Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Chocolate Ocelot’s 2013 Fringe - Day Two

The Librarians
The Space on North Bridge

This was rather good indeed. Billed as a dark absurdist comedy, I’d describe it as comic Gormenghasty tale of murder, with a Gilliamesque ravening book monster and a talented young cast of grotesques. There are some really good lines of dialogue from writer Lewis Garvey and the physical acting is excellent, with nary a thrown book prop dropped. Funny, freaky and very watchable.

Nice work from UEA’s Minotaur company, who coped well with a few spotlighting glitches to earn an enthusiastic round of applause from the midday audience. Herself suggests that the make-up (kabuki style, much in the style of the old David Glass Gormenghast stage run from the 90s) could be a little tidier, a little subtler for a small venue with an up-close audience, but otherwise excellent.

Special well dones to Harry Denniston (Mandrake Hardbach) who brought a David Schneidery / Jason Flemyngy feel to the villainry and Michael Clarke (The Burbages, Percival Pulp) for his expressive facial range and array of Rich Fulcher-like characters (mostly murdered in a red-lit musical montage). As is my way, I spotted a couple of the cast later in the Grassmarket (Denniston and Beej Harris) to convey my enthusiasm, and to promise a good review online. And here it is.

C Too

Somehow, we’ve never been to this venue before, but C Too, tucked away right by the castle, is rather nice and cosy, almost secret. Guido! is the musical tale of Guy Fawkes, brought to us by the Guidophiles. Another young cast (where do they all come from) of seven, with minimal set, props and costume, they’ve managed a very well performed show.

Good musical numbers with some excellent duetting and ensemble singing. Sometimes we clapped after a number and sometimes we didn’t. We, as the audience, seemed to be unsure about the applause protocols. I would be happy to take a cue from an established source, perhaps someone on the lighting board at the back, or else a sign held up saying ‘APPLAUD’. I’m not fussy.

Coming out of the show, I realised I’d been sat next to the writer/director chap. Good thing I’d not said anything horrid! Went up afterward and congratulated him, and promised a good review (which is this one). He’s doing another show, but like a sad old muppet the title flew straight out of my head, as did the name of the show that the young lady with him was doing. I’m they’re both wonderful though. Anyway, there was much liking of our t-shirts and imprecations to tweet about them, so it was all good.

Herself has some observations about the health risks of bare foot performers, as seen in Guido, which I have promised to pass on (lie), but have encouraged her to do so on a viable forum such as Facebook.

Knightmare Live
Gilded Balloon

Welcome, watchers of illusion, to the castle of confusion. Have just come back from Knightmare Live at the Gilded Balloon. Freakin' awesomely hilarious. Great props, all the old music from the TV show, and Olgarth of legend!

Two hundred people in a crowded venue shouting Sidestep Left and Spellcasting S L O W at a grown man in a horned helmet. Go see if you can. Congrats to producer/Treguard Paul Flannery, Lord Fear Tom Bell, Mistress Goody Amee Smith and everyone involved for bringing a well-loved if admittedly slightly creaky children’s game show back to live on stage, with a reverential but tongue in cheek approach. Really ought to go on tour, if only so I don’t have to keep boring you all with my poor recreations of it from now on.

Plus, I had my photo taken wearing the Helmet of Justice.
I'm in a room...

Fast Film Noir
The Space @ Venue 45

Back to that Space. No, not that Space, the other Space. The one next door. Where we saw the Arthur thing. Ooh, it’s confusing for a dullard like me. Booked this show as it contained one of the magic trigger words which will leap out of the Fringe programme at me. Noir, like Zombie, Movie, and Playing And Subverting Traditional Gender Stereotypes are guaranteed to draw me in.

Fast Film Noir began after a short technical delay (I think the strobe light was on the blink. On the blink! Do you – oh please yourself) and we were welcomed into an LA night club in 1934. We know this because a helpful scene-sign (there’s probably a special theatre word for this) says so. Also there are many info sheets about the show strewn on our seats. Three young nightclub dancer ladies are keeping up a rhythmic hoochy coochy hip-dip thing in tune to the beat as we take our seats.

