I bumped into someone in the Soho Theatre Bar yesterday afternoon: 2013 Malcolm Hardee ‘Pound of Flesh’ Award winner Gareth Ellis.
He was coughing more than me (a rare thing) and he had that pale, zombiefied look of a diseased man who has recently contracted bubonic plague or one of those strange indefinable diseases that the heroines of Victorian novels used to die from. He claimed to have a chest infection.
“What’s your chest like?” I asked.
“It’s green,” he told me.
He/They earned his/their increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award after he got his comedy partner Rich Rose to punch him repeatedly in the face so that he could claim he had been attacked in the street by an irate member of their audience, thus gaining a black eye and several column inches of publicity for their show.
“So, after careful consideration, you are not going up to the Fringe this year?” I asked.
“We are poverty-stricken and can’t be fucked,” he replied with, I felt, unnecessary detail.
“You’re not even visiting?” I asked innocently.
“Well,” he told me, “we’re going up for one day only.”
“Because?” I asked.
“Well, (promoter) Bob Slayer was pestering us to go up and do SOMETHING, so we thought: If we can’t go up and do a full run, what can we do to make a big impact using the least possible effort?”
“And your conclusion was?” I asked.
“It is for one night only on Tuesday 12th August in the big cave at The Hive and we’re doing Jim Davidson’s Funeral. We are listed right before his own show in the Programme. It’s only been live online for a day, so I think maybe no-one has noticed it yet.”
“And it involves?” I asked.
“We just thought,” explained Gareth, “Middle England’s (allegedly) bigoted, shocking, old-fashioned comic is going to do the Edinburgh Fringe for the whole month and therefore the Fringe is dead.
“So we thought we’d do his funeral. But also it is the death of the Fringe. The funeral of the Fringe. So we’re going to get a few guests on and basically attack the Fringe and put it to rights before it gets buried once and for all and we’re going to dance on Comedy’s grave. And that’s going to be the show. It’s going to be a very upbeat, fun evening. We’re gonna sort out Jim Davidson. We’re gonna tell him what’s what. His own show starts half an hour into our show.”
“So,” I said, it’s a wake for Jim Davidson, rather than a funeral.”
“No,” said Gareth. “His corpse will be in the coffin on stage.”
“Are you playing him?” I asked. “You were Jimmy Savile last year.”
“No,” said Gareth. “We’re performing as Ellis & Rose. Jim Davidson’s corpse will be in the coffin and hopefully we will have a live camera feed from the coffin projected up onto a big screen at the back like a Big Brother figure – because he did Celebrity Big Brother.”
“So basically no script?” I asked. “Just meandering along.”
“There will be a narrative,” said Gareth. “We are going to tackle all the big issues of the Fringe. This is the Fringe’s funeral as much as it is Jim Davidson’s funeral. I think we’ll tackle stuff about the Big Four venues, student reviewers, the cost of things. We’ll turn it into a big roast of the Fringe.”
“Any nudity involved?” I asked hopefully.
“Probably,” said Gareth. “Every funeral should have nudity. It might end in a disco.”