Tag Archives: Il Puma Londinese

Why the attractive Romanian girl was amazed by British train incompetence

Comedian Janet Bettesworth left Mama Biashara last night after Il Puma Londinese show, buying the chair she sat on

Comedian Janet Bettesworth leaves Mama Biashara last night after buying the chair she sat on at Il Puma Londinese show

Not so much a blog, more a footnote to a blog I wrote a week ago about chaos on Thameslink trains. For myself and future historians of bureaucratic incompetence.

So last night I went to see Il Puma Londinese’s Italian language Edinburgh Fringe preview at Mama Biashara in London, where I found out that, if a woman is feeling a bit lethargic, one cure is for her to take part of a Viagra tablet, which starts the blood rushing around and perks you (the lady) up. Who knew?

Afterwards, I got a civilised Overground train to West Hampstead where I changed stations. There are three stations at West Hampstead – all called West Hampstead – all in different locations about 2-minutes walk from each other. As usual at night, chaos reigned at West Hampstead’s Thameslink station.

As I arrived, just before 2310 and went down the steps to the platform for my 2325 train, people on the crowded platform suddenly started to run en masse up the stairs towards me. Without warning, the train was coming in on another platform. This is normal.

20 seconds later, the train arrived on the other platform. Unusually, as far as I could see, only two passengers did not get over in time and were left stranded when the train left. This is an abnormally low number.

I realised it was going to be worth Tweeting, because Thameslink trains are like a man juggling spaghetti blindfold.

TWEET: W Hampstead chaos @TLRailUK – 2310 train platform changed at 20 secs notice. Unusually tannoy warning (but on wrong platform) Daily chaos.

TWEET: W Hampstead chaos @TLRailUK – Good news. Only 2 people missed train cos platform changed at 20 secs notice. Daily chaos.

Normal daily service via Thameslink

Normal daily service via Govia’s Thameslink. Trains either cancelled or overcrowded.

Obviously, as always, I waited at the foot of the steps for my 2325 train, so I could make a quick dash across the bridge to the other platform and, sure enough…

TWEET: W Hampstead chaos @TLRailUK – 2325 train platform changed at 30 secs notice. No one able to get on 4-carriage train. Daily chaos.

Thameslink have what seems to be a policy that fast trains (stopping at fewer stations with fewer passengers) are 8-carriages and slow trains (stopping at more stations with more passengers) are 4-carriages.

The previous train (8 carriages) had left relatively empty (and leaving two punters stranded).

Passengers went back & forth along platform, unable to get on

Passengers went back & forth along platform, unable to get on

This 4-carriage train I tried to get on was packed to the extent that, when the doors opened, bottoms, arms, bags and heads spilled out. As far as I could see, as about 40-60 would-be passengers like me ran from carriage to carriage, no-one could get on anywhere. The train left, leaving all the would-be 40-60 passengers behind.

No room on train for crowded paying passengers

No room on train for crowded paying passengers

TWEET: W Hampstead chaos @TLRailUK – No room on slow 4-carriage train. Fast 8-carriage train coming. No slow trains known.

There was a half-heard tannoy announcement (on the wrong platform) that the next train would be a fast train of 8 carriages.

TWEET – W Hampstead chaos @TLRailUK – Passengers still arriving on wrong platform as that’s what signs say. Daily chaos. Hope of any train fading.

Passenger watches train he could not get on leave without him

Passenger watches train he could not get on leave without him

The indicator board on our platform – the one where trains were leaving from – showed the next (fast) train. The indicator board on the wrong platform, from which trains were probably not leaving, indicated that my next (slow) train, due at 2355, would leave from there. New passengers continued to stream onto that wrong platform. We, the orphans of the previous slow train, stayed on our platform, taking bets our train would come in here.

A Dunkirk spirit broke out. People started talking to each other.

An attractive Romanian girl with a backpack told me she was amazed at the chaotic railway system in Britain.

I said: “Things are probably better in Romania.”

She told me: “No,” but not with much conviction.

The (fast) 8-carriage train came and left, half empty.