We are then treated to a condensed variation on The Big Sleep, with renamed characters (Munroe/Marlow) and a rewritten, darker ending. The only downside to adapting a Raymond Chandler story (or Dashiell Hammett for that matter) is that the plots tend to be bloody involved, double and triple cross heavy and exposition laden. I have enough trouble following the books, when I can stop and go back a few pages, let alone when delivered in real-time. But that’s just my problem.

But there are some great performances, especially from the statuesque Skye Hallam-Hankin in the Lauren Bacall role of Evelyn. Curiously, the role of Munroe/Marlow has been split over two actors, Nick Brown for the ‘on-screen’ sequences, and the Stefan Fletcher for the narration and bit parts. This can look a bit odd at times, with a double-vision Munroe in matching pin stripe suits and gats in hand, but they pull it off pretty well.

Some rather fine dance and song sequences, including a bit of crazy murderer lady tap, rounded out a pretty fine hour of film noir from the young Braindead theatre company.

Funeral Replacement Service
Necrobus, by Waverley train station

So our final show of the day. Couldn’t resist a play set on a double decker bus going round Edinburgh late at night. The bus itself is black and trimmed in red. Inside and upstairs, there are velvety red curtains and cute little lamps set in the walls. Downstairs there is a coffin.

We are guests at the funeral of bus driver Roger Cocksweets (pronounced co-sweets), hosted by an increasingly fretful chap who addresses us via web cam and TV screen from the bottom of the stairs as we jolt along the cobbled streets. It’s a kind of National Theatre of Brent type thing, with a few planted actors among the passengers upstairs.

At first Herself and I twigged a few more of our fellow passengers as plants, because they seemed to be a bit over the top as they yakked on about the magic shows and whisky tastings they’d been to. But they turned out to be just a bunch of appallingly real people. Worst of the bunch was the American woman with an expression like a slapped arse, who didn’t engage with the performance until absolutely forced to (she was bequeathed a spatula in Roger’s will), and instead sat staring at her digital camera screen.

I honestly don’t get that – you’ve paid money to see something and then sit there totally ignoring it, even when the actors are about three feet from you, tottering up and down the top deck aisle as we lurch around the back of Princes Street. I can only assume she’d been dragged on board by someone else, possibly the guy sat next to her who looked like he’d just realised – too late – that this show would not be his lady friend’s thing.

Anyway, the performance itself was pretty good, though the material was a bit light on the comedy in places. The two younger performers, playing the deceased relatives Sharon and Trevor, were very good, especially Sharon’s interpretive dance in memory of Roger. It probably was a shade too long at an hour, and perhaps needed a slightly rethought host character (perhaps less hapless and obviously overwhelmed, and instead outwardly cool and hilariously losing it whenever he stepped off the bus to take a call, in the style of Fawlty).

The main problem though is the format of course. We’re on a double decker bus, so much of the action is taking place downstairs, leaving us with an upstairs TV screen to watch. This kind of forces you into a more passive watching telly at home mode, whether you like it or not. Plus, we’re sat upstairs on a lurching bus circumnavigating Edinburgh for an hour, cobbled streets and all. There was more than one green face by the end of the show I can tell you. But it was still quite an experience.

Have only just worked something out. The bus is part of Ghost Bus Tours. Ghostbustours. Who you gonna call? Only just got that. Tch.

Stuff which is not show reviews

Managed finally to rendezvous with Dr Foot and Mitchell in between The Librarians and Guido!, thanks to some detective work on my part, working out where his texted ‘Jack Ruby’ show was being held. The Space @ Surgeons Hall is a rather nice place to sit, eat and wait for chums to emerge from a show there. Plus we scored some free promotional halloumi.

Catching up with the boys, who are here until Monday, they tell us that The Birdhouse is the mentallest thing they’ve ever seen, Richard Herring is still on top form (which is good to hear, as we’ll be seeing him too), and that K**t and the Gang (which I’ve always wanted to see) is incredibly funny but exceedingly near the knuckle (or possibly halfway up the finger). I should’ve guessed as much from the photo of Jimmy Saville in the Fringe programme. Alumni of the Derek and Clive school of comedy, the boys are fans of the more hardcore turns like Gerry Sadowitz or Jim Jeffries. I may have to sneak along to see K**t myself some time. Probably on my own.

