It has been a bad Fringe for me in the sense that, so far, I have not seen a truly terrible show. Where have all the shit shows gone?
I started today with Katharine Ferns in Stitches – about domestic abuse. Well, it starts off about domestic abuse and then gets more and more horrific. It is a pitch perfect performance and a beautifully-written, perfectly-paced comedy script.
Absolutely wonderfully done. A perfect Fringe show. Laughs. Tears. Jaw-dropping. It deserves a (formerly-known-as) Perrier Award but the (formerly-known-as) Perrier Awards are possibly in terminal decline.
Then there was Giants’ sketch comedy show For an Hour with Ian Hislop’s son Will Hislop and his friend-since-childhood Barney Fishwick. The former is in the unenviable position of facing 3-4 years of being called “Ian Hislop’s son” and the latter is facing 2-3 years of being called “the other one”. Nothing can be done about this. That’s life. As Oscar Wilde did not say, the only thing worse than being labelled is not being noticed.
That’s the downside. The upside is that they are supremely self-confident, highly professional and write and perform impeccably. There is a humdinger of a ‘door’ gag and a very clever ‘Israeli’ reference which are worth the price of admission on their own. And they will have their own TV series within 3-6 years tops. Probably in some BBC2 double-billing with Ruby Wax’s equally well-connected daughter duo Siblings.
The next two shows I saw were Ashley Storrie’s and then Janey Godley’s.
Janey is probably the most talented creative all-rounder I have ever met. Her autobiography Handstands in the Dark was a bestseller in Scotland and England; she had a column in The Scotsman; her shows are masterclasses in audience control and performance; and this year’s Fringe show was preceded by a two-day shoot in a part specially-written for her in an upcoming Julie Walters feature film. If she did not live in Glasgow, she would be a major star.
When you know Ashley is her daughter, you can spot the inherited performance skills, though their on-stage personas and schtick are different. I saw their shows (in different venues) consecutively and it was fascinating to see how they dealt with overlap material (particularly the recent death of Janey’s father) differently.
Janey’s act mentioned the time she and I were sitting in her living room in Glasgow and an entire building blew up across the road.
Which brings me to Consignia’s intentionally shambolic late-night Panopticon show.
This is one show which should create a sense of nervous anticipation in any audience and where Malcolm Hardee’s intro “Could be good; could be shit” resonates. And, in the case of Consignia, he might have added: “Good and shit could be the same thing here. Fuck it.”
This is the traditional spirit of the Edinburgh Fringe.
I had very little (possibly no) idea what was going on during the show but neo-Dadaism might be the best description. I was dragged out of the audience, a pink tutu put on my head to represent a bride’s veil and I was told to wave my hand while repetitive music played for I guess around 4-7 minutes. Might have been 47 minutes. Meanwhile, Nathan Willcock stood with (what I think was) a fake TV screen on his upper body and Mark Dean Quinn repeatedly hit Phil Jarvis in the face with a mop while he (Phil) yelled out “No!”.
Eventually, in its repetitiveness, this became quite reassuringly mesmerising and I felt sadly empty when it ended.
I think Stockholm Syndrome may have kicked in.
Either that or my green tea was spiked with some hallucinogenic substance.
On my short walk home, I passed three people sitting chatting and drinking on the edge of a building.
Nothing unusual there.
This is Edinburgh in August.