Last night at what was the Edinburgh Fringe and is now just Edinburgh, Stompie the Half-Naked Chef played his last show at Bob’s Bookshop.
It was, for him, a normal show.
The room (a former shop) was full, so I sat outside on the cobbled street where venue runner Bob Slayer had thoughtfully placed three chairs for just such an eventuality – and because Stompie had always intended to perform his show both inside and outside the venue at the same time.
As always, Stompie – naked except for a kitchen apron and a pair of underpants (occasionally removed) – tended to run out onto the pavement to accost passers-by or into the middle of the street to stop passing cars, hail a cab or, on one occasion, to give a melon to a bemused and smiling middle-aged lady driver who appeared to speak no English.
I can only imagine she thought it was a local custom like men wearing kilts or people blowing bagpipes where the mouth movements bear no relation to the sounds being emitted.
I was joined after a time by a passing lady who sat down. We watched couples and groups of mostly very respectable, ordinary (in a good way) people pass by, as the Festival Theatre round the corner had just finished its performance.
They – and other passing pedestrians who just looked in the window – and the accosted car drivers and taxi drivers who stopped because a mad-looking man was standing in the road in front of them – took in their stride the sight of a semi-naked man occasionally waving a cucumber at them.
“Only in Edinburgh,” I said to the lady sitting beside me. “If this happened in Nottingham or Plymouth or London or Cardiff, people would be calling the police or running away.”
“I think I have seen too many shows,” the lady said to me. “It’s starting to seem normal. It has been a mad night.”
It turned out she, too, had been to the Festival Theatre show.
“What was it called?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she told me. “It was mad and wonderful and involved men and donkeys.”
“Don Quixote?” I asked.
“It must have been,” she replied. “There were windmills.”
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“My name is Gay,” she replied. “I always say that, rather than say I’m Gay. It avoids misunderstandings.”
“Where do you live?” I asked.
“Just south of Aberdeen,” she replied.
“Stonehaven?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied, surprised.
“I was partly brought up in Aberdeen,” I said. “We lived in Mastrick, a council estate on a hill. In the winter, my mother used to make the beds in the morning wearing her overcoat.”
Perfectly true. These were days of linoleum and coal fires, before fitted carpets and central heating.
“Where do you live?” she asked me.
“Borehamwood,” I replied.
“You’re joking,” she said. “My sister lives in Borehamwood.”
The lady sitting next to me on the cobbles turned out to be artist Gay Halley and she had just had a picture hung (and sold) at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition.
After the show, in Bob’s Bookshop, I asked Stompie/Richard Stamp, the Half-Naked Chef what he was doing next.
“I have an Arts Council grant to build a flying saucer,” he told me truthfully.
He is also going to London’s Wonderground, to perform with Miss Behave whose broken heel has now partially mended, though she is still performing on crutches.
If you have no idea what this is about, the only solution is to read my blogs regularly.
After that, I went back to my rented flat where two e-mails were waiting for me.
The first was from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. It commented on my blog of yesterday:
“You can find the odd hedgehog wandering the streets of Plashet Grove,” it said.
It did not define the exact meaning of the word ‘odd’.
Plashet Grove is in the East End of London, in the Upton Park/East Ham area.
“I once found a hedgehog there,” continued Anna. “Just once. I was with a comedian, very late at night. We almost released it into the custody of the local parkies, but they suggested we bake it in clay so we fled and set it free on Wanstead Flats (a nearby open area). It was odd, finding a hedgehog in Plashet Grove.”
Odd was the word last night.
The second e-mail waiting for me was from comedy critic Kate Copstick, who returned to London from Edinburgh at the beginning of this week.
In my blog yesterday, I mentioned that, now the Fringe was over, the paper strips stuck on posters giving review quotes and showing the 4 or 5 star reviews are coming unstuck in the wind.
Copstick told me that, when she was leaving Edinburgh, she had bumped into a well-known comedian at Waverley station. She wrote:
“He had told both his venue and his PRs (at a major management company) that he did not want any strips of stars to be stuck on his posters. NONE. AT ALL. He saw some of his posters in Bristo Square with a Broadway Baby and another star strip stuck across them, so he called his PR people.
“They said they had not put any strips of stars up as per his instructions. So he called up the venue PR. They said the same and told him (which he has had confirmed) that it is the publications THEMSELVES who go around and put their own strips of stars up on posters sometimes!!… If the acts’ PRs do not stick the stars up, then Broadway Baby does!”
Copstick and I both found this odd.
But, to me, even stranger was the fact that the act did not want to have his stars and review quotes publicised on his posters.
Either I am or the world is getting increasingly odd. Perhaps both.
P.S. The folks at Broadway Baby tell me: “Broadway Baby does NOT stick up flashes or stars on posters… Bizarre indeed. As if any publication would have the time, resources or inclination to stick pull quotes on posters.”
Yup. That’s the word for this story.