! EE FR
THE DEFINITIVE 2012 FESTIVAL PREVIEW COMEDY
Mark Watson Jim Jefferies The Blanks Adam Hills Tony Law
The Intervention Monkey Bars David Hasselhoff Hip Hop Othello
MUSIC & CABARET Camille O’Sullivan Barbershopera Creative Martyrs Brazil! Brazil!
“Edinburgh’s different to everywhere else... there’s a different heat”
KANE COMEDY, THEATRE, MUSIC AND MORE: THE HOTTEST SHOWS AT THE EDINBURGH FESTIVAL
FEST IS YOUR FREE GUIDE TO THE EDINBURGH FESTIVAL
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There’s even more content on our website at festmag.co.uk
Fest publishes the definitive festival guide every Tuesday and Friday throughout August. Pick them up from venues across Edinburgh PUBLISHER Sam Friedman
Editor Ben Judge Deputy Editor Charlotte Lytton Comedy Editor Stevie Martin Theatre Editor Caroline Bishop Kids Editor Caroline Black Editorial Consultant Evan Beswick
30 The Horne Section
Alex Horne on being a rubbish musician and cutting back on the jazz
42 Sean Hughes
The Perrier Award-winning veteran talks about life, death and his revitalised standup career.
Creative Director Matthew MacLeod Photography Editor Claudine Quinn SALES TEAM
Lara Moloney, George Sully, Tom McCarthy, Michaela Hall
FEST WOULD LIKE TO THANK Kid Critcs Photos with thanks to Bedlam Theatre www.bedlamtheatre.co.uk Mel Gedroyc Shot at Patisserie Valerie, Soho, London who have just opened two new stores in Edinburgh. www.patisserie-valerie.co.uk Class of 2012 Shot at King’s Head Theatre, Islington, London. www.kingsheadtheatre.org Mark Watson Shot at All Stars Lanes, Brick Lane, London www.allstarlanes.co.uk Sean Hughes Tea and location provided by Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution, London. www.hlsi.net Bitchboxer Location courtesy of City Cruises, Thames river tours, London www.citycruises.com Stuart Goldsmith With thanks to The Carpenter’s Arms, Cheshire Street, London www.carpentersarmsfreehouse.com PUBLISHED BY Fest Media Limited, Registered in Scotland number, SC344852 3 Coates Place, Edinburgh, EH3 7AA THE SMALL PRINT Every effort has been made to check the accuracy of the information in this magazine, but we cannot accept liability for information which is inaccurate. Show times and prices are subject to changes - always check with the venue. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reprodiced in whole or in part without the explicit permission of the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within this publication do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the printer of the publisher.
46 London 2012
Fest celebrates the greatest show on Earth by looking at the Edinburgh shows the Games have inspired
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56 David Hasselhoff
Baywatch. Knight Rider. The Berlin Wall. The Hoff plays Fest his greatest hits.
FEST SUPPORTS AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AT THE FESTIVAL Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all.
www.amnesty.org 4 fest edinburgh festival preview guide 2012
festcontents 8 COVER FEATURE
84 FEST DIRECTORY
Russell Kane: The Fringe superstar who can’t be pigeonholed 12 COMEDY
Don’t know your Old Town from your New? No idea what time the one o’clock gun goes off? We’ve put together a handy selection of top fives and top tens of all things Edinburgh and Fringe-related to keep you on the straight and narrow. Here’s how to navigate it:
17 Sara Pascoe
On teenage love, the excitement of the festival and hard-won success.
20 Class of 2012
Meet the young comics destined to become household names.
26 Mark Watson
The Fringe favourite discusses the pitfalls and dangers of social media.
38 The Blanks
Musical high-jinks from the stars of hit TV show, Scrubs.
44 THEATRE 48 Othello: the Remix
The brothers Q give the Bard a hip hop makeover.
54 City of Vice
88 Ex-Neighbours star Mark Little guides you through Edinburgh’s top cheap eateries.
62 Theatre Uncut
89 Vladimir McTavish presents a run-down of the best pubs in the city.
From big-ticket productions like The Intervention to indy theatre, addiction is a hot topic this August. Up-to-the-minute political theatre mirroring real-world events.
68 Clown School
90 Wanna see more of the city? Dog Eared Collective are here to help.
Matt Truman discovers the method behind the madness of festival clowns.
91 Sarah Kendall is back after a six-year hiatus. She remembers some of her favourite cafes.
70 INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL 70 NVA’s Speed of Light
92 Looking for a place to drink? Liam Mullone takes a stroll around his favourite bars.
72 Camille O’Sullivan
94 Jo Caulfield recommends her top Edinburgh restaurants.
Inspired by the Olympics, this visual extravaganza lights up Edinburgh The sultry singer branches out into Shakespeare.
95 Seeking out live music? Rob Deering knows just the place.
74 MUSIC AND CABARET
96 Visiting Edinburgh with the kids in tow? Here’s what you need to know...
Silly flights of fantasy from the UK’s leading comedy a capella group.
78 Creative Martyrs
It’s musical cabaret, Jim, but not as we know it.
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80 KIDS 82 The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean
In advance of one of the most anticipated kids shows of 2012, Caroline Black talks to playwright Shona Reppe.
84 Doctor Brown
The bizarre clown branches out into kids’ territory
IVE 2012 THE DEFALINIT PREVIEW FESTIV EDY Jefferies COM Watson Jim Tony Law
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
Mark Adam Hills The Blanks
ATREMonkey Bars THE Othello Intervention Hop The hoff Hip David Hassel
AREaT IC &anCAB Barbershoper MUSO’Sulliv Brazil! Camille Martyrs Brazil! Creative
rent h’s diffe “Edinburg ere else... ” ywh to ever a different heat there’s
KANE MUSIC THEATRE, COMEDY,
With over 115,000 copies, Fest is the biggest and best magazine at the Festival
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ST SHOWS THE HOTTE
AL RGH FESTIV AT THE EDINBU 15/07/2012
edinburgh festival preview guide 2012 fest 5
KIERKEGAARD COMEDY SHOW: CLAUS DAMGAARD
A 19th century philosopher may sound like a curious source for comedy, but Danish comedian Claus Damgaard is confident that Kierkegaard’s principles are the winning formula for a standup show. Over a decade since his critically acclaimed adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, let’s hope Damgaard’s still got it. DANISH INSTITUTE, 4:00PM – 4:50PM, 8–19 AUG, £10.00
Every August, Edinburgh becomes a melting pot of cultures as acts from around the globe bring everything from the exotic to the extreme. Get ready to try something new as Charlotte Lytton guides you through the international Fringe.
FLAMENCO HIP HOP 2012
Flamenco Hip Hop 2012 does what it says on the tin, fusing the rhythm of sunny Andalucia with some modern breakdance moves. This is a show for all the family as kids are invited to try on traditional outfits and click castanets until their hearts are content. THE FAMOUS SPIEGELTENT, 3:30PM – 4:30PM, VARIOUS DATES, £9.00
AFRICA CALLING: GRASSROOTS
After a sell-out show last year, Grassroots are back with a feel-good 50 minutes that will transport spectators from rainy Scotland to the very heart of Zimbabwe. Let the music and the movement take over and experience African culture at its finest. PARADISE IN AUGUSTINE’S, 5:55PM – 6:45PM, 6–27 AUG, NOT 13, 20, £10.00
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NORWEGIANS OF COMEDY
THE WIND HORSE: ANDA UNION
The last time Norwegians invaded Scotland, things didn’t go down too well. But hoping to make amends are Lars, Adam and Martin, better known as laughter making trio Norwegians of Comedy, who are ditching the icy climes of Scandinavia for a round on the standup circuit.
Anda Union are making their debut at this year’s Fringe, bringing the haunting sounds of Inner and Outer Mongolia to the Scottish stage. Combining evocative vocals, throat singing and a range of old-fashioned instruments, this feast for the ears is a truly traditional way to spend the afternoon, Mongolian style.
GHQ, 6:20PM – 7:20PM, 4–19 AUG, FREE
ASSEMBLY GEORGE SQUARE 3:30PM – 4:30PM, 2–27 AUG, £8.00 – £13.00
DETENTION: TANG SHU-WING THEATRE STUDIO
Fans of high octane somersaults and backflips need look no further than Detention, an acrobatic comedy from Hong Kong. Words are dispensed with entirely as three naughty schoolboys chase the object of their affections around the classroom behind the back of their disgruntled teacher in this hour long tale of tomfoolery. SUMMERHALL, 1:00PM – 2:05PM, 3–26 AUG, NOT 6, 13, 20, £12.00
SALOME: GODOT ART ASSOCIATION
Oscar Wilde may be one of the most celebrated Irish playwrights of all time, but Macao’s Godot Art Association has turned Salome into an exotic treat. Using Chinese dance and Korean percussion instruments, this one man show powerfully explores the nature of human existence through the body alone. GREENSIDE 1:45PM – 2:45PM, 3–11 AUG, FREE – £6.00
CLINTON THE MUSICAL: EGDOH THEATRE
WARRIORS OF GOJA
Clinton the Musical is multi-national in every sense of the word. Performed by an Australian theatre company about the former President of the United States, Egdoh Theatre embrace fresh new writing with this stonking musicomedy. Thought one Bill Clinton was bad enough? Try having two of them, and watch their hilarious bid to seize control over each other in this wacky piece.
Billing themselves as the most extreme show to hit the Fringe in the past ten years, India’s Got Talent veterans Warriors of Goja are bringing their brick smashing spectacular to the British stage. Watch in awe as 20 Sikh martial artists chew through glass in one of this year’s most dangerous delights.
GILDED BALLOON TEVIOT, 1:00PM – 2:00PM, 1–27 AUG, NOT 14, £6.00 – £10.00
OCEAN TERMINAL,TIMES VARY, 3–26 AUG, NOT 13, 20, FREE
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COMIC CHAMELEON Two years after winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award, Russell Kane has carved out a successful niche straddling the divide between high and low culture. Sam Friedman finds a man at peace with his inner contradictions.
ussell Kane is looking an alarming shade of orange. As he shows me around his handsome north London flat, I’m trying my best not to stare. But it’s tough. The streaky remnants of spray-tan are glaring at me from the semi-circle of chest poking out of his low-cut t-shirt and his normally chiselled features look suspiciously like they’ve just been Tangoed. “Oh that”, he says offhandedly, finally noticing my gaze. “I think I’m the Torso Of The Week or something for Heat, again. There’s a photo shoot tonight.” Glancing at the contents of Kane’s flat it strikes me that, actually, there’s nothing particularly incongruous about Kane’s tinted coating. In fact it fits quite neatly with the curious taste-adventure aesthetic of his home decor. A colossal flat-screen TV dominates the living room, and opposite sits a similarly flashy brown corner sofa. But jostling for place among the chrome and leather is also a substantial collection of vintage furniture, at least three bookcases stuffed full of classic literature, and a majestic copy of Pissarro’s ‘Hyde Park.’ After Kane’s finished giving me the grand tour, he leads me outside to his “pièce de résistance” - a rather romantic wooden shed at the bottom of the garden where he’s been writing this year’s Edinburgh show. Lowering himself crosslegged into a battered armchair, he reflects on his omnivorous tastes. “I’m a Chav—in an ironic sense; Owen Jones, I’m reclaiming the word—from the bottom rung of the ladder, but I also have a First in English. So I can walk into the hardest pub in Cheshunt, full of Garys and Daves, walk straight up to them, have a pint, and talk about anything.
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But the next day I might also go to the Iris Murdoch convention at St Anne’s College and be in my absolute element. “In fact,” he says grinning, “that sounds like the perfect weekend.” This ability to straddle class cultures is most likely the result of Kane’s upward social trajectory. Brought up on a council estate in Essex, Kane describes himself as the “stereotypical drop-out” at school, “fucking up” his exams and heading straight for a dead-end job in retail. But after going out with a girl
who was studying at university, something suddenly kicked in. “It was like someone had pulled back a curtain on another world and I saw what had happened to me,” he says. Kane immediately enrolled at college and raced to an A in A-level sociology “so quick I got an award from Betty Boothroyd!” It was clear Kane had unlocked a voracious intellectual appetite, and this only intensified when he got to Middlesex University. “I had so much pent-up energy, that’s why I walked away with a First – I was so fucking angry. It was like a nervous breakdown in the other direction.” This frenzied pursuit of social mobility has also had a lasting impact on Kane’s comedy. Forever the class transfuge, he seems to have one foot in the world of his workingclass origins and one in the cultured milieu of his destination – a tension that has proved a very fruitful vehicle for humour. Describing himself as “class bilingual,” the 31-year-pold has used this unique social position to craft consistently insightful, articulate and sociologically critical comedy, with material notably taking aim both upwards and downwards – most prominently in his 2010 Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Awardwinning show, Smokescreens and Castles. His recent career moves have also reflected this liminal position. While Edinburgh success propelled him to the top of British standup, recent outputs have included contributions at very different ends of the cultural hierarchy. The critical acclaim of his comedy has thus been augmented by the successful staging of his play, Fakespeare, at the RSC and the recent publication of his debut novel, The Humourist. But at the same time Kane has also established himself as an unashamed patron of pop culture. Hence the orange glow of Torso of the Week
edinburgh festival preview guide 2012 fest 9
and even more conspicious presenting gigs on Big Brother’s Big Mouth, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and Geordie Shore. But standup remains where Kane’s gearswitching capacity is at its most impressive. Here he fuses the two sides of his career, presenting intellectual insights in a way that “brings in” his reality TV audiences, rather than willfully excluding them. “I’ve got a pathetic need to be liked by everyone. So the thought that someone might not be getting it doesn’t make me think ‘yeah, you don’t get it, leave.’ I think ‘that’s sad, this person’s given me £17.50, they need to get this. I want the story to adumbrate the ideas without me saying, ‘here’s my thesis – laughter optional.’” In contrast, Kane laments a recent rise in “pseudo-intellectual” comedy (he doesn’t name names), which he says generally consists of “big flowery displays of language with fuck all underneath, except usually the comedian sucking themselves off.” At the heart of Kane’s desire for inclusivity also lies a deep ambivalence with the traditional cultural hierarchy. He’s highly skeptical of elitist definitions of art, particularly the highbrow notion that culture is only legitimate if it makes you think. “How can you separate your thoughts and emotions?” he asks incredulously. “Surely all good art should make you feel something?” Kane has his own preferred definition of art, something that “elevates your perceptions, thoughts and emotions, so after you come out feeling different, more engaged with the world, even if just for a few hours.” If we use this definition, he says, comedy should definitely be seen as art. “But then again so should Eastenders. And if you
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buzz off your tits from The National Lottery Show, so should that.” Getting into his stride, he yells excitedly into my dictaphone, “And who are the elitists who are able to put ballet up there and The National Lottery Show down here. Who are they to downgrade someone else’s artistic experience, because they don’t have a Master’s in Modernism? How dare they.” In his comic repertoire, Kane has a number of signature Big Ideas; class, family and—increasingly so, in recent years—gender. This year he continues to probe this latter theme with a show about fatherhood entitled Posturing Delivery. The genesis of the show, Kane says, was another painful relationship split (“everyone thinks I’m gay but I’m not”) back in February, after which he started to contemplate whether he was going to be “one of those people who never has children.” A female friend’s response (“You’re a man, it doesn’t matter”) fascinated and infuriated Kane. “Yes, men are fertile into their 80s, and that takes the edge off the rush to reproduce, but therein lies the problem. If there’s not that rush and you think ‘fuck it, I can be a dad in my 50s,’ that’s the kind of slack attitude that leads to a lack of engagement in fatherhood and all sorts of problems.” So, eschewing the usual tired comic meditations on male fatherhood (‘‘Hey I’m a new dad, I’m covered in sick, come and watch my hilarious show”), Kane’s hour aims to reflect on fatherhood from the outsider looking in. At the start of the show he’ll be handed Ivan, a metaphorical baby, and over the next 60 minutes he’ll aim to successfully rear Ivan to the age of 18.
Although Kane famously won the Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2010, it’s striking that he continues to come back to the Fringe. He says he knows he doesn’t “need” to come back, “but by forcing yourself to go to Edinburgh, it shows you’ve got balls, even when you’re ‘established.’ Edinburgh’s different to everywhere else. There’s a critical atmosphere, a different heat.” Kane, it seems, is forever walking this tightrope between critical and popular success. While many might see it as a contradictory, even fundamentally irreconcilable strategy, Kane has simply embraced the contradictions. His social trajectory, he says, has given him “two different passports” and professionally he says he’s “at home in both worlds.” While, for many, such long-range upward mobility can lead to status anxiety or a sense of dislocation from one’s roots— feelings that, notably, Kane has alluded to in the past—today he seems remarkably at home in his (albeit artificially bronzed) skin. “In the same way I’m confident enough of my heterosexuality that I can put on eyeliner and skip around the stage, I can sit down with my nutritionally balanced pescatarian meal, watch Geordie Shore, and piss myself laughing. Don’t get me wrong, I love BBC 4. And of course I want to watch the Storyville about child models being exploited in Russia, it’s just I also want to watch Holly from Middlesborough get double-teamed in America.” f
Russell Kane: Posturing Delivery @ The Assembly Rooms 9:00pm – 10:00pm, 13–24 Aug, £15
Highlights We’ve trawled the program so you don’t have to. Here’s our roll-call of the best comedy at the Fringe
Take a chance
JUST THE TONIC AT THE CAVES 6:00PM – 7:00PM, 2–26 AUG, NOT 14, £5 – £10
This terminally depressed, borderline psycho, country and western singer (played by Pippa Evans) just got more terminally depressed and little more psycho. Songs for the dumped, the loners, the losers and the freaks. And anybody else partial to some dark humour.
PLEASANCE COURTYARD 6:00PM – 7:00PM, 1–26 AUG, £6 – £12
God... is anyone else hot? It’s SO HOT. Nick Mohammed returns as northern busybody Mr Swallow, accompanied by his absent-minded landlady, demonstrations of his astounding photographic memory, a piano and a projector. Mindbending hilarity will ensue.
UNDERBELLY, COWGATE 4:55PM – 5:55PM, 2–26 AUG, NOT 13, £6 – £10
With a taste for the unexpected and a penchant for taking his audience on trips outside while wearing a tutu, this show transfers to the Underbelly after last year’s run at the Free Fringe. Elusive and occasionally insane, Target’s shows are always an experience. A funny one.
PLEASANCE COURTYARD, 10:45 – 11:45PM, 1–27 AUG, NOT 14, £5 – £12
Doing things with a Powerpoint presentation that you’d never even thought possible, this debut hour supported by soundbites and visual aids is an experience that is certainly quite unlike anything else at the Fringe.
PLEASANCE COURTYARD, 4:45PM – 5:45PM, 1–27 AUG, NOT 13, 20, £5 – £9.50
This brand new sketch trio have been causing a stir over the last year, touted by pretty much everyone as the Next Big Thing. Polished, stylish and “particularly inspired” (The Telegraph), go see what all the hype’s about.
PLEASANCE COURTYARD, 4:30PM – 5:25PM, 1–27 AUG, NOT 14, £5 – £11
If you’ve heard any popular music over the last decade and relish a good dollop of silliness, the creator of internet sensation Jonni Music brings his muchanticipated debut hour to Edinburgh.
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UNDERBELLY, BRISTO SQUARE 8:20PM – 9:20PM, 1–27 AUG, NOT 14, £6 – £10
One half of the critically acclaimed The Gentlemen Of Leisure, Kumar brings a debut solo hour of immaculately delivered standup to the Fringe. Sharp, intelligent and witty observations from a definite one-to-watch.
festcomedy SUITABLY SURREAL
The Safe Bets SLEDGEHAMMER
PLEASANCE DOME, 5:30PM – 6:30PM, 1–27 AUG, NOT 8, 14, £7 – £13.50
GILDED BALLOON TEVIOT, 9:15PM – 10:15PM, 1–26 AUG, NOT 13, £5 – £11.50
Fresh from smashing the Adelaide Fringe Festival, and picking up an Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination last year, Simmons takes the most boring of conversations—that of the weather—and filters it through his surreal comedy lens. Bags of fun.
Last year’s Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee talks about his love life with all the sensitivity of a smack to the face. Which is why we love him. In a bigger venue, this promises to be loud, relentless and may involve some nice songs about romance.
The pair got themselves nominated for the Best Newcomer award last year, so if you haven’t seen them yet, put that on your things to do list. Clever, silly and assured sketch comedy.
Yes, it’s sold out already, but Kitson will be releasing 15 tickets on the door before each night’s show. First come first served to catch a master and possible genius’s return to standup.
UNDERBELLY, BRISTO SQUARE, 6:40PM – 7:40PM, 1–27 AUG, NOT 13, £6 – £11
THE STAND, 11:59PM – 1:40AM, VARIOUS DATES, £10
UNDERBELLY, COWGATE, 9:05PM – 10:05PM, 2–26 AUG, NOT 13, 20, £6 – £11.50
UNDERBELLY, COWGATE 6:30PM – 7:30PM, 22–26 AUG, £10 – £11
A masterclass in subtle—and not so subtle—clowning and mime, it’s not difficult to understand why Doctor Brown (aka Phil Burgers) is an absolute must-see. Performed to perfection, often in total silence, he’s as bonkers and as brilliant as they come.
Astounding wordplay from an insanely talented poet with a gift for Berkoffian cockney swagger, genuine heart-wrenching emotion and the odd dick joke. There is nobody quite like him and he just keeps getting better and better.
PLEASANCE COURTYARD 4:45PM – 5:45PM, 1–27 AUG, NOT 14, £5 – £10
All eyes are on last year’s Best Newcomer nominee as she brings her array of characters from the Free Fringe to the Pleasance. Refreshingly original and definitely worth checking out.
