Tag Archives: Kate Cook

One man’s day at the Edinburgh Fringe: name-dropping, walking and hugging

Jo Romero - Scenes of a Sensual Nature

Jo Romero – Scenes of a Sensual Nature with comic actors

A sign of the times yesterday morning.

I was sitting in Cowgate waiting to go into Jo Romero’s Scenes of a Sensual Nature – four playlets with Jo in various states of undress, Mick Ferry stripped to the waist, Gary Colman doing a sex tape, James Dowdeswell looking nervous and David Mills in a vest. Something for everyone.

So…

There I was, sitting in Cowgate typing a text message, when I heard a voice say: “Are you interested in comedy shows?”

It was a comedian whom I had seen in clubs a few times. We had never met. He handed me a flyer and pitched his show. When he left, I checked and, sure enough, we were Facebook Friends.

But we had never met.

Later, waiting to go into the Noise Next Door’s Really, Really Good Afternoon Show, I bumped into comedian Diane Spencer. She told me she had had ten Norwegians in her Power Tool audience the previous day. I told her comic Lindsay Sharman had had five Norwegians in her show the previous day. It sounded like they were different groups of Norwegians. I went and joined the Noise Next Door queue. The two people behind me started talking in Norwegian. Totally true. (I used to work for a Scandinavian TV company.) Inexplicable but true.

The Noise Next Door

The Noise Next Door seem to come with a built-in TV aerial

The Noise Next Door are a faultless improv troupe. Why they do no have a TV series is more a reflection on TV producers and commissioners rather than on them.

After the Noise Next Door show, I went to see the Laughing Horse Free Comedy Selection show.

On the way, I passed Bob Slayer’s double decker BlundaBus venue. Bob told me: “I have a blocked urinal. Somebody was sick in it. This is the exciting end of running a bus venue.”

At this point, performer John Robertson joined us.

“Parking this bus,” continued Bob, “was easy but these toilets have cost me £1,000. I can’t afford to have them filling up. They are no-poo toilets. I hope people don’t find them. There are no signs to them. Have you seen the sign inside?

WE DON’T GIVE A SHIT AND WE
WOULD APPRECIATE IT IF YOU DO NOT TOO

Bob Slayer and John Robertson at the BlundaBus yesterday

Bob Slayer and John Robertson at the BlundaBus yesterday

“Bob’s toilets,” said John Robertson, “are the only venues on the Fringe you don’t want to have full.”

As John Robertson and I walked along the Cowgate, we saw comedian Patrick Monahan coming towards us.

“Oh dear,” I said to John, “he is going to, isn’t he?”

Sure enough, Patrick spread his arms wide, said nothing, hugged us both simultaneously and then continued along the Cowgate.

John and I then bumped into eccentric performer Mr Twonkey. John went into the Underbelly venue. I continued walking along with Mr Twonkey, who told me he had been unable to think up a decent idea to win an increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. I tried to console him but it proved impossible.

When I got to the Laughing Horse Free Comedy Selection show it was, unlike Bob Slayer’ blocked toilet, filled to the brim and overflowing. I stayed to see Juliette Burton’s set. She hugged me. I left.

This gave me time to go and record a Grouchy Club Podcast with Kate Copstick.

Tim Renkow

Tim Renkow: man with a dangerous title

Then I went to see Tim Renkow’s show Kim Jong-Un, Muhammad, Jesus and Other Power Hungry Maniacs. Highly intelligent. Very funny. As expected.

Tim hugged me as I left and I went to have a chat with Kate Cook, who had asked to meet up so she could plug her show Invisible Woman.

“Food is essential here in Edinburgh,” she started.

I said: “It’s fairly essential everywhere.”

“Yes,” admitted Kate, “but somehow you really notice it is working as fuel here. I can’t eat just before a show and I ate too early this morning. So, by the time I was getting towards the end of my show today, I could feel the madness setting in. You have seen my show. It’s quite physical.”

