As I live in Edinburgh I have the annual dilemma: the throngs of ‘artsy’ tourists are quite annoying, but at the same time I want to experience some of the Fringe. With the world’s largest arts festivals on my doorstep it would almost seem rude not to. Friday evening seemed like the time to do it, so a couple of friends and I headed out – camera-less for a change – for a free cabaret show…
We were in a dimly light room, in some venue I had never even heard of before a few days ago when we picked our show (or rather, my friend produced the idea and I agreed, somewhat foolishly, without really reading the show’s blurb).The dark room wasn’t very big, and had this been pre-smoking ban I imagine it would have been the sort to have an internal fog of the stuff. I tend to stick firmly to comedy during the festival, so I was on completely new territory, and quite excited to see what would happen.
It didn’t take long for it to get weird – this being the fringe, that’s hardly surprising – as the first act was a bizarre combination of singing and burlesque. I cannot claim to be an expert on the latter, but even I could tell it wasn’t the best. The singing was not bad, but the fox scarf that was draped lazily around her neck made the whole thing even weirder.
So far, not promising.
The second act, Mat Ricardo, described himself as a juggler and I began to wonder what I’d let myself in for. But he was as much a comedian as a juggler and an all round ‘performer’. Basically he did a couple of tricks (very impressive), but spent a large part of his set chatting; I feel we had similar levels of sarcasm so it was all ok. A lot of it was about his continuing refusal to go on Britain’s Got Talent (I’ll save your ears from his actual description) and the emails he gets from them every year asking him to come on and how he replies. We were either laughing or in suspense for the next trick almost all of the time he was on, so I would consider it a success.
There was also a sketch group, whose few minute reenactment of Street Dance 3D was amusing enough – but I don’t think I could sit through their whole show – and there was much plugging of other shows before another burelsque dancer (it was rapidly becoming obvious why my friend had desired to come to this show, she’s a bit obsessed) who was substantially better (and didn’t look half dead; always a plus). The last full act was a band called Patti Plinko and the Maddening. Introduced as a drinking band – this certainly got my attention – the rag-tag bunch got on stage and started having technical issues. With a few changes of mic they finally got going and it was one of the best bits of live music I have heard in a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed it, who doesn’t like quasi-Bravarian drinking music crossed with passion and a gravelly voice, but it’s probably quite a good job they didn’t have a full set and we didn’t have pints. That could have ended badly. They thoroughly deserve all the five star reviews they’ve got.
As we went outside one of the many flyer we were offered was for a free comedy gig, happening round the corner in about 45 minutes. Well, why not, it wasn’t like we had anywhere to be. It turned out that we had to go into a youth hostel (which I’m not convinced wasn’t at least partially a half way house) and then through some interconnecting doors into the main room of a masonic lodge. Yup, you heard correctly. Welcome to the Fringe.
The guy who gave us the leaflet happened to also be the host. I’m not always a fan of ‘take the piss out of the audience’ comedy (it always seems slightly lazy to me, and I can be judgemental about people, doesn’t necessarily make it funny) but it worked for him. The funniest moment for us had to be when he told one of my friends to start the clapping for one of the acts. She’d been involved in a minor accident earlier in the day and (whilst I agree that that is distinctly un-funny) she couldn’t clap. His face when she explained was a priceless piece of awkward.
The first stand up was dull; funny at the time, yes, but I cannot remember his name, nor any of his jokes. Not the best start. The second act was an improv group (most of their name escapes me, but cats were somehow involved) which is something I can never make up my mind about and in this case was thoroughly unoriginal. In fairness to the performers, I think I was the only one in the room that knew at least half of them used to be in Blind Mirth (St A’s improv group) and so I was the only one who’d seen most of the ‘games’ before. But for a 9 minute slot, or whatever it was they had, it was entertaining.
One of the things I quite like about the Fringe is its way of finding new talent, and this so happened to happen on this exact show. A few days earlier the third act had been in the audience and had, apparently, some hilarious heckles, so the promoters had decided to offer him a 3 minute slot the night we were there. He was, unsurprisingly, nervous, but he was also pretty funny. I’m not going to talk about the last act of the show – Jollyboat – passed to tell you that they did two songs (one on ‘pirate pop’ and the other a love song with visual aids pertaining to computer keyboard shortcuts). These might not at first fill you with gales of laughter, but here’s the link to the a video of the first of those and I will tell you more after I’ve been to see their proper show this afternoon.
It was a very random evening, but then that is what the Fringe is all about. We had a laughter filled evening and it was, on the whole, thoroughly enjoyable. The Fringe will end this weekend and I’m slightly sad I’ve not been able to see more. Hopefully this time next year I’ll be gainfully employed and I can enjoy being able to go to a lot more.
Ps. I borrowed the photo of this year’s fringe mascots from here: http://www.tvbomb.co.uk/?p=10481