UNDERBELLY, BRISTO SQUARE, 8:15PM – 9:15PM, 1–26 AUG, £10 – £16
Every year, from discussions about love to his childhood to wearing a hitler moustache, Herring nails it. This year he’s talking about the nature of masculinity and probability says he’ll nail it again.
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Mr Nice Guy Daniel Sloss is young. Stu Goldsmith is nice. This year, both are taking noticeably different, darker and more personal directions. Stevie Martin finds out what sparked the transformation.
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ention Daniel Sloss and the response will likely include the words “young”, “fresh-faced”, “whippersnapper” (if talking to someone from the 1920s) or at least something regarding his age. Fair enough, considering he bagged his own TV show and a DVD deal worth a third of a million quid while still able to start sentences with “living with my parents is great because ...” minus any humiliation. “When I was younger, I talked about being young because I was young,” Sloss says simply, now 21. “I’m proud of it. I put a lot of effort into that material. I don’t want to kill that young comedian thing, but maybe put him in an attic and not feed him so he’ll eventually die.” Why? Because Sloss has grown up. Sloss realised early on that he couldn’t be “the young comedian” for long. “To change, though, I knew people would have to change with me and it seemed everyone was going ‘fucking hell! It’s Peter Pan!’” No longer in the sheltered comfort of his parents’ home while happily loved-up in a two-year relationship, he speaks from a flat he shares with his best mate in Edinburgh. He is also single. And sporting a new haircut that, in his opinion, backfired and made him look 14. “I know I’m still young, obviously, but things have happened, and my life has changed drastically over the course of this year.” The Show promises to chart this new perspective from someone who’s experienced life a little more than he had before, but it’s up to everyone else to get on board. “This year I had lots of clashes, people asking me to do stuff for TV saying “Oh, I saw you do this joke, can you do that?” and it’s like, that was a joke I did when I was 18. That’s was what I thought then. I’m branching out a bit now.” Mention Stuart Goldsmith, and you’ll get the words “lovely”, “winning personality”
and “likeable”. This is one reason he’s also planning on branching out, most evidently by calling his show Prick. Or, Pr!ck, after the sensitive souls at the Fringe Society censored it to avoid, y’know, mass hysteria. “It’s a strange decision,” Goldsmith frowns, “and I didn’t expect it because I don’t think it’s a swear word, really. But then again I didn’t want pictures of me underneath the word PRICK everywhere, so knew I had to do it.” Sure, he’s touched on sensitive subjects before; anxiety, neuroses and being the constant outsider (especially during rap gigs and transvestite clubs), but his CBBC-style grin, self deprecation and natural warmth makes for, in the words of The Guardian, The Independent and, indeed Fest: “Slick”, “slick” and “slick”, so why “Pr!ck”? “People say what a nice guy I am, but I’m not,” he says within minutes of taking his coat off. “I’m endlessly nice and charming, but it stems from an intense desire for everyone to love me. That is an inherently unlikeable quality.” He’s always been like this. At college he remembers flitting from table to table, flirting with the room and spending time with nobody. “I roam the streets looking for old ladies to help across roads – it’s just who I am. Christ, I’m the ultimate butler.” Pr!ck, however, is not about showing the world what an arsehole he is. Instead, he’s challenging himself to disregard the audience’s opinion of him as a person. Ever since he accidentally called a woman a whore during a show in Brighton last autumn and spent the next ten minutes apologising, it’s become obvious that when he lets loose, the result is, for him, exhilarating. “When I say mean things, I think it’s quite delicious, but I’ve covered that up for a long time.” Prick is an attempt to knock his legs from under himself. “I want to say what I’m actually thinking without worrying about not being liked. It’s a game, and the name of the show is part of this game.” This desperation to be liked is something that’s heavily ingrained, especially considering he’s surrounded by others whose success hangs on an ability to make strangers adore them. “Comedians are the worst kind of people because our stock in trade is talking faster and louder than anyone else, acting charming and lovable while ignoring anyone but ourselves.” Instead of wallowing, though, he wants to test this theory out, using himself as litmus paper in a social experiment of likeability. “I get my emotional self, drop it on a normal experience, react with it, then try to tell everyone what that experiment was like. Some audiences would, of course, just prefer jokes but I’m finally getting to say the things that are on my mind.” He’s not the only one liberated by feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Sloss is learning to take the painful, difficult
Left Daniel Sloss Right Stuart Goldsmith
experiences of 2012 and transform them into a more mature set. While last year’s The Joker was a high quality hour of standup, it worked within the constraints of someone with a blinkered view. By it’s London transfer, heated, spiked anecdotes about his then-recent breakup had crept into the set, making his tamer material seem, well, a bit tame in comparison. “Every opinion I had a year ago has changed because I’m living alone and discovering what a useless person I am,” he explains, “Growing up is petrifying. I’m living away from home, I’m freaked out, I’m single and I’m terrible with women. In the way that I’m about 90% certain I’m going to die alone.” That aside, he’s also fully aware of how this may sound akin to a kid throwing a fit in a candy store. “I know that complaining about being young is such a young person thing to do. BUT I DON’T WANNA BE THE YOUNG COMIC ANYMORE. When I’m 30 I’ll look back and be mortified. But for now? No...” Sloss pauses, uncharacteristic considering the breakneck speed at which he usually talks, “I do finally feel like myself on stage.” So does Goldsmith. Pr!ck is, in his opinion, his best show yet because it’s honest.
However, like Sloss and the petulant child image, there’s also the potential for people getting the wrong idea of what he’s trying to achieve. “I really don’t want to come off like Gary Barlow in a leather jacket. In fact, put that in, because it’ll avoid confusion...” So how far is he going to go? How will he put his likeability factor to the ultimate test in front of an audience who already want to forcibly take him home to their mothers? “I’m going to be really honest and put a little shadow in the pastel shades,” he says, standing up to go, “oh, and maybe I’ll punch a woman.” In very different ways it’s clear that, dodgy 14-year-old haircut and potentially violent misogyny aside, Daniel Sloss and Stuart Goldsmith are both growing up. Just don’t mention Macaulay Culkin, or the word “slick”. f
Daniel Sloss: The Show Venue150 @ EICC
6:30pm – 7:30pm, 2–26 Aug, not 22, £8.50 – £15.50
Stuart Goldsmith: Pr!ck Pleasance Courtyard
7:30pm – 8:30pm, 1–26 Aug, not 15, £5 – £10
edinburgh festival preview guide 2012 fest 15
After being involved in a car crash, Rick Shapiro found himself suffering from amnesia, “talking to lamps and walking around lobbies half-naked.” But Julian Hall meets a comic as controversial and uncompromising as ever before. L.A.S.E.
ick Shapiro has the capacity to excite and infuriate audiences in equal measure. A stalwart of the NY comedy scene, his appearance in Louis CK’s sitcom Lucky Louie brought him a wider audience, although he remained as impenetrable or as uncompromising as ever – depending on your opinion. Tackling such subjects as prostitution and a heroin addiction makes Shapiro a difficult proposition for some. Things won’t get any easier for Shapiro’s audiences because his life doesn’t get much smoother. Since his last Fringe, he has survived a car crash and suffered amnesia as a result — not ideal for the average performer. Shapiro is not, however, the average performer. “Actually the past four years were great,” the moustachioed comic says, somewhat unexpectedly. “I did a couple of TV shows, did a movie, released a CD, had my own book published and did everything from drink coffee to screw girls in parking lots. I’ve been busy doing what I love.” I suppose, for someone with a wayward style, it might be hard to notice when things have gone awry? “It was only the first year that was odd... and quite frankly, I had amnesia, so I don’t remember it being “traumatic.” The only thing I remember was talking to lamps and walking around lobbies half naked, but I just kept working. Like I say, I had amnesia, so maybe I don’t remember the rough parts.” It’s not, of course, that Shapiro, now 43, has failed to draw any lessons from his, erm, “convalescence.” “I discovered there are no boundaries, that
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you can be a whirling dervish, shamanistic, all the things that people described. I just didn’t know they were describing them enviously. You can go up on stage and have a great time, and not worry about some guy in a grey suit who’s more worried about whether your next show is going to be able to get him a free salad because he’s your fucking agent. You can free-wheel it because you had amnesia: ‘Guess what, I don’t remember my jokes... Ha ha! Let’s explode, let’s start the show, continue the show and explode. Explode! Get that caesar salad all over your suit!’” So, duly unfettered, (to the point where I’m essentially at a Shapiro gig) this livewire, immortalised in Grand Theft Auto IV, is ready for anything — Edinburgh included. This will be the American’s third visit to the festival with his previous shows described by The Guardian as having “more personality than most other standups put together” but “that personality can be very hard work.” Chortle said: “There’s an authenticity to his wired, wild act that’s raw, visceral and risky, leading to a genuine frisson of unpredictability. It’s uncompromisingly aggressive, often misogynistic and, to be frank, frequently just not funny – as he simply hasn’t the discipline to channel his crude emotions into punchlines.” Not that the opinions of others have dampened Shapiro’s anticipation of the Fringe. “It makes me feel like I’m drinking again and I’m not.” This intoxication comes from hanging with kindred spirirts. “Comedians are the best people in the world to hang out with, good mood or bad mood, they can take it. I know
I can! Edinburgh redefines the expression, boys will be boys; girls will be girls. It’s wild, it’s fierce, except for those shows that are neither. But they get picked up as background music anyway.” I see his point that, up here, comedians can come across as almost mythical in their power (until perhaps TV exposure or an arena tour diminishes the magic), and there is no doubt Shapiro has high expectations of his fellow comics. “When is the last time you heard a comic want to excite you? Excite, excite you... think about the word excite. Excite... excite excite excite excite... Say it a hundred times, look in the mirror, excite excite excite... Ask if there is a comic, looking in the mirror right now saying ‘I want to EXCITE the audience!’ I didn’t know the bookers allowed that. I don’t even know if they do in the States.” The vigour of his argument must surely derive from his brushes with illness and injury. I suggest this to him and am suitably rewarded: “When you’re talented and you lose your mind you get to be talented and lose your mind, as long as there is a comedy sign behind you. People need someone who loves diving off the high dive that everyone knows is there. They walks by it and no one notices it. Yet they look out of the corner of their eye and say, ‘I really don’t see a high-dive – I mean, not tangibly.’ It ain’t like it’s made out of concrete. I’m made out of something stronger.” f
Rick Shapiro: Rebirth Assembly George Square
6:10pm – 7:10pm, 1–27 Aug, not 13, £9 – £14
The Golden Girl
Not too long ago, Sara Pascoe was a struggling actress nobody had heard of. Now she’s a TV regular, a Fringe favourite and a top-class comic. She tells David Hepburn about success, her love of Edinburgh and mad teenage crushes.
HEN she was 15-years-old, Sara Pascoe ran away from home to marry Robbie Williams, spending a night outside the television studio where the object of her affection was due to appear. The teenager soon trudged home without the Take That star; the failure to win the singer’s hand was destined to become one of the very few achievements to elude the grasp of the multi-talented actor, comedian and writer. In recent years Pascoe has appeared in numerous television series on both sides of the Atlantic, working with many of her comedy heroes in the process. Her impressive IMDb entry now includes Campus, The Thick of It, Being Human, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret and Twenty Twelve, yet not long ago she was just another struggling actress, before a dalliance with standup saw her begin her swift ascent. “I’d been acting since I was 18 and wasn’t getting anywhere,” explains Pascoe, “so I gave standup a go. Five months
later I did well in a competition, got picked up by my agent, and after another three months I had my first sitcom.” Soon after, in August 2010, Pascoe arrived in Edinburgh with the first of her solo shows Sara Pascoe Vs Her Ego. Fast forward two years and she is preparing her eagerly awaited third offering, Sara Pascoe –The Musical. It sees her leave behind the surreal character comedy which won her fans (but split the critics) and embrace a new autobiographical style. “It’s a musical of my life, although there aren’t really any proper songs in it,” she says. “It focuses on my school days and includes quite a lot of feminist polemic argument. It’s very personal. My first two shows were a learning experience and I always talked about made-up things. Now I’m essentially talking about funny stuff that has happened to me. It’s been a gradual evolution.” She confesses running a few of the stories past her parents, both to verify her recollections and ensure they didn’t mind airing a few family skeletons. “My mum and dad were teenagers when they had
me. Mum was a fan of Flintlock, a band that my dad was in who had a bit of success. She met him when she was 14 and just said ‘that’s the man I’m going to marry.’ She was angry with me when I ran away to marry Robbie but I was only following her example…” Now she’s traded her obsession with popstars for a love of Edinburgh, bewildered at some of the cynicism displayed towards the festival memorably labelled “exams for clowns” by Andrew Maxwell. “August is my New Year and I get really excited every time. I remember Tim Minchin saying that after you’ve done 12 Fringes you’ve effectively been an Edinburgh resident for a year, which is a nice way to look at it. It’s a real home from home for me and when I get off the train it’s like I’ve never been away. Some people get to Edinburgh and get depressed because they start feeling like everything’s already been done, but I just find it inspiring.” Her attitude to Edinburgh has also subtly changed with experience, matching the evolution of her comedy style. “The first year you have lots of pressure because of the Foster’s Comedy Awards Newcomers Prize – the one that everyone thinks they could win. Every comedian has delusions of grandeur and you can’t get it out of your mind. Even if all your reviews are shit you always think you have a chance,” she says. “The second year you can relax a bit and concentrate on whether you’re getting a returning audience. Then it’s about that one really successful show. I guess I’ve done alright but I’m still waiting for that year. Hope keeps you going.” Although standup held the eventual key to her acting career, she sees her profitable television work largely as a way to continue performing live without having to pander to commercial sensibilities. “Anything you can do to take the pressure off is great. The more people in the audience who presume you’re not shit, the easier it gets. Tim Key said that if 50 per cent of the audience just know who you are then you are half way there. It also means I don’t have to earn money from standup. I don’t have to do any horrible gigs.” It’s all part of her resolutely positive outlook, which sees her draw a blank when asked about the negative aspects of the Fringe. “I don’t sleep enough but I can’t blame Edinburgh for that. I even like all the hills because they help to tone my legs. I look at myself in the mirror at the end of August and think ‘thanks Edinburgh!’” f
Sara Pascoe - The Musical! @ Assembly George Square
9:15pm – 10:15pm, 1–27 Aug, not 14, £6– £12
edinburgh festival preview guide 2012 fest 17
54 George Street | 0844 693 3008 | www.arfringe.com
2012 While there are plenty of top quality comedians, sketch groups and comedy-related goings-on at the Fringe, there are some you should definitely see. In fact, you need to see them. Teetering on the precipice of very big things, catch them before they go stratospheric, prices soar, they sell out their respective runs and you’re left being like “oh for god’s sake I made a massive error.” Which nobody wants...
Words Stevie Martin Photos Claudine Quinn
Appearances on 8 out of 10 cats, The Rob Brydon Show, Russell Howard’s Good News, Dave’s One Night Stand It’s hard to describe Welsh-born James without reverting to: “you know when someone’s just really funny? Yeah. That.” Infectiously enthusiastic, James is one of the more experienced performers on the list, this being his fourth Fringe. With anecdotes and observations delivered with absolute ease, just go and see him. You’ll understand what we mean. PLEASANCE COURTYARD 7:00PM – 8:00PM, 1–27 AUG, NOT 14, £5 – £12
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festcomedy ALASTAIR ROBERTS
Toured with The Invisible Dot To put it frankly, no other sketch troupe can touch ex-Cambridge Footlighters Daren Johnson, Liam Williams and Alastair Roberts. Immaculate performances, intelligent writing, originality and just enough chaos to be appealing (as opposed to under rehearsed), this is sketch comedy as silly as it is intelligent. Genuinely exciting stuff and sold out consistently last year, so be sure to book in advance. PLEASANCE COURTYARD 8:15PM – 9:15PM, 1–26 AUG, £5.00 – £12.00
Writer for two series of C4’s Stand Up For The Week and BBC3’s Laughtershock Lou Sanders is mental. As in completely mental. But also witty, ambitious, unique and irresistible. She’s figured out the key elements of a properly entertaining show (such as, say, a Vegas musical) and incorporated them, on a lower budget, into her hour. Basically, if you’re not entertained by this tornado made up of equal parts charm and total bedlam, you’ve got a problem. PLEASANCE COURTYARD, 9:30PM – 10:20PM, 1–26 AUG, NOT 15, £5 – £10.50
Toured with Josie Long and Milton Jones, Dave’s One Night Stand, Russell Howard’s Good News Part lanky youth, part mad uncle, Acaster nails the space between observation and surrealism with a wiggle of his eyebrow and the occasional, unexpected lean or lunge. His style is unique, quiet and considered; his timing spoton; and the silliness is plenty. You’ll also learn a hell of a lot about bread in this, his second solo Fringe show. PLEASANCE COURTYARD, 8:15PM – 9:15PM, 1–26 AUG, £5.00 – £12.00
Dry Humour Laying off the booze, and with a kid on the way, Jim Jefferies seems to be cleaning up his act off-stage. But with a new TV show in the pipeline, Julian Hall finds the Aussie maestro is far from squeaky clean.
his Edinburgh will be different for Jim Jefferies. For a start, the famously hard living Australian is bringing his pregnant girlfriend over from the States, where he now lives. He will also have a writing team in tow for his FX television show Legit, commissioned the week we catch up. On top of this, he can’t get blind drunk like he used to. “I would like to get up at 4pm and go to bed at 8am the morning after- that was my Edinburgh day,” he explains on the phone from Miami, where he has been gigging. “I have been trying to be a good guy and avoiding the scrapes I used to get myself into.” This more sober approach started after his last Edinburgh show in 2010, the frankly titled Alcoholocaust. I forget that Jim is only 35 and that, in Edinburgh terms, this could be considered bailing out early. It’s commendable, of course, but will it leave a pint-sized
hole in his comedy? “Of course, I am worried about losing my edge. Giving up drinking and drugs, to a certain extent, your stories become a little less interesting. You don’t get yourself into as many scraps when you’re not going out as much.” Jefferies contends that he’s weathered the storm of contentment and that it’s the next show that worries him, not this one (named, appropriate to his life’s latest milestone, Fully Functional). “I am planning on being a poor father, so I think I will get some good stories out of that. Also, I am looking forward to my parents being more senile. I ran out of stories about my childhood and now family routines are starting again, with both my parents in their 70s and going slightly crazy.” It’s hard to imagine such an easy talking man ever drying up, but there’s another threat to his shtick aside from sobriety: his celebrity.
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Settling in LA has changed everything for Jefferies, and success with Legit will inevitably consolidate his break. “LA is a nice place to live. Rhys Darby lives round the corner and he has a great big swimming pool; you just don’t have that in the UK. Everyone has two living rooms and a dining room here; I don’t know what to do with the space and it’s still cheaper than buying a place in London... I’m going to sound like a rich prick, aren’t I?” The enjoyment Jefferies soaks up from the California lifestyle is all the more satisfying because the US validated him in a way that the UK never did. “The UK never made me a citizen. I was there for nine years but kept getting six month visas. It always bothered me that if I got drunk and disorderly or caught with a gram of coke in my pocket, I could be kicked out at any moment. Now, as a resident somewhere, I feel more comfortable.” Jefferies is keen not to get too comfortable, though, in case boredom creeps in. “I don’t want to be Russell Brand or Ricky Gervais and talk about celebrity shit, though I know it is hard not to talk about what surrounds you. I always liked Billy Connolly when he was a welder, now I am not into him anymore. I wanted to hear more about being poor than the fact he met Michael Palin at a party.” Limiting himself to one celebrity story in Fully Functional, Jefferies promises variety. “There’s a sex story about a threesome that went wrong, a story about disability, a routine about religion and some cock jokes.” Loyal fans won’t be left wanting. Meanwhile, his act has gone down well with his growing American fanbase. Even in the one celebrity story involving meeting Paul McCartney and Crowded House frontman Neil Finn, he “comes out of it looking like a dick.” For him, the heroic status is one of the great divides between US and UK comedy – one that he has now crossed. “I think US comics find the sensibility of British comics refreshing, but I figured out that they are very big on ‘hero comedy.’ You tell a story and, at the end, you say some thing really funny and everyone else looks like an idiot. British comedy is where someone else says something funny and you look like the idiot. I much prefer not coming out squeaky clean.” Given that this is a man who has used his routine about taking a friend with muscular dystrophy to a brothel as the basis of his new sitcom’s first episode, it’s doubtful anyone will see Jefferies as squeaky clean. I’ll drink to that, even if he can’t. f
Jim Jefferies: Fully Functional @ Assembly Hall
9:00pm – 10:00pm, 2–26 Aug, not 13, £10–£17.50
THE STAND COMEDY CLUB
0131 558 7272 | thestand.co.uk
Utterly bonkers The charmingly eccentric Bridget Christie talks to Jay Richardson about the alternative comedy scene, and raising awareness of widespread donkey prejudice. Claudine Quinn
s I get older, I’m more interested in talking about the things that matter, the things that are really important,” Bridget Christie insists. Opening her eighth Edinburgh Fringe show in a donkey costume, she couldn’t be more serious about stubbornly making an ass of herself. Unlikely perspectives have become her metier, through what she mockingly describes as her “trademark Bridget Christie Lens of the Absurd™.” Having performed as a frustrated ant comedian, Charles II and Japanese knotweed among others, she appreciates that “people see me as silly. But there’s always a point to it.” A sometime biker and goth who reckons her comedy is “completely straightforward and normal,” she will concede that she’s invariably the “weirdo” act on a typical club bill. Regardless, Christie has just recorded a set for Comedy Central’s The Alternative Comedy Experience and is busier than ever. “The mainstreaming of comedy has been absolutely brilliant” she reflects. “Lots of acts were finding it hard to get booked but now there are gigs springing up all over the place. Political gigs, alternative gigs, a really broad circuit’s emerged. “Alternative stuff hasn’t been in for the past four or five years but it’s coming back now. You just have to do what you do and wait for it to come back into fashion. In every town there are the goth kids and the ones that don’t quite fit in. If someone had come to Gloucester when I was 15 and done something leftfield that I wasn’t expecting, I’d have been delighted.” For this year’s festival, the 40-year-old mother-of-two is championing overlooked beasts of burden, specifically donkeys and women. She’s passionate about both, explaining that “donkey milk is the closest thing to breast milk you can get. It was used as an alternative in this country til the nineteenth century.” Appearing as A Ant in 2010, a resentful ant standup struggling to reconcile a minority comic’s desire to be heard while confounding expectations and prejudice, she kept the laughs subtextual, an in-joke for Edinburgh’s “comedy savvy” crowds.
