Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Return of the Chocolate Ocelot’s Fringe - Tuesday

I find it exceedingly hard to tear myself away from the morning telly news, showing footage of Croydon, Ealing, Clapham and Enfield on fire, courtesy of the nation’s disaffected youth (apparently). There’s something perversely addictive about news like this, as outrage piles upon outrage, unrest spreading first across London and then to other cities. The sheer impunity with which the miscreants have struck at people and property stretches my credulity. I half expect a scientist to pop up on screen and explain that they’ve all been infected by pure rage, like in 28 Days Later.

And now a short word on Facebook. At times like this, it is of course only natural that those who subscribe to social media would be sending updates back and forth, as the rioting spreads. A cursory glance at my Facebook traffic shows me that 95% of the message activity is riot related. Apart from one person, who somehow manages to use the subject of the unrest to post up something about their baby, said infant being the topic every post they have made since several months prior to its birth. Surely it would save certain people effort and typing time if Facebook simply supplied them with a set of pre-generated status updates for them to click on at regular intervals. I think the following four generic statuses should cover most situations:

  • I have just eaten some food or drunk some liquid. Apparently this is worthy of comment
  • I am feeling a little depressed. Please send me a saccharine virtual huggy.
  • I have a strident political opinion that I wish to inflict on you all.
  • I have a baby. A baby. A baby.
I’m just saying. On with the Fringe.

It is a dry day, hallelujah. As a treat, we start the day with two full Scottish breakfasts (minus the haggis and black pudding, blurgh) at a nice café on King’s Stables Lane. Hopefully my infusion of naughty pork products won’t have the usual deleterious effect on my skin, coz by golly it tastes good.

Today we must see a full seven events. No chance to return to the flat in between shows, so we set off with some home-made sarnies. Mmmm.

First up is The Magical Faraway Tree, courtesy of Sleeping Trees Theatre at the scummy old Caves on Cowgate. Three young men deliver a dark, funny distortion of the well-loved Enid Blyton tale. Some excellent miming and facial expressions from all three (especially James Dunnell-Smith), putting on a Boosh-like story of Dick, Saucepan Man and Moonface in the land of magical medicines. Very funny indeed, especially on the occasions when they break character to catch the others out with a piece of improv or overacting.

Thence to the Turret Room at the top of the Gilded Balloon for Gemma Goggin: Double G, a charming large-breasted lady who wins me over despite having one of those punchable-face posters. We are treated to a comedy power-point presentation, one of the modern stand-ups favourite tools (see also Rich Fulcher). Last year it was ukuleles, this year it’s electronic slideshows. Gemma takes us on a historical and physical tour of the boob and associated boobal issues, including where to get your girlfriend a nice bra (Rigby and Peller), what your actual size is (we all measure ourselves, even the lads), and the dangers of turning round too quickly in the shower. We also get to see some truly grotesque photos of some of the most over-endowed women in the world. You can’t go wrong with a few well-placed freak pix.

We have just enough time for half a cup of tea each in the comfortable Gilded Balloon café before diving straight back into our next show at the same venue. The Fitzrovia Radio Hour players are back with a fresh 60 minutes of retro wireless drama. This year they entertain us with detective George Albion and The War Of The Roses, schoolboy sleuths vs Nazi Firemen In Westminster, mining romance thriller Tin! (that cruel metal mistress), and the cautionary House Of Clocks. All sponsored by Clipstone teas – “delicious”. The accents are cut-glass, the hair is smoothly coiffed and the dinner jackets are crisp. One odd thing I notice: because they split the sound effects and dialogue between the cast, it is sometimes (intentionally I suppose) confusing when one character is talking but the sound of their footsteps (for example) is supplied by one of the others. That’s radio I suppose. I imagine The Archers is much the same. A very classy show.

Our next show is a bit of a gamble, as it is one of the three hard-boiled Bane stories, by the talented Joe Bone. Which one we do not know, as the Fringe programme failed to tell us which of the three would be performed each day. Having already seen Banes 1 and 3, we are hoping against hope for number 2. But a glance at the poster in the Pleasance Dome tells us that we’ll be watching the first one again. Ah well, it is very good, so no great shame. We are again in the Pleasance Ace, where we were for Arthur Smith last night, and again it is a scramble for a decent seat. We grab an unoccupied booth to one side of the stage, but the seat is annoyingly shallow, so we must brace our feet on the ground to prevent us from siding to the ground in mid-show. Why do people make seats like that? Grr.

Anyhoo, Joe Bone delivers as tight and well-acted a one-man show as before. Two-man show actually, as he is again accompanied by guitarist and composer Ben Roe. Having seen the show before, I amuse myself by trying to work out which actors he is riffing on. I think I already worked out last year that Bane sounds like Christian Slater, and Bane’s neighbour Neil is Rick Moranis’ Lewis from Ghostbusters. I resolve to sidle up to Mr Bone afterwards and ask him if that’s how he creates the characters, but unfortunately he has already been corralled by a few hovering aficionados, so I can do nothing but stalk him with my eyes from across the Pleasance Dome cafeteria. Ah well.