“It is very good,” I said. “What sort of madness?”

“I miss my dog,” said Kate. “I think animals keep you sane. I do feel a little bit mad in Edinburgh, but maybe you need to. It’s completely mad here. In a good way.”

“How?” I asked.

“I suppose we’re all very vulnerable,” Kate explained.

“People,” I said, “talk about all the performers’ egos but I suppose all the vulnerabilities are feeding on each other too.”

Kate Cook at Soho Theatre

Kate Cook – she misses her dog, but has a supportive Wolf

“We are all vulnerable,” said Kate, “and maybe we all need one another. I think everyone’s actually quite supportive of one another. I brought a technician up with me called Max Valentin Wolf. That’s a good name, isn’t it? He doesn’t look like he’s called Max Valentin Wolf.”

“Bob Slayer’s toilet is blocked-up,” I told Kate.

“On the BlundaBus?”

“Yes. Apparently it takes liquids but not solids. That is a bit of a drawback in a toilet. Where is your show?”

“The Mash House. It’s very nice. It smells of wood.”

“Like being buried alive?”

“No.”

“Any humorous show-publicising anecdotes?” I asked.

Kate Cook - Invisible Woman

A wooden leg, one arm, a pipe and chickens

“I play lots of characters in the show,” said Kate. “Invisible Woman. You’ve seen it.”

“I have,” I said. “It’s very good,”

“It’s very fast-paced,” said Kate, “and yesterday I got some scenes mixed up, which has always been my nightmare. I was being the man with a wooden leg and I should’ve been the posh lady with one arm. So I had to apologise to the audience and make a joke about it and then become the lady with one arm. And, during the same show, a box full of rubber ducks fell off a chair backstage and you can imagine what sort of noise that made.”

“Quacks?” I asked.

“Chickens,” said Kate. “They were chickens.”

“What?” I asked.

“Well, I’m a chicken,” said Kate.

Then there was a distraction and we lost that line of conversation.

Kate joined me to see Die Roten Punkte: Haus Party.

Kate Copstick lip-syncing at the Haus Party

Kate Copstick with low-key lip-syncing at the Haus Party

Frankly, you can’t go very wrong if you perform as a brother-and-sister German neo punk band duo with guests Paul Foot being surreal, a big black transvestite called Le Gateau Chocolat who can sing anything from Wagner to Whitney Houston, critic Kate Copstick lip-syncing a song and Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award winner Adrienne Truscott taking her clothes off. It was the second time in a week that I had gone to a show where Adrienne Truscott took her clothes off. I am not complaining. Just saying.

After all this finished, Kate Cook hugged me goodbye and I left for The Illicit Thrill at the Voodoo Rooms – a show which had been recommended to me.

Frank Sanazi & The Iraq Pack with two punters

Frank Sanazi and The Iraq Pack + two happy Iraq Pack fans

When I arrived, Frank Sanazi’s Iraq Pack were having photos taken with their fans.

I also bumped into Paul Eccentric, who is here in Edinburgh as a punter until, on Wednesday, his book The Edinburgh Fringe in a Nutshell is launched in Leith. (I blogged about the London launch last month) He had a large bandage on his hand.

Paul Eccentric fell over a tree

Paul Eccentric. An arboreal tale of movement

“What happened?” I asked.

“I fell over a tree,” he told me.

“You fell over a tree?” I asked.

“It moved,” he explained.

“That’s the trouble with trees,” I said.

Waiting for The Illicit Thrill to start, I checked my e-mails.

Mark, a man of mystery who runs the British Comedy Guide website, had sent me a piece about Abigoliah Schamaun, who has been plastering fake review quotes and stars on her show posters. He suggested she might be a worthy Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award nominee.

Abigoliah Schamaun poster

Abigoliah Schamaun poster. A cunning stunt?

