The California Shakespeare Ensemble
The Space on North Bridge
Definitely the theatrical highlight of my Fringe. A small cast on a small and scenery-free stage interweave the meaty bits from Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice, concentrating on the villainy. I can't praise or recommend their acting highly enough. I'm pretty much a Shakespeare pleb and much prefer West Side Story to R and J, Throne of Blood to Macbeth and Forbidden Planet to The Tempest, but this company made the meaning of every single part of the plots perfectly clear through intonation, expression and body language. And the swordfights in Romeo and Juliet looked (and sounded) lethal, with foils, fists and knees flashing inches from us in the front row. Go see.
We then split the party on this last day, so that everyone can scamper off in different directions to catch whatever show(s) that have caught their eye this week. I have a personal shortlist, comprised of things that look interesting on the flyers I've been handed on the street, shows I've been meaning to catch anyway but have thus far missed (i.e. Ellie Taylor's Elliementary, which I tried and failed to see twice thus far), shows that friends have recommended and shows featuring people who've done guest slots in gigs I've seen this week.
Surname and Surname
Briony Redman and Paul Foxcroft
Hurrah! I typed Counting House correctly for the first time this week! No naughty typos for me! Surname and Surname were recommended by various chums on the Facebook and I'm jolly glad they did and that I found the time to catch this second helping of last year's show. The show takes me once again to the poky little Loft at the Counting House, not so much a comedy venue as a Japanese army punishment for uncooperative British officers. Foxcroft and Redman put on a great tight sketch show. Literally tight given the tiny Loft - Paul whacks his head on the slopey ceiling at least three times. Really polished stuff. I loved Briony's capital cities songs and Paul's turgid sci-fi prose, which brought to mind shades of Garth Marenghi, not least because of his Matt Berry-like tones. Definitely worth watching.
The Frooty Goose
This powerful one man show gets us up close and personal in a series of intense monologues from writer/director/actor Wollstonecraft, in which he portrays some of History's most notorious murderers, serial killers and sociopaths whilst gradually disrobing down to his flesh. Starting quietly enough with Dr Harold Shipman giving a little bedside chat to a patient, he moves through Raoul Moat, both Krays and the Acid Bath Murderer in a series of increasingly strident vignettes. As the pile of discarded clothing grows ever larger at the small audience's feet, the tension grows, leading to a truly in-your-face climax from the naked source of evil itself. Forget your Guy Mastersons and your Pip Uttons - Anders Wollstonecraft is the master of one man theatre.
Ed and Tommy Croft
Beat (another nondescript subterranean door opposite Underbelly)
I love the serendipity of the Fringe. If we hadn't seen a poster for Quantum Leap comedy improve show Oh Boy! yesterday, we wouldn't have switched shows and seen Ed Croft as the guest Sam Beckett, and I wouldn't have picked up a flyer for his own show Jollyboat. Which brings me to this secret pub chamber which must be almost under Chambers Street. Ed and brother Tommy put on a blistering hour of rock and pop comedy songs to the delight of all. My personal favourites are Rock 'n' Fucking Roll and Wednesday. At the end I want to make a donation (it's a free gig) and pick up a CD. I only have a £20 but I'm happy to slap it down in return for a great feel-good show.
Cry me a River: The Songs of Julie London
Kerry Jo Hodgkin
Jazz Bar (next to C on Chambers Street)
Now, bear in mind that the extent of my Julie London knowledge is just one song. The titular river number, as performed by Julie in the classic 50s film The Girl Can't Help It. On the strength of this I have brought Herself and CJ along to the ominously named Jazz Bar to see Kerry Jo Hodgkin in action. The clue is very much in the name of the venue, but I have failed to appreciate the jazzosity of the show. Kerry Jo's singing I love (and almost nod off to), Malcolm MacFarlane's guitar work I enjoy (he captures the simple twanginess of Cry Me A River perfectly, but the Ocelot just cannot be doing with your jazz trumpet, I'm afraid. I'm just chilling and enjoying the smooth mellowness of the music and singing, when this bloody wailing horn cuts in like a cat being pulled through a garden hose. And everyone claps after he stops noodling away. The only trumpet bits I do like are when it sounds like he's doing a waa-waaah sound effect from an old Tom and Jerry cartoon. So in conclusion: two-thirds lovely, three thirds lovely only if the Spirit of Jazz is within you.
McNeil and Pamphilon Go 8-Bit!
Steve Neil and Sam Pamphilon
Pleasance Dome (eventually. they started 40 odd minutes late due to technical issues, which I can believe)
How best to describe this? An interactive video game show with comedy guest stars, forfeits straight out of Shooting Stars and real audience participation? Like nothing else on the Fringe (well, apart from John Robertson's The Dark Room), the show divides to the audience into Team McNeil and Team Pamphilon and helpful helpers help us to log our smart phones in to the special 8-Bit server via WiFi, where we can register our nicknames and take part in the proceedings. A series of retro gaming rounds ensue, with guest comedians largely from the same Ditto Productions company, including the Beta Males and Jim Campbell, whilst Paul Foxcroft, who I've seen earlier in the day with Briony Redman, provides the commentary. Other guests include sweary Aussie Fringe veteran Brendon Burns doing a strange virtual reality helmet game (in which his actual glasses were the true losers) and WCW pro Colt Cabana (when they introduced him, I thought they said it was Torquemada) who later helped out with one of the forfeits, spinning Steve McNeil around and bodyslamming him Final Fight style after a successful PacMan forfeit involving half of the audience holding up mini cheddars for him to gobble. Top marks to Will from Clever Peter for devising the fiendish forfeits. I admit I had the fear that I would be called upon to sit up on stage and contribute my skills to Mario Karts Double Dash or Bomber Man but I dodged that bullet. Had they needed a pilot for a game of Elite on a BBC Model B though, I'd have been all over it baby. In the final round, the entire audience got to take part in a game of Democracy Pong, via our smart phones, just nudging Team Pamphilon across the winning line. Go us! Awesome, brilliant fun.
Thus our Fringe ends. CJ and I claim our Team Pamphilon badges from the helpful helpers and file out into the Edinburgh night. One last nutella crepe from the nearby Gilded Balloon food area, and it's back to base.
Until next year. I'll keep it short next year. Promise.