually, they may be two different buildings, but they seem to have been all mixed up together), and skirt the foot of Arthur’s Seat, watching people and dogs scramble up the grassy slopes, as a light sprinkling of rain evolves into a proper grown-up shower.

Words are exchanged between myself and my petite companion, vis the heights of our respective brollies. Mine towers above, providing shelter for all and a threat to none. Hers hovers just above her wee head, which is tragically also at my eye level. Watching its broken spoke swing perilously towards my face in my peripheral vision gives me some cause for concern. A compromise walking arrangement is agreed upon, which favours the single file rather than the classic wing-man formation, though it does look like we’ve had an argument or have adopted some sort of fundamentalist Muslim relationship.

We go to the roller derby event because I’ve never been to one before, but have caught glimpses on local news stories and the like. It’s like the one time we went to see the monster trucks – it’s something everyone ought to do at least once. Like bisexuality or eating horsemeat. Anyway, the roller girl event turns out to be a match between Edinburgh’s Cannon Belles, also confusingly known as the Auld Reekie Roller Girls, and Glasgow’s Maiden Grrders, also known as the Glasgow Roller Girls. This didn’t help, as I thought at first there were four teams involved. The audience is primarily female, and of all ages, but I would say mainly in their twenties.

But it’s not the gender of the teams and audience per se that makes this such a uniquely female sporting event, it’s all the peripheral bits around the match. First off, there’s a merchandise hall selling t-shirts of the team as you would expect, but also jewellery and accessories, nail treatments and hair styling. And there’s a charity bun stall, selling fairy cakes and flapjacks and muffins and tablet! This is not Luton Town football stadium.

A lot of the players, audience and traders seem to be sporting a special roller girl look too – a kind of lesbian-chic/rockabilly thing, with half shaven heads, pink hair and tattoos. My god, the tattoos, everywhere, on everything. I’m really surprised more men don’t go to these things.

The other fun thing about roller derby is that all the players use aliases, as do the refs (of which there are many with all sorts of different responsibilities. One has the job of marking out the lead jammer by pointing at them constantly from the centre of the track, looking rather like a trainer at the Spanish riding school). Names like Debris Harry, Coco Pox, and Apocalypse Cow. Brilliant. It’s like they’re all pro wrestlers or drag queens. I manage to jot down a few roller girl names myself during odd moments throughout the rest of the day. So far I have Princess Sleia, Eva Destruction, LeAnn Crimes and Greyfriars Barbie. You should try it.

We stay for the entire match, having half understood the rules of jamming, blocking, time outs and so forth, and have gotten rather into the spirit of the thing. We cheer at the right moments, I hope, and leave the Edinburgh ladies celebrating a storming victory over Glasgow. Edinburgh seemed to have actual teamwork on their side, not to mention faster wee girls for the jamming and tougher fat lasses for the blocking. All good natured stuff – go and watch some time.

We emerge into the rain which shows no sign of abating, and slosh back into town. By this time I am hopped up on sweet sugary tablet and skipping around on the pavement, much to Herself’s amusement. Her tartan brolly, a relic of last year’s Fringe, finally gives up the ghost in a wet squall, and I magnanimously replace it with a see through spotty one, though I really wanted to find a Wee Bobby brolly, just to annoy her. We kill time before our next show by lurking inside Forbidden Planet to buy a Batman-related book as a present for a friend. I manage to pick out the most expensive one there – The Return Of Bruce Wayne - damn you, deluxe editions. I also discover that the legendary John Byrne has finally begun a sequel to his series Next Men from the 90s. Hurrah. Though I seem to have missed issues 1 – 6. Boo.

Next, we see – at last! - Barry Cryer at the Gilded Balloon, thus making up for last year’s cancelled show. Mr Cryer gives us a slick hour of jokes and anecdotes based on letters of the alphabet, so building in useful aides-memoir into the structure of the show. He does a damn fine Dave Allen impression too. We keep our eyes out for a friend of a friend who is also supposed to be there, but since the only description I have is ‘He looks like Alfred E Newman from Mad magazine’, I fail to pick him out, and balk at asking a reasonable protuberantly-eared gentlemen if he is my target, we do not find him.

Next, off down the Royal Mile for a free Norman Lovett gig. We can’t believe he is free, as he’s a pretty big name, albeit of times past perhaps. It is indeed too good to be true, as we discover that despite being a free non-ticketed show, the venue has instituted its own ‘turn up early and a get a token (read: ticket) from the bar’ booking system. Thus he is well sold out by the time we turn up, and have to squelch back out into the rain, a little miffed.

Herself’s new brolly, barely 3 hours old, also gives up the ghost in a moderate wind. We are devastated, as if suffering an umbrella cot death.

Now thoroughly soaked, we kill the time that should have been Lovett o’clock by lurking around the Radisson hotel on the Royal Mile. Not only is this the venue of our next gig, but it is large, warm, has seats, and is out of the bloody rain, now entering its tenth consecutive hour. I spend my time listening to two young stand-ups on the table behind us reading reviews of their shows from websites, rehashing how their performances went, and deconstructing individual gags. Fascinating stuff.

We then troop upstairs for The Museum of Horrors. The audience is small, perhaps 14, but fortunately we still outnumber the cast (which is not always the case). A fun little show (though not spooky), it’s a reality show spoof where the four housemates of the museum are picked off one at a time in a series of hilariously gory ways, accompanied by copious intentionally cheap props. The show is introduced by a fantastically hammy shaven-headed chap channelling his inner Lugosi with all his might and pulling the most glorious villainous gurns. The storyline makes very little sense if you pause to think about it, but it’s light fun for a late night.

Our final show of the day is a cabaret called Sweet Release at the Apex hotel on Grassmarket, not far from our flat. We kill time beforehand once more in a hotel foyer, huddling by a radiator and amusing ourselves by watching the incoherent drunks and inappropriately dressed girls stagger up and down the sodden street outside in search of a taxi driver with no common sense.

We are disappointed for the second time today when we get up to go into the show. No-one is around, and there are faint sounds of performance from inside the venue. The chap at the box office table tells us that the show started thirty minutes ago. How can this be, we ask, holding up our 23:45 tickets. Ah, those are the old tickets, he says. When the show was briefly cancelled and then reinstated, they brought the time forward by half an hour. You can go in for the last bit he says. Bums we say. And shlump off into the rain for the final time that night. Bah. I console myself with a packet of custard creams and shouting at Horatio Caine on the telly.

Today’s SlebWatch: Rich Fulcher, a little hung over by the look of him, Steve Frost of the Comedy Store Players, and possibly him off of Two Pints of Lager – no not the one from The Royle Family, the other one, with the shaven head, can’t remember his name, probably Lee. Lee Bloke. That’s him.

1 comment:

Tony John Cooke said...

" – it’s something everyone ought to do at least once. Like bisexuality or eating horsemeat"

Wonderful. It's funny cause its true and I heartily endorse this comment. Right of to the boucherie as I've done the other one..