Friday, 31 August 2012

Edinburgh Festival - Day Two (Part Two)

Edinburgh Festival - Saturday 11th August

With a couple of hours to kill it was time to wander the streets, admiring some of the street acts along the way including a man stood upside down with his head in a bucket as well as the golden postbox for Chris Hoy. These distractions (and some poor map-reading) meant we missed the next free comedy show we intended to see, it had something about Jesus in the title, and had to settle for a pint stood outside laughing at intoxicated people in general rather than one man on a stage.
'Bucket-Man'- not the greatest superhero power
After learning from our previous mistake we made it to the next show early, so early we had to actually queue before going in, and had time to get another pint. This was for what was billed as 'Andrew O'Neill and Marc Burrows do Music and Comedy and Hideous Murders'. Thankfully there was an even spread of the first two and none of the latter as this was essentially a performance by half of the comedy/steampunk outfit The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing.
Old School Executions
The show was split into four sections, starting with some acoustic renditions from their aforementioned band. Luckily for those unaware of what steampunk is they breifly gave an explanation, it's for people who like to dress up like it's the Victorian ages and has little to do with the likes of The Clash or Sex Pistols. Having said that, these two proceeded to inject some punk attitude into their music after complaining about the majority of so called steampunk bands been crap. Songs such as 'Bedlam' about the old mental asylum and 'Steph(v)enson', mainly about George were a mixture of musical, educational and most importantly comical, combining their love of all things Victorian with music that made you want to put on a bowler hat and join in.
The second part consisted of Andrew O'Neill doing his more alternative blend of comedy, covering the more obscure topics such as being a transvestite and attempting to serenade a lady with lyrics from Cannibal Corpse. After another musical interlude it was Mr Burrows turn, and whilst he still raised a chuckle his stand-up wasn't quite as unique or amusing as Mr O'Neill's which explains how he manages to charge £10 for his solo show whilst Mr Burrows' is free. Ending with one last musical number this was certainly a hidden gem well uncovered, and considering it was free when so many average comedians manage to charge for an hour of mild amusement. Speaking of which...
Unfortunately no hopscotch was played in the show
Obviously not learning from our mild disorganisational adventures from before we hot-footed it to Pleasance courtyard to see Shappi Khorsandi: Dirty Looks and Hopscotch. We arrived bang on 8.30 only to be told to wait outside as the show had started, which led to us having to go in (luckily followed by about 10 other latecomers) and get a personal greeting from Shappi. Thankfully that was all it was and we managed to sit down straight away avoiding any further embarrassment, unlike the man in the front row who had to leave for the toilet before the end.
The show centered around Shappi's recent relationship with her rockstar ex-boyfriend, and while her storytelling was great and frequently raised a smile there were few moments of genuine hilarity. With almost all the material about this one subject it started to get a bit tiresome and whilst not a bad show it just felt a bit average, especially after seeing Andrew O'Neill for free.
Shit-faced Shakespeare
The final act of the day we were to see was without a doubt the strangest, Shit-faced Shakespeare. Just like the cast we were surprised to find that more than ten people had bought tickets and also didn't really know what was going to unfold. As it turned out the show entailed one of the cast members had started drinking at 5pm (the show started at 10pm), was therefore shit-faced and had to struggle through a performance of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Not quite what Shakespeare intended.
The drunkard played, or at least attempted to play, Lysander in a scaled down version of the classic. So whilst the other three, sober actors rang out their lines perfectly we were left waiting as the drunkard slurred, forgot and replaced his lines with other more amusing bits of dialogue. The other catch was that two audience members had a gong and a whistle which they could ring any time in the show and he had to drink a bottle of beer to presumably keep his, erm spirits up.

I bet his parents are proud
What started out as quite entertaining, and certainly a unique idea, did start to drag a little as the other actors and actresses repeated their lines time and again whilst the drunkard played up to being on stage. There was also the issue as to how drunk he really was. If he was as drunk as they claimed then he did well to reel out some of the lines he did, but likewise if his intoxication was all an act then it was one of the best pieces of acting I've ever seen. Either way he played up to being the centre of attention brilliantly.
The real star of the show was Puck however, coming on in scenes by himself, dancing around and providing moments of genuine comedy without the aid of alcohol. Definitely one of the odder shows on at Edinburgh and if different is what you're looking for it's well worth a look, although the novelty factor does wear off.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Edinburgh Festival - Day Two (Part One)

Edinburgh Festival - Saturday 11th August

After arriving back to the shed, sorry 'cocoon', that was to be our hotel for the night we scanned through the listings, made a few choices for the next day and went to sleep on the surprisingly comfy beds, or glorified, leather padded benches that they were.
Those tissues aren't there for what you think
I'd like to say I slept soundly, I wish I had slept soundly, but that was not to be the case as I was awoken to a constant whisper of 'Graham, Graham, did you see that?'. Rather than stating the obvious 'No of course not, as unlike fish I sleep with my eyes closed!' I mumbled all my brain could process at 5am,  'What?'. As my shed-mate pointed to a slight movement in the walls I tried to explain it was probably just a spider, by grunting 'spider, sleep', until I saw four claw like imprints running up the wall and had to conced there was something bigger there. Luckily this was all on his side of the shed/hut/cocoon so I went straight back to sleep.

