Tag Archives: Sanazi

Nelly Scott aka Zuma Puma on clowns, feminists, being a schizophrenic Fascist singer and living in a cave in Canada

nellyscott_24sept2013_cut

Nelly aka Zuma Puma talked to me in London this week

I have blogged three times before about the charismatic Nelly Scott aka Zuma Puma – about her schizophrenic Fascist singing Nancy Sanazi character at the Edinburgh Fringe in Frank Sanazi’s Das Vegas Night II and at the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show… as part of the Fringe show Almond Roca: The Lost Cabaret… and last week as host of the weekly Lost Cabaret club shows in London.

But I have never been sure how to categorise her. Actress, comedian, clown, puppeteer, singer/songwriter? She seems to do ’em all. I also made the initial mistake of thinking she was from the US. Never a good thing.

“I’m Canadian,” she reminded me this week. “Originally from St Catherines, Ontario near Toronto. Well, actually, I’m from everywhere. We moved around a lot.”

Zuma Puma grabbed two audience members last night

Nelly as Zuma Puma at the weekly Lost Cabaret club shows

“So what did you want to be as a kid?” I asked. “An actress?”

“My mother is a theatre director and my father’s a set designer,” Nelly/Zuma told me, “So I was just like doing theatre forever.”

In fact, aged 12, she was also dancing with Canada’s Opera Atelier. When she was 17, she had an award-winning role at one of Canada’s most prestigious theatres – the Shaw Festival Theatre.

“I was one of the witches in The Crucible in a 6-month run in the main stage,” she told me (without mentioning the award she got).

“That was when it all started,” she told me. “The woman who played Abigail in The Crucible became a great mentor for me and she had studied at Canada’s National Theatre School, which is where I wanted to go. But she said: Don’t go to the National Theatre School. I spent four years there and then I went to L’Ecole Philippe Gaulier in Paris and re-did it all and now I’m getting all the work… Gaulier’s a genius. If you can, just go straight to him.

Philippe Gaulier, memorable mime muse and more of Paris

Philippe Gaulier, memorable mime muse and more of Paris

“So, when I finished high school in Canada, I went to study with Philippe Gaulier in Paris. I showed up there thinking I was this very serious actress and just flopped every day for about six months. Every day I’d come on and Philippe Gaulier would say Oh you are this boring Canadian little rabbit lost in the forest taking a poo poo. Oh she is so beautiful. Wow. You love her. You want to fuck her every night of your life. That’s what he’d say every day and then he’d ask someone I had had a crush on in the class and they would say No, she’s a boring rabbit poo poo in the Canadian forest.”

“This sounds like some cult breaking down your personality,” I said.

“But I WAS shit,” insisted Nelly/Zuma. “He was training us to find the magic, to know how to identify it when we were on our own. And so, after six months of flopping every day trying to be this serious actress, we started the character section – character/clown/comedy – and I came out the first day and I stayed on stage for 15 minutes and everyone was laughing and I’d never… It was the best moment of my life… For some reason, all this time I’d thought I was a serious actress and it turned out that I was a lot funnier than I thought I was.”

“And after that you went back to Canada?” I asked.

Almond Roca: The Lost Cabaret at Edinburgh Fringe 2013

Almond Roca: The Lost Cabaret at Edinburgh Fringe 2013

“I went from Paris back to Victoria, British Columbia,” said Nelly/Zuma, “where I lived in a cave with a man named Caveman Dan and then I hitchhiked to California and around California. I was singing at this time – R&B, Blues, jazz and a little bit hip-hop.”

“With bands?” I asked.

“Yeah, doing stuff with producers and musicians and all sorts of people for years. I ended up teaching at a circus school in Costa Rica, met a band there and toured with them to Peru for ten months. Kind of just being an idiot on the road.

“After that, I decided I wanted to finish my clown school in Montreal because I’d sort of started it and done little bits here and there.”

In fact, she studied puppetry at the Banff Arts Centre, completing L’Ecole Clown et Comedie with Gaulier’s Protege and Cirque du Soleil’s first clowns Francine Côté and James Keylon in Montreal.

“I had just finished the clown school,” Nelly/Zuma told me, “when my grandfather passed away in 2012 – he was British. We all came here for the funeral and, afterwards, my parents asked me When do you want to leave? and I said Give me an open flight and I’ll figure it out. Then I went to Buddhafield and met Adam Oliver (her cohort in Almond Roca: The Lost Cabaret at the Edinburgh Fringe) at a hippie festival and came to London to visit Annie Bashford who I’d gone to Gaulier with.

