Tag Archives: Hugh Grant

At the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday, stories of Hugh Grant kept popping up

Hugh Grant: four references and a barring

Yesterday was a long and confusing day even by Edinburgh Fringe standards.

It started when someone told me he had heard the actor Hugh Grant had been refused entry to Eddie Pepitone’s trendy Bloodbath show in Just The Tonic at The Tron (a venue not to be confused with The Tron) AND Hugh had also been refused entry to the even trendier late-night Set List show in Just The Tonic at The Caves (not to be confused with Just The Tonic at The Tron).

So I e-mailed Matt Kirshen, who programmes the Set List show:

“Did Hugh Grant get refused entry to Set List last night?” I asked. “I heard he also got turned away from Eddie Pepitone’s show.”

Matt replied: “Just Eddie, at the Tron. He apparently decided not to try for another show after that.”

Then I went to the TO&ST Showcase – promoting Time Out and Soho Theatre’s new awards for best cabaret shows at the Fringe. The showcase was compered by incomparable Miss Behave (who is also compering my Malcolm Hardee Awards Show this coming Friday – the Edinburgh Fringe is all about promotion). She was justifiably evangelical about the current British cabaret scene. It was only last year that the Edinburgh Fringe Programme included a separate Cabaret section for the first time… and, judging from shows I have seen this year, a lot of the most original comedy material actually appears in cabaret shows.

At the 2007 Fringe, Arthur Smith curated “Arturart”

I had to leave after an hour to go see Arthur Smith get carried up Arthur’s Seat (the dormant volcano which overlooks Edinburgh) in a sedan chair for a show called This Arthur’s Seat Gala Belongs to Lionel Richie organised by Barry Ferns (often mis-spelled as Barry Fern) who changed his name by deed poll to Lionel Richie (not to be confused with the singer Lionel Richie).

Alas, the description of the meeting point for the start of Arthur Smith’s sedan chair ascent of Arthur’s Seat – meet at a lake – was a bit vague, so the BBC and Arthur and I turned up at the wrong lake.

As I did not want to get stuck up Arthur’s Seat (ooh no, missus), I made my excuses and walked back to town. I will see Arthur Smith again on Friday, when he appears in the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show (the Edinburgh Fringe is all about promotion) which, at its end, will merge into one of Arthur’s late night Alternative Tours of the Royal Mile. These have been known to end in nudity and arrests. I can only hope we can be so lucky.

As I walked back to town from the bottom of Arthur’s Seat, several taxis passed me, but I am a Scot brought up among Jews and am overweight, so I ignored them. I also got a phone call from the comedian who had told me about Hugh Grant. He (the comedian) told me that yes, indeed, the previous gossip had been wrong and he (Hugh Grant) had NOT been refused entry to Set List, only to Eddie Pepitone’s show. I began to wonder if I was really that interested.

“He (Hugh Grant) was turned away from Just The Tonic at The Tron,” I was told, “even though he had tickets for himself and his friends but his friends didn’t have ID even though they were clearly of age so that’s what happened.”

Laura Levites flyers a dog yesterday

On my way to the Assembly Rooms (not to be confused with the rival Assembly venue), to see Appointment With The Wicker Man, I bumped into flame-haired American temptress Laura Levites whose fame, thanks to this blog, has now reached India. She was flyering on the Royal Mile for her American Girlfriend show.

“Did you hear Hugh Grant got refused entry to Eddie Pepitone’s show last night?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “But I wouldn’t turn him away if he turned up at my show. I mean, I talk about him in my show. He’s one of my reasons for me wanting to be here in Britain. Cos every American girl wants Hugh Grant. We wanna live Love Actually.

Laura was being successful with her flyering technique, which included befriending a passing Dalmatian dog but, turning another corner, I heard a less experience flyerer try:

“Anyone fancy some comedy?… Free Biscuits!”

By this time, the Dalmatian had left. Bad timing.

Eventually, I got to the Assembly Rooms venue in George Street (not to be confused with the rival Assembly venue in George Square). I had a tea outside by the Spiegeltent temporarily in the middle of George Street (not to be confused with the two Spiegeltents temporarily at Assembly in George Square) and I went in to the Assembly Rooms to see the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of Appointment With the Wicker Man.

Appointment With the W(h)icker Man

The full-house audience loved it. I liked it a lot, but thought it was a dog’s dinner. Unlinked to the Dalmatian. The first ten minutes (a guestimate) were wonderful. The plot’s affectation is that a stage version of the cult movie The Wicker Man is being performed by an amateur dramatic group, the Loch Parry Players, in an isolated Highland community. The audience are even given a fake programme for The Whicker Man (sic) as they go in.

The original movie was bizarre enough to begin with and it might be thought to be beyond parody because it is beyond weird (I am a great fan). And, for the first ten minutes, this production had enormous fun simply by using the original film script, the original music (the movie is heavily musiced with songs) and having fun with the cadences of the accents.

Alas, someone somewhere seems to have lost confidence in simply doing The Wicker Man with a few nods to it being staged by amateurs in a Highland hall and written an original story about the am dram group with far too many dramatic devices in it. KIS KIS. Keep It Simple. Keep It Simple. Just staging The Wicker Man is a bizarre enough idea. The whole production felt like a series of compromises and over-complications by a camel-designing committee with over-commercial attempts getting in the way of the original camp vision. There was also one bit of unnecessary female nudity. Not the famous Britt Ekland dancing-against-the-door scene (which was done very humorously with fake boobs and enough pubic hair to knit a Scottie dog) but a totally gratuitous bit of unnecessary real nudity. I can only presume this was added to somehow make it more commercial. Mistake. I am all for nudity in its right place – in the Royal Mile, up a lamp post, but not gratuitously here.

