So which, I hear you cry, Edinburgh Fringe shows did I see yesterday?
Ali Brice Presents: Eric Meat Has No Proof, Only Memories of Pasta
Everything you would expect from one of the absurdist Weirdos collective. Plus the chance to take a bite out of an apple.
Liz Fraser: Lifeshambles
Perfect example of a new Fringe genre: attractive, intelligent women (usually not circuit comedians) of around 40 impeccably performing shows about the arrival of their mid-life years.
Abigail Schamaun: Post-Coital Confessions
Does what it says on the label and is pitch-perfect. Sexy enough not to disappoint, presented to a mostly middle class audience without them being offended.
The Gilded Balloon Press Launch Show
30th anniversary taster of this year’s shows by arguably the Fringe’s most technically proficient venue. Standout comedy acts yesterday were both Irish – Al Porter and Aisling Bea.
So now today’s blog…
The flat where I am currently staying during the Edinburgh Fringe has no bath, only a cramped shower. This is a drawback for me, as I find it comforting to lie back in hot bathwater and wallow in grains of my own dirt. It is a bit like watching dust particles float in the air through shafts of sunlight – you are literally watching the world decay around you.
Yesterday morning’s shower was interrupted by a phone call from BBC Radio Wales at 10.10am asking me if I wanted to take part at 10.30am in a discussion on learning foreign languages. Well, that is not quite true. I missed the call and picked up an answerphone message at 10.45am, too late to take part in the show. The offer was a tad bizarre, as I speak no foreign languages of any kind. Apparently I was on their list because, a couple of years ago, I slagged-off the frankly unnecessary Welsh language on some BBC Radio Wales show.
Highly prestigious comedy critic Kate Copstick and I are sharing the flat this year. She, of course, is not phoned-up by the likes of BBC Radio Wales. She gets phoned up to do 4 minute interviews on Sky News. This morning, she was dragged out to the Royal Mile at 8.15am to be asked if Dicing With Dr Death was a suitable show for the Fringe.
In the show – billed as comedy – Philip Nitschke of the controversial suicide advice group Exit talks about suicide. I blogged about the show back in January and February this year when comedian Mel Moon was to co-present it. She and Philip subsequently split over creative differences and she is now in her own show Sick Girl.
This morning on Sky News, Copstick said: “I think everyone ought to have the right to die. We have lots and lots of rights nowadays. I have the right to become a man tomorrow, more or less. But I don’t have the right to be assisted to end my life with dignity and without pain. And I think that’s something we should be talking about… This is comedy to help people. He’s not making fun of anything; he’s not making light of anything. He is putting his information in a more accessible place.”
Copstick came back to the flat in agony last night.
When I first heard she had the disease lupus, I thought it meant she turned into a wolf on a regular basis. Some of the acts she reviews may have suspected the same thing.
In fact, it is not. It just means she is in pain almost all of the time.
Yesterday was our first breakfast. I had toast. She had six tablets: she needs hyper-strong painkillers for her lupus.
After this, yesterday morning, I bumped into comedian Lewis Schaffer in the Fringe Central building and then we both bumped into comedian Ivor Dembina. There is a lot of bumping in Edinburgh at this time of year. I will only repeat one sentence from the ensuing conversation – when Ivor Dembina said to Lewis Schaffer:
“The last thing I want is a lecture on ophthalmics from Lewis Schaffer.”
I think the quote gains from having no context.
Shortly afterwards, Canada-based comic Alex Dallas came and sat with us. Ivor asked for her first impression of Lewis Schaffer, whom she had never met before.
“He is a silver fox with dimples,” she said. “He’s a ladykiller.”
“Dimples?” I asked. “It’s like flying over Cambodia and seeing the bomb craters left by B-52 bombers in the Vietnam War.”
At this point, comedian Charmian Hughes arrived. Conversation soon turned (I did not introduce the subject) to late comedian Malcolm Hardee. Alex had memories, when she lived in London, of him paying her £40 after a performance, then asking her to loan him £20 to pay another comedian; Charmian said she had untold stories of her relationship with Malcolm in her current show When Comedy Was Alternative (The Laughs And Loves Of A She-Comic).