Nelly as Nancy Sanazi at the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show

Nelly: Nancy Sanazi at the Edinburgh Fringe

“She was playing Anne Stank (a singing Anne Frank) in Frank Sanazi’s Das Vegas Night gigs with Agent Lynch playing Nancy Sanazi. Then Agent Lynch got picked up to perform with La Clique and Annie suggested me to Pete (Frank Sanazi) as his new Nancy Sanazi; I was only staying with her for a week.

“After doing Nancy Sanazi at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012, we had a few gigs lined up and Pete said Stay a couple of months so I said I’d stay until Christmas and I was also doing a double act with Annie back then – we were called Grumpy Lettuce.

“At the end of October, we did a show at Lost Theatre in London and the artistic director wanted to start up a cabaret night called Lost Cabaret at the Priory Arms in Stockwell and was looking for a compere, so I did that.”

“You’re certainly busy,” I said. “Do you have an agent?”

“No, I’d like one. Actually, I don’t know what’s happening with the Adam Lost Cabaret at the moment. He’s so busy producing a million and one things… Maybe we’ll do some double acty stuff in various places.”

“And then you’ve got these London Play Group workshops for adults that start next Wednesday,” I asked, trying to be helpful. “What are they about?”

Nelly (left) & Annie - Grumpy Lettuce

Nelly (left) & Annie – Grumpy Lettuce

“Well, replied Nelly/Zuma, “a bunch of adults will come and we’ll get absolutely ridiculous, have loads of fun, play ridiculous games together – just like playful children’s games – improvisation, clown games – like how to find your ridiculous self, how to become free in your self-expression on stage and how to bring that play into life. That’s what we’re exploring. Finding pleasure in life, connecting to people in a playful community and making friends with this hub of people who feel they don’t have enough play or laughter in their life because we’re forced to live this adult lifestyle. Finding a way to be ridiculous.

“I’m also starting a feminist theatre show as part of a group of four people. We’re just starting to talk about it. We feel there’s loads of feminist festivals all over the country that we’d love to tour with our bizarre show. We feel there’s a lot of angry feminists who have made it all about angry women who hate men and we want to bring it back to equality and involve men in feminist theatre and say a man can be a feminist too.”

“So there are men involved?”

“Dan Lees,” said Nelly, “who was in Moonfish Rhumba.”

“And so the bizarreness continues,” I said.

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Women are not funny? … B****cks!

Martin Soan, who runs the Pull The Other One comedy club in London (and soon Leipzig) with his wife Vivienne, recently told me that he thought most of the truly original new bizarre comedy acts around – but often not booked into traditional comedy clubs – were women.

Last night was a prime example of the talent out there.

Zuma Puma grabbed two audience members last night

Zuma Puma mesmerising two audience members last night

Nelly Scott aka Zuma Puma re-started her weekly Lost Cabaret club in London.

Extraordinary, mind-dazzling charisma does not even begin to get close to the stage presence which Canadian comic, actress, clown and puppeteer Nelly has and Zuma Puma is only one of her comedy characters.

She last appeared in this blog at the Edinburgh Fringe, cavorting naked with a giant gold-painted almond in Almond Roca: The Lost Cabaret and singing sweetly (with terrifying homicidal outbursts) as the frighteningly schizophrenic Nancy Sanazi on the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show and in Frank Sanazi’s Das Vegas Night II.

It would be difficult to equal Nelly Scott/Zuma Puma’s charisma but, last night, Candy Gigi Markham certainly grabbed the audience’s attention.

Last time I saw her, Candy Gigi was at Pull The Other One, yelling at the audience, her mouth erupting with half-eaten Corn Flakes, scrawling red lipstick all over her face and clearly ready to be dragged kicking and screaming to some Bedlam-like Victorian insane asylum.

Candy Gigi last, spitting out vegitative matter

Candy Gigi last night, eating and spitting out green vegetative matter

Last night, at The Lost Cabaret, she seemed to have turned the volume up even louder, was screaming at the audience with a tsunami-like intensity and was manhandling – as a surrogate baby – green vegetative matter which she ended up literally shoving into audience members’ faces. And let us not even mention the shouted OTT and utterly unrepeatable obscene poetry.