The quotes include: “A true talent!” (Just One Person’s Opinion) and “Funny. Hilarious. I laughed Loads!” (Rather Redundant Mag)

I must have not paid attention when The Illicit Thrill was recommended to me. It turned out to be a fairly straight hour-long strip show. Not really a Fringe show, more a well-produced strip show. In its own terms, it was extremely well-done, although excellent local rock band Black Cat Bone looked mildly embarrassed. We were given fake dollar bills on entry to stick in assorted garters and gaps.

Whereas Adrienne Truscott had been completely naked earlier in the evening, the professional strippers in The Illicit Thrill kept their lower regions thong-covered. Unless I missed something. I do not think I did. I am not sure what this difference in nudity between art and populist perv entertainment demonstrates sociologically (The Illicit Thrill’s slogan on the dollar bills is: Teaching Edinburgh To Perv Responsibly). But I am sure it must illuminate something.

Illicit Thrill dollar bills

Crisp Illicit Thrill dollar bills awaiting insertion late last night

The Illicit Thrill included Mother Masochista – a stripping nun – and, separately, JC – a Jesus Christ male stripper of whom I have been an admirer ever since seeing him in 2013 at a Frank Sanazi extravaganza at the Fringe.

Last night, he did not go as far as he did in that extravaganza, but apparently he returns to the Fringe in his own show next week: Christ on a Bike.

After that, I walked back to my flat at about 02.30 in the morning with the slightest of toothaches, amid a fairly common Edinburgh late-night event which is unbilled and rarely mentioned – flocks of giant white seagulls swooping low and fast along the roads and around the junctions, as if looking for small dogs, children or crushed egos to snatch off the darkened streets.

Sometimes I think I might as well have taken drugs.

 

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Kate Cook – Potential Lady Macbeth with a pipe and an invisible wooden leg

Kate Cook at Soho Theatre

Kate Cook talked about her invisible woman at Soho Theatre

“I did comedy for two years and then I stopped because my sister died and I stopped finding anything funny,” actress and comedian Kate Cook told me.

“But didn’t you have to laugh because it was so awful?” I said. “As catharsis?”

“I tried. But I stopped doing comedy and then it was difficult to get back into it psychologically – dragging myself out there again. But, now I am doing it again, I’m really loving it.”

I met Kate Cook at the Soho Theatre Bar in London.

“You are an actress and a stand-up,” I said: “Kate Copstick recently told me she could never be a stand-up comic, because you have to be yourself. Actors are the opposite.”

“I have to say,” Kate Cook said, “that I do find it very difficult being myself when I’m doing stand-up comedy – to just be myself and to tear down that barrier between me and the audience.”

“I think,” I suggested, “that you can very often tell the difference between someone who is a comedian by nature and an actor who is performing as a comedian.”

“I suppose,” suggested Kate, “that comedians do act the comedy differently. They’re maybe a bit more ramshackle, whereas actors are a bit more prepared and anal and they have to tear down that prepared analness.”

Doodle and Bug were Harriet Williams (left) and Kate Cook

Doodle and Bug were Harriet Williams (left) and Kate Cook

“I think comedians tend to make good actors,”I said, “because it’s all about the timing, but actors sometimes become very cardboard comedians. They spout the lines but there isn’t that genuine madness within them.”

“But there are a few actors on the comedy scene,” said Kate. “So it can work.”

“I’m usually not keen on character comedy,” I said.

“I think in the stand-up comedy scene,” said Kate, “maybe sometimes character doesn’t work so well because the fun of comedy is that it’s so raw and spontaneous and the comedian is connecting with you whereas, with a character, it’s all a bit fourth wally.

“But, if you’re an actress AND do stand-up, they help each other. You get massive confidence from doing stand-up comedy – connecting with the audience.