Before she moved to Canada in the 1990s, Alex had been in the female comedy group Sensible Footwear.
“There were,” she reminisced, “a whole lot of women’s troupes back in the 1980s. There were the Scarlet Harlots, the Frank Chickens, Spare Tyre, the Cunning Stunts…”
“That,” said Charmian, “was the first workshop I ever went with. I had to go in a corner and be a rock for an hour. It was my first dramatic experience. It was the happiest hour I’ve ever had in my life.”
“The 1980s were good,” said Alex.
“That’s what my show is about,” said Charmian. “My tagline is now: Did I get off with you in the 1980s? Did I stalk you in the 1990s? If so, you are in my show.”
Lewis Schaffer and Ivor Dembina left. Then Alex Dallas and Charmian Hughes left. Just as I was about to leave, I got an e-mail from TV producer Danny Greenstone. It was headed: The Phantom Raspberry Blower. It read:
Believe it or not (and I couldn’t blame you if it’s “not”) I have been asked to direct my first ever London West End stage play. It’s a staging of a radio performance of what was the last ever written – but unperformed – Goon Show. So it will be a bit like the way Round The Horne Revisited was staged.
The producers have launched a Kickstarter project to raise additional funds for the show – There’s absolutely no pressure and no obligation and no dead fish wrapped up in newspaper will turn up at your door… it’s an opportunity if you’d like it.
If you wish to investigate further, here’s the link.
And there we have it. You, too, can be part of The Phantom Raspberry Blower Of Old London Town which opens its cloak at the St. James Studio Theatre in London on 30th October 2015.
After reading this, I tried to leave Fringe Central again, but I was accosted by someone I did not recognise. It turned out to be Australian comic Alice Fraser, about whose preview show, Copstick raved in last weekend’s Grouchy Club Podcast. Alice had recognised me from the (occasionally videoed) Podcast.
“That show Copstick saw,” Alice told me, “was less of a try-out than she thought it was.”
When Copstick saw Alice’s Savage preview – the one she raved about – Alice had just flown from Australia with a 45-minute stopover in Singapore, got off the plane in London and virtually gone straight to perform the show in Shepherd’s Bush.
“I was incredibly jet lagged,” Alice told me yesterday, “so the show was more of a mess than it would normally be, but all the bits were meant to be there. It was like doing it in a dream. The audience were mostly my friends from ten years ago. All these faces from my past, smiling dimly at me while I told them all the horrible things that had been happening in my life.”
Alice’s show has audiences both laughing and crying.
“You were here ten years ago?” I asked.
“I went to university here in 2007.”
“What did you study there?”
“English Literature. Rhetoric.”
“Specifically rhetoric?” I asked.
“Specifically rhetoric. I did a Masters.”
“What was your BA in?” I asked.
“My BA was at Sydney University in English and Law. I used to be a lawyer – I was in corporate real estate – and I quit it to become a comedian. The thing about Law is how do people believe that one thing is a crime and something else is not a crime? How do you make them really believe that?”
“You wanted to be a public speaker?” I asked.
“No. I was just interested in how people communicate and more how people get ideas.”
“What is Rhetoric?” I asked. “Just learning about Greek people and a few politicians?”
“Anything. Comedy is really interesting when it comes to rhetoric. You can break it down in incredibly nerdy ways if you want to. Comedy is persuasive speech in itself. You are persuading people (A) that you are funny and (B) that they should laugh at any given joke. Any joke is persuading you of a number of things both of the content of the joke and that the joke itself IS a joke and that it’s funny and worth laughing at.”
“So,” I said, “you are an ex-lawyer and you are interested in rhetoric and therefore you are very together and therefore you are not the normal sort of mad comedian.”
“I AM the mad comedian,” insisted Alice. “I’m just projecting a shield of togetherness.”
“And your show?” I asked.
“I don’t want easy answers. The show is about somebody offering me an easy answer and how infuriating I found it – to be offered an easy answer to an incredibly complicated situation.”
As I said, Alice’s show has audiences both laughing and crying. Copstick raved about it. I have not yet seen it. I am going to see it. It is titled Savage.