I tried to take a photograph of her for this blog. It was like trying to photograph a tornado… It comes out fuzzy and can be dangerous.

The evening ended with the entire audience holding each other in a circle.

The Lost Cabaret is not so much a normal comedy show, more a 1960s ‘event’ with a large juicy pizza of ten (or was it eleven?) new 2013 comedy performers.

Men and women.

No difference.

No funny women?

Bollocks.

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The difference between “bumming around” in rural Wigtownshire and with comedians at the Edinburgh Fringe

Misty Edinburgh as I left it last night

Edinburgh as I left it last night, worryingly like The Exorcist

I have escaped on the last day of the Edinburgh Fringe to Wigtownshire in south west Scotland, to see if any grains of my mother’s ashes are still around. She died in 2007.

So it goes.

My mother and father grew up in Wigtownshire.

I put my mother in a little space in the rocks of the breakwater by the cottage in which she grew up, just outside the village of Garlieston.

I put her ashes above the high waterline but sometimes the sea is especially high and I thought I would leave it to Nature to decide whether to wash her ashes out to sea or not.

At the Isle of Whithorn, the tide is out and so it T-mobile

The Isle of Whithorn: the tide is out & so is a T-mobile signal

I am currently booked into a hotel in the Isle of Whithorn – well, the only hotel in the Isle of Whithorn – the seaside village where my father grew up. But I am posting this from the confusingly unconnected small town of Whithorn. Same name. Different places, although both share a lack of any T-mobile phone signal.

Being in parts of Wigtownshire is almost like being in the 1920s and 1930s, when my parents were growing up.

As far as I can find, there is no T-mobile cellphone reception within 20 miles, even in the town of Whithorn. And the WiFi reception at the hotel in the Isle of Whithorn is, if I am being kind, erratic.

Edinburgh is a century away and – given the narrow, winding country roads on the way here  – about 45 minutes longer than the SatNav (Oh, it will only be 3 hours and 9 minutes) told me.

Ellis & Rose revealed as Punch andPunch puncher

Ellis and Rose last night, as both Punch and puncher

Before I left Edinburgh, I had a meal with the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show techies Misha Anker and Jorik Mol… and I bumped into Richard Rose and Gareth Ellis, who had no additional visible bodily wounds… and I belatedly saw Almond Roca: The Lost Cabaret at The Hive, which celebrated the cult of almonds.

I went to see the two-hander show because I had bumped into Adam Taffler aka Adam Oliver a couple of years ago, like one does, when I had arranged some spaghetti-juggling in the Grassmarket and he – out publicising his own show – joined in and acquitted himself as well as anyone can when juggling spaghetti.

Nelly as Nancy Sanazi at the Malcolm Hardee Awards Show

Nancy Sanazi at the Malcolm Hardee Awards

I also went because I discovered at Friday night’s Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show that Frank Sanazi’s extraordinarily and brilliantly OTT sidekick – storm trouper Nancy Sanazi – is actually Canadian one-woman dynamo Nelly Scott who is also half of The Lost Cabaret in her guise of Zuma Puma.

Before last night’s show Adam and Nelly, dressed in their white and gold ceremonial costumes. told me that they were not going to perform their normal show. They would, they told me, just make this one up and it would be a bit low-key…

LOW KEY ???? !!!!!

Adam (left) & Nelly (right) with two surprised audience members

Adam (left) & Nelly (right) surprised two audience members

About a third of the way through, Adam ran into the bar adjoining the venue and, as far as I am aware, simply kidnapped a poor unsuspecting girl whom he carried into the venue accompanied by about five of her friends. He ran in carrying her fireman-style over his shoulder.

The anarchy then involved a young man being enticed onto the stage with her and progressed via stripping the young man and painting his body with white paint… to human jousting, audience bouncing, marrying the two punters to each other and much chanting, climaxing with a finale in which both Adam and Nelly stripped naked and ran up and down the aisle.

The Lost Cabaret: Adam (left) and Nelly

The Lost Cabaret: Adam (left) and Nelly performing ‘low-key’

If this was low key, I clearly have to go out more often and stop watching re-runs of Come Dine With Me.

All I can say is that the sight of Nelly running starkers up and down the aisle waving her arms in the air and holding a giant gold-painted almond is one I will long treasure and it makes me understand why the Edinburgh Fringe is the world’s biggest and best arts festival.