Very enjoyable, but it needs two more script re-writes and cuts.

John Robertson’s outdoor show on The Mound last night

After that very enjoyable if frustrating show, I went to see Australian John Robertson’s The Old Whore, an extraordinary dissection of his own very odd family background. I only saw half the show in the venue – the General Assembly building of the Church of Scotland – because the whole show ended up outside, halfway down The Mound, with John Robertson semi-naked, standing atop railings… More about this in a future blog.

After the show, I met up with my temporary flatmate Lewis Schaffer, still concerned at the possible backlash from his use of the word “paralysed” in his guest spot on a Storytelling show the previous night. He had asked me if he should blog about it and I had said Yes. He titled it The Worst Gig of The Fringe and typically started with the opening sentence: “The worst part about doing comedy is that sometimes the audience winds up hating me…”

Did I mention the Malcolm Hardee Show?

As even Lewis Schaffer is younger than me – at this Fringe, I am beginning to feel like the Queen Mother in a hallucinatory version of High School Musical – at 1.00am he headed off to the VIP Loft Bar at the Gilded Balloon. I headed home to sleep.

As I walked home, I got a text from Laura Levites:

“I am in the Abattoir Bar at the Udderbelly. Hugh Grant is here. I gave him a flyer for my show.”

I wondered if Hugh would like to take part in my Russian Egg Roulette contest at the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show on Friday.

The Edinburgh Fringe is all about promotion.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Theatre

“Doctor Who” – Why I still remember watching the first episode 48 years ago

(This was also published by the Huffington Post)

Alas, I am old enough to have seen the first ever episode of Doctor Who when it was transmitted. It is easy to remember the exact date – Saturday 23rd November 1963 – because it was the evening after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The BBC removed all comedy programmes and the acid-tongued satire show That Was The Week That Was, at the height of its popularity, ran a justly-lauded, shortened and solemn tribute show to Kennedy.

The 48th anniversary of that first ever screening of Doctor Who was yesterday and, to celebrate it, the University of Hertfordshire ran a special Doctor Who day-long symposium.

I went on a whim because, like almost all other British kids of my generation – and later generations – I grew up watching and having the shit scared out of me by Doctor Who – though, for real shit-unleashing terror, Doctor Who was Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm compared to the original BBC TV version of Quatermass and The Pit.

I also went to the Doctor Who symposium yesterday because I thought there might be some mileage in looney-watching. Sadly, the people there seemed to be sane; a great disappointment. But I learned bits and pieces I had not known before.

One of the many ironies of the BBC is that they erased lots of programmes (to save space and re-use the tapes) but kept all the bureaucratic paperwork.

Doctor Who was consciously and carefully designed by the BBC to bridge the gap between their Saturday afternoon sports coverage followed by football results (mostly watched by men) and their early evening mass appeal line-up of light entertainment (watched by the whole family). The BBC surprisingly (remember the show started in 1963) did extensive audience research to find out which type of audience they should appeal to if they wanted to bridge this gap.

Their conclusion was children.

So they designed a populist science fiction anthology series which would be educational. It had an authority figure (the grandfather/Doctor)… a fairly trendy granddaughter to appeal to children… and two schoolteachers (a male science teacher; a female history teacher) who would accompany these two central characters on their journeys to various periods in history.

Doctor Who would fulfill all three aims of the BBC’s original Director General Lord Reith: it would educate, inform and entertain.

The show was never made by the BBC Children’s Dept. It has always been produced as a drama series by the BBC Drama Dept.

The original ruling guidelines were to be:

  • no tin robots
  • no alien planets
  • no bug-eyed monsters

These were all quickly thrown away, of course, especially when the Daleks appeared in the second storyline and became an immediate audience hit.

The original budget was £2,000 per show.

The title, of course, is a question – Doctor Who? – not the central character’s name because the central character is never named – although, in 1965, he was accidentally referred to as “Doctor Who” on screen because the production team were new to the series and, at first, thought that actually was his name.

Oddly – or perhaps not so oddly – some of the most interesting viewpoints at yesterday’s academic shindig came from stand-up comic and comedy club owner Toby Hadoke whose one-man show Moths Ate My Dr Who Scarf premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2006.

In a sort-of reverse of the reason why I remember the first transmission date of Doctor Who, Toby says, “I know when my grandfather’s funeral was, because it was the day of Episode 3 of Remembrance of The Daleks.”

He pointed out that, “Most Doctor Who fans have a level of autism about them,” and that the Doctor himself “always has a sense of wit”. As a series, Doctor Who is aware of its own ridiculousness… with a sense of humour. He’s not a man who uses weapons; he uses his imagination.”

The series itself is almost unique in being able to jump between different genres in its stories – from comic to social commentary to history to fantasy. “Because it lands in different genres,” Toby Hadoke pointed out, “whatever type of drama you want, it’s there.”

He also pointed out something which I had not noticed before: that, until recently, “there is very little time travel involved in it, except getting you to the new genre this week.”

There seemed to be a consensus yesterday that the idea of Johnny Depp starring as The Doctor in the alleged upcoming Doctor Who movie was a good idea.

It was also mentioned that a TV drama is currently in the pipeline based in the period when Jon Pertwee was replaced as the Doctor by Tom Baker. And that Hugh Grant had once turned down the TV role of Dr Who but he now “regrets” that decision.

To me, though, as a non-obsessed fan, the most bizarre revelation of the day was that, when the revived Doctor Who series was announced by the BBC in March 2004, they said the Daleks would not be in the new series because of ‘rights’ problems. (The Daleks are owned by the Estate of the late Terry Nation.)

But they also announced that BBC3 would screen an animated gay Dalek series.

The things you learn when you go to a university nowadays…

Leave a comment

Filed under Science fiction, Television