War Donkey, by comparison, is relatively straightforward in tackling women’s issues. “Some of the newer female comics have told me that they used to come and see me because I never talked about gender” she recalls. “And that it was good to hear a woman discussing things that weren’t about women. I know you can get branded a bit but that’s ridiculous. I don’t see why women can’t do women’s stuff.” Although never as frank and outspo-
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ken as say, Greg Proops, in denouncing a modern “war on women”, she’s preoccupied by female genital mutilation in developing countries, the suppressed rights of Afghan women and the myth of hyper perfectionism in Western society, revealing that’s she trying to get an antenatal unit built in Bo, Sierra Leone. None of which will feature explicitly in her hour though, because “it’s too grim and there’s a delicate balance between preaching and remembering that what you’re doing is meant to be comedy. I try and come at it from a different perspective.” Taking her lead from the Suffragettes, she’s zeroing in on a single issue for most of the show, principally “MPs branding themselves as new Tory feminists. “Theresa May, Nadine Dorries and Louise Mensch, supposedly bringing feminism out of the gutter? I’m trying to work out who they are and what they mean by that. When women are worse off than they’ve been in the last 20 years, when this government is making this the worst time to be a woman.” You pick your battles. Rather than hurling herself in front of a horse, Christie is throwing her lot in with donkeys, inhabiting the persona of, and indeed becoming, Jason the War Donkey. The show was inspired by Colonel Gaddafi publicly denouncing the steady, dependable animals, after they delivered ammunition to rebel fighters in the Libyan town of Gharyan. Donkeys’ wartime contribution and sacrifices are always overlooked in favour of the more romantic horse, she argues, expressing revulsion at the Palestinian practice of strapping explosives to the quadrupeds, turning them into unwitting suicide bombers. In every performance, she’ll be offering audience members £10 to donate towards a sanctuary in the Middle East. In recent times, historians have been re-examining the once prevailing view of infantry slaughter in World War I, as simply that of “lions led by donkeys”. And Christie is keen to avoid any unpleasant, online “horse-donkey argument”, any equine turf tension in comedy chat forums. “But you know, Jesus didn’t ride a horse into Jerusalem. That’s just high status and confrontational. It says you’re riding into battle. Horses are upper-class, with these glamorous movies made about their lives. And the humble donkey remains the downtrodden working-class.” f
Bridget Christie: War Donkey @ The Assembly Rooms
13:30, 3–26 Aug, not 2, 13, £9 – £10
Star of ITV Mad Mad World & Murray from Flight of the Conchords
Fred Award Best Show, 2012 NZ Comedy Festival
“He’s just absolutely brilliant.
He’s got that Peter Sellers madness inside him”
8PM www.rhysdarby.com |
Except 8, 14 Previews 1, 2, 3
0131 556 6550 | www.pleasance.co.uk
Mark W@tson? The Internet hasn’t always been kind to Mark Watson. Not only has he been a victim of identity fraud, but he gets trolled by rogue Frankie Boyle fans. Catherine Sylvain talks social media with a comic who’s practically a meme.
s the only thing expanding at the same pace as the internet the number of online faux-pas it’s now possible to make? Mark Watson might agree. The digital age has led to some e-mishaps for the comic that spark his latest Fringe standup show, The Information. Yet, these blundering incarnations seem at odds to the thoughtful, verbose man who speaks between Euro 2012 matches for which he provides alternative commentary. Indeed, sports pundit, game-show host, and novelist as well as standup, Watson possesses many disparate identities that the internet, or at least Wikipedia, throws into relief. The Information is Watson’s first Fringe standup show since 2010. “It came about because I was involved in identity fraud. I say I was involved; I was the victim rather than the perpetrator, obviously. It was done online by someone hacking into my accounts because I answered one of these scam emails.” Fake Nigerian banking’s most esteemed celebrity client will not be merely giving daddish warnings to shred all your bank statements in a food processor. “I find, with Edinburgh, it pays to try and do a funny show rather than a sensitive exploration of my problems. There’s an obvious funny side to it. The notion that someone can actually be me temporarily is ridiculous. Obviously I’m pretty confident I am Mark Watson and no one else could be, but because of the internet you’re not quite as sure of your identity as you used to be.” He continues uneasily, “the amount of information out there about every single human is mind-boggling. There’s a different world and whether it’s good for you or not is another matter really.” Yet this reserve towards online media belies how much the standup has embraced it; committing himself to keeping a blog for ten years and tweeting prolifically. Clearly
there’s digitally more to Watson than his sort code, not to mention the fact he’s already dabbled in fairly fraudulent personas. During the first few years of his standup career, for example, he performed with an affected Welsh accent that he then made a conscious decision to drop. Having scrapped Welsh Watson, it seems he’d be happy to have some internet identities co-opted; a few embarrassing YouTube favourites or a nerdish Pinterest account perchance? “There are definitely loads of clips on YouTube of me early on in my career. If you go back far enough I used to have floppy hair, almost what you’d call curtains. Because of YouTube, the past ten years of my life is sort of sketched out on the internet. So yeah, I’d be happy if someone laid claim to quite a lot of those old versions of me.” Social media can serve darker purposes than the mere dredging-up of embarrassing photos, however. For Watson, a Twitter spat with Frankie Boyle back in 2011 was something of a wake-up call. “I would have ideally never engaged in an argument with someone in a public way.” When he blogged a measured critique of Boyle’s use of Down Syndrome as joke material, his contemporary christened the comedian a c-word on Twitter. “If it hadn’t been a blog, it would have been a newspaper article. But the difference is when it becomes a Twitter dispute you’ve suddenly got a couple hundred thousand people, in his case, watching. I certainly got quite a lot of personal abuse from people who didn’t know me. They just heard I was engaged in some controversy with Frankie Boyle.” Despite the fact Boyle’s response came a bizarre eight months after the original blog post, Watson continues, “it did bring home to me how quickly opinions can be formed on social networking sites. It made me realise I should be more careful using Twitter.”
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festcomedy Claudine Quinn
He also knows how, on the other hand, Twitter can bleed material. “I know people who are more joke merchants, one-liner sort of things and they’re always having to watch out on the internet. All it takes is a few retweets and within an hour no one knows where the joke originated, it’s just out there.” Still, the ‘out there’ of this sinister internet hinterland has clearly proven fertile comic ground for Watson. Moreover, The Information threatens to reach broad practical and ethical conclusions on its subject matter, but such ambition is typical of the comedian. Previous Edinburgh shows have included Can I Talk To You Briefly About The Point of Life and All The Thoughts I’ve Had Since I Was Born. “Partly, I’ve always wanted to do standup shows that provide some kind of narrative, some kind of metaphysical hook. I at least want people to feel there’s a bit more than gags,” he says. “But it’s also true that I have to be vague, as we often have to give the show titles [to the Fringe organisers] months in advance. For, say, the point of life, you can use any material that dawns on you. But it’s safe to say I’m quite ambitious.” So ambitious in fact that this year Watson will also be hosting the Edinborolympics; tossing together various limber comedians for a sort of “sports-day-slash-wacky-races” event. “Legally I’m not even sure if I’m allowed to use the phrase ‘Edinborolympics’ but I’ve put it in the brochure now, so it’s a bit late.” It’s not a large concern, though. “I don’t really have the big money required to compete with the London Olympics when it comes down to pure resources.” Yet, what if he did have to compete in London? “I’d put myself forward for either water polo or one of the long distance events. I have to say it’s looking less and less likely.” Perhaps, but Watson still seems to have many competing identities. A guarded individual and a generous performer, his low-status, shambolic on-stage demeanour belies a dense list of accomplishments; the 32-year-old’s fourth novel comes out in August and he’s working on a fifth. How would he feel about the next level of digitised identity; a Tupac Shakur-like hologram of himself posthumously performing standup? “I’m already so thin and gaunt that it’s actually not that different from watching a hologram anyway. I’m pretty scared of death and threatened by the idea of not existing. I’ve got the ego of a performer, so anything that allows me to extend my career beyond the grave I’m all in favour of.” f
Mark Watson: The Information @ Assembly George Square
7:40pm – 8:40pm, 1–27 Aug, not 13, 20, £7.50 – £15
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A Law unto himself
Surreal and just plain silly, Tony Law is one of this year’s bona fide festival highlights. Stevie Martin tries to make sense of his non-conformist genius.
ony Law lies in interviews because he’s bored. “It’s probably not a great idea, but I find it hard not to.” He’s already told me, surprisingly soft-spoken behind an explosion of blonde beard, about raising mutant runt pigs behind his father’s home as a young boy. And befriending an 87- year-old oil plant factory worker named Min. And working in an abertoire. And I’m lapping it up. It’s only when we talk about this year’s show, following off the back off the Breakthrough Act award winning Go Mr Tony Go!, that it gets suspicious. “It’s about life. The meaning of life. Our place in the universe. It’s about poetry and ideas,” he looks wistfully at the wall, “It’s about the relationship between me and my father. How we’ve patched things up and grown closer. And religion.” But what’s it actually about? “It’s like last year but better. And, as always, it’s about comedy.” If you’ve ever seen Law over the last 14 years, whether standup, TV appearances or, most recently, MC-ing in a small child’s dress
and union jack tights at his comedy night Tony Law’s Shitbox, you’ll know it’s difficult to articulate. But he gives it a go. “I’ve got a bit about Primark,” he says proudly, “I’m also quite a political person but I don’t want to do specific bits. I don’t want to be like: ‘Hey, you know what the Tories are doing?’ because it comes across more powerfully in a joke about dinosaur hands.” While many capitalise on their postbreakthrough-act-year burning cash on publicity to justify their Next Big Thing status, there will be no posters advertising Maximum Nonsense. “I like to go by word of mouth,” he muses, “the people that come to see me are the organised sort.” After 14 years spent honing his craft, he’s discovered the importance of disregarding what you “should” and “shouldn’t” do as a comedian. For example, you “should” probably capitalise on your big break the first time round, which Law remembers as being in 2002. He reacted by going quiet. “I was the Next Big Thing, got loads of TV pilots, but I
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wasn’t happy with the shows. I hit the road again and tried to reinvent,” he raises an eyebrow, “...then got good.” If he had done the normal thing and taken up the offers thrown at him (HBO and NBC both flew him to America in 2005 but Law didn’t want to move overseas) he wouldn’t be the unique, bellowing, bearded, onesie-wearing metacomedy obsessed ode to bonkers he is today. You only get like that, apparently, through years playing to audiences with no idea what the hell’s going on. Though it seems like torture, his experiences of “dying on his ring” for years at terrible venues had its merits. “When I was doing really rough clubs, nothing was working. They didn’t get it. I started commenting on what I was doing, like, ‘and this is why THIS is funny...’ in order to bring them along.” Despite the fact this didn’t work either, he’d found a meta style that set him apart and came naturally. It wasn’t what they wanted to see, but it’s what he wanted to do. “Only people who like and watch a lot of comedy get it, but it’s fun. I like to talk about what I’ve done then, if you can find a way to comment on the comment you’ve just made... it’d be epic.” The dives he gigged in also did wonders for his confidence, mainly by wrecking it for long periods of time. “If a humourless thug yells ‘you arent funny mate’ when you’re young, something inside of you dies for a while. Now I think GOOD. You are not my target audience. Go home and banter about some ladies.” Law stuck to his guns and took a decidedly non-mainstream show up to the 2006 Fringe involving Cartridge Davison, a time-travelling sausage dog. This proves the intellectual osmosis theory, considering his upbringing. “Because I grew up on a farm, animals seem to come up a lot,” One eyebrow shoots up and he leans forward seriously, “I’ve known cows...” Then he’s off on one, all conversations about comedy put on ice while he reminisces about saving the runts of various litters and rearing them behind his father’s farm in Canada. “I had my own army of freaks. Pigs with no ears, three legs, dwarves covered in hair, that sort of thing. When they got older, dad would be like ‘ok we’ll take yours to market now’ before putting them to sleep in a humane way.” The same happened with his dog Bullet who, he was told, ran away when he was little. Law only found out Bullet had been run over when someone let it slip over the dinner table. He was 32. f
Tony Law: Maximum Nonsense @ The Stand Comedy Club 12:30pm, 1–27 Aug, not 2, 13, £7 – £8
54 George Street 0844 693 3008 www.arfringe.com
the band Returning to the Fringe with his lauded fivepiece band and a gaggle of willing guests, Alex Horne tells Evan Beswick about jazz, journalism and the dubious joys of becoming a front man. I’m quite looking forward to Edinburgh this year. I’m not doing my own show and I’m not taking my family up. Before, I’ve been devoted to the family first. It’s the first time for a few years where I haven’t been trying to do loads of stuff, and the first time in three years without having a child up there. So it could be a good one. This is the third year we’ve been doing the Horne Section. It just seems to have worked. It’s been fun, and we’ve managed to progress each year to a different place. We’re going to be in the Grand this year; it’s a nice big stage and there’s lots of room to be a bit more ambitious with it. We can have the Soweto Gospel Choir if we want to. I don’t know if we do yet, but we could do if we wanted to. The Horne Section essentially came from the fact that myself and the drummer and the trumpeter have been friends since we were little boys. They became musicians, I became a comedian and we always said we wanted to do something together. We thought it’d be a laugh – and it is. The fact that we’re friends is key, because we’re just mucking about. And it really helps me that they’re good at what they do. I think it’s just quite a potent cocktail of having good musicians mucking around with good comedians – and I’m not putting myself in that ‘good comedians’ category. I mean, we’ve always persuaded good people to do it with us. I was a pretty good French Horn player. I got to grade three, and I could have gone further. I had talent. I could have gone all the way. No, I was awful. I really wanted to be a musician but I couldn’t. I didn’t have the talent. I was in an orchestra and I had to mime quite often.
I really remember our first rehearsal session. The musicians had written a song for me to sing and I was so nervous about singing in front of them, let alone an audience. And they were nervous at suggesting any jokes because they thought I was the comedian and they didn’t trust their own comedic instincts. But we’ve come a long way. I can suggest something musical and they can suggest something comedic – and we are both brave enough to say “no, that’s awful” quite often. We’ve abandoned the word ‘jazz’ this year. The word jazz is interesting: it can mean some pretty awful examples of dull stuff. We wanted the Horne Section to be more upbeat, more blues than jazz, so we’ve gone for the word ‘shindig’ now. ‘Shindig’ is a better portrayal of what the show is, I think. I’m still no front man. I appreciate the front men of bands a lot more. You are the one person not holding an instrument, and you’re on show and you have to do things like move your body, which I really can’t do. But I’m a lot less self conscious than I was, which has helped. And I’m not afraid to sing a song quite tenderly, despite having an awful voice. I wouldn’t have done that three years ago. This year, Tim Key and I are doing a one-off show. It’s going to be fun but a bit chaotic. It’s not a secret, it’s just not written yet. I think it’s actually sold out, which is to do with the power of Key, not me. It’s called Horne and Key and.... It’s a chatshow and we’re going to interview ten comedians in an hour and treat them very badly. That’s the plan. It’s kinda the only premise. We’re going to show them very little respect.
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Tim Key and I started together. We met in ’98, so we met before we were comedians. It’s the best way to make friends with other comedians. We’ve got quite similar tastes, so we like to get together and slag off other acts. I think “eclectic” is being quite generous to my range of interests. It’s just more that I will do anything. I think if I had a choice of what to do, I’d do funny documentaries where I could pick any subject, follow it through for an hour and see where it takes me. Unfortunately, TV channels are less willing to take that risk. If I hadn’t become a comedian I’d probably have been a lowly local journalist. I was a local journalist before. I worked for the West Sussex Gazette where I was called the people’s correspondent, which meant I had to do golden weddings and death notices. I was pretty happy doing that except I kept trying to crowbar in jokes – which became less and less appropriate the more tragic the story. I was in the Footlights with Mark Watson, and it was fairly obvious that he was going to be big. Below me there was Tom Basden and Stefan Golaszewski. I wasn’t really on the same page as them. I was quite inferior because they are proper writers whereas I’m just a stand up. So I was definitely just muddling through, and am still trying to cling on to the coattails of people like Mark. That’s the other key to it. Just make friends with these people. Become indispensable. f The Horne Section @ Pleasance Courtyard 11:15pm – 12:25am, 9–22 Aug, £10 – £12
Sweden’s funniest man Al Pitcher returns to Edinburgh for the first time in five years after conquering the Swedish comedy scene. He talks to Malcolm Jack about why doing the odd gig for IKEA is actually pretty fun.
n a warm Friday afternoon in June, Stureplan – the hub of Stockholm’s swish, conspicuously moneyed Östermalm district – feels a million miles from the hectic, carnivalesque and highly pressurised environment of the Edinburgh Fringe. Stylish shoppers glide past carrying bags from local designer emporiums. Outside a nearby nightclub, disgustingly handsome teenagers and early twentysomethings are already queuing patiently around the block waiting for entrance to a music festival after-party. It’s Al Pitcher’s choice of meeting point, simply because it’s near his gym, from which he arrives directly, his sports bag slung over one shoulder. But my wait at Stureplan helps to illustrate the considerable leap which this English-born, New Zealand-raised comedian has experienced since he left London twoand-half years ago and relocated to his wife’s native city, where he’s since become the darling of the burgeoning Swedish comedy scene. Here he sells out theatres countrywide, appears frequently on TV and radio, and has been voted Sweden’s funniest man. He’s becoming a household name, even if he doesn’t yet speak more than a few words of
the lingo (with most Swedes speaking nearperfect English, he doesn’t need to). Conversation immediately turns to FIKA, his touring show named after the Swedish daily ritual of coffee and cake (“they drink coffee like bastards here”). It sees him share an outsider’s irreverent observations on the quirks of Swedish daily life, from the little blue plastic bags you wear on your feet in hospitals to Stockholmers’ manners—or lack thereof—on the underground. He recently played a corporate gig for Spotify. As Pitcher explains, while ‘corporate’ is something of a dirty word in British comedy and the shows can be torturous, here it’s a perfectly credible and enjoyable part of a standup’s working life. And yes, many of the shows are for a certain flat pack home furnishings giant. “In Britain I had one company gig in eight years, and I had to wear a suit and not swear,” he says. “Here, I do them for IKEA, I do them for other companies and they’re brilliant – there’s a sense of bonding [between the employees and] the owner. It’s their company, they’re very loyal. When I did a show for IKEA, I asked a woman what she did and she said she’d worked for IKEA
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for 28 years. Normally you’d be like: ‘28 years! Fuck off!’ But here? Applause from the whole room. “I find the Swedes think ‘right, my company has hired this guy, he must be okay.’ In England, it’s like...” Pitcher folds his arms and looks stern, “’I’ve never heard of this muppet, who the fuck? You’re funnier than him John, have a go.’” A child of an immigrant family himself (in the 70s, his Yorkshireman father responded to an ad in the paper looking for “engineers and football players” in New Zealand) Pitcher uses a music analogy to sum up the transformation he’s made since migrating to Sweden. “It was like – I had a couple of hits in Britain, the band were doing alright, then the record company dropped us. Coming here, I’ve done a Bon Iver – I’ve gone to a cabin in the woods and reinvented myself and got a new sound, and it feels really good.” Pitcher rates the Swedish comedy scene highly and yet he peppers our conversation throughout with references to successful peers back in the UK – Russell Howard, Andrew Maxwell, Jason Byrne and others. Sure, in Sweden, “the money’s better, the status is better,” but this raises an obvious question: why come back to Edinburgh? “Edinburgh is like the World Cup of comedy – it’s brilliant,” Pitcher replies. “But I’ve never had fun, I’ve never had a good time there, I’ve put too much pressure on myself. This time I just want to make people laugh.” He describes how watching Michael McIntyre’s rise to blockbusting fame typified the frustrations of the mid-level standup in the saturated UK market. “McIntyre’s brilliant and that’s what happens,” he says. “In comedy, we all shoot off – we’re doing well. Then it bottlenecks. There’s only three or four that can be big stars. Underneath you’ve got the circuit where there’s loads of really brilliant stuff; people like Craig Campbell, Tom Stade, Jarred Christmas. “I didn’t get disillusioned, but…” He trails off, then starts back up again. “There was a point where maybe I did get disillusioned.” Looking ahead, Sweden is very much the focus for Pitcher. With two more Swedish tours already booked, he’s confident that he can make a much more secure living here than he ever could have hoped to in the UK. In these tough economic times, that’s nothing to be taken for granted. “I feel very, very lucky,” he states, earnestly. Nevertheless, Pitcher insists, “British audiences are still the toughest audiences, and I’ll keep on coming back.” f
Al Pitcher: Tiny Triumphs @ Gilded Balloon Teviot
8:15pm – 9:15pm, 1–26 Aug, £5 – £10.50
THE GIN JOINT CUT
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A life less ordinary Paul Foot and Asher Treleaven are renowned for their esoteric, left-field flights of fancy and a penchant for hats. Jay Richardson attempts to untangle a sense of logic from two of the Fringe’s most experimental surrealists.
wo of the more physically distinctive, eccentrically attired and floridly spoken comics at the Fringe, Paul Foot and Asher Treleaven are as elusive as quicksilver. Scan their surreal show titles for clues as to their content and you’ll be none the wiser. Paul Foot – Kenny Larch Is Dead contains absolutely no reference to the unfortunate Larch. “With the content of the show, like all my shows, it’s entirely independent of the title and indeed any publicity material,” the capricious standup explains, “it’s sort of a posthumous honour and a posthumous dishonour. The ultimate insult really. But Kenny Larch is definitely dead. I thought it one of the best reasons not to mention him in the show as he had the opportunity to make his mark on the world and he didn’t take it. He should be grateful really.” Similarly, Asher Treleaven: Troubadour, is just the latest of the Australian’s solo shows featuring ‘door’ in the title, inspired by the secret doors of the magic theatre in Hermann Hesse’s countercultural novel Steppenwolfe and a sign – ‘Secret Theatre for Madmen’ – he stumbled across in Melbourne: “with a head full of mescaline, it was one of those moments that kept coming back to me”. Growing audiences and critical acclaim notwithstanding, not everyone has the patience to follow Foot and Treleaven down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass to find unlikely laughs. Those that do are a select band, literally so in Foot’s case, as he convenes secret events for his Guild of Connoisseurs. A congress of the incongruous and the inexplicable, he’s uncertain whether his comedy is “moving in a good direction towards career success or a bad direction towards artistic notoriety”. “Every year I move towards something increasingly abstract and intangible in terms of why it’s funny and why people are laughing” he ventures. “In parts of the show, I’m leaving
things open for as many different interpretations as possible, mix-and-match comedy, aiming to get people laughing at the same thing in different ways and for different reasons.” Treleaven too, usually favours a seemingly disjointed, chaotic narrative of “chunks”, jarringly “crashed together”, with a logic emerging gradually or not at all. Yet Troubadour is his most personal show to date, recounting chapters from his life. “Maybe it’s a pisstake on the whole arty self-involved thing, thinking everything you do can be turned into art” he muses . “But essentially, I’m
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asking the audience to vote on whether my life is interesting enough to talk about for an hour. Writing it, I set out to make fun of people who tell their boring life story badly. But in the process, I realised it was actually turning into a life-affirming show, and that it was about making the most of what you have.” Reconnecting with his estranged sister, who sent him a copy of Edward De Bono’s meta-conceptual problemsolving technique Six Thinking Hats, afforded Treleaven the colour-coded, millinery-based framework for his latest hour. De Bono’s premise, that different problems require different modes and “hats” of thinking, corresponds with various chapters in the comedian’s autobiography.
