Being some final thoughts and reflections on Edinburgh 2001 by Spank's Pals. Well, mainly Nick, if we're honest.
The week started with the fabulous Ross Noble, this guy is a comedy genius, go see. Mervyn Stutter's Pick Of The Fringe is always a good show, but the cramped new venue (the Pleasance Dome) is not a patch on the old venue (the Pleasance Over The Road): it was so claustrophobic I only went once all week, when I usually go loads of times. Otis Lee Crenshaw on the Sunday evening was as good as ever, and the additions of a slide guitarist and fiddle player to the band have freshened up the sound.
And then there was Monday, my bomb out day - two crap shows and I started to feel the effects of the excess drinking since a wedding on Friday, and it had not stopped raining since I got off the train. A couple of years ago I saw a fabulous dance show on the Fringe called Here Is A Picture with music by the wonderful Veda Hille (check her out), and like some lemming I go every year in the hope I will find an equally good dance show. Forget it, Here Is A Picture was probably the only good dance show ever to appear on the Fringe, but I do have a tip if you fancy trying. Never go to a dance show that does not reveal the music accompanying the show, otherwise I can guarantee it will be the usual jangly new age ambient shit that puts me in a coma every time. Monday was only redeemed by a fabulous meal cooked by The 3 Muses, although I thought chaining me to the sink afterwards to do the washing-up was a bit unnecessary: and the high spoof of Dracula at midnight (see Monday's review).
Tuesday evening, a fabulous meal at the Shezan Tandoori (see Muses review on Tuesday), just over the road from the comedy bash that was High On Laughter. Charity bashes give established comedians the chance to rehash material they have not done for years, and comedians who could not get a gig in Edinburgh proper the chance to organise and compere the thing. The highlight for me was Shelagh Martin, a very rare species, a woman who defies comedy convention and is brilliantly funny. Go see, although not in Edinburgh as she is not appearing there! Wednesday was notable for two plays at the Traverse: the much hyped Gagarin Way (a good first play, but it could never live up to the hype, and will probably only stunt the growth of the playwright) and the brilliant Bedbound (see Wednesday review), a second play by Enda Walsh which follows his first major success Disco Pigs and confirms him as a major talent. Thursday saw two good plays at the Assembly Rooms (my pick of the big venues this year). Medea was my introduction to Greek drama, because I was biased against seeing this stuff, but not any more (see Thursday review).
Friday saw Jesus Hopped The A Train, which is notable for being directed by the American actor Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Talented Mr Ripley, State And Main). This new play centres on the relationship of two black prisoners, awaiting their fate through the American penal system. The title of the play refers to how Jesus touches their lives and the notorious subway line in NY, that runs between two deprived black districts and is off limits to most whites. One white, in the shape of a lady lawyer, does attempt to go beyond the limits and help one of the prisoners, but she is ruined in the process. I hated this play, I found it totally banal, like watching most of the American crap that comes out of our TV sets, but the predominantly twentysomething crowd in the audience loved it (some gave it a standing ovation!). More on that below.
Friday also saw the disaster that was the Brian Appleton show Let's Look At Sound, a truly awful show. Graham Fellows, the creator of the wonderful John Shuttleworth, hit rock bottom with his other creation, the mildly amusing media studies lecturer (now suspended) Brian Appleton. He just forgot to write any funny material. Fellows has the strange honour of being on my list for best comedy of the year (his One Foot In The Gravy show as John Shuttleworth) and the worst comedy of the year (Let's Look At Sound as Brian Appleton). To be fair, he can be very funny as Brian Appleton, when he was doing all the stuff about famous musicians nicking his ideas, but this show about recording sound is a total bummer.
Nick hasn't finished yet, I just thought this needed breaking up a bit
And now for my favourite bit, getting on my soapbox and ranting about a few things! (yes, I will limit it to two things, Spank)
Edinburgh is a fabulous place to hold a festival, it has everything: and even the ever present threat of rain does not seem too bad when everything else is so good. The standards of the food and drink in the arts venues are way above what we have in London, and I will give you a few examples. The Filmhouse on Lothian Road, the equivalent of the National Film Theatre on the South Bank, has five real ales on tap, a superb selection of wines, and it is most noted for its incredibly tasty vegetarian food, not a bit like the shit hole we have on the South Bank. They even rotate the real ales for fuck's sake, so you have even more choice. People want quality, not the crap we get at the NFT: fuck the films, I want a reasonably pleasant experience beforehand, is that too much to ask? Apparently so. Parker, get off your fat arse and do something.
