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News, Reviews and Booze (but no Boos).

EDINBURGH FRINGE 2010 REPORT NUMBER ONE

Well the madness has begun: flyers litter the streets and students dressed as pirates line the pavements thinking that the best way to get punters to come to see their thespian hi-jinks in Penzance is to yell at strangers and guffaw in a way only those with a vestige of youthful bravado left in them (soon to be dissipated by tax and broken dreams) can. And God has gleefully placed various ambling types between you and where you want to go, and they shamble along in a zig-zag as you try to get past. Even without clocking you, they manage to anticipate which direction you’re going to take to manoeuvre out of their way and block your path with deadly slowness: ambling human shields, precision-placed and impenetrable, walls of anorak-clad flesh determined to make you late for your fourth gig of the day as you realise you’ve said yes to one too many people.

Anyway: Days One and Two, Thursday 5th and Friday 6th  August

Previewers and Reviewers

A gentle start. A preview, so the pressure is off – just get the freshly honed show out there and in your head Toby. A decent fist of a crowd, enough for you to verbally map out your masterwork, consolidate it, identify the less certain and more fatty passages, and work your arse off on Friday to have it shipshape for preview two when the press are allowed in. And it works – Thursday a workmanlike and slightly (in places) tentative stab at an hour long version of the show that ties up all the loose ends. Some ends where tied more efficiently than others, though. No problem – have a look at those, reinsert forgotten jokes, reorder, and bingo! Friday flows much better and is finally the show as it needs to be, and is performed without too many fumbles. All good. Except, what’s this? Two press in on Thursday and none on Friday? That’s entirely the wrong way around! Dash and crikey. And shit. Oh well. As I wait tentatively and with irritation (it’s no-one’s fault, it was a communication breakdown inevitable in the flurry of the fringe) I have other things to do. One is to appear on Hardeep Singh Kohli’s Chat Masala, and to blog about it. Read about that adventure here.

Not the sort of showbiz circles I usually move in
Not The Sort Of Showbiz Circles I Usually Move In

Not sure I’d have personally given away the punchline in the title of the article, but never mind (Two Stars for that, title writer).

Then to the first F***ing Funny For A Fiver shows (three gigs in one evening on my first night here – perhaps a clue to why my decision to not drink was steadfastly maintained for about seven and a half minutes after show one). I’m compering these intermittently. I use my desire to unwind and my anger at the reviewer situation to fuel an inventive, if slightly long, opening, to prove to myself that I can be witty and spontaneous and delight an audience even without a refined and honed script. Banter, whimsy, comic flights of fancy – they all tumble out and I’m as surprised as anyone, revelling in the heady, freewheeling atmosphere you can only get at the craziness of the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s going well! Good work – karma restored, and the comedy Gods are smiling. They’re also, alas, refilling my wine glass far too quickly and all the heady expectation, disappointment, desire to please and sheer enormity of the situation lead to a rather more, um, wayward second section, where I all but undo the good work done in the first. Karmic balance knocked out of kilter again, resolutely fulfilling its mission to maintain that life is just, well, like that. Still, the comedians in the room enjoy watching the poison of Bacchus unravel my faculties in public, and entertainment that is had is of the kind the Romans would have thoroughly enjoyed. (So, first half, Five Stars, second half … hmm, Two). The other acts on were Mark Allen, Elis James, Sam Gore and The Boy With Tape On His Face who were all excellent. It’s a top notch late night show, albeit one with an occasional compere who promises he’ll never drink again.

Wife And (Good And Bad) Times

I’m sharing a flat with Jason and Clare Cook; this is good news as they’re splendid people who find it amusing when I get angry about things, and it’s far enough away for me to walk off any macaroni cheese pies I’m definitely not going to buy from Greggs, promise. My wife (an undisputed Five Stars, always and forever) has taken the long, six hour trek to Edinburgh to grab two all too short days with me. She arrives just in time for F***ing Funny For A Fiver, which provides perfectly timed evidence that she’d probably be better off if she hadn’t bothered. We had a couple of nice meals – one at a restaurant that shall remain nameless on The Royal Mile, that boasted a fine menu but service that was as enthusiastic but inefficient as a holiday rep attempting to disarm a nuclear missile with a pen-knife and some jam (Three Stars, being generous as it was only the second night). L’Escargot Bleu was a different affair – an authentic French vibe and casually brilliant food at respectable lunchtime prices (Four Stars).

Friday and Saturday saw her help me go through the gig, firm it up in my brain and really work it through, and emerge much better for it. All we could then do was wait for the reviews from Thursday. Out they came and they were fair enough for that first night, although I wish Chortle could extrapolate that a first preview gig from an experienced comic will inevitably tighten up by the time any potential punters arrive. I have to say they have form for not allowing for the symptoms of a preview, and the only criticisms in the review referred to obvious first night flaws rather than problems with the show (so I’ll only give them Two Stars, despite some decent insight and neat phraseology). Nonetheless, it reads like a coveted four star review – though that’s not matched by the rating, so ultimately it’s a missed opportunity for some poster adornment. Slightly disappointing, and a tad churlish, but hey ho, that’s what can happen when you let people in on a preview. A similar story with Three Weeks too, and that’s a publication where the reviewer you’re allocated is a real lottery. You’re often at the mercy of someone who has only got the job because they own a pen. I’ve seen some right howlers in there in the past, so to get one that uses its word count to accurately describe the show and make reasonable criticisms must be chalked up as a win (Three Stars to me, Four Stars to the reviewer).

Anyway, decide for yourselves;

Chortle

Three Weeks

So so far, solid if not sexy. Maybe I flirted with sexiness at my rock ‘n’ roll antics on F***ing Funny For A Fiver (I wished they’d called it Quite Amusing For The Price Of A Lady (Godiva), it’d trip off my tongue with far more élan, frankly), which just goes to show that sometimes, being sexy is no replacement for a mug of Horlicks and a good read.

In A Nutshell

So far (Three Stars).