Monday, August 16, 2010

Tuesday at the Fringe

Not this Tuesday. I'm running behind. But only by a week. That's not a lot.

So, whilst I can remember, this is what we did. When I say we I mean Julian and Ian. Alec abandoned us to our low-brow comedy and went to watch Spanish tap dancing and similar cultural stuff. 

We started our low-brow day with Simon Callow's 'Shakespeare. The Man from Stratford'. It will be on tour after the fringe and is well worth seeing. I've recommended it to my Mum. As you might expect, a one man show retelling the life of Shakespeare, as far as it can be determined, beautifully illustrated by words from his plays and poems. It was very powerful and, in places, moving. Julian was most pleased that Shakespeare's words from the play, 'Sir Thomas More', written at the end of his life in an editing role. I'd love to include the speech but Julian hasn't sent me the copy he promised.

And now he has. Good boy!
Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding tooth ports and costs for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I'll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.

This first item was billed as and hour and a half and we had a had a fairly short time to get from the Assembly Hall on the Mound to the Pleasance for our next item. The show, of course, overran and we ended up scurrying out as the first round of applause commenced. How rude! Ian jogged down the hill and hailed a taxi and we stumbled into it. By this time it was rush hour but Pleasance One was running late and we arrived before the queue started in. Gyles Brandreth,  author, broadcaster, actor, entertainer and former conservative MP was starring in his one man show. Witty and urbane, Gyles was wonderful company for an hour; an engaging raconteur, he kept the audience laughing, sometimes in disbelief that he would say such things. What are the two worst things about being an MP? Raffles and constituents. I assume that he has retired from the political game but, even so, his stories were so self-deprecating that I wouldn't be put off voting for him despite knowing that, as a constituent, I may be the butt of a joke. Of course, I would be put off by his political allegiance but that is another matter. The more I look at politics the more I despair; are they incompetent or corrupt? The fact that Mr Brandreth could completely win me over demonstrates the charm of the man. My heart, in this area, is given entirely to Clement Freud but, Clement no longer being with us, Gyles will amuse me for a while.

We trudged over to the Teviot via Home Bistro, one of my favourite Edinburgh restaurants, and so convenient and friendly. Celebrity Autobiography is a nice idea. The publicity for the show notes, 'Michael Urie ('Ugly Betty') and George Wendt (Norm in 'Cheers') head the cast of this New York hit comedy where superstar memoirs are acted out live on stage.' It was very well done, reading from the autobiographies of various celebrities. My favourite were the duets. The Debbie Reynolds and Elizabeth Taylor readings amusing, with different points of view of the same events. Miss Taylor, though she may have 'won' the men, came over as a less than sympathetic character. Perhaps monstrous wouldn't be too much of an exaggeration. The Jordan and Peter Andre books were another amusing juxtaposition. Who knew that Peter Andre could appear so intellectual? In comparison of course.  At the end of this reading I just felt very sorry for both of them. 
I've often wondered why B-list celebs splash their pathetic tiffs and insecurities across the media. Is it really worth it? There is a sort of perverse fascination in hearing these stories, like watching a very mundane and inevitable catastrophe unfold - these stories, read for comedic effect, are very real tragedies, rooted in the imperfect personalities of the people. As the actors made very clear, these readings were written and published by the celebrities themselves. It was all self-revealed not extracted under duress. It's all out there and available for piss-taking. Of course, the readings were carefully selected to show the stars in the worst possible light but still, what can they expect? I guess I feel a little ambivalent about this show. It would have been funnier if it weren't so inherently sad.

Our final show was Greg Davies; 'Firing Cheeseballs at a Dog'. I loved this show. It's avowed intention was not to be deep and meaningful but, if you were so inclined, there was much deep meaningfulness in it. We ignored that, though, and just laughed and laughed at the series of supposedly autobiographical stories of fear and depression. We all have such stories in our lives but few embroider them to such hilarious effect. There was a lot of stuff about his family and childhood, always a rich seam for comedy, but his years as a teacher of drama produced the characters that will stay with me. The boy who piped 'beard' (a derogatory word in this context) in answer to every question or statement, the naughty boy who freely and guiltlessly admitted to each of his wickednesses and Karen, the 13 year old with the mannerisms and vocabulary of a rather nice middle-aged woman from between the wars and no sense of direction; these wonderful characters made the show something very special. Greg Davies is a very clever man and very, very funny.

And then Ian drove us home and put us to bed. Thanks Ian!

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