I enjoyed that! And now for my second rant: the other big problem on the South Bank is the National Theatre. Apparently they have noticed their silver haired audience is dying off and they need to attract young people. Well this was the headline of their recent press release, although it was hiding the fact that Trevor Nunn is onto another money spinner and wants to revive South Pacific, just what the National Theatre should not be doing. They are even promoting a young Irish director to the hallowed status of associate director, because he has a few ideas about how to attract the twentysomething crowd: apparently it is cheap beer and club DJs in the foyer, the whole idea is laughable. What they should be doing is putting on plays like Jesus Hopped The A Train, which has been pulling in just the sort of punters they want into the theatre at Edinburgh, but that will never happen as they are too busy navel gazing over the very nice food (if a little expensive) in the trendy Traverse cafe bar or restaurant.
Life can be like this: Saturday, saw very amusing lunchtime session with Ross Noble and Nicholas Parsons. Have to leave early to dash for lunch before the train leaves, and find cafe 10 yards away from Waverley station. The menu has lots of enticing salads, I enjoyed a good chat with SeaPea and could have gone round the gallery part of the cafe to look at some paintings by a chap called Jeff Koons. Yes, original fucking artwork by thee Jeff Koons (of Michael Jackson and Bubbles fame), ten yards away from the railway station from where we were leaving, that encapsulates the Edinburgh experience. We had a great salad, but did not have time for the Koons. It all starts again next August, so go if you can, you will thank Spank some day. And finally thanks to Spank, who is to us what Bubbles is to Michael Jackson! [That's not true, you've never shagged me - Spank]
Well Spank, now that seven days of wall to wall arts events, sleep deprivation and severe alcohol abuse are starting to wear off ("We were somewhere round Berwick on the edge of the Borders when the drugs started to take hold" to borrow from Hunter Thompson); I think it's time to vote for my favourite Edinburgh Festival events. The results of the Croydon jury are:
1. The guy I've been prattling on about for days, Samuel Oyediji. Gorgeous traditional harmonies and percussion built up second by second using live digital sampling. Different, amazing and sublime.
2. Berkoff's Women by Linda Marlowe. Sexy, scary, funny.
3. Beowulf. Haunting rendering of a new translation, performed using simple props in a small venue by the translator and well liked by Seamus Heaney.
Favourite watering hole was the Cafe Royal with its seemingly untouched Victorian interior. The Filmhouse Cafe Bar would have been my favourite untill I was unjustly and unreasonably excluded from it for associating with the wrong sort of people - bastards!
Thoroughly enjoyed seeing my ex-colleague Shazia Mirza [dead link] on the vast stage of the Edinburgh Playhouse during High On Laughter, being totally in control and turning out some highly amusing material.
Don't have time to review Die Walküre, and have anyway left the programme at school: so can't rave about selected singers, some of whom were superb.
It was a good and enjoyable Edinburgh although only there for 3 days. Probably not a vintage one but that meant it was easy to get tickets over the bank holiday weekend. It also felt less trendy. In the end did not have to sleep on the kitchen floor!
The 3 Muses
We came, we saw, and we wrote the reviews to prove it (usually at 2.30 in the morning after an evening's revelry!) Another Edinburgh Festival has been and gone, with its vast array of every imaginable art form, from the outstanding, to the "interesting", to the downright dire. Fortunately, in all our opinions, most of what we saw fell near the top end of the spectrum, and even one notable exception, the unsubtle Late & Live, only emphasised the quality of such comedians as Ross "Hamlet" Noble and Otis Lee Crenshaw (hands off - he's mine! - Brenda).
Shakespeare also had a good showing in our viewing, with Lehi High School's Wild Wild West production of Comedy of Errors demonstrating youth theatre at its very best, whilst the Reduced Shakespeare Company managed to combine the feat of being educational and having us rolling in the aisles.
There were many other delights too numerous to mention here, but here are a few personal thoughts from each of us:-
Eve - During the course of a thoroughly enjoyable week, highlights for me included the excellent Comedy of Errors (see above), which illustrates the energy and very high quality of many youth theatre productions, and Bette Bourne's wonderfully perceptive portrayal of Quentin Crisp in Resident Alien.
Michele - For me, Dracula was particularly memorable for its comic moments, and has given me food for thought. However, at times it did drain the life blood out of the audience. All in all, the production has gained immortality in my mind. Also, the stage production of Notes from a Small Island brought the droll paper version into a highly amusing and wittily observed piece of theatre. Extremely well acted, it is one to see again.
Charmian - Another excellent visit, during which I had my five minutes of fame on stage with Brian Aldridge and Shula Archer in They Shoot Arrows, Don't They?, for which I received a kiss from "ladies' man" Brian. I'm still awaiting the offer from Radio 4 to become the latest recruit to Ambridge!
In between shows, a Muse has to eat. and Edinburgh did not disappoint in this respect, and we waddled out of several excellent restaurants well sated. We won't mention them by name, as we don't want to get crowded out!!
All in all, this was a memorable week, with a great group of people. Although the Festival gets bigger every year, Edinburgh has lost none of its unique charm. We'll be back!
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