TWEET: W Hampstead chaos @TLRailUK – 2355 train platform changed at 2354. Although still signed on wrong platform. Daily chaos.

Cattle never had it this bad, courtesy of Thameslink

Cattle never had it this bad, courtesy of Govia’s Thameslink

Our 4-carriage train, full to overflowing, arrived with passengers still legging it across from the wrong platform. Miraculously, some people got out and some of us squeezed into the train. Most were left behind on the platform.

TWEET: Thameslink chaos @TLRailUK – I got on cattle truck train at W Hampstead. Many did not. Daily chaos.

Squeezed into my carriage were three small-ish children aged about 8 or 9, coming back from some special day out with their parents. The family had been separated from the other people they had been with because they had been unable to get on a previous train. The children were clinging on to their parents (they did not have much choice) and had scared eyes. Their parents were trying to calm them.

TWEET: Result of 8-carriage fast trains & 4-carriage slow trains on Thameslink @TLRailUK – Daily chaos & scared children.

TWEET: Thameslink chaos @TLRailUK – Just took 70 minutes to do a 14 minute journey. Daily chaos.

It has been like this since Govia took over the Thameslink rail franchise towards the end of last year. It is now June. I imagine the Govia directors have chauffeur-driven cars.

Perhaps Govia should take corporate Viagra.

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Filed under London, Trains

Giada Garofalo on terrorism, porn and comedy – but don’t mention the Mafia

On their way to Shepherd’s Bush tonight (L-R): Luca Cupani, Giacinto Palmieri, Giada Garofalo, Romina Puma

On their way to Shepherd’s Bush tonight (L-R): Luca Cupani, Giacinto Palmieri, Giada Garofalo and Romina Puma

Tonight, I am off to see the London-based Italian language comics of Il Puma Londinese preview their Edinburgh Fringe show at Kate Copstick’s Mama Biashara charity shop in London.

I talked to one of them – Giada Garofalo – about her upcoming Edinburgh solo show, catchily titled Live in The Staff Room (Sex, Fairytales, Serial Killers and Other Stuff)

“You are a Sicilian,” I started. “So you’re not to be messed around with…”

“I am not connected to the Mafia,” she told me. “I am a good girl, though I know people. But I don’t want to talk about that, because that could be really weird.”

“Oh,” I said. “OK. How long have you been in the UK?”

“I have been here for 13 years.”

“Why did you come over here?’

“I ran away. I was going through a tough time. My mama had passed away two years before. I was a bit lost. I was in a very serious relationship. I was going to get married soon.”

“So you came over here to marry an Englishman?”

“No. I came over to run away from my Italian. But it wasn’t just for that. I came for two months, just to refresh my English and, instead, I thought – Hey! – I don’t want to go back home. I don’t want to get married. I want to live a different life. I went back home for a month, left everything, came back to London and here I am.

“The first year, it was tough to find a job and I started to do an unpaid internship in PR because, after my degree, I did a Masters in Italy in Business Communication. Big mistake. It’s not me.”

“What is Business Communication?” I asked.

“Marketing, PR. So I did an internship here and, after a couple of internships, I got a job doing a little bit of PR, then moved into Admin because, at the same time, I had started to write bits because I wanted to be an academic.”

“In what?” I asked.

Serial killer aficionado and terrorism expert Giada

Serial killer aficionado and terrorism expert Giada

“I specialised in terrorism and security. I have written about human rights. I have written about European politics. I wanted to do a PhD. So, while I had my job in Admin here, I started to work with some universities as an external researcher and I was writing at night.”

“For British universities?” I asked.

“No. a couple of Italian ones. We wrote papers that were collected in academic books. Then I did another Masters here in Security Studies and I kept writing about terrorism, theories of the state and blah blah blah. Then I wanted to do a PhD but I didn’t get a full scholarship and thought: I can’t carry on working full-time and doing academic stuff at night. I was tired and I was also a little bit fed up with politics, a little bit cynical, and so, one day, I thought: I’ll do a comedy course.”

“Terrorism to comedy is a bit of a jump,” I suggested.

