The first full day of our fringe, and I was up early this morning; to write up yesterday’s blog entry, nip to Tesco’s to buy coffee which I forgot to bring with me, and nip next door to use the free wi-fi. (Thanks again, Plez Courtyard.) While I was sat at the table drinking coffee and tapping away furiously at the laptop to put up yesterday’s blog (which understandably made flyerers think I was actually a proper journalist and so they kept coming up and asking who I was working for. I was tempted at one point to say, in a strong Russian accent, “I could tell you but I’d have to kill you”, but then realised this was the fringe and that wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary at all and they’d probably expect me to go into some site-specific one-hour monologue about my escape from the KGB.) Anyway…
While I was typing away I was offered four comps (that’s complimentary tickets, if you don’t know) to a show called Back To School. More of that later. I was joined by my colleagues at the table in the courtyard, and we resisted the urge to open our first can of Fosters (normal drinking hours do not apply at the Fringe) while waiting to be compped.
It didn’t take long. We acquired our first tickets of the day, for a production by Magpie Puppet Company’s The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart. Based on the novel by Mathias Malzieu, this is a truly wonderful piece of theatre. A talented and versatile group of actors tell the story of Jack, the boy whose life is saved at birth when he is given a cuckoo clock to replace his weak and failing heart, but who is warned, “never, ever, fall in love”. Well, guess what happens? Yep, he falls in love. Cue tragic consequences.
I’m actually trivialising it a bit there for comic effect; the story is simple and beautifully told, and seeing this production makes me want to seek out and read the original novel. The cast are brilliant, and there is some masterful puppet manipulation here. This was, and remains, my outstanding pick of the fringe so far.
Monday and Tuesday are 2for1 days at the fringe. We had already planned with military precision the shows we wanted to see, so in a rare gap in proceedings we decided to go to the box office and buy all our tickets in one go. Ten minutes and £400 later, we were all sorted!
After that we sat in the Courtyard in the heavy rain for a bit, sheltering under the huge Foster’s-sponsered umbrellas while sodden and depressed looking flyerers came to half-heartedly tell us about their shows. We then decided to go in to see Winston on the Run. I was attracted to see this because of it’s cast: one actor called Freddie Machin, who I’d seen in a friend’s production a few years ago at the White Bear in London. I recall him being quite mesmerising to watch in that, and was interested to see what he’d do in this one man show (which he’s also written) about Winston Churchill’s escape from a prison-of-war in 1899. It was very good; a well constructed script and well acted by Machin.
Next came the show I’d been compped for first thing. It was more of a site-specific experience than a show, called Back To School. We all met at an agreed point and were marched 10 minutes down the road to a school where, in the space of an hour and a half, we experienced the first day of Big School and it’s subsequent seven years right through to our final exams. (I got a C, by the way; I was actually taking too long over my answers and didn’t get to finish.)
It put me in mind of Office Party, which we’d seen at Edinburgh a few years ago: a kind of role-play thing, where the actors guide you through the whole experience, as if you’re a character in the whole world that they’ve created. I was made to read something out in assembly, then during science I was taken out of the lesson by the headteacher, who showed me lots of pictures of cats and then gave me her mobile number to give to my dad seeing as how he might be “lonely after the recent death of my mother”. Other highlights in this show were being recruited for the school newspaper and getting to see (and draw) a virtually naked lady. (Naked except for skimpy knickers and a couple of strategically placed post-it notes.)
Next came more rain.
In the evening we saw a show called Cabaret Whore at the Underbelly Bristo Square. One woman, three characters, a brilliant voice. Sarah-Louise Young is part of the Showstoppers (the improvised musical) ensemble, and her impro skills and quick thinking were evident in this show, as she dealt with a wandering shoulder pad and a spaced-out volunteer called DJ who was, wait for it, a DJ. She was engaging from the start and instantly likeable, and her energy and obvious love of performing shone through. This is the kind of show that I usually wouldn’t have chosen to see, but we went along thanks to a 2for1 offer, and I’m really glad I did. I laughed loads, and certainly didn’t stop smiling through the entire show – my face really did ache at the end. Well worth a look if you’re heading up here.
We stepped out of the venue into more rain, then went for something to eat. Nando’s. I had a quarter chicken (hot) chips and spicy rice. I poshed it up with a glass of South African Merlot. It felt weird, sitting in a piri-piri chicken place drinking a glass of red. I won’t do that again.
Final show of the day was the afore-mentioned Showstoppers. It’s your typical impro set up: from suggestions taken from the audience at the beginning of the show, the cast make up everything on the stage there and then to tell a complete story in an hour. These guys do it as a musical and sing everything. Sickeningly talented, all of them. Tonight’s made up show was about Essex girls, titled Va-Jazz Hands!!! (The exclamation marks are part of the title). Styles suggested included The Lion King, Legally Blonde, and some singer who I’d never heard of. To be honest, I was surprised they went with it all and I didn’t think it would work, but it was testament to their skill, talent, and sheer bloody knowledge of music and musicals that they pulled it off brilliantly.
After that we came home, I killed a few bugs that had come into the flat to shelter from the rain outside, and we went to bed. It’s the first 2for1 day tomorrow; this is where it starts getting serious!…
Shows seen today: 5
Running Total: 8