Sunday, September 19, 2010

The last of the Fringe - just for completeness

It feels like months since we came back from Edinburgh and I still haven’t written about the final day. So here we are.

We only had two shows on the last day and decided not to add any more so that I could have a quick meeting with my friend, June Strachan, and catch up on life & stuff.  Ian drove us into Edinburgh where we eventually found somewhere to park near the Stand and we headed for the Conan Doyle pub for a pint and a gossip. I’d never been in before and won’t be going in again. Ian and the kids started pilfering chairs from throughout the pub to give us enough seating around the one empty table whilst June and I went to the bar to order drinks. We’d got a pint of lager shandy for Ian, a pint of lager Jack and a glass of red wine for June before the barman started grumbling about needing proof of age from the kids. I gathered Jack’s student card which was deemed sufficient but Callum’s railcard, despite having his age and needing proof of age to purchase was not good enough. Sally didn’t have any identification at all. They only wanted soft drinks so I didn’t think it would be a problem but, no, apparently their young person cooties would affect the pub. I was very cross. Why was it so important to have documentation when our 18 year olds were accompanied by three obviously older responsible people? Why serve us at all without checking our compliance with their requirements? June handed her untouched glass back but we had to pay for the lager-based drinks, not least because Ian and Jack had necked them quite quickly. June and I stalked off to the Stand to get our drinks there with the kids. Ian and Jack followed shortly. Apparently the kids are allowed to exist there with their soft drinks.

Because of the faffing we were somewhat late in heading for the Stand. I find this a really uncomfortable venue but I wanted to see Stewart Lee so Ian and I scurried off with a bit of time to queue in the hopes of getting a seat with a back. There were about 3 left, scattered around the room so we sat apart. Five minutes before the start the kids were still not there. Already grumpy, I went and found them hovering outside, and heartlessly abandoned them to stand throughout the show. Unlike me, they bend, so they sat on the floor and I sat and huffed.

Luckily Stewart Lee was excellent. We have seen a lot of good comics this year but there was a certain amount of sameness about them. They were all talking about themselves and what they’d done. There’s nothing wrong with this. They were all worth seeing. And likeable. And safe. My only point in mentioning this is that Stewart Lee did not do that stuff. Stewart does something completely different. He tells stories. Recursive stories that draw you in, make you think, sharpens your perceptions. It’s not always comfortable. Not always likeable. Not all of it is funny although most is. What it is, is thought provoking and terribly interesting.  
My very favourite part was at the end when He reminisced about his contact with David Cameron, our new and deeply privileged Prime Minister. The story was deep and true and, as Andy Zaltzman catchphrases often, ‘OK, it’s not true but [his] point stands’.

Stewart Lee is performing in Grin Up North is Sheffield this October. He is booked into the Oval Hall, which is vast. I’d be interested to see whether it is possible to take this intimate little show into such a space.

The final act of the night and the fringe for us was Chris Addison. I saw him long ago (relatively) the last time he performed at the Fringe and he was good and talked about very interesting things but not this polished or relaxed (in a hyper sort of way). This was a return to comics talking about themselves but, unlike Susan Calman, John Bishop or Mickey Flanagan, he spoke directly to me about being middle class. It is, of course, an easy target but so much fun. We have, as he noted, mainly sorted out our prejudices. We might not secretly believe immigrants or women or gays are acceptable but we never say this and can usually keep a tight lid on this stuff, even internally. Give us a woman in Ugg boots, though, and we feel quite justified in smugly despising her. I find myself doing this to over-teched people (apart from Ian of course), quietly judging them; why do you have to have an iPhone when you obviously can’t afford decent clothes for your child, and so on, I will think poisonously. I laughed and laughed, ashamed but tremendously amused at the nastiness in my soul that he revealed in his perfectly likeable routine about himself. I guess that unlike John Bishop who invited me to wonder how I would react to success, and hope that I would cope so well, Chris invited me to look at his faults, see my own reflected and think about my behaviour. Only comedy can really do this so successfully. 

And so we finished wearily and headed back to Ian’s and then later back home. Callum hadn’t like Stewart Lee but seemed to have enjoyed everything else. The rest of us had really pretty much liked everything. Apart from Stewart there hadn’t been any edgy stuff this year. Perhaps a bit more next year.

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