“Well, not really. You can be interested in different things. I just wanted to do one gig, just for my birthday. I had already said In another life I might be a comedian and my sister said Why do you have to wait for another life? So I did the comedy course. I did the gig. And I really enjoyed it and haven’t stopped since.”

“What is the appeal?” I asked.

“At the beginning, when you start, I think it’s the adrenaline on stage. Now I really enjoy the writing. My favourite moment in comedy is the first time I come out with ten minutes of new stuff and it’s not even polished. Then there is the editing and the things you learn. It’s a learning process. To learn how to be more concise and connect with the audience. It took me nine months to get rid of the microphone stand.

“I had always used to study, analyse, deconstruct. But with comedy – and with photography, which I started at the same time – I’m learning by doing. It comes from the inside. It’s very slow – it’s coming up to seven years now… That’s pretty much me in a nutshell… Maybe more nuts than shell.”

“How would you describe your act?” I asked.

“I do more storytelling than stand-up.”

“And, when you started…?”

“The first gigs I did were about language and being Italian but then I thought: I can’t do that, because all foreigners do that. Then I became aware of this idea that all women in comedy talk about the same things, so I thought: I’m not going to talk about these; I am NOT going to be ‘the female comedian’ or ‘the foreign comedian’. So all I had left was politics and I got into a niche: benefit gigs, the Marxist Festival. But I thought: I want to talk about other things. So I gave up for six months, then I started to do Il Puma Londinese, which was really interesting. It started three years ago and I joined about six months later.

(From left) Marouen Mraihi., Giada Garofalo, Giacinto Palmieri, Romina Puma, Alex Martini after last night’s show

After Il Puma Londinese show (L-R) Marouen Mraihi., Giada Garofalo, Giacinto Palmieri, Romina Puma, Alex Martini

“I stopped seeing myself as an Italian, stopped seeing myself as a female – just being me. Humour is more universal than we think, except for specific cultural references”

“Is your Italian-language comedy different from your English-language comedy?”

“No. Though some jokes are different. In Italian, I maybe play more with the language, but 95% of what I say in Italian is what I say in English.

“In Italy, we have this tradition where you do a comedy monologue as a character. In this country, you just do it as yourself. You don’t have to create a character. That’s great, because I can’t act, I don’t know how to create a character, so I can just be me.”

“And your Edinburgh Fringe show this year…?” I prompted.

“I get bored very easily with what I write so, this year, I have decided to go unscripted. I have five bullet points. Every time I go on stage, I will try to say it in a different way and improvise it.”

“When I saw the preview,” I said, “it seemed tight.”

“I’ve got a good memory. The problem is that, if I write down the script, I will remember it word-for-word immediately and, after that, it becomes a lecture. This year, I want to play the show to the room, not just play the show.”

“It is about fairy tales?” I asked.

Giada with some cutting-edge Fringe comedy

Giada with her cutting-edge Fringe comedy

“Fairy tales with a twist, because I talk about the original fairy tales, which were horror stories. We have this idea of fairy tales as Oh! Find your Prince Charming! – Well, in fact, Prince Charming used to rape the princesses.”

“In the original version,” I said, “he did not waken up Sleeping Beauty with a kiss…?”

“No. They were really gruesome. In Cinderella, one of the sisters gets her toes cut off to try to fit in the shoe. Sleeping Beauty is really gruesome.”

“And you have this interest in serial killers…” I said.

“When someone tells me: This is how you should feel about something, I tend to go the opposite way just to see if it’s true or not. And, since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated by serial killers.

“I think there is a potential serial killer in all of us and, I guess, being a comic means you are a bit of a psychopath. Serial killers lack empathy with their victims and, to find humour, you have to be detached, you need to lack empathy. For a comic, if they have had a good night, they say they ‘killed’.”

“Or,” I said, “the comic ‘dies’ on stage… But surely the performer has to have total empathy to ride and control the audience’s emotions?”

“That’s when you’re performing,” said Giada. “I’m talking about writing. But, even on stage, you have to assert your power over an audience – in a nice way. You do want to control the audience, to manipulate them and that’s what serial killers want. But it’s just comedy. I’m just messing around. I dunno.”

