Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Return of the Chocolate Ocelot’s Fringe - Friday again

It is our eighth and final day at the Fringe. Tomorrow we shall be up with the lark and heading up to Inverness, so today is our last chance to see anything we’ve missed or been tempted by a flyer to see. If you have the time, it’s a good idea to have a ‘safety net’ day at the end of your stay at the Fringe, though in all probability your festival schedule will be ruled by jam-packed laminated timetable which plots out every hour of every day of your time in Edinburgh. Yes, our timetable has been laminated by Herself, to protect it from the lashing Edinburgh rain (which reduced every Kleenex tissue in my bag a few days ago to Ready Brek).

Checking on the clothes we washed yesterday, we discover to our disappointment that our jeans have not dried out one iota overnight. Which is a bit of a blow. How can a metal towel rail, which is searing to the touch, not dry out my jeans? Capricious bathroom accessory. So I am faced with the choice of wearing exceedingly damp denim today, or pulling on my emergency back-up combats. Recalling last year’s sartorial mistake, I opt for the damp jeans, after ineffectually waving the hairdryer over them. I soon realise that walking in wet jeans is not a pleasant experience. Though on the plus side, I suspect that the extra friction built up as I walk today will make for some impromptu resistance training.

As we walk to and from venue today, I come to the conclusion that there are some things that you are never far away from at the Fringe:

A man on a unicycle. Usually to be found on the Royal Mile, stripped to the waist and surrounded by a crowd of well over a hundred people. He is perpetually between tricks, much like his cousins the juggler and the fire eater. His main role at the festival is to generate as large a crowd as possible so as to block my passage down the street.

White faced children. Members of a youth dramatic group, you will see them trudging to or from the Royal Mile, where they will spend some hours handing out flyers for their avant garde adaptation of some theatrical standard. They are kin to the grey-faced children and kabuki-faced children, who may be genetic offshoots.

Young ladies in bright red lipstick. Often accompanied by retro hairstyles, they are clearly off-duty performers. If they have a male equivalent, it is the young man with moustache.

Youths dressed as historical paupers. At any given time, there will be one large group of beggars, plague victims, gin-fiends and haggard strumpets, promoting a youth theatre production of The Black Death / Burke & Hare / Jack the Ripper. I think it’s the law.

On with today’s entertainments. For some reason we start grading everything we see today. This is often a counterproductive endeavour, as I dislike comparing markedly different shows, which inevitably means you end up discussing the flaws in something you’ve just seen. Nevertheless, a spurious ‘marks out of five’ system creeps into our viewing today.

First, we march all the way over to the Leith Walk multiplex to see the Captain America film (I can’t be arsed to give it the full clumsy title). It’s pretty damn good. The way they represent the skinny Steve Rogers for the first third of the film is very well done – it really looks like an emaciated version of buff actor Chris Evans. Needless to say, the Red Skull visual doesn’t transfer perfectly from comic page to screen (like the Fantastic Four’s Thing and other monstrous super-characters), but it’s worth seeing for the Android Human Torch cameo and the Avengers teaser after the credits. Oh, and Hayley Atwell looks good. Getting up from my cinema seat, I find that my jeans are still damp, though that may have happened when I saw Thor, Cap and Iron Man together. 4/5


Then over to the funny little room at the top of the Jury’s hotel on Jeffrey Street, where we see Dial H for Hitchcock. An enthusiastic performance from three young men in brown jackets, who put on a roughly glued-together concoction of North by Northwest, Rope and Dial M for Murder, somewhat in the style of the successful Thirty-Nine Steps west end spoof. It is in need of a little bit of music perhaps (A dash of Bernard Hermann wouldn’t go amiss) and maybe a bit of trimming on the dialogue-heavy third act, which is currently a lot of chat about invisible keys (a prop or two here would help). Oddly, both of us nod off during this show, even though it’s just 5pm. I suspect our schedule is catching up with us. 2/5


Next, we get round to seeing Robin Ince’s free show at Canon’s Gait pub on the Royal Mile. Like the Norman Lovett gig, you have to hang around the bar beforehand and nab a token (ticket) from the barman when he makes them available. It’s a bit of a scramble but I manage it. Mr Ince is funny, passionate (or maybe just angry), tirelessly energetic and deeply immersed in his subjects (the usual science vs ‘woo’ – for an explanation of woo, read Christopher Brookmyre’s Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks). Much funnier than the restrained version of him we get on the TV and Radio. Bloody good value too (it is free). 5/5


We hang around the Canon’s Gait to see Norman Lovett, who is on next. Norman’s style of delivery is a bit of an acquired taste, I think. Not encumbered by structure, punch lines or pace, 55 minutes in his company can feel somewhat longer. Bless him though, he acquitted himself well when a semi-inebriate young lady in the audience starting discussing various female musicians with him. We give him 3/5. It would have been 2/5 but we both have a great fondness for the memory of Holly’s dialogues in Red Dwarf.


Then we walk south to the ECA on Lauriston Place, a nicely spacious and quiet venue, to see Tales from Edgar Allan Poe. I am absolutely shattered by this point, but a chance to see three Poe classics acted out with puppets is too great to resist. It is also rather handily being staged just round the corner from our apartment. We are treated to The Raven, The Fall of the House of Usher, and The Tell-Tale Heart. The Raven is delivered by a chap who periodically climbs up onto a trapeze, or clambers through a wardrobe. Usher is a two-hander for the most part, with the part of Roderick ably played by a stand-in and a terribly spooky voice emanating from the deceased Madeline character. Tell-Tale Heart features a dead spooky life-size puppet of an old man and a well-lit dripping cardiac organ at the end.

Our criticisms of the Poe Show would be that a) The eponymous raven puppet is hardly visible because the puppeteer has not quite stood in the spotlight, b) the performance is apparently of the ‘promenade’ variety, which simply means that they haven’t put enough seats in and half of the poor audience has to sit on the floor and periodically move to allow for scene changes, and c) it’s just too darn hot in that venue. Overcome by exhaustion and heat, I rest my head against the wall of the auditorium and nod off halfway through Roderick usher’s descent into madness and begin dreaming about the Avengers. 3/5


We emerge into the blessed cool air and return home for our last night in Edinburgh. I intend to dream about vibranium shields and mystic uru hammers, though I actually end up thinking about a flyer I was handed a couple of days ago. It was for a comedy show called Stand Up, Fall Down by Graham Whistler, who has cerebral palsy. In my dream, I imagine suggesting to him that another good name for a show would be Spastic Fantastic. You know, to reclaim the name as it were. Even in my dream, this does not go down well.

Am woken in middle of night by an American woman having a screaming fit somewhere exceedingly close to our bedroom. It is at first a bit disturbing to hear someone shouting at the top of their lungs so nearby, then becomes curiously fascinating as I lie in bed trying to work out exactly what she’s saying and what her problem is. Apart from being the sort of person that thinks this sort of behaviour at 3pm is acceptable.

Today’s SlebWatch: Killing time in the Italian café at the junction of Leith Walk and Regent Road, we spot Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer walking by. Finally the question of what he looks like when off duty is answered: apart from losing the bowler and tweeds, he is exactly the same – same ‘tache (still waxed) and same massive spectacles. Somehow we imagined he’d at least wear different glasses. So there you go. Later on, Herself bumps into a doddery old chap at the Fringe box office, who she then identifies as the venerable Donald from the How To Survive a Zombie Apocalypse show. Well we think he’s a celebrity anyway…


Maisie said...

So er, you gonna blog Orkney too?

The Chocolate Ocelot said...

Hmm, I thought I'd hand that honour over to my capable travelling companion...

Maisie said...