Monday, 4 August 2014

The Chocolate Ocelot's 2014 Fringe - Day Two

Well, yesterday's attempt at brevity didn't go so well, did it? Is there such a condition as chronically verbose? Can I claim benefit for it, or maybe wear some sort of rubber band about my wrist to show my awareness of the very real pain and heartache it can cause for sufferers (by which, dear reader, I mean you)? I fear not.

Right, on with Day Two. Which is now yesterday. I'm writing this up on the morning of Day Three in the vain hope that a night's sleep will have caused the day's events to have faded sufficiently to result in a briefer write-up. So far, so not good. Maybe I need to get properly into the Fringe spirit and drink more (i.e. at all) and blank out all this extra memory that's clogging up my head.

Which leads me nicely on to the subject of ear-worms, or 'tunes you can't get out of your head'. I currently have three in my head, none of which, ironically, featured in Andrew O'Neill's Now That's What I Call Ear-Worms routine from Day Two (more later). Having one in your head on a constant fricking loop is bad enough, but I have not only the first two lines of I'm A Sock from The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre's opening number (also more later), but also (ironically) Andrew O'Neill's Man From Kent routine and my very own contribution to the world of ear-wormery True Detective of Thrones, which is essentially me singing (may be putting it too strongly) the title of the recent popular cop series to the tune of Game of Thrones; it really is very catchy.

Three ear worms battling for supremacy inside my head. It's a wonder true detective true detective I can get anything out you can wear me on your feet not on your cock and onto the keyboard with all this 'ere 'e is, Pythagoras going on, it really is. On the plus side, it does make for an awesome telepathic shield. The combined mental powers of Professor X, Alfred Bester's psi-cops and them freaky blond kids from Village of the Damned couldn't get a thought out of me.

Some further tips on getting the most out of your Fringe. My handy-dandy daily gig map is proving to be invaluable. No more working out where we are, what the name off that road over there is and figuring out the best route across town to the next venue. Now we simply unfurl my awesome map, complete with my lovely Visio 2010 transparency 50% arrow overlays (surely the only vector diagramming tool for the professional planner (Microsoft take note - I am happy to whore myself out for your product)). Many are the impressed gasps of admiration from the performers and fellow audience members as we peruse our mighty map. Doubtless you could get the same result with one your apps on your modern mobile phones, but none of the romance.

Thus the maps, in concert with our timetable t-shirts and laminated day planners, continue to draw the admiration of all we meet. I'm pretty sure it's admiration. A lot of these people are trained actors. They could be masking their shock that we've been allowed out without supervision behind a polite word and a bemused expression, the deceitful dogs.

I must also stress the importance of sturdy and comfortable footwear if you're intending to tromp back and forth across the town to venues. Edinburgh is far from flat and a tidy step away from uncobbled. The sight of tottering young ladies failing to negotiate the rough terrain (reduce to 50% Move) and very nearly going A over T is entertaining but potentially injurious. Wise up and slip on a nice pair of Silver Shadows; they are, to quote my dad, like putting your feet inside clouds. I get all my words from him.

One last tip. Tired of being flyered wherever you go by performers and crew? Sick of being handed postcards with hastily stapled-on Kate Copstick reviews every 12 feet down the Royal Mile? Then simply follow this simple tip to render yourself invisible! Print yourself out a fake ID, get it laminated and hang it round your neck. To the casual eye, you'll look like another weary performer or crew member yourself, on your way to a gig or back to your digs. The flyerers will see you as one of their own and ignore you. Like when Rick and the other covered themselves in decomposing zombie goo in The Walking Dead. Try it. It really works, we hardly got any flyers yesterday. One of us, one of us...

On with the reviews.

Ellie Taylor
Counting House

Like all (I think) the shows at the Counting House and the Blind Poet next door, this is a free show. And it seems that like the increasing norm for free shows, it's also unticketed. Meaning you get in on a first-come first-served basis. We did not come first, nor second nor even twentieth, thus we failed to get in to see Ellie Taylor off of Snog Marry Avoid. Which is great for her but less so for us. Curse her for being so blimin' popular. I blame whoever gave her those rave reviews last year.

So, what to do, what to do...

But wait! Who's that on the stair of the Counting House waiting to perform? Why, it's Mr CJ Hooper and Marjorie, about to do a turn on Shit of the Fringe!

Shit of the Fringe
Counting House

The premise is that a variety of folks who've had crap reviews talk about their experience of getting reviews, what it's like doing the Fringe, and also showcase a bit of their act, MCed by the charming Dave Chawner, who has his own show Over It about anorexia. we are treated to short sets from Italian Londoner and opera lover Giacinto Palmieri, Iranian-Brit and Mufasa from The Lion King impersonator Sahar Mahadi, long-time Fringer performer and fellow lover all things geek Rob Deb, and of course Mr CJ Hooper who treated us to a masterclass in sign language swearing and how to recognise the 5 stages of sexual harassment.

All of this took place in the attic of the Counting House, and small triangular black space who's crampedness is equalled only by its hotness. The performers have to crane forward so as not to brain themselves on the eves of the roof and even then Sahar Mahadi (not the tallest of women) managed to bonk her head on the back at one point. I hope she hasn't got any lasting dents.