We bid them farewell with fingers crossed that they will enjoy Colin Hoult’s Real Horror Show, which was our recommendation to them. Oh, the crushing pressure of endorsed comedy. ‘Oh, you’ll love this, it’s really funny…’

For the second day running, two fighter jets have streaked over the city at low altitude around 7:30pm. It was feckin’ terrifying. I’m not sure if they’re patrolling at Mach 2 for Al Qaeda outrages at the Fringe, but frankly I and doubtless every pet in the city would appreciate a quieter approach to Midlothian air superiority please, the RAF. Hang-gliding snipers perhaps.

I must say, our timetable t-shirts are proving an enormous success. It’s only been two days, but I’ve not once had to dig around in my rucksack for an increasingly tattered printed spreadsheet. Instead I just squint blearily at Herself’s chest, occasionally jabbing an inadvertent boob whilst searching for our next event. If only I’d had a map of Edinburgh with the numbered venues printed on my trousers, we’d be all set.

But an equally splendid benefit to the t-shirt timetables has been the unexpected amount of social interaction they generate. Only two days in, and we’ve already had conversations struck up with the moderately confused frontman of the Barioja tapas on Jeffreys Street, various young ladies in headsets directing punters around venues, a nice guy working behind the counter at Forbidden Planet (like I wasn’t going to duck in there at the first opportunity), appreciative older Fringers with their own timetables and most recently the chap who runs all the Space venues, Charles Pamment. He seemed to value our passion and support, especially in this first week when shows are really keen for decent reviews early on. A nice chap.

Note of warning to any potential Fringe-goers: the chances of the seemingly random person you end up chatting to in a queue or a venue bar being an actor, writer or director are quite high. So unless you really don’t care about crushing their hopes and dreams with your unvarnished opinions of anything you may have seen at the Fringe, it is best to be fulsome or at least civil in your praise of the event you’ve just come out of. Chances are they wrote it, this is only the second preview day, and they’re in need of positive punter feedback. Play it right and they’ll be all beams and requests for you to tweet your review asap. In fact, it seems to be a good idea to generally slip the word ‘review’ into any conversation with a show-person, as they tend to get the idea you’re a roving blogger with a massive career-making readership, so it’s win-win all round.

A quick note about tickets to the EdFringe organisers for next year: Your tickets contain a lot of information about each event – time, price, production company – but not the venue number. So If I’m sat on a busy street full of venues, say the Royal Mile, with only the event ticket and a tatty venue map that I may or may not have torn out of the back of a Fringe programme in the foyer of the Space on North bridge while nobody was looking, I may have some trouble matching venue to event. Good thing we put the venue numbers on our t-shirts! Hurrah for us!

Seen in a pub window: Haggis Balls In Batter. Poor haggises, harvested for their tender love plums. They cut them off young, you know.

Things you will see a lot of at the Fringe: young ladies in vintage clothing and retro red lipstick. Probably with their thick young hair wound up into pretty rolled-up styles. They all do it just to mock my own ageing lank mop. They’re not even in a show, I’ll bet! Tomorrow there will be lots of upside-down hair spraying afore I venture out. Oh yes.

Observation: The Pie Maker on South Bridge (or possibly Nicolson Street) is, Herself contends, either full or empty. This may indeed be down to some cosmic Either-Or quality of the establishment, or more likely due to it being the size of a cupboard so that three customers feels like Full and one customer feels like Empty.

Seen on the Street near Surgeons Hall, middle aged women clogging to electro music. Clogging is good. It speaks to me in some sort of hillbilly race memory fashion. Herself calls it ‘rubbish stuff’. Much like Jon Snow, she knows nothing.

The traditional pilgrimage to Greyfriars Bobby has now taken place. An unattractive photo of the Ocelot hugging the statue may or may not be available at some point. Nice to see so many other followers (adherents? Bobbers?) of Wee Bobby’s teachings too. I really feel like part of something.

Another idea for a musical, based on the life of the father of psychoanalysis. It’s called Sang Freud.

Tomorrow I am taking Herself to see Avenue Q so we can sing along to The Internet Is For Porn, one of the finest songs to emerge from the musical scene.

1 comment:

matt's mom said...

You may want to check out Way Back - good plot but same background as Guido!