Then upstairs at the Dome for Sara Pascoe vs the Apocalypse, a one-woman act (with slideshow natch) loosely based around the end of the world, though it’s really about her manifesto for a new world order. Maybe that would have been a better title. I’ll tell her if I see her. Of course I won’t. I’ll see her walking down the street in two days’ time, fail to walk over to her, and grumble internally about my missed opportunity for the rest of the day. The show is pretty funny, with lots of digs at her sister and references to her fixation on Dizzee Rascal and his cheeky face, but there is also an air of uncertainty in the delivery. The problem is that she has gone for the ‘this bit didn’t work last night’ approach to the show, which I’m not so sure is a wise move. It sort of opens the door for the audience to be critical of the material as we go along, wondering if this is the bit that is more preachy than funny, or if this is the bit that she’s padding out because she had to drop some material about civil unrest. I laugh, but I’m constantly aware of us watching her to see if she’s happy with how it’s going.

We then nip over to the Udderbelly Pasture and hook up with a friend who’s comes down from Dundee for the evening. We meet in the shadow of the giant upside-down purple cow, from whence emanates curiously distorted sound effects that can only be Michael Winslow out of Police Academy’s show. Consuming my daily helping of lemon and sugar crepe from the Gilded Balloon foodery, we catch up on events and then join a massive queue for Richard Herring’s latest show – What Is Love Anyway?

In the queue Herself and I get chatting to some older ladies who have not seen Herring before and ask him if he’s any good. I hate being asked that – it’s like these strangers have transferred responsibility for their enjoyment onto us. Well of course he’s any good – we’ve just told you we’ve seen him before – we wouldn’t be seeing him again if he’s crap. Not unless we’re masochists or on a sponsored shite-show marathon. I have a friend like that, who asks me rather too many times if I think he’ll like a particular TV programme or comedy show, prior to him seeing it. He then invariably comes back to tell me that it was OK, but not that great, as if I’d forced him to watch it under false pretences. Look, everybody has different enjoyment levels, OK? Just because I like it doesn’t mean you will, and it certainly doesn’t make it my fault that it wasn’t your cup of tea. Stop pressuring me, you insufferable wretches.

I feel better now.

Mr Herring is very entertaining, and I am pleased that the older ladies seem to have enjoyed the show, though I resolutely do not ask them afterwards. There is a long piece in the show about Rich’s obsession with Julia Sawalha, the TV series Fist of Fun and Stewart Lee, as if he is finally feeling confident enough to mention his past glories without looking as if he coasting on them. As ever, there is a collection for Scope at the end, for which £40,000 was raised last year. Thus we feel entertained and not a little smug. Rah for us.

Our final show of the day is Mr B: How I Invented Hip Hop and Other Faux Pas, over at the Voodoo rooms. Our walk there is doubled in length by the police having closed off North Bridge at both ends. Perhaps the national wave of looting has spread to Edinburgh. Doesn’t look like it though. Maybe it was a car accident or a drunken jumper. We will never know.

A fine hour of banjolele-based chap-hop ensues, courtesy of the moustachioed maestro. New songs Hail The Chap and Hermitage Shanks are played, and the show ends with us all on our feet as Mr B takes us on a chap-hopped journey through acid house. As you do. I feel the urge to cry Bravo at the end, rather than my usual indecipherable whoop. We buy a CD and shake Mr B’s hand, wondering what he looks like under the glasses and facial hair.

On the walk back to the flat, I dig out my last sandwich from the depths of my bag. The day’s travails have not been kind to it, so it’s an act of mercy to stuff the ravaged bread and cheese wreckage into my mouth with all the grace of Cookie Monster.

We stay up late chatting. Far too late. Our guest must get up at godawful o’clock tomorrow and catch the train back home, but you know what it’s like when you have guests over for the night – there’s no natural end point to the evening – not like when they have to get in their car and drive home. So at some point, when over 50% of us are openly yawning as we chat into the night, I break and stagger downstairs to bed.

Herself bought me an apple pie on Saturday, which I have still not touched, due to a lack of available custard. The tension is beginning to tell on me. I fall asleep, haunted by shortcrust pastry and fermenting fruit mulch.

Today’s SlebWatch: A well-preserved Lorraine Chase having a drink with friends at the Gilded Balloon. I couldn’t tell if it was a Campari or not.

1 comment:

Mitchell Adcow said...

Inflicting strident political opinions? Whoever could that be amongst your friends? Normally just my sister who complains when I do that!

Being intolerent of such things myself I actually deleted two Facebooks friends yesterday for inflicting different strident political opinions from my own on my Facebook page. Both were ex-school friends with a strong opinion on how to deal with the riots - "send 'em all home" or "send in the English Defence League"!

Still, if you enjoy my strident opinions we're over there next week so we'll try and call if you're about!