Christian Cagigal

Yes, I know there's no official Magic category in the Fringe, but I don't care. In point of fact, Obscura is close-up magic. Close up card magic at that. Hailing from San Francisco, Christian Cagigal is most charming, with deft hands and a lovely storyteller's voice. With the aid of a small card table, a cigar box of tiny props, an overhead camera and a large screen, he brings us a series of tricksy tales of gamblers, curses, and deals with the Devil. Even when he selects members of the small but enthralled audience to help him onstage (including Herself) with a trick he is solicitous and inclusive. A joy to watch and listen to. I hope he does well here at his first Fringe.

Also the loos and seating area at the Gryphon (conference centre out west) were most acceptable.

Winter Is Coming
Backwards Anorak
Gilded Balloon

When the show starts with an ensemble a capella rendition of the Game of Thrones theme tune, I know I'm going to enjoy this. What follows is a highly entertaining musical presentation of George RR Martin's fantasy phenomenon, filtered through the increasingly frictional antics of a small dramatic company, dominated by the divo Vince, who absolutely must play Khaleesi Daenerys, despite having a physique more suited to Khal Drogo.

Some great musical numbers here, and good use of minimal props (wolfhead hats, blond wigs and so forth). as the storyline is repeatedly mixed up with Narnia, LotR and even Harry Potter. Some rewarding shout-outs for genre fans including a decent Tyrion speech mashup, and well choreographed dance numbers.

Sadly a couple of guys in the very front middle of the audience, immediately in front of us in fact, didn't seem to get it. They had their heads down even writing or texting, throughout. Rude. Who pays good money for a show and then ignores it, right at the front? Must have been complementary tickets I guess.

I saw three of the cast later in the day, and they brought the subject up, so it must have affected them (though the performance hadn't suffered as far as I could tell). I assured them that those guys were just wankers.

Go see.

Andrew O'Neill

A damn fine quality free gig downstairs at this pub near the Tron. Always a pleasure to watch Andrew O'Neill work, and since we couldn't massage the timetable enough to squeeze in his History of Heavy Metal show, it's handy we can catch this presentation of his more accessible material.

What I like about Andrew is his engaging manner and nonsequitur format, switching back and forth between 3 or 4 different comedy threads with a wink and a chirpy Sarf London twang. It is at this show that I am infected with Man From Kent, and am also treated to obscure Zygon and Horror of Fang Rock shout-outs.

He seems to recognise me afterward and gives me a hug. We're like friends now. If he was involved in car crash near my remote wintry cabin, I would almost certainly pull him from the wreckage and nurse him back to a semblance of health, with only minor hobbling.

Looking forward to seeing him and the rest of The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing playing later in the year.

Also I like his Plague of the Zombies tattoo.

Improlapsed Catholics
St Aldhelm's Comedy Players
The Frooty Goose

Because you have to see at least cheap-ass show with an impro pun in the title right? This crowd of failed priests, monks and nuns put on several shows every day, to coincide with the canonical hours of worship. Obviously there was no way we were going to catch their Matins performance, but Vespers was highly entertaining, with various quick-fire sketches being devised on the spot, usually based on a lesson from the Bible, a 'which freak monster from Revelations has just turned up to the party?' game and a 'guess the form of martyrdom' sketch. I understand the Compline show later on has the game 'I'm So Mortified!', in which one of the performers castigates himself in a manner of the audience's choosing whilst devising a comedy narrative around a household object, literary genre and a catchphrase. Worth keeping an eye on. 

Zombie Science: Brain of the Dead
Zombie Institute for Theoretical Science
C on Chambers Street

Presented by Glaswegian scientist Dr Austin, this lecture on zombie brain physiology is in fact only partly comedy spoof. A lot of it is based in real medical fact, with proper parts of the brain and actual medical condition and everything, all of which Herself approves. There are a number of good experiments using the audience and a pleasantly comedic slideshow. At the end of the show, Dr Austin is happy to take questions from the audience and is able to field a number of zombie-based queries with a mixture of actual science knowledge and zombie genre geekery, displaying an appreciation of the Walking Dead, 28 Days Later and the Romero oeuvre. Decent stuff and nicely presented, and oddly child-friendly.

What Do You Mean
Ego Actus
Spotlites @ Merchant Hall

A small enthusiastic American troupe puts on a play about a play about a play. I think. It's very very meta, with the writer writing the procurer's lines, the designer taking over the keyboard, and the intern taking time-outs to explain various theatrical concepts such as Blocking to the audience. It may have been just a bit too meta, as I think we struggled to follow the various levels of the plot as it broke the fourth wall, rewrote itself and skipped over dialogue. I wish them good luck in their run here.

And So Am I
The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre
Gilded Balloon

What's not to love about the Socks? One man, two socks, one ricketty tartan puppet stand, an increasingly croaking squeaky voice, some double act schtick and a few songs. No better way to end the day. Well done Mr Kev Sutherland and hopefully see you in your comic artist guise at the Lakes Comic Art Festival later in the year.

Herself and CJ nip off for a post-midnight Ghost Stories session courtesy of Will Seaward and I treat myself to my second crepe of the day (I like to keep regular) at the Gilded Balloon. And so to bed. Until the buggers stagger in drunk an hour later.

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