An introduction to Robin Ince and a series of spots at his Book Club gigs acquainted Treleaven with “people like Stephen Merchant, Stewart Lee, Josie Long, Danielle Ward, Isy Suttie, Tim Key. I saw all these really interesting, hilarious, bizarre comedians.” A misstep in Australia later, “a series of book gags, really just me trying to do Asher Treleaven’s Book Club, it got absolutely caned”, he resolved to write a new hour of comedy each year “and just keep going on blind faith till something happens. “I’m still finding my voice, still playing a role. But I’m slowly locking into what makes me unique and gives me the honesty to do these things that no-one else would think of.” f
Asher Treleaven: Troubadour @ Gilded Balloon Teviot
Paul Foot: Kenny Larch is Dead @ Underbelly, Cowgate
7:30pm – 6:30pm, 2–26 Aug, not 15, £6 – £12
4:30pm – 5:30pm, 1–26 Aug, not 13, £5 – £10.50
“It’s an antiquated problem-solving method usually used by big business to solve sweatshop problems in developing countries, applied to a one hour, postmodern comedy wank by a ponce in various hats” he clarifies. “But that wouldn’t fit on the poster.” Foot wears “plenty of different hats” in everyday life but is irked by the idea of comedians’ “personas”. “When I go on stage, a little switch flicks on inside of me and I just get on with it, it just comes organically from me.” Although you can discern his influence on his friend and sometime collaborator Russell Brand, you’d be hard pushed to isolate his influences and inspirations in comedy. Even so, he’s not spurred on by being seen as original. “I’m just writing the most obvious show to me at this moment. Then of course, it’s up to others to say ‘ooh, how unusual’. But I don’t plan that. I don’t break any rules out of rebellion, I just do it because that’s what I like.” A former circus performer who retains a mastery of his gangly physicality, Treleaven used to think that standups were conservative “jerks”. Meanwhile, he was “an act on the edge of the edge, I was so far out you can’t even ... I guess I just wanted to be different for the sake of being different.”
Far Left Paul Foot Left Asher Treleaven
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festcomedy ‘One to look out for’ Three Weeks
Camden New Journal
LUKE AND HARRY'S
2pm, Just the Tonic at The Caves, 2nd-26th August (not 14th).
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Going off-script The three-time Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee Adam Hills chats to Jay Richardson about hosting the Paralympics and the unpredictable world of improvised standup.
dam Hills enjoys messing around in Edinburgh so much he gave up the chance to compete in the Paralympics. A former tennis coach, the Australian comic was born without a right foot but rejected an offer to train for the Games when he was 14, having never considering himself disabled. “My mum asked me ‘do you want to go to the disabled Olympics?’ And the stigma of the word made me say no.” Commentating on the Beijing Paralympics for Australian television however, the 42-year-old found himself regretting his youthful stubbornness. So when he was asked to try out for London, he gave it serious consideration.“The wheelchair tennis coach
took me aside” he recalls, “and said ‘look, technically, you’re probably limited enough. The hardest part is teaching the tennis skills but you’ve already got those, so we’d just need to teach you how to use the chair.’” This would have meant spending four hours a day in a wheelchair, which part of him felt was cheating. Still, he warmed to the idea. “Maybe there’s a documentary in this. Maybe I can really compete ...But then I learned how much work was involved. And it wasn’t laziness that stopped me. I’d have had to quit comedy, give up on hosting TV shows. It would be head down, full-on training. Even after covering the Paralympics, I hadn’t realised how much sacrifice goes into it.” He will, however,
be involved with the Paralympics, hosting highlights of the Games on Channel 4. When he started performing standup, aged 19, Hills refrained from discussing his prosthetic foot onstage, fearing he’d be pigeon-holed as “the one-legged comedian.” But he is happy to be a spokesperson for the Paralympics. “As soon as you mention the Paralympics and disabled people, there’s a tension there. But it’s a great honour and I’m pretty sure Channel 4 will cut through that tension and make the Paralympics cooler than the Olympics. There’s an alternative feel to it. We can’t take the mickey out of the sporting achievements but we can be irreverent about the disabilities. That’s where the comedy comes from. “When you’re in a room where a guy’s got one arm, this girl’s a dwarf and that guy’s in a wheelchair, there’s no rhyme or reason as to why any of us are in these situations. It’s a celebration. And the Paralympians think it’s funny too. They laugh at each other. I laugh at the shit that happens with my foot.” He deplores the clichés and condescension that attach themselves to the Games. “One of the Australian coaches took me aside in Beijing to say ‘it’s been great having you here because a lot of the able-bodied commentators talk about how inspiring it all is, whereas you talk about the sport.’ And that’s what disabled people want. They don’t want to hear about a kid fighting back after falling off a horse. They want ‘holy shit! That guy swam fast!’” If elite sport demands dedication, so too does standup, especially if you’re ad-libbing a fresh hour of material every night. “You learn tricks and your instincts get sharper, it’s like a muscle,” he reflects. “Rich Fulcher taught me that. The more you use it, the better it gets. Other comics are more cynical.” Chuckling, Hills recalls Boothby Graffoe pointedly asking: “Are you doing the lazy show this year?” Defining the Mess Around ethos as that of “an anti-talk show,” he laments the fact that he’s obliged to interview celebrities plugging their latest Hollywood blockbuster, rather than simply chatting to the crowd for a whole programme. In the course of the last series, he bowed to numerous requests to host a mass gay wedding and fulfilled one Monty Python fan’s dream, arranging for him to recreate the famous fish slapping dance with John Cleese. This year, Hills has reduced his show’s capacity to just 200 seats, because there’s an intimacy to Mess Around that he’s missed. “The audience knows they’re seeing a one-off, which is what makes them come back. It reminds me of when I started out, that raw excitement and the ever-present risk of failure.” f
Adam Hills: Mess Around @ Assembly Hall
7:40pm – 8:40pm, 2–19 Aug, £10 – £13
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Blanks Scrubs favourites The Blanks are ditching the bright lights of Hollywood and heading for bonny Scotland. Sam Lloyd and Philip McNiven tell all to Charlotte Lytton. Hi, guys! What are you up to in LA? Philip: Having a martini by the pool in my leopard skin thong. Sam: I’m panhandling on the corner of Crescent and Sunset Heights. P: He’s just touching people’s pans. He likes to handle them. S: I’m just begging. It’s up and down – that’s showbiz.
on corners, staring up forlornly at the Hollywood sign from Beachwood Canyon, and the next minute, we were at the Oscars, on the red carpet, partying with Steve Carrell, Angelina Jolie…
Sounds rough. So, what were the early days of The Blanks like? S: One of our first gigs was for Philip’s grandmother’s 80th birthday party in Las Vegas, and we said we could provide the entertainment. P: My grandmother is an inveterate gambler and boozer, by the way. S: Hence Vegas. So at that point we still hadn’t agreed on a name, and thought we should make Philip the lead guy as it was his grandma’s birthday. So we said we’ll be ‘Phil and the Blanks’…geddit? And after the gig was over, we took the first part out.
Anything about the band at all, or was it just the food and the girls? S: How did you know about the girls?!
I read that Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence fell in love with you after watching you at the annual Christmas party… S: Yeah, and then he married us. P: He wanted to have us, but he could only have us in the show. S: He wanted children but it just wasn’t the right time. We didn’t want to be tied down. P: We were young actors in Hollywood, it wasn’t the right time to have children. S: I regret it now, but at the time it seemed like the right decision.
What was the best part about being involved with the show? S: Free food! Free food!
I just guessed. S: Well that was a good guess. That’s what it became all about with us, and then George developed a substance problem, which often happens in these stories, and he was in and out of rehab. So there’s a very rock and roll side to The Blanks, then? P: Every week at the end of shooting, we’d get this giant chocolate fountain brought in to the set. We would take off our clothes and stomp around in it - it was amazing. S: We were out of control. Bill Lawrence had to give us a talk
Did you expect the band’s sky rocketing success as a result of the show? P: It really was like we strapped in and rocketed to the A List parties. One minute we were sitting around in our underwear singing harmonies, panhandling
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festcomedy “If you ever want to date an a cappella group, we’re very romantic, we’re good looking, we’re wildly rich…” and make sure we straightened it out. He threatened to remove us completely in spite of the fact that without The Blanks, Scrubs really didn’t have much going for it. But we straightened up and got out of the fountain, and things were fine after that.
P: It’s hard, because how do you tell Sam’s grandmother that she can’t organise things anymore? S: That’s right, you were with my grandmother. I forgot that part. P: When it’s family, it’s hard to say something.
How does it feel to be taking the show to the Fringe? S: I’m very excited because I’ve had friends over the years who have done the Fringe festival and told me what a great experience it was. When it presented itself to us, we really jumped at it.
How did you all meet? S: eACappellaHarmony.com P: Are you on it?
Have you got any plans to sample the Scottish culture? P: Big plans. S: Girls wearing kilts, eating haggis, and playing golf. Did we just insult everyone in Scotland?! P: Listen, I’m part Scottish. S: I’ve got some Scottish in me. You can’t use Scottishness as a defence! P: I dated a Scotsperson once so I can say whatever I want. S: My grandmother was a full blooded Scotsperson. P: That’s the person I dated! Back to the music – do you think you’ve changed much as a band over the years? S: Any hugely successful band has its problems, like George’s substance abuse – he was addicted to chocolate. And Philip got involved with this woman who got into all kinds of trouble and tried to take the band over.
Not right now… S: Well, if you ever want to date an a cappella group, we’re very romantic, we’re good looking, we have stable jobs, we’re wildly rich… P: And if you stand on a balcony, we’ll serenade you with candles in our hands Do you ever call each other up and say: “I need to woo my significant other tonight, can you come round so we can sing a few harmonies?” P: We did that once and Paul ended up spending the weekend with my girlfriend. It was bad. It’s a very incestuous thing we do. And not in the good sense either. What would make the average Fringe goer want to see your show? S: If they want a little sing, a little dance, a little seltzer down their pants, they will enjoy our show. P: If you like the idea of cavorting naked in a chocolate fountain, you’ll like our show. S: That’ll bring people in by the dozen. f
The Blanks’ Big Break @ Gilded Balloon Teviot
9:30pm – 10:30pm, 1–27 Aug, not 14, 23, £8 – £14
AT THE FRINGE
CElEbRATING 10 yEARs oF FEmAlE ComEdy Specially curated ShowS
with complimentary goodieS from the BENEFIT COSMETICS BENEBUS Supported by
2012 funny women awardS Semi-finalS lara a king - people pleaSer WINNEr OF 2011 FUNNy WOMEN AWArdS
3-26 AuG 2.00pm
funnywomen.com edinburgh festival preview guide 2012 fest 39
Das comedian German standup Michael Mittermeier is swapping European arenas for a hut at the Fringe. He tells Julian Hall why translating shows into different languages can be a tricky business.
hey write routines involving funny walks; they play to arenas; they are household names in their own countries; their style is eminently accessible and they are both called Michael. There are quite a lot of similarities between Michael McIntyre and German comedian Michael Mittermeier. However, Mittermeier started his career playing guitar and doing sketches on the left wing “kabarett” circuit, before forging a more mainstream, observational career. He also looks like Greg Kinnear, so the similarities do end. I meet the comic on a short trip to London
during which he’s reuniting with the formerly-imprisoned Burmese comedian Maung Thura “Zarganar,” who was at the centre of Amnesty International’s 2010 Edinburgh festival campaign. Mittermeier celebrated Zarganar’s long battle against Burma’s repressive regime when he teamed up with documentary director Rex Bloomstein to create the film This Prison I Live. Mittermeier was both an on- and offscreen presence in the film, sometimes in ways that he could not have imagined. “We wanted to film the prison Zarganar was in, but it’s against the law to film official buildings
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in Burma. So someone had the idea I would drive around it on a motorcycle, wearing a helmet and concealing a camera. It was a shitty idea,” he says smiling, “but I did it.” Won’t it be weird swapping stadiums in Germany for a small prefab hut in Edinburgh? “It won’t be weird for me,” he says in his tone of almost constant enthusiasm. “I never compare the two. Sometimes in Germany I do a club tour and go back to places that I last performed at 15-20 years ago. What concerns me more is trying to make 100 percent of the room laugh, whether it is an arena or a club.” Already used to doing two hours in the larger venues he plays, Mittermeier says his problem will be honing down his material to fit the hour, though any material he directly translates often gets whittled down. “When I am writing an English language show, I translate, I write new routines, and mix up old ones. Sometimes when I look at two page routines I think ‘yeah, I can do this in five lines in the UK.’” “You have to translate yourself, my style, not just your routines” he adds, but recognises that things don’t travel easily. “I have this routine about tattoos on a bottom, roughly translating to “ass antlers”. It is one of the funniest things I have ever done, but it has never really worked outside of Germany. I will keep on this routine because I love it and I will perform it up to the point that people will laugh!” Mittermeier’s first experience of performing in English came during a stint living in the US, where he was equally resolute about getting his message across. “I always dreamt of mastering performing comedy in English, and this process started in 2003 when I lived in New York for six months. I thought to myself: ‘if not now, then never.’ So I did the whole open mic thing and all the clubs. It was then I realised it worked, although I didn’t have a chance to start it out again until five years later when I did the Just for Laughs festivals in Toronto and Montreal.” Like Eddie Izzard (a fan of Mittermeier’s, and someone who the German met while gigging in the UK last year) it is all about pushing boundaries, be it in terms of the size of venue or in terms of language – the final frontier. That, and not having to listen to British comics crow about their travels. “When English comics came over, they would say things like “I did a gig in Cape Town and Singapore” and we were always like “yeah, I had a gig in Osnabruck, and then I flew to Cologne...” At least now, Mittermeier can add Edinburgh to his list of destinations. f
Michael Mittermeier: A German on Safari @ Pleasance Courtyard
10:30pm – 11:30pm, 1–27 Aug, not 13, 20, £5 – £10
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Ambition Sean Hughes has stopped drinking, upped his game and returns to Edinburgh with two brand new shows. Julian Hall catches up with a comic doing battle with his inner curmudgeon.
uch as I hate to admit it, I’m old enough to remember seeing Sean Hughes in 1990, the year he won the Perrier Award. Hughes was the youngest recipient of the Perrier at the time and had the demeanour of a fresh-faced Johnny Rotten about him, albeit without the sneer. Falling between the world weariness of a Jack Dee and the loquaciousness of a Dylan Moran, Hughes was an accessible thinking man’s standup, becoming one of TV’s post-alternative comedy darlings with Sean’s Show and Never Mind The Buzzcocks. In recent years, however, his live returns have seemed obtuse, prickly, and perhaps on the wrong side of the Johnny Rotten comparison. Though somewhat fuller of frame today, the 47 year old Irishman is still as fresh faced as he was twenty two years ago. The sprightly demeanour may be down to the fact that he has stopped drinking for over a year now. “I’ve plenty of energy, but saying that I could well have a heart attack three days in.” If he does over-extend himself, it will be because Hughes is bringing two shows up to the Fringe for the full run: a scripted show about death (he recently lost his father) and a standup show allowing him to go more off-road with his audience. Thematically speaking, it is the passing of alcohol that is common to both shows. “I’m not evangelical about it. Not drinking is boring but it’s just where I am in my life. I think I’m akin to a child on Christmas morning who has opened all of his presents. I have drunk all my drink in my life.” Hughes claims
he was drinking a lot out of boredom but that he’s not as bored now. “It might be something to do with my dad’s death, but although I don’t wake up with a spring in my step I am grateful I am alive.” The world weariness that came over in his recent shows sounds like it has abated, albeit in the most endearingly negative way. A tempered joyousness, if you will. “There’s no doubt there has been a change in my material,” Hughes admits. He describes the show about his father as minimal on personal detail and essentially “very uplifting” where he talks about death “with a smile on my face.” Meanwhile his standup hour includes routines about being a nine-year-old devotee of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bay City Rollers. “I wanted a bionic arm so much that I went around at night self-harming. I ended up crashing my bike and cut my tooth open so that the nerve was open. They gave me a cap and said I should say The Six Million Dollar Man gave it to me, but everybody at school called me Jaws – the character from James Bond.” There’s no question Hughes has got the bit between his teeth this year. He’s enjoying talking about his material and he’s honest about the charms of some of his more recent work. “I have upped my game. The last few shows in Edinburgh have been lazy.” “It might be my Catholic Irish upbringing, but there is something I do that tries to destroy everything. I like to diss the audience straight away, but that’s to be on a level playing field. I am saying ‘don’t love me just for
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the sake of it, let me earn your love.’” Later, he returns to his upbringing to explain how he was able to win this love. “In Dublin all that was expected of me was to work in a supermarket. In London I found the club circuit almost as limiting. Edinburgh was a godsend, somewhere you could express yourself. I’m not saying my best gigs were here but I know that if there was no Edinburgh festival I wouldn’t be doing comedy.” Hughes is in a good position to be philosophical about how he does what he does, brushing aside reviving TV ambitions (“If they did Sean’s Show again they’d probably ask ‘can we get Russell Kane to play you?’”) and the suggestion that he go viral (“Have you ever seen anything truly remarkable on the internet that doesn’t involve cats?”). “Comedy is on a loop at the moment, it makes me wonder why we bothered with alternative comedy in the first place, with great comedians seemingly more worried about money than craft. But it’s still an opportunity to say things that you can’t say in any other art form. I don’t mind if it is only to 300 people, rather than a five minute slot on TV. I’ve lowered my expectations and life becomes quite bearable after you do that.” f Sean Hughes: Life Becomes Noises @ Pleasance Courtyard
5:30pm – 6:30pm, 1–27 Aug, not 8, 14, £7 – £14
Sean Hughes Stands Up @ Gilded Balloon Teviot
8:15pm – 9:15pm, 1–27 Aug, not 8, 14, £7 – £14
RT BURNS M
USICAL EX TRAVAGAN
COMEDY • DAY TIME • VARIE T Y
Highlights From solo adventures to star-studded musicals and thrilling new theatre, as ever, you’re spoilt for choice at this year’s Fringe. Here’s a few to get you started... HEAVY HITTER
Take a chance
UNDERBELLY, COWGATE 3:30PM – 4:40PM, 2–26 AUG, NOT 14, £6.00 – £11.00
It’s not likely to be the lightest thing on your Fringe menu, but this docu-theatre piece from Look Left Look Right promises to be a vital production, telling the story of the BP oil spill in the words of those affected.
FOER YOUR CONSIDERATION
Everything Else Happened ASSEMBLY ROXY, 1PM – 2PM, 2–27 AUG, NOT 13, £5 – £12
Jonathan Safran Foer has written awardwinning novels and seen several turned into Hollywood films. But can his stories translate to the stage? Find out in this premiere production of four short stories.
Hand Over Fist
PLEASANCE COURTYARD 1:55PM – 2:50PM, 1–27 AUG, NOT 8, 15, £6 – £11
Dave Florez doesn’t shy away from big issues. Over at the Assembly Rooms he’s tackling addiction in The Intervention, while in dark monologue Hand Over Fist he explores the heart-wrenching affects of Alzheimers through the tale of one woman trying to reclaim her past.
YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE
PLEASANCE COURTYARD, 2:00PM – 3:00PM, 1–26 AUG, NOT 13, £5 – £10
Anyone championed by the HighTide Festival is worth a punt. Emerging playwright Luke Barnes follows his debut play, Chapel Street, with this coming-of-age story about a 13-yearold Liverpool FC fan.