“Your show title also has the word ‘sex’ in it,” I said.

“I discovered porn at a late age,” said Giada. “I think maybe I watched a couple of movies back in the age of videocassettes. But, in the last couple of years, there has been a lot of talk of… I don’t know if it’s because of social media or because there’s been a shift in people… a lot of talk about pornography and feminism and anti-feminism and, I think, in some cases, it’s a bit trivial. So I decided to watch porn.

“Some stuff was really fun; some stuff made me feel uncomfortable. Maybe porn is to other people what serial killers are to me. Where I can explore some darker fantasies without acting upon them. And one of the theories about fairy tales is that they had that same function: to provide a safe place for children to explore their fears and darker fantasies. I dunno. I don’t have an answer. I just have questions.”

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Filed under Comedy, Crime, Fairy Tales, Pornography

In order to speak and perform Italian language comedy, you have to live it

Romina Puma

Romina Puma, creator of fortnightly shows

Last night, in London’s Soho, I went to fortnightly Italian language comedy night Laboratorio di Cabaret – Il Puma Londinese. They usually have at least one English language act.

This is the fourth of their shows I have been to and I understand about a quarter of one percent of what is going on in the Italian parts. But the atmosphere is hugely enjoyable and, to illiterate me, the shows are like watching abstract comedy performance. I watch the visual performance and can appreciate the structure of the emotional delivery of the words and feel the emotional meaning of the words, even though I don’t understand the words.

Last night I went with comedy critic Kate Copstick, who is multilingual – she can speak English, Italian, Swahili and Glaswegian. She has written guidebooks to Italy.

“Did you understand 100%?” I asked.

“Maybe 90%,” she told me. “But, in Italian, people take a lot more words to say stuff so, in a way, to get the gist, you only need to understand 90%. One of the wonderful things about Italian conversation is it’s ‘Big’. You maybe say things twice or in three different ways. You just say more than you would in English.”

“Earlier today,” I said, “I was talking to someone about Irish English and it’s often more meandering than most English English and Irish people have told me it’s because the Gaelic is not a succinct language: it, too, needs more words.”

“There is just such fun in saying things in Italian,” said Copstick. “Alex Martini (the compere) was terrific – great energy and quintessentially Italian – which is a GOOD thing. Really, really likeable. But a night like tonight also proves there is an element to comedy that goes beyond the words. I didn’t understand 100% but I laughed more than I do in a lot of good English language gigs. It’s the feeling of fun and enjoyment and laughter.

(From left) Marouen Mraihi., Giada Garofalo, Giacinto Palmieri, Romina Puma, Alex Martini after last night’s show

(From left) Marouen Mraihi., Giada Garofalo, Giacinto Palmieri, Romina Puma, Alex Martini after last night’s show

“Those two girls – Romina Puma and Giada Garofalo – warm, funny, confident and out there – they really brought the audience into it all. Very warm, very female, very anecdotal.

“If you translated their set into English, it’s just very anecdotal, chatty, kinda Sarah Millican-ish. But the energy and the whole character of doing it in Italian just pulls you in so much more.”

“I have an English friend,” I told Copstick, “who worked in Tokyo then married an Italian and now lives in Milan – so she’s good at languages – and she told me the only way to speak Italian is to ‘live’ the language. You can’t just say Italian words with English speech rhythms: you have to almost perform Italian. Saying the plain words just doesn’t work.”

“Absolutely,” said Copstick. “Giacinto Palmieri is warm and wonderful when he performs in English but, in Italian, it’s like someone has lit a fire under him. In English, he is black and white; it Italian, he is in colour.

“What your friend said about ‘living it’… the minute you translate the Italian words into English in your head, it’s not as funny. The whole approach to the story and the whole way of telling stories in Italian is just different. Literally – to coin Frank Carson’s old phrase – it’s the way they tell ‘em.”

Kate Copstick enjoyed my lively wit (Photograph by Giada Garofalo)

Copstick found herself unable to resist my captivating wit last night (Photograph by Giada Garofalo)

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Filed under Comedy, Italy, Language, UK