Simian Substitute Site for October 2022: Missing Pictures Episode 3: The Monkey Wrench Gang

Missing Pictures Episode 3: The Monkey Wrench GangMONTH END PROCESSING FOR SEPTEMBER 2022

Comedy:Nearly done now.” Imagine what it must have been like for the Greenwich Comedy Festival, organising a five-day binge of big laffs and then having the Queen die before it, resulting in a ten-day period of national mourning which overlaps it perfectly. Imagine their delight when they realised the final show of their festival would take place the day before the funeral, and that it would have to preceded by a one-minute silence. How do you start off a show in those circumstances? It turns out that the approach of compere Daniel Kitson – sighing deeply and saying in a reassuring fashion “nearly done now” – was the right one. For all the insistence that there was to be No Laughing during those ten days, the audience in the grounds of the National Maritime Museum seemed to be enjoying things just fine. And the big news of the week wasn’t considered off limits, with Tim Key having a couple of royal funeral poems all ready to go. Lower down the bill, Sarah Keyworth and Tadiwa Mahlunge both acquit themselves just fine: it’s headliner Dylan Moran who’s the more awkward proposition. He comes on stage drunk, divorced and bearing a keyboard that he admits he doesn’t know how to play, but spends most of the next half hour trying to anyway. The sheer tension in the room (well, courtyard) as he lets whole minutes roll by without a joke – and deliberately, too – is fascinating, and one of those things I hadn't realised I'd missed in two and a half years of limited access to live comedy. Unfortunately, he's too unfocussed to find a way to release that tension at the end, leaving the audience nursing the comedy equivalent of blue balls, and Kitson on stage yelling at us to run for the exits because Moran’s rambling has blown out the curfew by a good ten minutes. I hope he sorts out what he’s doing soon, one way or another.

Telly: For reasons that’ll become more apparent as this paragraph progresses, I’ve just been combing through the comics section of this site to track down an old review of The Sandman, only to find that it’s spent the last 14 years in Books rather than Comics. As far back as 2003, there was active speculation as to how it could be translated to moving images: two decades later, instead of the film we thought we were going to get, The Sandman is now a TV show on Netflix. It makes sense: after all, Neil Gaiman wrote it for comics in serialised form, with each issue having a wildly different feel from the previous one. That was especially the case for the early issues which make up what everyone is hoping is just the first season. If anything, it’s a little too keen to stick to the comics as a blueprint, though not as much as Gaiman's adaptation of Good Omens, which seemed terrified to drop a single word of his and Terry Pratchett’s writing. At least Sandman isn't afraid to chop and reshuffle things occasionally to keep it flowing as a series. There are a few individual episodes that stand out by a country mile from the rest – inevitably, they're the ones based around the issues that stood out in the comics run (24 Hours and The Sound Of Her Wings in particular). Tom Sturridge gets just the right amount of underplayed weirdness into his portrayal of the title character, and there are plenty of fun surprises in the casting overall (including at least three Taskmaster contestants). On the whole, they've done the comics justice, and I’d be happy to see more of this.

Theatre: You know me, I’m a sucker for a one-sentence pitch that makes you want to drop everything and see a show immediately. Here’s one: “a Japanese kabuki adaptation of Romeo And Juliet with music by Queen.” This is a genuinely accurate description of A Night At The Kabuki, Hideki Noda’s reworking of Shakespeare into something with a surface resemblance to traditional Japanese theatre. To be honest, the one element that doesn’t quite work is the use of songs from A Night At The Opera throughout - or more accurately, short snatches of those songs used mostly as underscore or to cover scene transitions, with no relevance attached to their lyrics. On the few occasions that a scene's allowed to play out across the bulk of a track, it works really well: you don't want to push that idea too far or you get Mamma Mia, but a bit more of that would be welcome. Maybe the main reason for the Queen connection is to act as a hook to lure you into a wild postmodern take on the play, in which the star-crossed lovers have stayed alive but forcibly separated for thirty years after their initial tryst. The main narrative thrust involves old Romeo and Juliet going back to the start of the story to try and persuade young Romeo and Juliet to make better life choices. Tonally, it's all over the place - several scenes in the first half are virtually pitched as panto - but it's a splendid ride from beginning to end. You've missed its London run by now, but hopefully it'll come back some day.

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Edinburgh Festival 1989-2022: An Index

A hair salon, Edinburgh, 2005. Do you see what they did there? I admit it, the Edinburgh Festival coverage on this site is all over the place - a combination of REPOST pages written for the old site and ported over to here, SPANK GOLD pages written years after the event, and pages that were actually blogged live from Edinburgh as they happened. Anyone just diving into the Edinburgh folder will probably have a hard time working out where to find stuff.

Until now!

