Wednesday 12th August 2015
All has become strange, in the words of the one who wasn't Kim Catrall in Big Trouble In Little China. Days run together and lose their meaning. Mornings are the brief minutes between waking up and tearing out the flat for our first gig.
Once again I find myself in the back half of our Fringe week, with the end in sight laying a slight dampener on the funtimes.
A brief word on apps. The Edfringe app is quite good for reminding us what the actual name and address of each venue is; even with our fastidiously constructed timetable 'pon t-shirt and handy lammie look-up cards, we've only noted down the venue number, not whether it's this pub or that hall, the cellar of this restaurant or the upstairs of that hotel.
Also: the Transport for Edinburgh app, if you can get it to work, is jolly handy for working out which bus one needs to get from A to B. Comes with a handy map and timetable, which is infinitely more helpful than the notices on the actual bus stops, which presuppose that you have a map of Edinburgh in your head and so simply list strange street names.
Both free and worth downloading.
Warning: apps only work if your sad old smartphone has not run out of juice by 4pm after taking far too many photos of Herself drinking various beverages and posting up hilariously captioned pics of baby gherkins. Or that could just be me.
This is the Free Fringe venue where you have to go to the bar beforehand and get a 'token' to allow entry into the gig space downstairs. It's where we failed to get in to see Robin Ince a couple of years back. The tokens this year are little rubber superbouncyballs. I find it very hard to resist bouncing them off walls in the style of Virgil Hits from The Great Escape, and instead attempt to do David Bowie from Labyrinth impressions by rolling them in my palm and going 'Saaarah'.
Anyway, this show features Baba Brinkman, the Canadian rapper who we saw last year do the Canterbury Tales (check out his CD for the Beowulf and Gilgamesh raps). This year he hooks up with his Actual Wife, neuroscientist Dr Heather Berlin, to demonstrate how the brain improvises, which parts are active when, and to lay down a few rap beats along the way.
An older fellow called Bill from the audience does some excellent volunteer rapping as part of the experiments, and both Brinkman and Berlin take turns with brain diagrams, multitasking demos and freestyle rap. A jolly good show.
I suppose I ought to briefly mention where we've been staying. Our Morningside base camp is a flat in a big ol' building that must be well over 100 years old. The stairs that wind up three floors are worn and bowed substantially in the middle, almost like water's been running down the steps for the last century.
Also the hallways are painted a thick blood red up to head height. It is moderately disturbing, like that deck on HMS Victory.
Sorry - this bit is completely out of chronological order. I told you all has become strange.
Over the Norloch for me and Herself now. She to see a one-woman Rosetti's Women play, me to see the terribly nice Aidan Goatley put on his 10 Films show for the fifth year. Finally, finally, I get to see it - was too knackered to hike across town last year.
Personally, I loved the show because he's about my age and it's about growing up watching certain films - Jaws, Aliens and the classic football/POW film Escape To Victory. There are some charming video clips of Aidan and his dog 'recreating' movie scenes and some lovely stuff about him and his loud, naval engineer father.
Worth staying around for the credits at the end: there's a recipe for his mum's sponge cake and a bonus dog scene.
Also, he was wearing a Bob Layton Iron Man t-shirt and has lots of cool comic-book tattoos.
Time for some more musical fun now. Herself's choice is this comedy about two mismatched American teens clashing (and of course falling in love) at Sarah Chastity's Christian Camp for Kids - a sort of Midwest madrassa.
The two young performers - theatre founders Bethan Francis and Dan Peter Reeves - act and sing in full-on American Musical Nasal Tones admirably well, she especially sounding like the archetypal Broadway Disney heroine. A lovely little show with good songs and tight choreography on a stage the size of the pole-dancing nook in Flashdance.
The newsroom itself is a good place to east and drink, though we are now worried that Herself got the meat haggis with her nachos instead of the veggie version. Make your food order clear, food fans.
Our most expensive Fringe ticket this year. A 90-minute private tour of Edinburgh's version of the London Dungeon, framed by a murder that we 'detectives' have to solve. It all starts rather cheesily, with a lisping Holmesian detective Abberline, sporting deerstalker and Harry Potter specs, on the trail of Jack the Ripper (since Edinburgh doesn't have enough killers of its own apparently) with his assistant PC McWatson (ugh), taking us to meet the underworld kingpin Judge Mental, a name that becomes increasing irritating over the next hour and a half.
There is some initial nonsense about members of the audience being accused of silly crimes, then there is a murder and we are led around the dungeon in deep gloom, to meet the various denizens of the Edinburgh underworld and get a few frights from the Dungeon's ghost-train effects. There's a pitch black boat ride, many a flashing light, things dangling in your face and benches that have been rigged to pulsate under one's seated bum in a manner either disturbing or arousing, depending on your taste. Possibly both - distousing?
Among the characters we meet in our search for clues are a torturer, a madam, a mad poisoner woman and cannibal father and daughter Sawney and Bonnie Bean. For my money the performance by the anthropophagous and yet still cute Bonnie Bean was the most creepy and amusing.
It all ends with a summing up of the case, examination of the evidence and the audience voting for their suspected killer. We get it dead wrong. There's also a final twist that we got dead right.
Oh, and there's one of them awful vertical drop rides. The one where you all sit on a long bench thing that chugs up into the air and drops away, leaving your bottom in freefall for a second or two. I fear I may have embarrassed myself somewhat during my descent.
Warning: the whole tour is very gloomy and involves lots of steps and narrow corridors. Combine that with some of the 'disguises' we were issued (in my case an eyepatch) and you're running the risk of walking into something or tripping. There were a lot of elderly people on our tour and I did worry that there might be a breakage or two.
Space Triplex, Hill Place
Somehow I've managed to get us to see two different plays about Countess Erzebet Bathory this year. Must be something subliminal, probably to do with my Ingrid Pitt fixation.
This was a new venue for us, halfway between the Pleasance and the Gilded Balloon. Oddly, they did not seem to have a separate backstage for the cast to wait to go on, and it felt weird to be queuing up before the show surrounded by the young people that we were about to watch, especially as they were all in costume but very much not in character at the time.
This is a highly stylised midnight performance in the round from the predominately female Fourth Monkey cast. The black and white tiled floor is dominated by a massive bloody stain and a white bath. There's some nice first-year drama school business with all the cast rolling around in slow motion being trees or something and nice use of red rags to signify the copious bloodletting, reminiscent of the David Glass Ensemble Gormenghast, many years ago.
Costumes are mostly effective, apart from a couple of the chaps in nowt but plain grey shirts, and nice to see lots of different (though almost uniformly batty) female characters driving the story. Gory grand guignol stuff.
Worth noting that a far as I can tell, this same company do 4 different shows every day: Rapunzel, followed by Little Red Cap followed by Hansel and Gretel. And then a late night Bloody Countess. Now that's a proper full working day.
I picked up a bunch of Secret Wars comics from Forbidden Planet. Amazingly, the one I liked the most was the least likely on first glance - the clumsily title Age of Ultron vs Marvel Zombies written by veteran James Robinson of Starman fame.
The biggest let-down was Where Monsters Dwell, written by Garth Ennis and art by Russ Braun; the concept of WWI pilot the Phantom Eagle vs dinosaurs should have been a no-brainer, but the art is only so-so (despite a beautiful cover for #2) and takes about 90 seconds to read.
Have you noticed how I've completely dropped the haiku and poem angle? Yeah, it's too hard. Back to rambling reportage for me.
Today's account has waaay more film references than all the others so far. I am reverting to type.