“I’m going to do a one-woman show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year called Invisible Woman.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I’m obsessed by women in World War II…”

“A few years ago,” I said, “you…”

“Yes,” said Kate. “I wrote and devised this thing called Doodle and Bug – I was Lady Penelope Bug. I devised it with my friend Harriet Williams, who is an opera singer. She was my housekeeper Mrs Dorothy Doodle. We did a few cabaret venues and festivals and a couple of spoof Ministry of Information films that are on YouTube.”

“Why the big  interest in World War II?” I asked.

“I love the innocence of the era and I love the heroics of the women. I love all those stories about the Resistance and spies. I’ve been reading the Mass-Observation archive and there’s one diary in that I really love – This well-to-do woman who lives in Maida Vale and she’s a widow with two children and she loved the War. She really found it thrilling and exciting and was desperate to help but kept getting thwarted. She failed her ambulance-driving test. You would think they’d be so desperate they would take anyone. She had servants and she was always horrible about her servants.”

“Is she in your play?”

“I wanted her to be, but she’s not a very likeable protagonist. So I have turned her into a man and made the whole show about his downtrodden housewife who then becomes a spy for the Resistance.”

Kate Cook - Invisible Woman

Cross-dressing and invisibility are standard

“This is set in France?” I asked.

“No. They’re a couple who live in London and he has a wooden leg because he is a World War I veteran. And he’s a bully and they have a 15-year-old daughter who’s a bit of a dreamer. The woman can’t get a job and the husband sends her away to stay with her mother and while she’s there – because she’s half-French – she gets spotted by the War Office and becomes a spy for the Resistance, where she finds love, freedom and adventure. Meanwhile, the one-legged husband is trapping the daughter.”

“You play the wife?” I asked.

“No. I’m going to play everybody except the main character – the Invisible Woman. She never appears. She is brought to life by everyone around her.”

“So the characters you play,” I said, “include the one-legged husband – always good value for money in a comedy. Do you have any previous experience of playing one-legged husbands?”

“No,” laughed Kate, “But it’s always been my dream.”

“To be a one-legged man?” I asked.

“Yeah. And I’m going to have a pipe as well. I’m developing the play with Gerry Flanagan, the Artistic Director of Shifting Sands Theatre.

“I’ve written the story and we’re going to pull it apart and make it come to life for the stage. There are two previews of it at the Hen & Chickens Theatre in London in March and I’m taking it Brighton Fringe for three days in May. Then it’s at Just The Tonic at the Edinburgh Fringe in August.”

“Does the audience see the wooden leg?” I asked.

“No. They imagine it. This whole play is about imagining. You’re imagining the main character. You’re imagining the adventure.”

Kate Cook at Soho Theatre

Kate Cook – a phone + an interesting concept

“The invisible woman is never present?” I asked.

“She’s there,” explained Kate. “She’s there throughout, but everyone is reacting to her. The audience will be the invisible woman. At the beginning, her husband is talking to her. Then she goes off and her mother is talking to her and she goes over to France and is interviewed and…”

“So,” I said, “ when her husband is talking to her, he is talking to the audience?”

“Yes. That’s the idea.”

“So she and the audience are the object of monologues?”

“Except,” explained Kate, “that, occasionally, I play two or three characters talking to one and other.”

“So how long have you been in therapy?” I asked.

“Maybe,” laughed Kate, “this is working as therapy.”

“How is the other acting going?” I asked.

Word Weather

Weird Weather – coming soon to a Vault

“I’m doing a play in March at the Vault Festival in London. It’s a play called Weird Weather, written by Matt Cunningham.”

“Are you playing the title role?” I asked.

“No,” said Kate. “It’s about love, relationships, family and teenage angst, but it’s funny. It’s a funny play. Matt is a good writer.”

“Do you prefer comic acting?” I asked. “I can see you as Lady Macbeth.”

“That would be good,” said Kate. “I would like to be really evil or funny.”

“You have the dark looks of The Wicked Queen in Snow White,” I suggested.

“Spot on,” said Kate. “Sorted.”

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Filed under Acting, Comedy, Theatre, World War II