Quite what the farmers of Wigtownshire would make of it, I do not know.

When I walked back to my Edinburgh flat afterwards to get my car to drive to Wigtownshire, I dropped into Bob’s Bookshop to say goodbye to Bob Slayer and his hard-working and resigned-to-oddity bar manager Cat.

She showed me an indistinct photo from the previous night’s Midnight Mayhem of a female audience member putting her finger up Bob Slayer’s bottom.

I would like to say this came as a surprise. But it has happened before.

When I arrived in Wigtownshire late this morning, before the phone signal went and the WiFi became erratic, I got what, by his standards, was an explanatory e-mail from Bob. It read:

Stompie, the Half-Naked Chef at Bob’s Bookshop

Stompie, the Half-Naked Chef, in the window of Bob’s Bookshop – the venue of an innocent?

“A couple of years ago, I had a young girl in the audience reply to my statement that she should be shocked by my nonsense with the words: You will not shock me.

“When she laughed at the most shocking thing I could say to her, I told her I was approaching 40 and had not yet had my prostate checked.

“One thing led to another and she ended up donning a rubber glove, spitting on the finger and double knuckling me.

“In the early hours of this morning, I told this story at the end of my Midnight Mayhem show. I told the audience: That girl gave me the all clear… but I don’t think she was medically trained…

“A woman in the audience asked me if I wanted a second opinion… It turned out she was a nurse.

“There followed another live prostate examination in front of my audience and I am glad to say it was confirmed that I do have the all clear.”

I do not know what the moral is to this blog about two worlds – the Edinburgh Fringe and rural Wigtownshire.

But I suspect it says something about something.

And, for some unknown reason, the words Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire spring to mind.

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Filed under Comedy, Edinburgh, Scotland

Putting the F in art films + a surrealist comedian mistakes himself for a chair

Martin Soan as Miss Haversham at comedy club Pull The Other One last night

I mentioned cult movie The Room in yesterday’s blog – a film which it might seem difficult to out-surreal.

But reality, as always, tends to be more unbelievable than fiction.

In the last of a trilogy of odd memories, mad inventor John Ward told me another tale yesterday about working as the projectionist for an independent cinema in the 1960s.

“Our boss used to screen a right load of old rubbish,” John says. “As in cheap but perhaps not cheerful.

“We had more than our fair share of ‘Continental’ offerings – as in stuff you had never, ever heard-of plus the added fun of subtitles.

“Our matinees used to attract a small, demented audience filled with the sort of characters who could have been in David Croft sitcoms.

“One afternoon, we were showing some French film that the poster, as always, claimed had great delights but in reality included no known form of coherent entertainment. There were nine living breathing mortals in the audience, including someone the box office staff had christened ‘Mad Martha’.

“It was a 5-reel film and we inadvertently screened Reel 5 in place of Reel 3 and nobody noticed.

“On her way out through the foyer, Mad Martha commented in all seriousness to the box office staff that Her in the nice cream blouse were a brilliant actressThat film were a masterpiece.

I would be dubious about the truth of this story except that, eerily, exactly the same thing happened when I worked for Anglia Television, minus Martha.

In those days, feature films were screened from film reels on telecine machines, not off tape. During the screening of one late-night adventure movie with a complicated plot, the reels got scrambled and were shown in the order 1-2-5-3-4.

No-one complained.

The assumption by the Presentation Department was that people watching thought either that they had missed something in the complicated plot or that it was Art.

I did wonder when I later saw Quentin Tarentino’s excellent movie Pulp Fiction – where one central character is killed then comes back to life because the plot does a back-flip in time – if he had written the film in chronological order, realised it lacked tension, then simply swapped some of the pages round to make it more interesting.

All this would seem surreal except, last night, I went to the Pull The Other One comedy club and saw the former Frank Sanazi (sings like Sinatra; looks like Hitler) appear as orange-faced Tom Jones soundalike Tom Mones and Martin Soan appeared briefly as Miss Haversham from Great Expectations sitting in a chair. His costume included the chair. You had to be there. Allegedly the costume took a year to make. He was on stage for perhaps two minutes.

The critic Clive James once wrote of Martin Soan: “A total lack of any sense, rhyme or reason to the extent that the insignificance of this show completely escaped me… The funniest thing I have ever seen.”

I think I may have to go and have a lie down.

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Filed under Art, Comedy, Movies, Surreal, Television