Spider Rat
In the real morning, the morning time when people actually get up, around 10am, we reassured ourselves that it must be a pair of squirrels not rats living in the underlining of our shed, as surely rats can't climb up curved wooden structures? Anyway, encounters with wildlife aside and it was back to the Edinburgh festival for a sausage sandwich, day planning, ticket buying and sitting around in a park half-listening to a band play child-friendly hits from the 1940s such as this beauty:

So it was onto our first show of the day entitled 'Appointment with The Wicker Man'. This was a production by the National Theatre of Scotland performed in the fancy Assembly Rooms so it was all set up to be a cracking show. And that it was.

For anyone who's seen the original Wicker Man (with Sir Christopher Lee, not the 'modern' Nicholas Cage tripe), this was essentially a play within a play whereby a northern Scottish amateur drama company attempt to put on a jazzed up version of The Wicker Man, featuring Glee styled musical numbers and all. Although their leading man has disappeared so a replacement is brought in which leads to various parallels between the film and happenings within the club, climaxing in a metal (for health and safety reasons) wicker man being brought out.

Nutritious AND delicious
The small main cast of six were absolutely superb, each playing their part brilliantly and the script shone through as every comedic element raised at very least a chuckle from the packed out audience. Even if you are yet to see The Wicker Man (it's been out nearly 40 years now!), it's still a fantastic experience as my comrade who is yet to see it can confirm, claiming it to be the best thing all weekend- and he ate a deep fried Mars Bar!   

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Edinburgh Festival - Day One

Edinburgh Festival- Friday 10th August

  After visiting the Edinburgh festival for the first time last year I was back for three days this time to experience a variety of interesting, funny and downright bizarre acts.
  For those unaware, the trip last year was one of the most disorganised outings ever undertaken by anyone, ever. It would take pages to explain everything but basically we decided 9 hours beforehand (around 11.30pm on a Friday night) that we were going. With nowhere booked to stay. For a Saturday night. In Scotland's capital city. In the middle of August. In the middle of the World's biggest comedy and performing arts festival.
  Thankfully it all worked out as at around 10pm on Saturday we found the only hotel in Edinburgh with a spare room and avoiding the seemingly inevitable sleeping in the car.
The accomodation
  This year was planned far better, the accomodation was booked a whole 18 hours in advance, which meant we could actually relax and not spend half the time asking every hostel/hotel/B&B/homeless shelter whether they had a spare bed or four. There were unpromising signs before we set off however, as some miscommunication between our party led to one member dropping out before we'd even made it out of Leeds. This meant upon arrival at our lodgings some hard negotiations were made with the Polish owners so that we could cancel one of the huts. Basically we told a little white lie (he was ill and had to drop out) and they let us off. Only later would we come to discover why they were so lenient.
 When we eventually arrived in Edinburgh and found a parking space, after embarrassingly having to reverse out of a multi-storey season-pass only car park, we realised neither of us had a clue who or what was really on this year. Luckily after collecting nearly 100 flyers, pamphlets and guides in the first ten minutes we were soon aware that there was unsurprisingly around 2,600 acts performing. By now it was starting to get dark so we quickly scanned through the listings for the evening, decided upon Reginald D Hunter, discovered he was sold out so plumped for Andrew Lawrence instead.

 Andrew Lawrence is one of those comedians whose name you'd vaguely recall but upon seeing him instantly recognise, especially when hearing his distinctive voice. This is partly due to his appearances on the likes of Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow and Live At The Apollo but also because he's been doing comedy for 9 years now. Despite this he was recently described as 'up and coming' by in one review!
 Entitled 'Andrew Lawrence Is Coming To Get You', and accompanied by a creepy photo, it didn't bode well for my comrade looking to avoid any audience interaction whatsoever. Luckily for him it was only those in the front row, including some over enthusiastic students forced to plug their drama production, who were singled out and got off fairly lightly.
 His one hour slot was exactly what was to be expected for anyone who has seen even a glimpse of him before, top class comedy covering a range of topics, from the standard jokes about relationships to how shit life can be. There were also a few jokes thrown in that tested the inappropriate boundaries of course, although how a joke about Madeline McCann got a more distasteful reaction than one about the far more recent Batman shootings I'll never know. Maybe it shows more about the values of society than what is deemed tasteful or not.