PLEASANCE DOME 4:00PM – 5:00PM, 1–27 AUG, NOT 13, £5 – £12
Audiences are revolting. At least, in 1809 they were. Become a rioter yourself in this immersive piece which recreates the time when audiences, protesting against ticket prices at a theatre in Covent Garden, rioted for 66 nights. The Brighton festival loved it.
PLEASANCE COURTYARD, TIMES VARY, 1–27 AUG, NOT 17, £5.00 – £6
Exploring the themes of voyeurism and shared experience, this pop-up peep show invites you to set aside your inhibitions and watch three plays about sex through a two-way mirror. Not one for the kids, then.
festtheatre MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
The Safe bets
I Heart Peterborough PLEASANCE COURTYARD 5:35PM – 6:45PM, 1–27 AUG, NOT 7, 14, 21, £5 – £11
After his musical Mikey the Pikey and Fringe First-winning play Food, Edinburgh favourite Joel Horwood is back with this tale of a father and son performing a cabaret version of their rather desperate life story.
THE PEOPLE’S POLITICIAN
I, Tommy GILDED BALLOON TEVIOT, 3:15PM – 4:45PM, 3–27 AUG, NOT 13, £10 – £16
DON’T MISS IT
Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan’s jailing for perjury was a meaty enough story for Rab C Nesbitt creator Ian Pattison. Andy Coulson’s subsequent arrest over his evidence at Sheridan’s trial sparked some tweaking to bring this play bang up to date.
TRAVERSE THEATRE, TIMES VARY, 2–26 AUG, NOT 6, 13, 20, £12 – £19
This dysfunctional love story is the latest from new writing company nabokov, whose show Bunny won a Fringe First in 2010. A bright young cast, including Bunny’s Rosie Wyatt, and the backing of London’s Soho theatre make this a bankable ticket.
I PREDICT A RIOT
The Agony & Ecstasy of Steve Jobs
Shopping Centre GILDED BALLOON AT THIRD DOOR 4:30PM – 5:30PM, 1–26 AUG, NOT 13, 20, £5 – £10
A man finds solace in a shopping centre – until a riot begins. Comic-turned-playwright Matthew Osborn follows up last year’s hit Cul-de-Sac with his second play, produced by the Comedians Theatre Company.
RAZE THE ROOF
Razing Eddie UNDERBELLY, COWGATE, 12:00PM – 1:10PM, 2–26 AUG, NOT 14, £6 – £10
Returning to Edinburgh, on the back of successive successful Fringe runs, Horizon Arts’ Razing Eddie is their latest explosive production. Eddie is a young tearaway who wants to turn his life around. Expect heart-break, violence and black humour in equal measure.
GILDED BALLOON TEVIOT, 2:15PM – 3:15PM, 1–27 AUG, NOT 14, £5 – £11
Mike Daisey has made more than a few waves in the US with this monologue about Apple’s methods of mass production. He’s handed the floor—and the controversy—to Grant O’Rourke for the show’s Edinburgh debut.
Oh, the Humanity and Other Good Intentions NORTHERN STAGE AT ST STEPHEN’S 6:40PM – 8:00PM, 9–25 AUG, NOT 13, 21, £10 – £14
New York playwright Will Eno aims to get under your skin with this collection of five short plays delving into our innermost thoughts. The production comes to the Fringe following success in Newcastle last year.
The Letter of Last Resort & Good With People TRAVERSE THEATRE TIMES VARY, 4–26 AUG, NOT 6, 13, 20, £13 – £20
Two of Scotland’s premier playwrights, David Greig and David Harrower, muse on personal and political fallout in this quality double bill. Blythe Duff and Belinda Lang bring a touch of class to the cast.
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Spiralling costs, ticketing arguments, corporate sponsors... it’s easy to be cynical about London 2012. But these theatre companies are setting out to remind us of the true spirit of the Olympics, finds Caroline Bishop.
’m not a massive fan of sport,” says Steve Gilroy with a laugh. It’s an amusing confession from a playwright who is currently creating a piece of verbatim theatre—The Prize—based on the stories of athletes heading to London this summer. But even a sport-averse writer can be inspired. After interviewing an ex-soldier who will be competing in the Paralympics three years after losing both legs in Afghanistan, Gilroy took up running. “After leaving him I felt incredibly humbled and since I’ve been home I’ve started to run – and when I say run, I managed to run outside my house to the end of the street! But I am gradually improving.”
Inspiration has hit Charlotte Josephine, too. Hearing that women would finally be allowed to box in this summer’s Olympics, the Snuff Box Theatre playwright wrote Bitch Boxer based on the subject – and began boxing herself. “I started going to boxing in January, for research, because I didn’t want to write about it not knowing anything about it, and I’ve fallen in love with it,” she says. She now trains three times a weekly at an Islington club. The Prize and Bitch Boxer are among several shows in Edinburgh this year which delve into the human stories behind the behemoth that is the Olympics. Whether it be smashing the last bastion of male-only
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festtheatre sport, or the story of a powerlifter who has battled Crohn’s disease to qualify for the Games, the world’s biggest sporting event has proved enlightening for theatremakers who previously had little insight into competitive sport. “I couldn’t believe it when I found out that women were only just allowed – weren’t they before?” says Bitch Boxer director Bryony Shanahan. Josephine adds: “I don’t want to preach my feminist views on anyone, but for me it’s interesting to explore it through the play and realise how I feel about things.” Both admit they hadn’t thought much about the Olympics prior to working on Bitch Boxer, apart from general annoyance at the thought of extra tourists descending on London. Newcastle-based Gilroy, whose previous verbatim piece, Motherland, played the Fringe in 2008, was drafted into The Prize by co-writer Richard Stockwell, who wanted to chart individual journeys to London 2012. The pair interviewed around 25 athletes— including Olympic medallist Roger Black who ‘comperes’ the show—and the play reflects the personal stories of hardship and sacrifice, illness and “prescribed destiny”, that led them to compete this summer. “It all comes down to these defining moments in people’s experience, not just about sport but in people’s broader lives,” explains Gilroy. It’s hardly revelatory to say that sport and theatre make natural companions. Sport is inherently dramatic; both involve performance, pushing yourself to achieve, intense focus, and as Shanahan puts it, “the crowds and the occasion and the one shot and everything can go wrong...” That’s not to mention the visual opportunities. “Sport in itself is a gift to theatremakers,” says Gilroy. “It’s so visually exciting. All the iconography around the event, the physicality of it, the muscularity, the technique.” As with Bitch Boxer, the actors cast in The Prize have been working on their physical fitness, and both plays promise an element of physicality on stage. In other cases, the physicality isn’t restricted to the actors. Endure – A Run Woman Show, is a dance performance piece in which the audience gets an insight into the mind of a marathon runner by joining performer Melanie Jones on a run (or walk, if you prefer) through Holyrood Park. During the journey from start line to finish, the participant hears her intimate thoughts via an iPod audio track. Jones, a Canadian performance artist and triathlete, was inspired to create Endure after experiencing the emotional rollercoaster of training for an Iron Man competition. “One moment I would be in complete bliss, the next moment I would be in utter despair, the moment after that I would be a blind rage,” she says. “It was almost like
“The Olympics always has the ability to transcend the aspects that in a capitalist society you might feel are a bit dubious” the sport was working through whatever emotional stuff I had to work through. That seemed really powerful to me and a rich place to draw from as a subject for creative work. The metaphor of a long run being a metaphor for the things we endure in life emerged.” Created in New York’s Prospect Park, it was Jones’s goal to bring Endure to London during the Games, prior to Edinburgh. “Performing it in the context of a big event like the London Games will give audiences insight into what’s happening with the Olympic athlete. You wonder, what did that person go through to get here? What are they thinking now, at mile 10 of the marathon?” It’s this human element, adds director Suchan Vodoor, that makes the Olympics so intriguing to watch. “Yes I want to see these wonderful people show the peak of human ability, but I’m also really curious about what makes them driven. That can be just as inspiring as watching the athletic event itself. That’s a big part of the theatre of the Olympics that we love.” It’s easy to lose sight of the humanity of the Games in the face of news headlines about priority car lanes for corporate sponsors and budgets of £9bn. But interestingly, none of these shows are specifically challenging or satirising this. That’s not to say
Clockwise from top left Bitch boxer NVA’s Speed of Light Endure The Prize
they aren’t aware of it (“You have to ask the question, how do you reconcile some of the things that flow from that business model with the Olympic ideals?” says Gilroy) but in focusing on the purity of sporting endeavour, it’s as though the business side of the Olympics is being shamed into submission. “The Olympics always has the ability to transcend the aspects of it that in a capitalist society you might feel are a bit dubious,” says Angus Farquhar, Creative Director of Speed of Light, a celebration of endurance running commissioned by the London 2012 Festival for EIF. He cites watching the torch relay as an example of how the “pure simple human drama of someone running with that flame” overrides the Games’ commercial obsessions. “I expected to be ‘oh yeah, whatever, there’s the Coca-Cola sign, how cynical’. But it wasn’t cynical.” Farquhar has channelled this humanity into Speed of Light, a participatory piece involving thousands of runners on Arthur’s Seat. “I really liked that idea of cooperation,” he says. “I looked at some of the great examples of support that has been given by athletes to other athletes where they sacrifice their performance in order to allow someone else to succeed. Doing something like that with a collective spirit felt like something I could believe in.” It’s ironic that, despite being creatively fuelled by the Olympics, performing in Edinburgh means none—bar Jones—will be in London to experience it. Josephine will be keeping up with the GB women’s boxing team on Twitter, while Gilroy has stationed a reporter at the Olympic Village to update him on the progress of The Prize’s protagonists. It’s an apt reminder that, for all the drama they inspire, these human stories are very real indeed. f
NVA’s Speed of Light @ Arthur’s Seat
various dates between 9 Aug and 1 Sep, £24
The Prize @ Udderbelly Bristo Square 2:50pm – 4:00pm, 1–26 Aug, not 15, £6 – £12
Bitch Boxer @ Underbelly Cowgate
4:00pm – 5:00pm, 2–26 Aug, not 14, £6 – £11
Endure: A Run Woman Show @ Assembly George Square
2:00pm – 3:15pm, 9–19 Aug, not 13, 14, £7
edinburgh festival preview guide fest 47
The Bard gets hip (hop)
The Q Brothers wowed Fringe audiences with their rap adaptations of A Comedy of Errors and Much Ado About Nothing. Now they’re back with their first Shakespeare tragedy, Othello: The Remix. They talk to Jo Caird.
ood storytellers borrow / but great ones steal / So believe me / the thievery is / how we keep it real.” And so begins Othello: The Remix, the latest show from the Q Brothers, the US theatremakers who have achieved critical and box office success with their hip-hop adaptations of Shakespeare. Othello comes to the Fringe following its premiere at the Globe to Globe season at Shakespeare’s Globe, which saw all 37 of the Bard’s plays staged in 37 languages as part of the World Shakespeare Festival. The brothers—GQ, who does most of the writing, and JQ, who’s in charge of the music—are thrilled that hip-hop is finally getting the recognition it deserves. “That it’s considered its own language is just the coolest thing,” says JQ. “It’s just so dope!” The Q Brothers’ Othello reimagines Shakespeare’s tragedy of love, jealousy and betrayal in the context of a hip-hop tour, with Iago prompted to make trouble when MC Othello overlooks him to make Cassio the headline act.
Produced by Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the same company the brothers worked with on their last Shakespeare adaptation, Funk It Up About Nothin’, Othello received four and five star reviews at the Globe. Given the success of their previous shows at the Fringe—The Bomb-itty of Errors in 2002 and Funk It Up in 2008—it doesn’t take a wild leap of imagination to conclude that Othello: The Remix will go down well here too. Persuading audiences to take a chance on a hip-hop version of a Shakespeare play, however, is not without its challenges. When the brothers first talked about adapting The Comedy of Errors while at New York University in the late 90s, many people were “pretty doubtful” about the wisdom of such a plan. There are plenty of potential punters today who would feel similarly nervous: Othello is rapped from start to finish and the constant presence of a DJ ensures that it’s as much a gig as it is a theatre performance. GQ’s message for the doubters is: “Come see it. People come to us afterwards saying, ‘My kid brought me. I came here kicking and
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screaming. I thought Shakespeare’s going to be rolling in his grave, but it turns out he’s bopping his head to everything!’” The brothers point to a “musicality in Shakespeare’s language that lends itself really well to hip-hop,” as well as to the “visceral poetry” found in both forms. The best rappers, says JQ, are those that tell stories. “We believe Shakespeare is the original rapper and we’re not joking when we say that.” The Q Brothers treatment works because while they appreciate the beauty of the Bard’s language, they are not afraid to “mess it up” in the pursuit of a contemporary show with its own dramatic integrity. “It doesn’t bother us to lose the old language. It actually helps us to bring it alive in a new way.” Their first task when adapting Othello was to write a rhyming, line-by-line translation of the play; 20 or 30 drafts later and Shakespeare’s language has all but disappeared, to be replaced with irresistible lines like: “You can’t know what love is til you let your snake slither / How could you be in love when you’ve never spoken with her?” But even if only a few references to the original survive, the show’s language still feels somehow Shakespearean. Characters use the same types of asides, metaphors and similes found throughout the canon; it’s just the references that are different, with everything from Adidas to Ritalin peppering the fast-paced script. Having previously tackled two of Shakespeare’s comedies, the Q Brothers were eager to get their teeth into a tragedy. The approach, they say, is essentially the same. “We’re finding that there’s a lot of comedy to be had within a tragedy,” explains GQ. “The idea is to not dumb it down, but to elevate the real tragic moments by contrasting them with lighter, more accessible moments.” So we have Othello consumed with rage when he learns that Desdemona is cheating on him, but then we also have Emilia suggesting that she and Iago play “a naked game of Twister” to help him “de-stress.” It doesn’t stop here. “One day we’ll have the complete hip-hop works that we can put on a shelf of every library and every school in every country that we can get into,” says GQ. “We want to make Shakespeare accessible to everybody. We want to universalise hip-hop as an art form. We want to reach everyone.” f Othello: The Remix @ Pleasance Courtyard 1:55pm – 3:10pm, 1–27 Aug, not 7, 14, 21, £5 – £15
CtheFestival Bonnie Davies
Het Vijfde Bedrijf – The Fifth Act
Dead Posh Productions
1 – 27 Aug 9.45pm C eca
1 – 18 Aug 4.15pm C eca
2 – 27 Aug 3.20pm C aquila
The Red Chair Players
Graham Woolnough Productions
2 – 11 Aug 3.30pm C aquila
1 – 11 Aug 3.45pm C
2 – 27 Aug 5.25pm C aquila
Res de Res
C presents & Showdown Productions
1 – 27 Aug 1.15pm C
2– 27 Aug from 4pm & 8pm C nova
2 – 27 Aug 10.00pm C nova
I’m High On Life: What Are You On?
A One Man Hamlet
This Is Soap
Dead Man’s Cell Phone
Still Life (or Brief Encounter)
Tea With the Old Queen
Lonhattan Theatre Group
12 – 18 Aug 2.00pm C nova
Newman Theatre Company
The Prince and the Pauper 8 – 9 Aug 1.00pm C eca
Xavier Toby: Binge Thinking
2 – 27 Aug 6.00pm C nova
With more than 210 shows and events across our venues in the heart of Edinburgh, we celebrate our 21st year with a fantastic programme of theatre, musicals and international work at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. See it all with C venues.
The kids are alright Fringe First-winning writer and director Chris Goode embraces his inner child as he talks to Jo Caird about his new verbatim show, Monkey Bars.
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Goode is confident that Monkey Bars will make audiences laugh. “We had a very hysterical time in the pilot when taking some of the children’s words and trying to deliver them as political speeches.” But he hopes there’s more to the show than that. The aim, the director says, is that audiences “end up sort of hearing the child’s voice inside the adult; the child that all grown-ups carry around inside them that has never really grown up.” The show will “create a space in which everyone gets to look again at who they think they were when they were that age and maybe just treat that child with more kindness or more forgiveness than we otherwise might.” The process of creating the piece has been full of personal resonances for Goode, which is perhaps unsurprising given part of the impetus for developing Monkey Bars was to do right by the child version of himself, a little boy who felt that he “wasn’t being heard.” Transcribing James’s interviews with the children, Goode was struck in particular by how many of them expressed trepidation and excitement about moving to secondary school, a feeling he remembers very clearly himself. “I am always looking for the drama in what I’m making and I think that the transition that nine and 10-year-olds are experiencing and facing up to is where the drama is in this piece. It’s kind of thrilling if you think back on your own experience of that, just remembering being in that moment of transition. I think it’s been good for me to see how brave I was at a bunch of different points in my childhood because I remember being really cowardly.” Another anecdote that was particularly evocative for the director was one little boy’s experience as a mascot at a rugby match (which may or may not make it into the final show, Goode stresses). The boy is excited to be the centre of so many people’s attention, but terrified at the same time, a contradiction that Goode recognises from his own child-
f you ask me who I was as a 10-year-old I’ll tell you I was obnoxious and precocious and all of those things, but actually if I try to think about it from the inside, I find myself thinking about a very complicated human being who just happens to be little and to not have a voice, but who is capable of intense feeling – more intense feeling than probably I’ve ever experienced as an adult.” Chris Goode has been thinking about childhood a lot recently. The Fringe Firstwinning writer and director is concerned about how we treat children in our society. “I think children get a raw deal,” he says – we project onto them, underestimate them, ignore them. His new verbatim show, Monkey Bars, which puts the words of children into the mouths of adult actors, is an attempt to redress the balance. The show comes out of many hours of conversations with children between the ages of eight and 10 conducted by Karl James (with whom Goode worked on Tim Crouch’s The Author, one of the most discussed shows of the 2010 Fringe). The children were encouraged to talk about “moments of change in their lives” and reflect upon times when they experienced loss, sadness or bravery. “We’re not trying to hold them in upsetting places or ask them to talk about traumatic things, but in a way I suppose they’re all things where they, as children, are measuring themselves against the adult world,” Goode explains.These interviews are then taken into the rehearsal room, where Goode will work with six actors to devise scenes that integrate the children’s words into grown-up settings (the director is in the process of casting the show when we speak). A crucial element of the project is its honesty; Goode is adamant there will be no cleaning up of the verbatim transcripts and no additional material introduced. The scenarios presented will be fiction, but every word spoken will be an accurate representation of the conversations conducted by James.
hood, which was spent “getting up and trying to be entertaining... for people’s approval.” Not that he’s ever stopped doing that, of course. Goode has been a professional theatremaker for nearly two decades, during which time he has run companies, made large-scale devised work, performed solo shows, acted in and written plays for other people. But occupying that territory— part fear and part excitement—never gets any easier, he says. “That’s a feeling I still have now as a performer. More and more actually, I’m less and less confident about that moment where I have to stand up and go, ‘look at me!’ Which is why it was quite nice just to be directing this time and be sitting in the dark.” f Top Chris Goode Bottom Karl James
Monkey Bars @ Traverse
times vary, 14-27 Aug, not 20, £12 – £19
"Essential viewing... not only for lovers of dance but also for theatre enthusiasts" - The Skinny *****
A multi-media dance odyssey fusing hip hop & contemporary
dance, theatre, interactive film and animation. Part of Made in Scotland 2012
ZOO Southside (Mainhouse) - Venue 82 Aug 3 (preview) Aug 4 - 27 (not 14/ 21) 13.00
0131 662 6892 www.r-2-m.net
THE STORY OF WOODY GUTHRIE
edinburgh festival preview guide 2012 fest 51
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City of vice Human frailty and vice is at the centre of some of the most exciting new plays this August. Yasmin Sulaiman sets up her own discussion group with the artists bringing addiction to the Edinburgh stage.