What follows is a set of links to the writeups of all the Edinburgh Festivals I've attended since 1989, plus a couple where Spank's Pals went up without me. (Which means nowt for 1993, 1997 or 2000, so don't look for them.) For each year I've included a vaguely chronological list of all the shows that are mentioned in the entry by name. I'm now having a minor freakout at just how many shows that is, but that's not your problem.

The plan is to update this index after every Festival, so this page will mostly remain at the top of the Edinburgh folder. If that's how you got here in the first place, welcome: feel free to browse through the pages linked to below. And if you like the reviews, maybe you'd like to pay me some money to own them in book form? See bottom of page for links.

(Updated September 21st 2022 to include 2022 reviews)

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Spank's Edinburgh Diary, Postscript 2022

All this talk about what Edinburgh looked like during a bin strike, but I haven't shown you any evidence of it yet, have I? Well, here's some.2022 was our first full Edinburgh Festival in three years, so this'll be our first full Postscript in three years too. As ever, our coverage concludes with a few of Spank's Pals telling you about what they liked and didn't like this time round - the same ones as in 2019, in fact.

My own introduction to the 2019 Postscript concluded with the words "Time for me to start planning for Edinburgh 2020, I suppose," but I'll leave the optimism to everyone else this time, just in case...

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Simian Substitute Site for September 2022: Rocket Monkey Roastery

Rocket Monkey RoasteryMONTH END PROCESSING FOR AUGUST 2022

Books: I was about five minutes into the audiobook of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy Of Dunces when I remembered exactly when and where I first read it. I was on a trip to New Orleans for work back in 2000, and given that it's widely accepted as one of the best novels set in the Big Easy, it seemed appropriate for reading on the plane. Walking the streets and seeing locations I'd just read about was rather terrific. 22 years later, I'm finally getting to revisit it courtesy of Reginald D Hunter's audiobook reading. The BBG isn't enjoying it so much because every character in it is terrible: and the worst of them all is our hero Ignatius J Reilly, who thinks he's superior to everyone he encounters when he's really the Dunning-Kruger effect in a fatsuit. I don't have as much of an issue with a story where the protagonist is being held up to deserved ridicule, though I'll admit some aspects of Dunces haven't aged well, notably its handling of race. (Really not sure it needs the po-faced 'attitudes of the time' warning that this audiobook opens with, though.) Still, Hunter's a pretty good fit for the text, and he gets the tone of Reilly exactly the way it's sounded in my head since I read it.

Food And Drink: We're currently running through a cycle of Things That We Did Regularly Up Until The End Of 2019 And Are Just Beginning To Start Doing Again. The biggest one for August was, of course, Edinburgh: the second biggest was probably the Great British Beer Festival, back at its Olympia home after the occasional experimental attempt at going online. A couple of things have changed in the last three years, some of them presumably because of the pandemic (all transactions are now cashless, with a quaintly archaic token system for people who don't believe in plastic), some of them less obviously so (the door price ramped up to £20, but throwing in a beer glass, a programme and two halves of beer as part of the deal). Still, being in a big room full of happy drinking people is a nice thing to be doing again. For the record, our final tally (all in shared halves, and not a duff one in the set) was Mad Squirrel's Sumo, Runaway's Summer Saison, Bowland's Bumble, Castle Rock's Preservation, Gorilla's Vanilla Gorilla, Nightjar's Kaleidoscope World, Twisted Wheel's Speed Wobble, XT's XT8, and finishing with Puhaste's Muda from the Dangerous Foreign Muck stall. Bonus points for the entertainment on the night: we were all set to take the piss out of Swallow for advertising themselves as Reading's Best Classic Rock Covers Band, but they were exactly right for the occasion.

Music: Public Service Broadcasting is a band that specialises in building music around samples of archive speech recordings. The BBC is an organisation that's 100 years old this year, has lots of archive speech recordings from that period, and runs a major music festival called the Proms. It's pretty obvious how this was going to pan out. PSB's very own Prom concert featured an hour-long commission called This New Noise, a suite of numbers built around audio from the early years of British broadcasting. As a piece, it's got a very similar structure to their earlier album The Race For Space - both of them focus intensely on the early pioneering years, either of the BBC or of space travel, and end with a downbeat coda asking 'so, what now?' If I have one qualm about This New Noise, it's that it sometimes forgets that PSB are at their best when they're being a rock band: this piece sometimes lacks the intensity of their best work, coasting on the easy grandeur you have to hand when the BBC Symphony Orchestra are on stage with you. But there's still plenty of beauty, power and wit in there. You can listen to it on BBC Sounds if you like, but if you're reading this early enough you can catch it on telly on BBC Four at 8pm on Friday September 2nd, and then on the iPlayer for a month after that. It's worth seeing: PSB have always had a knack for arresting visuals, and the projections used throughout are excellent, along with some surprisingly moving bits of stagecraft.

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