Very well. As promised yesterday, I shall endeavour to keep today’s run down a little more brief.
We rise ridiculously early (I think the time starts with a seven) so we can trot over to the Captain’s Bar on South College Street. The event is The Early Word, a chance to listen to a local literary type hold forth on matters Edinburghian. When we get to the pub, it’s just us two, the landlady, and a chap called Alan Foster (or possibly Allan Foster) – author of biographies of Scottish literary figures like Conan Doyle, Burns and Scott. We are thankfully joined by one other person, a weather-beaten old person of indeterminate gender (who later turned out to be a lady) with the tan and dress of someone who has run a lion sanctuary in Africa for 30 years.
Mr Foster entertains us for well over an hour, all sat round one little tale at the back of the pub, with tales of Burns’ love affairs, Doyle pestering his mentor Joseph Bell, and Mark Twain holding Sir Walter Scott responsible for the American Civil War. He does go on quite a lot about Robert Burns, who I just don’t get. I think you have to be a scot, or more likely a rabid Scottish descendant several generations and hundreds of miles removed from Scotland, to really be into him.
Next, off to see Bagpuss, the live show! Needless to say, the audience is a little younger than most of the shows we are seeing. And about ten times louder. I’d say 50% are around five years old: noisy, and a bit loose at the seams. The rest of the audience – the parents – are in their 30s, so we two 40-yearolds - sans kiddies - out-age them all. The show is cleverly pitched at two levels to give the mums and dads something to follow in between shushing their fidgety, wailing offspring every two minutes. For the children, it’s a series of three adventures involving magical toys, moving pictures and musical interludes. For the adults – a poignant tale of the adult Emily’s descent into madness following the death of her father. Actually teared me up a bit.
By the way, I can do a better Yaffle impression and Bagpuss yawn than either of the ladies on stage though. So.
Over to the Gilded Balloon for Dr Apple’s Last Lecture. A freaky little play about a repressed psychology professor who embarks on a mind expanding trip into his subconscious, courtesy of a plateful of special cookies. The best bit for me is when he has just started to trip out, and the three female performers, dressed head to toe in day-glo lycra, crawl onto the stage behind him and begin a psychedelic dance routine worthy of The Mighty Boosh. Not sure either of us fully understand the plotline, but entertaining nonetheless.
Queuing for Dr Apple, one usually has nothing better to do than stare at walls doors covered with flyers and posters for every conceivable Fringe show. Some of these are intriguing, some of them look funny, and some of them just make me want to punch the faces of the people depicted thereon. It’s the ones I never actually seen perform - some of them just have extraordinarily punchable faces. They either look way too smug (Andrew Bird and Patrick Monahan’s posters come to mind), or it’s their sheer ubiquity, like the bloody smiling baby from the So You Think You’re Funny posters. I swear I’ll smack that kid’s face in if ever I see him or her. Given that they’ve been using the same face for a good 10 years or so, he or she must be a teenager by now at least, so they stand an even chance of dodging my attack.
Then over to the Pleasance for the first time this year. The usual reek of sponsor Foster’s beer pervades the place, and we are posed with the usual problem of figuring out exactly which of the endless Pleasance subvenues in the complex we are supposed to be heading for. Given that we are here to see Ed Reardon: A Writer’s Burden, I should’ve just followed the stream of grey-haired heads. Reardon, the comic creation of Christopher Douglas, takes us through a précis of his life as a frustrated writer and professional grumpy old bugger. Assisted by two actors from ‘Theatre In A Basket’, he re-enacts various scenes from Reardon’s life, usually involving his ego, intolerance for poor punctuation (rah!) and the ‘perpetuation of the sickening contagion of obedience’ - a phrase he manages to incorporate into everything he writes, even the Ladybird Book of Shoes. Decent fun for grumpy old buggers like me.
After a short break, we return to the Pleasance for Colin Hoult’s Inferno, taking the title of his show once again from an old Dr Who story. I still hope to bump into him on the street and ask him if many people get the running joke. As ever, Colin Hoult plays a variety of bizarre characters, from a dog who’d rather you fetch his banana, to a Thor wannabe from Leeds, to the lonely author of a truly crap poem about a bear. As before, he slips his supporting performers into the audience, to catch us out at the start. Herself identifies Colin’s female colleague (Zoe Gardner) as the woman from Lights, Camera, Walkies! yesterday. I suppose there must be a fair bit of that at the Fringe – people doubling up on shows. If you’re a comic actor stuck there for a month, you wouldn’t want to just do one hour’s worth of show a day I suppose, and it’s not like they can busk around the cabaret / chatshow / bestofthefest gigs like the stand-ups and the musicians.
And then our last show of the night – Arthur Smith’s Pissed Up Chat Show at the Pleasance Dome – that weird cavernous student union building off Potterow with the cool caricatured wall hangings. The gig does not get off to a good start, when the queue moves forward to go into the venue and we find ourselves outside the toilets – the daft bint in front of us had taken a wrong turning in the heaving mass of people. Once properly inside, we just manage to find a space to sit that isn’t already occupied or behind a pillar. This is where we saw the late night BBC comedy showcase last year, and is a room composed mainly of stage-obscuring pillars as far as I can tell.
Anyway, Arthur comes on and introduces a couple of acts, some of which have something to do with drinking. It turns out that he himself hasn’t drunk since 2001 and is now diabetic, so he speaks from an interesting position. First guest is the excellent Ed Byrne, who I have just about forgiven for being the annoying voice of a certain mobile phone vendor’s adverts for many a year, followed by an old American hoofer and soul singer call Movin’ Melvin Brown, and then by a couple of gentlemen who have a show devoted to the art of drinking.
More importantly though, we the audience have all filled in little forms beforehand, stating our worst and best experiences whilst drunk. Having only been drunk once, I feel a bit of a fraud, but it’s just for a laugh. Arthur and guests read through the pile of submissions throughout the show, and lo and behold, mine is acclaimed the winner, though that may simply be because it is the last piece of paper in his hand when the show ends. We shall never know. Nevertheless, I come forward to claim my prize, a choice of a pickled egg or a signed copy of his autobiography (slightly soiled by a spilled cocktail). Hurrah for me, though Herself would’ve preferred the egg.
My winning submission? Thing I have most enjoyed doing while drunk: Having a good wee.
We return to our pad. Although our timetable dictates that tonight is ‘watch DVDs’ night, we instead stay up into the wee hours watching BBC news footage of Croydon burning.
Today’s SlebWatch: Russell Kane, with funny sticky up hair. Possibly. And Shappi Khorsandi getting a chocolate cake in the Gilded Balloon café. Though it may have been Shazia Mirza. This uncertainty makes me feel racist. My suggestion for the next Shappi Khorsandi show: Not Shazia Mirza, The Other One.