dinburgh is no stranger to addicts. In the 1980s, the number of drug addicts sharing HIV infected needles was so high that the city was informally known as the AIDS capital of Europe. And nearly two decades after the release of the book and film, the heroin addicts of Trainspotting are still among the city’s best loved fictional residents. At this year’s Fringe, Edinburgh will host a variety of new tales about living with addiction. Among them are It’s My Wonderful Life, in which an ex-cocaine addict talks about how Frank Capra’s seminal film has helped him stay clean, and Poison, a debut play by Ross Anderson about dealing with addiction in the family. One of the most anticipated is The Intervention, by Dave Florez, who won a Fringe First in 2011 for Somewhere Beneath It All, A Small Fire Burns Still. Set in Chicago, it’s about Zac, an alcoholic, and his family’s attempt to set him straight. The cast includes The Fast Show’s Arabella Weir, American improv legend Mike McShane and 2006 Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Phil Nichol. “Dave and I are very similar,” says Nichol, who was the sole performer in Somewhere Beneath It All. “We have very similar ideas about how to make theatre very realistic, very audience friendly but also try and push the boundaries. The Intervention presents itself as a dark comedy about addictions and the cycle of abuse but what I like about Dave is that he doesn’t editorialise his characters. He just wants to tell stories and make them ring true.” The play is being staged by the Comedians Theatre Company who, after years of classics like 2006’s Talk Radio and 2009’s The School for Scandal, are finally establishing themselves as a purveyor of exciting original writing. And the emotional depth of addiction has given Nichol and Florez plenty to contemplate. “There’s incredible emotion behind it,” Nichol explains. “On the bad end of addiction, people can end up homeless and end up killing themselves. On the other end, some people become completely functional. Maybe yourself even; you don’t consider yourself to
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Right The Gambler Above The Intervention, a dark comedy about addictions Left Uncoupled focuses on the wife of a porn addict
be an addict because you get by every day but then you go home and drink a bottle and a half of red wine and don’t think anything of it. So the highs and the lows are extreme.” In The Gambler, a new work by international company Theatre Re, the highs and lows of gambling addiction are portrayed through physical theatre and mime. Guillaume Pigé, who founded the group and plays the eponymous gambler, says: “It’s about showing physically and visually all the turmoil, the whirlwind, the excitement, the thrill that is happening inside the head of the gambler. Because if you go to a casino or a betting shop, people are not moving much, nothing is happening on the outside. But inside, the fire is there, the energy is boiling and I think that’s where our job is, to actually show all of that and put it on stage.” The story begins with Edgar, an old man destroyed by his gambling habit, and then flashes back to his young self and charts the beginning of his addiction. Initially inspired by classic works of literature, including Dostoevsky’s The Gambler and Pushkin’s The Queen of Spades, Pigé and the play’s writer Adam Taylor quickly realised that their story needed a dose of reality. “Everything we were doing was nice,” Pigé says. “We were telling a nice story and it was all very good but we were not exploring the depth and the dirtiness of the game and how it can destroy someone. And that’s when we started to get in touch with real gamblers and former gamblers from Gamblers Anonymous.” Although it took time to get GA members to speak to the company and offer feedback, their input was invaluable. “It was interesting to see the language they were using,” says Pigé, “the way they moved, the way they’re always instable. The game is always there in their head, always with them. I think they could go back any minute and that’s very frightening.” “They were not only telling us about the game,” he adds. “It was also about their relationship with their family. Without any voyeurism, it was fascinating to listen to: what people go through, how gambling can destroy life. That was very interesting and touching and we were very honoured that they could share their story with us.” For writer Richard Bickley–who won a Fringe First in 1997 for his play After Penny– this destruction of family life is the most interesting and tragic element of addiction. His new play, Uncoupled, focuses on the wife of a porn addict and is inspired by a true story. “A friend of mine’s marriage broke down,” explains Bickley, “She told me about the neglect she’d had from her husband, because for many years, he’d been totally addicted to pornography. I thought that this is a subject that doesn’t get any airing. I started to look
festtheatre “It really depends on you: You might think it’s hilarious, you might think it’s the saddest thing you’ve ever seen.”
into it and I found out that it appears to be a huge issue, although psychologists seem to be somewhat divided over whether it’s a true addiction or not.” Uncoupled has already enjoyed success at the Oxford Fringe and Camden’s Solo Festival, and Bickley hopes that the play will help contribute to awareness that porn addiction is just as damaging as other kinds of addiction. “There’s this idea that it’s a victimless thing,” he says, “that if that’s what somebody wants to do in their own time then that’s fine. But where other people are involved on the fringes, that’s not the case. You read through the posts on pornaddictioninfo.com [a forum for spouses of porn addicts] about men who, because they’re spending all their time looking at pornography on the internet, are neglecting wives, children, work, losing jobs. It seems to take over their lives completely.” Similarly, Pigé feels that The Gambler can do much to spread knowledge about an addiction that’s so easy to hide. “Gambling addiction reaches so many people,” he says, “especially in the UK these days. In poor areas of London, in Wood Green for instance or Harringey, you can see so many betting shops on the same strip, and that’s where we realised that so many people are actually losing all their money and their lives in it. Because if you’re an alcoholic, you can smell
it. If you’re a drug addict, it shows at some point. But if you’re a gambler, no one needs to find out about it. So it’s interesting to raise awareness about this invisible vice.” The Intervention, on the other hand, refrains from moral judgement about addiction and instead, leaves that up to the audience. “I think if the play is effective the way I’d like it to be,” Nichol says, “some of the audience will go away thinking Zac stood up for himself, and other people will think he’s a loser. It really depends on you. You might think it’s hilarious; you might think it’s the saddest thing you’ve ever seen.” f The Gambler @ Pleasance Dome
2:45pm – 3:35pm, 1–26 Aug, not 13, £5 – £9
Poison @ C Nova
2:00pm – 3:00pm, 12–18 Aug, £8.50 – £10.50
Uncoupled @ Gilded Balloon Teviot
12:45pm – 1:35pm, 2–27 Aug, not 13, £5 – £10
It’s my wonderful life @ theSpace Jury’s Inn 9:05pm – 9:55pm, 3–18 Aug, not 5, 12, £3 – £6.50
The Intervention @ The Assembly Rooms 7:05pm – 8:20pm, 1–26 Aug, not 13, £14 – £15
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Hoffology The Baywatch, Knight Rider and Communistcrushing legend brings his one-man show to the Fringe, but Tom Godfrey wonders if being David Hasselhoff is all it’s cracked up to be.
avid Hasselhoff is trying to describe his one-man show. He’s not too long on specifics just yet—we’ll get to that—but if he has the slightest concern that his performance will fall anywhere short of absolute magnificence, he’s hiding it well. “It’s one man, all crazy! Expect a party with the Hoff. You might end up on stage, you’ll laugh a lot, you’ll sing a lot, you can ask whatever questions you like. It’s anything goes.” Hasselhoff’s in London for some promotional deal with Barclays, as he speaks to Fest. In just a few days an unprecedented scandal involving the bank will hit the headlines, but for now it hasn’t got a care in the world. Thinking about launching a new product? Stuck for a PR hook? Fuck it, call in the Hoff! “We just did a couple of tours of their corporate offices,” he says. “We blew their minds, of course,” he concedes, and for a second I wonder who the ‘we’ refers to in that sentence. This is somebody who performed above the Berlin Wall in December ‘89 in a leather jacket covered with flashing red lights: he’s not a guy to share a stage. Maybe he just uses the royal We. Or maybe it’s a split personality thing. After a while spent talking to Hasselhoff you get the impression he’s two people. On one hand there’s the Hoff, who everybody loves – or almost everybody. “Once in a while I get an asshole, but everybody does,” he admits, making it sound a little like a medical complaint. “But when I see people on the street, in the audience, in person, it’s nothing but a positive, amazing reaction.” The Hoff is the star of TV ads, the supplier of cameo performances to dubious summer blockbusters; the Hoff is the man thousands of people will turn up to cheer at the Pleasance Courtyard this summer. The Hoff is this guy: “We do a tribute to The Hoff in the show, we do a Hoff-worship thing [Here Hasselhoff sings “Hoo-oo-ooff” in a choral style]. We pay tribute to Hoffology and the philosophy of the Hoff, and it works pretty well.” It is the Hoff that presides over proceedings when, at the climax of the night, the crowd swarms the stage to tear down a miniature Berlin Wall to honour
the Hoff-led dismantlement of the Iron Curtain. The other person is David Hasselhoff, the 59 year-old actor who, for better or worse, has built a career on being The Hoff, and now won’t ever be able to escape it. I’m convinced, at first, that being the Hoff must be a drag sometimes. But getting Hasselhoff to admit this is difficult because, whatever question you ask him, he’ll answer by telling you about how the Hoff blows minds wherever he goes. He talks about it resignedly; it’s a cross he has to bear. “I’ve never had a problem with mean fans in my life,” he says, laughing off the suggestion that some Fringe-goers might see his show as an excuse to indulge in some boozed-up bouffant baiting. “I think my crowd’s going to be sophisticated, crazy, fun, drunk. I’ve been to places where everybody says ‘Watch out, they boo you!’ and guess what? They love me! Last time I was in Edinburgh, people stopped me in the streets to tell me how much they loved me, how honoured they were to meet me, how it was a big deal that I was there.” I’m still not convinced. All this must be getting pretty old for Hasselhoff now; it must be hard to stay so upbeat about cracking Knight Rider jokes and Baywatch jokes, going over the greatest hits from his canon of pap-ballads, night after night. Maybe it’s time they spent some time apart, Hasselhoff and the Hoff? Surely it would be good for both of them? When the Fringe comes round they’ll both be 60, and surely they must feel themselves slowing down a bit? I bring this up, unwisely suggesting that the Hoff is nearing a ‘milestone.’ “Milestone! What the fuck! It means nothing! Does it mean I only have 20 years of good looks left, 20 years of health? That I’m going to do the rest of my life in a wheelchair, with an oxygen tank? It doesn’t register with me. I laugh about it. I’m just honoured to have lived an amazingly happy life. I’ve done everything: Broadway,
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I’ve jogged with presidents*, swum with sharks, hung out with cool people. Man, it’s been an amazing ride! I feel it’s only just beginning.” I was wrong: David Hasselhoff loves being the Hoff, because being the Hoff is amazing. f *Google suggests that the Hoff jogged with one president. It was Clinton, of course.
An Evening with David Hasselhoff Live @ Pleasance Courtyard 6:00pm – 7:00pm, 21–27 Aug, £17.50 – £20
Wasteland As Morning—Simon Stephens’s latest portrait of atomised youth—premieres at the Fringe, the playwright talks to Matt Trueman about his terrible teens.
ven by his own prolific standards, Simon Stephens has had a remarkably busy year. Morning, which plays at the Traverse for the first three weeks of this year’s Fringe, is his fifth new play to premiere this year. His stage adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time only opened at the National Theatre at the end of July and looks set to be one of this summer’s blockbusters. Both plays centre on teenage protagonists. Haddon’s novel follows Christopher, a 15-year-old with an autism spectrum disorder, who is incapable of lying. Morning centres on Stephanie, a sixth-former desperately trying to conceal a secret that could ruin her life. In fact, almost half of Stephens’ plays have major teenage characters, and no-one captures the hybrid nature of adolescence quite like he does. His teens haven’t the melodramatic gloss of Skins characters, nor the Neanderthal surliness of Kevin and Perry. One sodomises a schoolmate with a beer bottle. Another hides under his sister’s bed and occasionally tries on her lipstick. One takes a gun into school and shoots two of his peers. Half childish and half adult, they are capable of searing cruelty, aching vulnerability and breathtaking insight. Many of them are startlingly direct, unconditioned enough to tell it how it is. “[Teenagers] have that capacity to look you in the eye and just tell you the truth,” explains the 41-year-old playwright. “My last few plays have all been concerned with the possibility of telling the truth.” Fringe-goers might remember Stephens from Pornography, a collection of stories around the 7/7 London bombings, or Sea Wall, devastatingly performed by Andrew Scott (now Sherlock’s Moriarty). However, his first critical hit came in 2001 with Herons, a tale of inherited teenage rivalries, and three years ago, he transposed a Columbine-style massacre to a Stockport secondary in Punk Rock (there’s a new production at this year’s Fringe starring Skins actor Will Merrick).
There are remnants of teenage spirit in Stephens: a mix of puckish brio and punkish insouciance. It’s hard to imagine him working as a secondary school teacher throughout his 20s, a role he quit in 2000 to take up a year’s residency at the Royal Court. The experience directly informed Herons and still looms large. “The representation of teenage characters sat so at odds with how I’d experienced them that I wanted to redress it.” Stephens has a scratchy, caffeinated energy and clearly relishes picking apart his own work, but that’s more about selfunderstanding than simple arrogance. “You become aware of recurrences in your work and a lot of my central characters are specifically 17-year-olds. They’re on that strange cusp of legality and adulthood, where in some ways you feel tremendously mature and in others a complete novice. “Part of me thinks the reason I’m drawn to that figure is that we’re just starting to lose our innocence, politically, economically, ecologically. We’re just starting to realise the consequences.” Many playwrights cater to parents, presenting teenagers as stroppy teenage handfuls. Television reflects teenagers at themselves, as they want to be seen or as is deemed good for them. For Stephens, however, it’s something different. He cites Spring Awakening, Frank Wedekind’s 1891 tragedy of repressed pubescents: “Wedekind, a middle-aged man, was writing about kids because he felt it vitally important that middle-aged audiences saw that.” The play was still banned in Britain more than 70 years later. Morning grew out of workshops with teenagers from the Lyric Hammersmith’s Young Company—who will perform the premiere production—and the Junges Theater Basel. Stephens and the Lyric’s artistic director Sean Holmes drew inspiration from Europe where theatres consider their youth work “as integral a part of theatre programming as anything else… rather than ghettoising it or parcelling it off to the outreach or education departments.”
During these workshops, one participant brought in a news report about a Welsh teenager who, last year, killed his girlfriend to win a jovial bet with his best friend. Having done so, he sent a text message: “Don’t say anything but you may just owe me that breakfast.” “That terrifying dislocation from the action and its moral fallout fascinated me,” says Stephens. It’s not hard to see why. It has his idiosyncratic combination of blasé banality and electric brutality. In Morning, Stephanie lures her boyfriend into the woods with her best friend Cat. A kiss becomes a bite becomes a kidnap becomes a savage and unflinching killing. It’s a horrifying moment, handled with the playwright’s characteristic frankness, and calls to mind the killing of James Bulger. “Stephanie is exhilarated and terrified by the fact that you can do anything. To her horror she realises that actions have consequences and the play’s about her attempting to make sense of that fact… It’s actually quite a moral play, possibly the most moral I’ve written.” f Morning @ Traverse Theatre 1–19 Aug, not 2, 3, 6, 13, £13 – £20
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Baking up a treat She’s an old hand at the Fringe but this time around Mel Giedroyc feels like she’s starting over, finds Caroline Bishop.
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el Giedroyc remembers her first year at the Fringe all too well. It was 1993, and she and comedy partner Sue Perkins were performing their first standup show in a 10am slot, having borrowed £2,000 from Giedroyc’s brother to fund the run. “First performance, one friend came, so we performed it to him and he just laughed all the way through, mainly out of embarrassment. Show two, one person there – somebody we didn’t know. That’s good, a step up,” cackles Giedroyc. The Fringe was where it all started for Cambridge Footlights alumni Giedroyc and Perkins, who went on to write for French & Saunders until bagging their own TV chatshow, Light Lunch, in 1997. “That was our training,” says Giedroyc. “Certainly we didn’t get into drama school. It was our busiest month of the year, August. Who might come in, who might spot you?” Nearly 20 years later, Giedroyc may feel like “an old harridan of the festival,” but she’s also recalling that familiar ‘will-they-come?’ feeling that permeated her first Fringe. Because this year, rather than performing comedy, or starring in a musical such as 2007’s hit Eurobeat, Giedroyc is presenting her debut play. Slice, which premiered in Glasgow in March as part of the Òran Mór’s lunchtime A Play, A Pie and A Pint series, is a dark comedy about fractured sibling relationships. And cake. Victoria (all three sisters have cakerelated monikers) has spent years looking after her “gorgon” of a mother, who demands tea and cake at 3pm every day. Now she’s dying, and Victoria’s hitherto absent sisters arrive to say goodbye, with resentments and recriminations rising as fast as the cake, baking live on stage, in the oven. Sipping on her tea in a London cafe—we resist the cake—Giedroyc stresses Slice isn’t based on her own relationship with her mother and two sisters, though her age (44) has been an influence. “You are straddled in the middle, you’ve got young kids at one end and at the other you’ve got parents
who are getting older that are needing care and attention. It’s an odd age.” She’s also been influenced by co-hosting— with Perkins—her strangely successful baking contest The Great British Bake-Off, which broadcasts its third series on BBC2 this year. “Cake is on my mind a hell of a lot,” she smiles, saying she liked the idea of setting a drama within the timeframe of baking a cake, which fits neatly into a 50 minute show. There’s more to it than that, though. The squeaky-clean programme seems to have provoked a touch of rebellion in Giedroyc. “[Baking] is a wonderful thing, it gets people together, it’s nostalgia, it reminds you of your mum, it’s back to traditional values. But there was something about it that I just thought, does it always bring families together, does it always remind you of great things you did with your mum? What if your mum’s a bitch?” It took some serious nagging from “total legend” David MacLennan, producer of A Play, A Pie and A Pint, for her to translate these ideas into a play, despite having wanted to write one for years. “I’m really bad at getting off my arse basically,” she laughs.
“It’s ruddy scary when David says ‘right, you’re going to do it’, but you feel somehow it’s achievable with his support. Òran Mór is a very good place to start.” Being an admirer of the Glaswegian venue, she felt “like it was a good thing to do” to write Slice specifically for three Scottish actresses rather than starring in it herself, adding modestly: “I think with these parts there are a lot of people who could do it better than I can.” But sitting in the audience rather than performing on stage proved no easier. “I have never been so ruddy nervous in my life,” she says. “Sat on my own, seriously crapping myself and necking brandies and whiskeys and praying that people would respond and laugh in the right places.” “I tell you the learning curve was like that,” she adds, raising her hand. “But I’m really glad I did it. You’ve got to put yourself out there, if you want to write you’ve got to write.” f Slice @ Gilded Balloon Teviot
1:00pm – 2:00pm, 1–27 Aug, not 13, 20, £6 – £10
CaLARTS Festival Theater Presents
GOING GREEN THE WONG WAY
'One of America’s funniest ecocomedians' -mnn.com 'A hoot!' -Miami Herald
9th year on the fringe!
Free breakfast at morning shows!
4 -18 Aug - 10:30 19-25 Aug - 19:00
“As a poetry ambassador in the world of theater, Aleshea Harris is immensely qualiﬁed.”
Becoming Conocido 4 -18 Aug -
Winner, Best of Fest - Frontera Fest 2006
Inspired by Russian folktale Hedgehog in the Fog
INTO THE FOG
Nabakov’s exquisite short story brought to life with movement and video in a poignant and personal retelling.
3-18 Aug -
£8 Gen | £5 Con tix: 07074 20 13 13 www.venue13.com
16:00 CaLARTS Festival Theater
Going Green the Wong Way Oddlie Becoming Conocido Gods Into the Fog
10:30 (19:00 for 19-26, Aug) 11:45 14:30 4 - 18 August 16:00 not 6,13 Aug 19:00
Lochend Close - Just off the Mile 100m past Cannongate Kirk
Join us for tea every show day at 15:30 - FREE with your ticket to a venue13 show!
Caroline Bishop talks to the people behind two new plays which are laying bare the truth behind the news. The Two Worlds of Charlie F tackles the mental and physical wounds war inflicts, while Soldiers’ Wives looks at those left behind.
apper Lyndon Chatting-Walters was just 18 when he was thrown 60ft from his vehicle by a Taliban bomb in Afghanistan, breaking his back in four places. Some three years later, he was performing on a West End stage. On paper, these events couldn’t be further removed, but the show that put him on stage aimed to connect the two, bringing the stark reality of soldiers wounded in Afghanistan to audiences back home. The Two Worlds of Charlie F, which now plays at the Fringe, originated from an idea by Alice Driver, producer at Masterclass, a theatrical charity established by London’s Theatre Royal Haymarket. Experienced at using theatre as a tool to boost skills and confidence, Driver was inspired to use this model to help the recovery of wounded service personnel following a visit to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. “I was never really aware of how young these individuals were and what type of injuries they were going through,” she says. “Due to the advances of medicine, on the positive, loads more people are surviving. But on the other hand, the injuries they’ve got are far greater than have
ever been experienced before. I chatted to one guy who said when you become injured you become very vulnerable and you lose your sense of self. I just thought, well let’s use this theatre model as a way of aiding recovery.” She set in motion a project that was to culminate in two performances at London’s Theatre Royal Haymarket in January of a play not only based on the experiences
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Above, Below The Two Worlds of Charlie F
of wounded soldiers but starring them as well. The MOD had never previously used theatre to aid recovery, and convincing them wasn’t easy, says Driver. Having the support of the Royal British Legion and theatrical legend Trevor Nunn helped, as did the assurance that this was no amateur, community project but a professional production. Tactics were required, too, in order to recruit service personnel to take part in something the majority had no experience of. So Driver brought along hardman actor Ray Winstone to show the ‘cool’ side of theatre, a ploy that resulted in 30 soldiers—both men and women—volunteering for Bravo 22 Company, as the new theatre company would be called. It was the task of playwright Owen Sheers—author of last year’s The Passion in Port Talbot—to interview those soldiers and work their stories into a play that would “remain authentic to their voice and their experience,” he says, “but also to have a very unflinching gaze at what those three letters [war] mean.” For some, including Chatting-Walters, it was the first time they had shared their experiences with anyone outside the military. “He [Sheers] made me feel so comfortable and I completely opened up to him,” he says. “A lot of people ask you about it but you don’t feel as if they actually care. With Owen, he was so calm about everything, and he genuinely looked interested, he wanted to know.” Rehearsals were certainly interesting. “Medication became our biggest obstacle,” says Sheers with a wry laugh, citing those who would fall asleep due to the meds, or have short term memory issues. ChattingWalters was in “a lot of pain” for most rehearsals. But all that found its way into the play, as did physical limitations, which, Sheers said, weren’t limitations at all but “expansive”. A double amputee’s experience of physiotherapy became one of the show’s most powerful images.
“Those that have been wounded in conflict have an absolute right to have their voices heard. It’s one of the most powerful peace movements I can think of.”
Sheers and Driver agree that the process of developing the play was as important as the performance. Indeed, for Chatting-Walters, who was initially attracted to the project for the chance of a free trip to London, rehearsals “worked wonders” for his mental recovery. “It was just brilliant for all of us. We were all back as a unit again, which we hadn’t been since we left [Afghanistan]. It was good to talk about stuff that we hadn’t spoken about before.” “In many cases it’s life changing,” adds Driver. “People who are suffering from depression have been lifted out of that. Others have used this as a springboard of confidence to go and do what they really want to do.” At the heart of the project was recovery, but Sheers stresses how important it became to have those stories told to audiences distant from the reality of war. “There was a very strong sense amongst the cast that they were doing this for all the other people, not just soldiers but civilians,” he says. “Those that have been wounded in conflict have an absolute right to have their voices heard and it’s one of the most powerful
Above Catherine Shipton in Soldiers’ Wives
peace movements I can think of.” It’s a sentiment shared by Catherine Shipton, star of one-woman play Soldiers’ Wives. Adapted from a piece written for BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour by playwright Sarah Daniels, Soldiers’ Wives sees Shipton— known for many years as Duffy in Casualty—play five army wives on an English base, whose lives are deeply affected when one of their husbands suffers a devastating injury. “It’s an area of our society we don’t want to look at,” says Shipton. “It’s like Jack Nicholson says in A Few Good Men, ‘you can’t handle the truth!’ I’m an anti-war person politically, but the humanity of these women’s stories... it’s a fact of life and therefore I want to expose their story.” The nub of the piece, says Shipton, is the psychological wounds inflicted on those women, which can be just as traumatic as the experiences of their husbands. “The issue for the women left behind is they just never know,” says director Anthony Biggs, who could draw on his own experience of being from a military family. “Every day is a mixture of boredom and also terrible fear
that you might get that call to be told some terrible news.” The production had a week’s try-out in the spring at London’s Jermyn Street Theatre—strangely, just a minute’s walk from the Theatre Royal Haymarket—and, like ...Charlie F, the overriding feeling was that this was a necessary play. “We were a little bit nervous that the piece might not reflect the army in a positive light,” says Biggs. “We didn’t want it to be negative, but we wanted it to be real. Actually all the people who came who had military backgrounds all went ‘spot on.’ For once the story is told.” Both productions have ambitions to reach a wider audience. ...Charlie F will be back in the West End after Edinburgh and Sheers and Driver are in discussions with the Royal British Legion about turning the play into an annual rehabilitation course. Meanwhile Shipton and Biggs would like to take Soldiers’ Wives on tour. And both are testament to theatre’s ability to educate, inform and ultimately help. “What’s so great,” says Driver, “is I never said this project would do all this good stuff, but the people who are turning around and saying ‘wow this has changed my life’ are the service personnel and that’s what makes it amazing.” f
The Two Worlds of Charlie F @ Pleasance Courtyard
1:45pm – 3:15pm, 7–11 Aug, £12.50 – £15
Soldiers’ Wives @ Assembly Roxy
12:30pm – 1:30pm, 2–27 Aug, not 13, £8 – £12
edinburgh festival preview guide 2012 fest 61
Mirror on the world After a hugely successful debut year, Theatre Uncut previews its new season in Edinburgh in the hope of attracting international audiences. Catherine Love speaks with artistic director Emma Callander.
t London’s Southwark Playhouse, a man stands alone on the stage. In a nod to austerity, there is no other actor to take on the second role in this two-hander; instead, the play recruits its audience to read words projected onto a screen. It is a simple move, but one that speaks of collaborative protest in the face of injustice. This was just one scene of many from last year’s Theatre Uncut. Harnessing the widespread anger sparked by the government’s Spending Review, this nationwide project hit back at slashes to public spending with a series of short plays that were made freely available for anyone to perform, from professional theatre companies to local am-dram societies, inciting over 800 participants to take action. The spirit was
one of united protest, something that has been repeatedly felt in global politics over the last 12 months. It is this spirit that now brings Theatre Uncut back to the front line. “This year we spoke a lot about whether or not it needed to happen,” says co-artistic director Emma Callander, who has taken the reins from founder Hannah Price for the 2012 season. During these discussions, the creative team found that the appetite for this political brand of collaborative theatre, so evident last year, is far from sated. “We felt that it did need to happen, because there were lots of issues which people still needed to debate and potentially take action on.” The subjects tackled in this year’s plays read like a catalogue of discontent: the Eurozone crisis, mass civil unrest, the Occupy
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movement, the sorry state of global capitalism. From its initial platform as a theatrical movement speaking out specifically against the coalition government’s spending cuts, Theatre Uncut has widened into a forum for political debate on myriad issues from around the world. “It was important for us to put the UK’s situation into an international frame,” Callander explains. Drawing on a politically and economically tumultuous year for much of the globe, the plays from writers including Neil LaBute, Mohammad Al Attar and Lena Kitsopoulou place the UK’s unique problems within the context of a world screaming for change. Callander hopes the global perspectives will create “an exchange of ideas and issues that we need to face from country to country through a theatrical form.”
festtheatre Going global has, however, had its difficulties. While audiences of the 2011 plays were “quite savvy” about the political and social issues being dissected, conveying national problems to an international audience presents a much greater challenge, but one that Callander describes as “wonderful.” Such challenges are partly the reason for presenting a selection of the 2012 plays at the Traverse this summer, which will provide a brief glimpse of the work ahead of the full run in the autumn. Reversing last year’s performance schedule, the Fringe is something of a test run for the new pieces, as well as a springboard to reach out to potential collaborators. As Callander points out, there are few better places than Edinburgh to reach an international audience. In addition to the previews, each Monday morning programme will include quick-fire pieces from emerging writers Stef Smith and Kieran Hurley, hurriedly written in response to whatever is hitting the headlines that week. Sweeping aside the suggestion that the form might have inherent limitations, Callander is infectiously enthusiastic about the possibilities of rapid response theatre. “It’s an immediate, live debate about something that’s happening right there and then.” Callander sees this form of theatre as a catalyst for discussion, a “totally differ-
ent beast” to work developed over a longer period. “I don’t even see time as a limitation,” she insists. “The whole point of this kind of theatre is that it’s rough, it’s vital.” To nurture such discussions, Theatre Uncut will be holding post-show talks after each performance, asking that audiences share their thoughts about the plays and engage in debate with the theatremakers. Despite its origins and the very political nature of the material it explores, Callander is uncomfortable with Theatre Uncut being pigeonholed as political theatre. “All theatre,” she argues, “is in some way political, because everything is political.” But what she does recognise is drama’s ability to effect change, on individuals as much as policy-makers. “It’s where I go to learn how to live better,” she says of the theatre. “It’s the way that I best understand the world, so I hope that I can facilitate that for other people.” Above all, she stresses, Theatre Uncut hopes to “encourage debate and galvanise action”. And can we expect this debate to continue? Callander’s answer is firm and concise. “As long as we feel the need is there, we’ll present it.” f Theatre Uncut @ Traverse Theatre
10:00am – 11:00am, 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, £6.50
Four new operas packed full of emotion
The Lady from the Sea In the Locked Room & Ghost Patrol
Clemency Wed 29 Aug to Sun 2 Sep PART OF THE EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL Traverse Theatre Edinburgh/ King’s Theatre, Edinburgh Call 0131 473 2000 to book
OFFER Book for all 3 shows & save 20%!
Thu 6 Sep to Sun 9 Sep
Theatre Royal Glasgow | Call 0844 871 7647 to book
Book online at scottishopera.org.uk Registered in Scotland Number SCO37531 Scottish Charity Number SCO19787 Registered Office: 39 Elmbank Crescent, Glasgow G2 4PT
edinburgh festival preview guide 2012 fest 63
Bridging the divide As Assembly prepares to stage its special South African season, Yasmin Sulaiman reflects on the political role played by theatre both under apartheid and today.
t’s been 40 years since Athol Fugard’s Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act was first performed. The play centres on a love affair between a white woman and a black man which, under apartheid’s Immorality Act, was deemed illegal. But although it’s been 18 years since apartheid—the oppressive racial segregation laws imposed in South Africa from 1948 to 1994—came to an end, Kim Kerfoot, who directs a new production of Statements at this year’s Fringe, believes these attitudes still remain. “Although grounded very firmly in a particular socio-political context, it is as relevant today as it was in the 1970s,” he says. “It’s a sad fact that even though there is progressive legislation, and what is widely considered to be the best constitution in the world, interracial relationships, as well as homosexual relationships, are still not free from stigma and harassment in parts of South Africa.” Kerfoot’s production was lauded when it was performed at Cape Town’s Fugard Theatre earlier this year. At the Fringe, it’s part of the Assembly Festival’s South African season: a collection of plays, music and comedy celebrating the Rainbow Nation and its connections to Scotland. Among its theatre strand are classics, like Statements, that were instrumental tools in the cultural resistance to apartheid. Fugard was at the centre of this antiapartheid theatre movement. In the 1960s and 1970s, he and his group the Serpent Players created plays that depicted the injustices of the regime. Fugard’s collaborations with John Kani and Winston Ntshona in particular led to hits like The Island and Sizwe Bansi is Dead. As Fugard’s plays travelled the world, they showed other countries how bad things were in South Africa. “I think his contribution to raising awareness was huge,” Kerfoot explains. “The performances of his plays in the United States and England provided insights into the realities of apartheid for the public in those countries when access to news and information out of South Africa was limited. His ability to make personal the injustices of the regime revealed the true horrors of what was happening to those who saw his
Above Woza Albert
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work, both in South Africa and abroad. “Moreover, the meeting of people of different races and cultural backgrounds to work on his plays, which was forbidden under the Group Areas Act, was an important way of combating the cultural separation imposed by the government.” Fugard may have been among the first to challenge the tragedies of apartheid on stage, but others followed. In 1981, Percy
Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema and Barney Simon wrote Woza Albert!, a comic two-hander about the second coming of Morena (Jesus Christ) that tackles oppression and the loss of freedom during apartheid. First performed at the Market Theatre—the first committed non-racial theatre in South Africa, co-founded by Simon in 1974—its revival at the same theatre earlier this year was greeted with ecstatic praise, sold out
festtheatre runs and now, a stint in Edinburgh. One of the play’s actors, Mncedisi Baldwin Shabangu, says: “There are still white towns in South Africa. Black people are still living under hard conditions. Poverty is ripe, children don’t go to school. There are beggars in every corner. So the play, for me, is actually more powerful now and more relevant today than it has ever been.” Also in the season, South African soap star Lesego Motsepe will appear in And the Girls in their Sunday Dresses, a 1988 play by Zakes Mda about two women—known only as The Lady and The Woman—who strike up a friendship while queuing to buy cheap rice. For her, this play’s resonance has always travelled much further than South Africa. She says: “The Lady and the Woman in the play are representatives of many a woman in the world we live in, women who will look down on other women who dress, eat and behave differently from themselves. The core message of the play is that you should never judge a book by its cover, an old adage from yonder years that still applies today.” While these plays hail from the apartheid era, there are also post-apartheid works in Assembly’s South African season. These include Mies Julie, a rewrite of Strindberg’s Miss Julie set in modern South Africa by celebrated director Yael Farber, and Mother to Mother, in which lauded actress Thembi Mtshali-Jones performs Sindiwe Magona’s story about reconciliation and forgiveness. But for Kerfoot, theatre in South Africa today has largely lost the power it had in the 1970s and 1980s. “Politically,” he says, “I don’t think it has the resonance it did, and I think that this is to a large extent unavoidable. Under a repressive and inhumane government, art, and particularly in a South African context, theatre, takes on an important role in satirising and protesting against that government. In a democratic country, it is much harder to pinpoint the origin of the problems facing the people. Politically oriented theatre often lacks the focus and the mass appeal that it had in the 1970s and 1980s.” According to Motsepe, the emphasis on issues may have changed but the rich tradition remains. “Theatre in South Africa is no longer only ‘protest’ but is reflective of what is happening in our society,” she explains. “It still comments on what is happening in our society, our country and in relation to what is happening in the diaspora and the international artistic community. The one thing that has not changed is that art does still continue to represent life.” For Shabangu, it’s not theatre that has altered as much as people’s attitudes towards it. “Theatre in South Africa will never
change,” he says. “It will always change faces. What people saw in the 1970s and 1980s is still what is happening now. But the apartheid that united us meant that we went to the theatre to understand what position the struggles of the people were taking. As compared to now, where people no longer go to theatres because television has taken over and the Hollywood factor has become a bug. But the people who go to theatres now are actually making a new revolution in marketing, producing, creating and really being as authentic as ever.” Similarly, Kerfoot remains optimistic about the future direction of South African theatre. “There is theatre being made that expresses the vibrancy and diversity that is the new South Africa, and speaks to what it is to be here, now. I think with more opportunities like the Assembly at international festivals, the scope for South African
theatremakers to make exciting work grows exponentially. “An important thing to remember, “ he adds, “which Fugard has proven, is that the best way to expose and examine large-scale or universal issues of injustice or prejudice, is to tell vivid, powerful, personal stories that expose the effects of these issues on individuals, on personal relationships.” As long as injustice remains, stories like these will always be relevant. “Woza Albert! is timeless,” says Shabangu. “It talks about apartheid. It talks about poverty. It talks about the identity of an African in Africa. It talks about humanity ripped apart and people being raped of their dignity. Yes apartheid laws have been removed, but apartheid remains. It was never only by law, it was in people too. Those people are still alive.” f
Statements After An Arrest Under The Immorality Act By Athol Fugard @ Assembly Hall
10:00am – 11:00am, 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, £6.50
Mother To Mother @ Assembly George Square
10:00am – 11:00am, 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, £6.50
And The Girls In Their Sunday Dresses @ Assembly George Square
10:00am – 11:00am, 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, £6.50
Woza Albert! @ Assembly Hall
Top And The Girls In Their Sunday Dresses
10:00am – 11:00am, 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, £6.50
Above Mies Julie
10:00am – 11:00am, 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, £6.50
Mies Julie @ Assembly Hall
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LIFE DRAWING Photo: Claudine Quinn
Blurring the lines between theatre and the world of fine art, Still Life tells the story of the archetypal bohemian muse, Henrietta Moraes. Caroline Bishop talks to writer and actress Sue MacLaine about her latest immersive play
ue MacLaine is possibly the only actor whose pre-show ritual involves removing her clothes and running around the performance space completely naked. It is hard to equate this ritual with the petite, greying, softly spoken woman who sits across from me in the Coach & Horses in London’s Soho. But then, as Still Life sets out to demonstrate, the image a person presents to others isn’t always all there is to know. The reason for MacLaine’s ritual is to make herself feel comfortable naked, because she spends most of the show being exactly that. Written and performed by MacLaine, Still Life sees her play Henrietta Moraes, a life model who was muse to artists including Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud in the 1950s and 60s. Described in a Guardian obituary as “foul-mouthed, amoral, a thief, a violent drunkard and a drug addict; yet she was witty, wonderfully warm and lovable,” Moraes’s eccentric life as one of the Soho set provides MacLaine with plenty of stories to tell throughout the 70 minute piece, interspersing these fragments of a life with silent poses recreated from the Freud and Bacon works Moraes posed for. But what makes this different from any other biographical play is that the show is staged not in a traditional theatre space but in a studio, and the audience is encouraged
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festtheatre “Drawing is the glue of the piece and there’s a very warm feeling in the audience because they have all been through the same experience.” to draw MacLaine as Moraes, as though in a life drawing class. Having performed Still Life in her hometown of Brighton last year and at London’s National Portrait Gallery in spring 2012, MacLaine has seen the various responses this elicits. Some take to the task with gusto, she says, others are more tentative, while some choose not to draw at all or to write instead. By the end of the Brighton run over 600 drawings donated by audience members were displayed at the venue. Some were brilliant, says MacLaine, while some verged on stick figures, but the display gave other people confidence to give it a go. So is this theatre or life drawing? Under the gaze of her audience, MacLaine sees how it segues between the two. “There is this change in the gaze, which is part of what the piece is about,” she says. “How do we look at somebody, how do we look at a life, how do you see a person beyond what they might be representing to you?” When she’s silent, in pose, the audience is concentrating with “that objective feeling of looking and drawing and trying to get the form.” But when Ma-
admires the muse’s blatant disregard for the sensible option. But was that carefree, bohemian 1950s lifestyle all it seemed? “It’s gone,” MacLaine says, gesturing around the shabby boozer that the Coach & Horses, the old haunting ground of the Soho set—has become. Even Moraes’s portrait, which once adorned a wall of the pub, has been removed. “I’m aware that when I look back on it and look at the photos of it, it looks wonderful. But she may have been sitting there thinking, ‘bloody hell I haven’t got any money.’ It’s one of the things that as a writer I’m really interested in, about how do we try and remain congruent about our lives.” Whether audiences get all this out of Still Life, or simply enjoy trying their hand at life drawing, the show certainly promises a collective experience unlike any other at the Fringe. “Drawing is the glue of the piece,” says MacLaine, “and there’s a very warm feeling in the audience because they have all been through the same experience. People are really concentrating and there’s a sense at the end of the show that everyone comes up for air.” f
cLaine tells Moraes’s story, “people’s gaze has to change... there’s a different sort of acuity, of listening and looking, that has to happen.” And as Moraes’s life story progresses to its sad conclusion—in 1999 she died, aged 67, of cirrhosis of the liver—the audience’s enthusiasm for drawing slows. “There’s something interesting about how much people can keep drawing... the construct that she [Moraes] has started at the beginning of the piece doesn’t last.” It’s that construct—the hedonistic, self-centred artists’ muse—that first drew MacLaine to Moraes’s autobiography. In particular, it was that Guardian obituary’s description of her profession as ‘bohemian.’ “I have this part of my character which is very obliged and quite Protestant work ethic,” says MacLaine, “and she seemed to have a life that was tethered to nothing, actually. So her untetheredness was really exciting to me.” Unlike Moraes, MacLaine has a day job – as a Sign Language Interpreter – to support her work as a writer and performer. But it’s clear that she, a little wistfully perhaps,
Still Life: An Audience With Henrietta Moraes @ Whitespace 6:15pm – 7:15pm, 1–27 Aug, not 7, 14, 21, £5 – £12
northern stage at st stephen’s UnMIssaBLe theatre
Unfolding Theatre and Northern Stage
Northern Stage with Soho Theatre
RashDash with Not Now Bernard
onCe In a hoUse on FIre Monkeywood Theatre
the prICe oF eVerythIng
the UgLy sIsters
Third Angel and mala voadora
oh, the hUManIty and other good IntentIons
Best In the WorLd
What I heard aBoUt the WorLd
Made in the North of England
Me & Mr C
Gary Kitching and Greyscale
Box Office 0131 558 3047 Book Online www.northernstage.co.uk ns_festadvert_01_final.indd 1
edinburgh festival preview guide 2012 fest 67
There’s more to clowns than masks and white-face. Matt Trueman talks to the artists who are using their training in France’s grandes écoles as a springboard for innovative new writing.
dinburgh is no place for coulrophobes. Each August, the city is invaded by clowns – a plague of the buggers. Year on year, they flock to the Fringe: the pierrots and harlequins, the buffoons, masks and mimes. There are rustic fools lugging battered suitcases, red-nosed naïfs desperate to please and, most grating of all, ‘Burtonesque’ white-faces, their eyebrows pencilled into position. “Ugh,” exhales Valentina Ceschi, one half of the performance duo Dancing Brick, “White-face is so cringe. It really doesn’t appeal to me. It’s like rent-an-aesthetic.” Thomas Eccleshare, the other half, gives a little shudder at the mention of it. As graduates of the famous L’Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, Ceschi and Eccleshare have good reason to be sceptical. Lecoq’s methodology is often misappropriated as a catchall shorthand term for this sort of work. It has a vague whiff of the continent, blending different European traditions—Italian commedia dell’arte, classical French mime, Ancient Greek masks—that also form the backbone of the Lecoq training. “Not once in the whole two years did we paint our faces white,” Ceschi contines, “It’s just the idea people have of it.” Caroline Horton, who trained with one of Lecoq’s best-known former students, Philippe Gaulier, is more forgiving: “I’ve seen amazing white-faced clowns, but then I’ve also seen a lot of mediocre ones… What feels strange is when it’s used as a fixed style, regardless of the story that’s being told.” No one can accuse Dancing Brick of that. The duo—who met at Lecoq in 2007—have a real knack of finding their own spin on classic techniques and routines. Their last Fringe show, which won them the Arches Brick Award in 2009, involved two ice dancers skating on in a world without ice. Wearing ice skates and fixed smiles, the pair tottered and tripped around the stage, desperately trying to maintain poise and grace.
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Their latest show, Captain Ko and the Planet of Rice, explores aging and memory loss through the filter of science fiction and space travel. “In science fiction,” says Eccleshare, “the protagonist isn’t aware that these things are impossible. If the planet you’re on starts doing strange things, you don’t think it’s your problem. Similarly, when someone sees an 80 year-old in the mirror, but thinks they’re 23, it’s a real thing.” Horton is arguably more classical, but still resists being pigeonholed. In 2010, she won The Stage’s Best Solo Performance
award for her clowning portrayal of her French grandmother in You’re Not Like the Other Girls, Chrissy. She clowns beautifully, with a sense of always holding in an imminent explosion of excitement. In her new work, Mess, which plays at the Traverse, she’s using clowning techniques to explore anorexia – something that may strike people as counterintuitive, but, like Dancing Brick, Horton sees her training as a springboard. “I use some of the skills I learned from Gaulier, but people can be quite purist about it and I don’t think that’s helpful.”
festtheatre For Eccleshare, there’s no such thing as pure Lecoq: “People mistake Lecoq for a style; that everyone comes, learns the same lessons and does the same thing with it… His pedagogy is so simple and pure. People take those basic principles and go a whole different bunch of ways.” You can see that by looking at the two schools’ various alumni. The founding members of Complicité—Simon McBurney, Annabel Arden and Marcello Magni—met at Gaulier and took their name from Lecoq’s teachings before winning the Perrier Award in 1985. Gaulier can also claim Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen and Dr Brown as alumni, while Lecoq’s students include The Lion King director Julie Taymor, Stephen Berkoff and Ariane Mnouchkine, whose Les Naufragés du Fol Espoir plays in this year’s Edinburgh International Festival. The Lecoq catchphrase is ‘Tout bouge’ – ‘Everything moves.’ Having started his career as a PE teacher, Jacques Lecoq came to theatre through the body. After spending several years studying various European techniques, Lecoq opened the school in December 1956, leading students from silence to speech. “There are things you get from Lecoq that you don’t get elsewhere,” says Eccleshare. “One is the discipline and rigour of the physical body. You feel great and by the end of the first year, you can notice a Lecoq-trained body.” In 1976, the school moved to its current location, a former gymnasium in North Paris. Gaulier taught there shortly afterwards, having studied under Lecoq in the mid-60s. In 1980, he set up his own school, scornful of Lecoq’s doctrinaire methods. He would later tell The Telegraph, “You can always tell a Lecoq student: too much emphasis on image.” Horton elaborates: “He [Gaulier] very much works with the individual as a performer. He talks about finding your own beauty onstage.” There is, she continues, an “anarchic vibe… He spent the first term and a half making me shout from the back of the stage, telling me I was too nice and really boring.” If that sounds harsh, Horton is far from alone. Baron Cohen has spoken of his former teacher’s “brutal honesty.” Across town, Lecoq students face similar dismissal at the weekly auto-cours, short compositions shown publically on Friday afternoons, many of which are stopped within 10 seconds. Ceschi thrived on that (“You learn what works and what doesn’t”) while Eccleshare found it tough: “If you’ve been stopped three weeks in a row, and you’re stopped again on the fourth, you start to think you’re worthless, that, no matter what, you can’t do it.” He was regularly told he thought too much. All three were Oxbridge graduates when they moved to France. Horton very
Above Dancing Brick’s Captain Ko And The Planet Of Rice
intentionally “wanted to get out of my head” after several years in English academic institutions. She didn’t feel suited to the stereotypical route into acting. “I was chronic at the whole agent, proper casting and headshots thing, always trying to fit somebody else’s box.” For Eccleshare it was a matter of discovery. “I didn’t realise theatre could be anything except pretending to be someone else as accurately as possible until I went to Edinburgh and saw loads of stuff, in particular Andrew Dawson and All Wear Bowlers – that just blew me away.” For the moment, returning to Edinburgh remains important to both Horton and Dancing Brick as emerging artists. However, both are increasingly finding ways to fit into the UK’s wider theatrical ecology. Eccleshare and Ceschi have had support from a number of regional theatres, while Horton is now an associate artist at the Bush Theatre in London. “Some of the big institutions
that had a purer idea of what new writing was are changing,” she explains. “Still, when I heard Mess had been programmed by the Traverse, I thought they’d make a mistake.” What they do is, Ceschi stresses, a form of writing: “Whenever they criticise your work, they criticise the ‘écriture,’ the writing of it. We left Lecoq as writers, but here the translation doesn’t carry.” Horton echoes the sentiment: “If there’s something that frustrates me, it’s when someone says, ‘Oh, I hear you’re doing a clown show.’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m not.’ I don’t really know what that means.” f
Captain Ko And The Planet Of Rice @ Underbelly
8:00pm – 9:10pm, 2–26 Aug, not 13, £6 – £10.50
Mess @ Traverse Theatre
times vary, 2–26 Aug, not 6, 13, 20, £12 – £19
edinburgh festival preview guide 2012 fest 69
Vast in scale and epic in vision, NVA’s Speed of Light is nevertheless deeply connected to one man’s personal experience, finds Caroline Bishop.
unning has become central to my life; I run for work, I run for pleasure and I run for my sanity.” It’s ironic then, that in the year that Angus Farquhar, Creative Director of NVA, is translating his love of running into one of the biggest pieces of art the company has ever created, he has just found out that his running days may be over. “I got told by an orthopaedic surgeon that either I’ve got the wrong foot or the wrong job,” he tells me. He has neuritis, caused by misaligned bones in his toes, made worse by years of long-distance running. Though hard to deal with, he’s trying to be philosophical about the diagnosis. “I really pushed it last year and it helped me make this work. If it can’t carry on forever, so be it.” Difficult though it would be to give up running, at least he’d be going out on a high – literally and metaphorically. NVA’s most ambitious project yet, Speed of Light sees the Glaswegian company take over Edinburgh’s famous geographical landmark, Arthur’s Seat, to create a living light show involving 4,500 runners and an audience of 800 people a night. Wearing light suits, a team of runners weave patterns and colours into the mountain paths around the base, while the walking audience, carrying movement-activated light sticks, ascend to the summit to view the illuminations below. Farquhar compares the experience to looking at the earth from space. “You start on the same level as the runners and as you rise above them you begin to see that beauty of effort and the fragility of life. It depends how poetic you are as a thinker; other people will just enjoy the lights,” he laughs, “but I like to see the poetic side, that’s what inspires me.” Three years in the making, the project was a response to the call for contributions to the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad. For Farquhar
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it offered a chance to combine NVA’s experience of creating participatory, landscapebased works of “public art” (such as 2005’s The Storr, a light installation on the Isle of Skye) with his love of running. “Endurance running and hill running, they are slightly unsung heroes as sports,” he says. “It’s quite a hidden world, it doesn’t get televised a lot, the people who do it do it for the love of it, it’s not over commercialised.”
The act of endurance intrinsic to longdistance running is something he knows well. “It’s a very concrete way of showing you what you are and being able to access parts of your character that don’t come out at other times. Willpower and the ability to override pain is one of the things that humans can do. Not many other animals choose to do that, we choose to do it as a way of knowing ourselves.” It’s a feeling no doubt shared by the team of 4,500 runners recruited for Speed of Light’s three-week run. Donning a light suit and running up Arthur’s Seat isn’t your average jog in the park, and Farquhar says the response during trials has been hugely positive, regardless of ability. “Some hill runners can do what we are proposing in their sleep, but for other people it’s been a real effort and they’ve really upped their game. For them that becomes a really aspirational thing.” Coordinating such a large volume of people, who aren’t performers, strikes me as a daunting task, but NVA—which celebrates its 20th birthday this year—is experienced enough in participatory work to take this in its stride. “Runners are a pretty good constituency to work
with, because they’re not complainers. They are used to doing something quite tough and the thing that is tough is what they love doing. I think them becoming performers is an interesting variable and that’s quite a challenge, but that’s what NVA’s work is about, putting people into circumstances and situations that they are not used to.” Farquhar may have had the creative vision, but he feels indebted to his international team of “near geniuses” who have created the bespoke technology: energy harvesting light sticks which generate light and sound from the walker’s movement, and the runners’ light suits, each wirelessly controlled so the colour and intensity can be altered. “The team sometimes have what I call the thousand yard stare, which is where the sheer enormity of what they are trying to pull off is slightly daunting,” says Farquhar, “but you just work it through.” f
NVA’s Speed Of Light @ Arthur’s Seat
times vary, dates between 9 Aug and 1 Sep
edinburgh festival preview guide 2012 fest 71
Striking out Sultry darling of the Edinburgh festival, Camille O’Sullivan, steps out of her comfort zone in a brand new Shakespearean production for the International Festival. She tells Jo Caird of the terrors and challenges involved.
amille O’Sullivan is trying not to think about the fact that her first foray into Shakespeare, a musical adaptation of The Rape of Lucrece, is taking place under the banner of the biggest celebration of the Bard ever staged. The former architect and painter whose heartbreaking renditions of the songs of Nick Cave, Jacques Brel and Tom Waits have made her an international star is “very honoured but very terrified” to be performing her latest work as part of the World Shakespeare Festival (WSF) this summer. But then again, she says, breaking into a joyous cackle of a laugh, “I’d probably have something wrong with me if I wasn’t scared about doing Shakespeare.” The chain of events that leads to the Irish performer’s appearance at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) was set in motion when theatre director Elizabeth Freestone saw O’Sullivan’s 2008 Fringe show, The Dark Angel. Struck by the singer’s skill in bringing characters alive through song, she suggested O’Sullivan might be the right person to tackle Shakespeare’s rarely performed tragic poem The Rape of Lucrece. O’Sullivan was unfamiliar with the piece, which tells the story of a noblewoman’s rape and her subsequent decision to kill herself as the only means of assuaging her shame, but, as a performer who “loves that chameleon thing of becoming different people,” she was excited by the challenge. O’Sullivan and her long time collaborator and musical director, Feargal Murray, set to work adapting the poem’s nearly 2,000 lines of verse into a one-woman play with songs. It’s the first time the performer has tried her hand at writing music, but the process of putting a melody to Shakespeare’s words was surprisingly easy, she says. “Feargal and I were very nervous. We’d never done anything like that. But all the years of singing and playing music together, suddenly we were aware that we might actually know what we were doing.” The Rape of Lucrece is not the only WSF production at this year’s EIF. Also programmed are 2008: Macbeth, a Polish adaptation of the play set in a contemporary Middle Eastern conflict and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a new version by acclaimed Russian theatremaker Dmitry Krymov.
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Taken together, these three very different shows illustrate the breadth of work on offer during the WSF, which includes almost 70 productions by national and international artists. Deborah Shaw, the festival’s director, is a firm believer that “theatre is not a museum piece artform, it’s always a dialogue. There’s no one audience that owns Shakespeare; there’s no right way to do him.” Part of the aim of the WSF was to open Shakespeare up to new audiences and explore how his work can be used to interpret the contemporary world. These are ideas that resound strongly with O’Sullivan, who feels that by setting Shakespeare’s poem to music, she, Murray and Freestone have hopefully made it more accessible to some people than it might otherwise have been. “What I find fascinating about singing is that sometimes I feel more emotionally connected to lyrics when I sing them. Music touches a different sensibility,” she explains. Working with Shakespeare’s language has been the most challenging aspect of the process for O’Sullivan, who came to The Rape of Lucrece with plenty of admiration for Shakespeare’s work, but with no training or experience as a classical actor. Some good advice has kept her from becoming overwhelmed. “Somebody said, ‘don’t get caught up totally by the poetry in it all the time; there is a three-dimensional character in there that is more easily accessible’.” It has also helped that O’Sullivan has been encouraged by Freestone to make the play her own. By incorporating elements of the onstage persona that fans will recognise from her previous, self-directed shows, the performer feels better able to communicate with her audience. “It feels good that there is that inclusion of the audience and, I think especially for a poem like this, that they’re not just sitting there listening to words, that we have this silent dialogue.” All that said, O’Sullivan is still terrified about performing it. That’s not a big surprise perhaps – despite her success, the performer is “always doubting that anything is working right. I am the worst critic.” When it comes to this show, however, she comforts herself with the fact that “not many people probably know it. Luckily for me it’s not Hamlet. Even if I wasn’t the best performer in the world,” she pauses. “What I mean is, even if I was the best performer in the world...” She pauses a second time and out comes that infectious laugh again. “However good or bad you’re doing it, you’re bringing a new Shakespeare thing to people, and that’s very exciting.” f
The Rape Of Lucrece @ Royal Lyceum Theatre
9:00pm – 10:20pm, 22–26 Aug, £20
Tickets from £10 eif.co.uk/tatyana 0131 473 2000
Tatyana Russian romance told with sexy, sultry Brazilian passion
‘a Brazilian revolution’ The Sunday Times
Deborah Colker Dance Company
Photo Leo Aversa
‘Run, don’t walk, to see’ The Globe and Mail
Charity No SC004694.
Saturday 11 – Tuesday 14 August 7.30pm
picks of the festival
les. And to Sally Bow g in rd o cc a t re acts are Life is a caba g one if these n ti ci x e t h g ri it’s a down otte Lytton y, says Charl b o g to g in anyth The Bongo Club Cabaret (and NYE Club) Late night festival loiterers will be entertained, tantalised and amused by a variety of Fringe acts carefully selected for your viewing pleasure, as The Bongo Club Cabaret enters its 14th glorious year. With past shows featuring dislocated limbs and feminist strip teases, The Bongo Club is a one stop shop for cabaret variety and regularly plays to packed out audiences from around the world. As one of the most critically acclaimed acts at the festival (the show regularly picks up five star reviews), there is certainly a lot riding on this year’s show. But their winning mix of burlesque, music, comedy, theatre and circus acts is set to be another sure-fire success and reaffirm their status as one of the most anarchic and archaic shows at the Fringe.
Out of the Blue Fresh from their appearance on Britain’s Got Talent last year, all male a cappella troupe Out of the Blue are bringing their hit show from Oxford to Edinburgh once again. But don’t be fooled by their suited and booted appearance: these posh boys know how to hold a tune. Each song is expertly mashed up with another – whether it’s ABBA or Alexandra Burke, simply sit back and enjoy a musical tour through the decades. The Out of the Blue lads are always keen to add some
comedy to proceedings, and if last year’s rendition of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face is anything to go by, they won’t disappoint in their new run. With incredible beat-boxing, haunting harmonies and japes aplenty, Out of the Blue truly make a cappella original. It’s often hard to believe the things coming out of these boys’ mouths, but for all the right reasons. Assembly George Square
2:00pm – 2:50pm, 1–27 Aug, not 15, £5 – £10.50
The Bongo Club
times and dates vary, £10 – £12
Anthony Rapp: Without You It’s been a decade and half since Broadway smash RENT first debuted, and numerous revivals of the show around the world have kept the spirit of La Vie Boheme alive. But in Anthony Rapp’s memoir musical Without You, he reminisces about the early days of the show before the awards came rolling in. The show explores the passing of two significant figures in his life: Jonathan Larson, who wrote RENT, and Rapp’s mother. With a score consisting of both original music and some of the best loved tunes from the Broadway musical, Rapp sings his way through the some of the sadness and successes in his life. A five piece rock band complete the show, one which is sure to capture the hearts and minds of RENT fans around the world. Underbelly, Bristo Square
10:30pm – 11:45pm, 1–26 Aug, not 13, £8 – £16
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Brazil! Brazil! Presents Favela Funk Party Couldn’t make it to South America this year? Worry not, because a are bringing a slice of Latino flavour to the British isles. You don’t need Rio when you can have samba and funk courtesy of a stellar band and dancers that really bring the experience to life. This red hot musical explosion is the perfect way to spend the evening enjoying the very
soul of Brazil right in the centre of Edinburgh. Embrace the clash of the continents and dance your troubles away in this reggae and rumba filled party. The Assembly Rooms
10:45pm – 12:45am, 2–26 Aug, £16
festmusic&cabaret Fascinating Aïda: Cheap Flights YouTube viewers are not always the most discerning of critics, but with eight million hits to date, cabaret trio Fascinating Aïda must be doing something right. The songstresses are bringing their show to Edinburgh after popping up all over the UK with Cheap Flights: a musicomedy that laments the cost of airport add-on charges (“there’s no such feckin’ thing as a feckin’ flight for 50p!”) in melodious style. If you’ve ever cursed baggage allowance, online boarding passes or credit card fees when booking your trip, you’ll know exactly how it feels to be denied the very thing these women are after. Join the ladies on their riotous journey for an hour of laughter in their unique take on taking off that is free of additional charges. Gilded Balloon Teviot
6:30pm – 7:30pm, 1–26 Aug, not 2, 12, 21, £8.00 – £14.50
From Houdini to Potter Fringe virgin Chris Cassells is set to storm the Scottish stage with his distinct brand of theatricks in From Houdini to Potter. What makes magicians choose a life of aloofness and deception? Cassells has the answer in this original show, which looks at some of the best loved acts of past decades. Whether it’s a pupil of wizardry or the 20th century’s greatest illusionist, they all have a dark, shared secret that has remained well hidden. Until now. Revealing what makes them tick (a loud clock in their jacket? A penchant for peculiarity? We can only speculate), watch this talented magician share some tricks of the trade in this novel act. theSpace @ Surgeons Hall
8:05pm – 9:05pm, 3–11 Aug, not 5, £5 – £7
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In perfect harmony Combining close harmonies with superbly daft lyrics, Barbershopera have built up something of a cult status in Edinburgh over the past four years. Evan Beswick talks to the co-founder of the barbershop-cum-comedy troupe, Rob Castell.
hings fall apart; the centre cannot hold, prophesied WB Yeats. And so it is that the three-men-and-a-lady troupe who first graced the Fringe in 2008 find themselves this year missing a founding member. “He has gone on to... well, he’s gone on to marry an American woman! He left us for love!” laughs Rob Castell who, alongside the now emigrant Tom Sadler, formed Barbershopera. It’s a severance that could easily wreck a young group. But, then again, not all groups’ opening Fringe salvo involved repeatedly rhyming the name of the Slovenian capital, “Ljubljana” while singing close part harmonies a cappella. Barbershopera, clearly, are made of sterner stuff. “We’ve been writing the new show on Skype and with emails, which has proved much better than I thought, actually,” Castell
continues. And it’s not just the writing team who have pulled through the disruption. “Since Tom’s departure to the States, the faithful core have stayed on. So that’s me, Lara [Stubbs], and Pete [Sorel-Cameron], who has been with us since 2009. And the fourth bloke, just as it happens, has changed for the last few shows. We’ve now got a new guy who’s literally just joined and will be with us in Edinburgh. It’s fun. “To be honest, it freshens it up. It means that someone brings something different. The vocal blend is slightly different. It just makes it a little more interesting, because the same four people going round and round the country doing the same thing, you know, we could get a little bit tired of each other.” This renewed freshness marks a return following a year’s break from the Fringe, brought on because, as Castell candidly ad-
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mits, “we didn’t really have a strong enough idea.” “Tom was just moving to the States. Also, a bit of it is that you don’t want to stay on the treadmill for the sake of it. I think people kind of see through that if you just cash in on another appearance just because we’ve got a bit of a following up in Edinburgh. So I think it was the right thing to do.” In many ways, it’s odd to hear Castell talk so self-critically about an act which is, to all intents and purposes, consciously silly and unashamedly fun. Besides, if this sounds like an admission of a dip in form, Barbershopera’s response to a year avoiding the cold north suggested otherwise. Their YouTube postcard, ‘Edinburgh (Not Gonna Go)’ saw them in typically fine fettle, blending impressive harmonic arrangements with thoroughly ludicrous rhymes.
festmusic&cabaret However, puncturing the rarified—not to mention competitive—world of barbershop singing with couplets such as “Let’s live together like two peas in a pod / Let’s love each other like the Christians love God” has served to make the foursome enemies as well as friends. “We’ve annoyed some hardcore barbershop people! They don’t like what we do with the form. Apparently, we’re flippant in what we do, and disregarding in the way we approach the timbre and the voicings and the harmonies. Things like that. “But it’s not about that. For me, anyway, and I hope for audiences it’s about comedy, and the entertainment factor that you’re having everything sung at you a cappella. The harmony is there. You know, the harmonies are nice and we’ve got great singers in the group. But it’s never set out to be a barbershop quartet. That was just our nice little way of packaging up our little thing. You know, it’s a comedy show.” It’s a fair point: it is comedy that has remained the constant through three shows of increasingly eclectic musical adventurings – that and joyously silly plotlines. Since Toni and the Guys (a Eurovision-style barbershop contest victory is jeopardised by the recruitment of a woman into the barbershop quartet), through The Barber of Shav-
ingham (the Shavingham Shantymen find themselves short of a tenor when Johnny Johnson jumps—or was he pushed?—to his death in Norfolk) and Apocalypse? No! (the four horsemen are dispatched; they get lost on the way), nicely-lofted gobbets of satire can’t diminish what is essentially a lot of fun. In a slight change of tack, however, their fourth outing attempts an adaptation of The Three Musketeers. One might reasonably expect, however, a much modified outing for Dumas’ heroes: “It’s a much sillier version of that story. But the basics are still in place: you know, D’Artagnan arranges a duel with the other three musketeers; then they get together; then they have to go and save the king; and the evil cardinal’s there. It’s a real joy, actually, doing an adaptation. Really, really fun.” Plus, one presumes, plenty of scope for preposterous French accents? “Well, I don’t want to give too much away,” demurs Castell. “We can’t really get away with having the whole show in outrageous French accents, but we wanted to have some fun with it.” f
Barbershopera: The Three Musketeers @ Pleasance Courtyard
11:05pm – 12:05am, 1–27 Aug, not 13, 20, £6 – £12.50
“Now’s the time to bow down at the altar of four-strong a cappella group FORK” METRO
2-26 AUG (NO SHOW 14) AT 22.25 (1 HR) GEORGE SQUARE - SPIEGELTENT TEATRO www.festmag.co.uk
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Masterful Martyrdom Opulence is the order of the day for cabaret stalwarts Creative Martyrs. Join David Hepburn as he examines just how this tantalising twosome are securing their status as Fringe royalty.
t only takes a quick scan of the Creative Martyrs’ haphazard presence on social media sites to draw the curious (and curiouser) into their intriguing, self-mythologising world. Outlandish claims that the Martyrs have been performing since 1883 rub shoulders with esoteric descriptions of what they sound like: “bowler hats, crumbling music halls and hymns in no-man’s land” being one such choice offering. Even the identities of the enigmatic Gustav and Jacob Martyr are a carefully constructed conundrum, with matching thick white theatrical make-up masking their true features. Dark suits and a bewildering range of headwear complete the camouflage of these secretive cabaret superheroes. In reality, the pair of pan-sticked performers (who seem to hail from another planet but actually inhabit the more prosaic environs of Glasgow) are amongst the select vanguard of artists fighting to save cabaret from the safe and mundane. The pedestrian image which has long cursed the art form in the UK (a slick compere introducing ‘turns’ to a slightly disinterested audience still digesting their all-you-caneat buffet) couldn’t be further from the Martyrs’ raison d’être. Theirs is an edgily entertaining domain, filled with song, intrigue, meaning and well aimed political skewers. This is no Sunday Night at the London Palladium or Royal Variety Show, and there’s not a juggler, magician or fire-eater in sight. While their talents can be adapted depending on the audience—from a five minute musical club slot to a full children’s cabaret show—it is perhaps only in front of Edinburgh’s theatrically literate audiences that the duo can confidently spread their dark wings. This year, their latest mission east to Scotland’s capital sees them take over the suitably opulent Voodoo Rooms venue for their show An Hour Long Sinister Wink – part of PBH’s Free Fringe programme. It follows two successful sorties in August 2010 and 2011 with the arch Tales From A Cabaret, which took place in
the rather more cramped surroundings of Fingers Piano Bar. The eponymous tales took audiences on a grand tour of the world of variety – using everything from mime, song, storytelling and good old fashioned japery to entertain, inform and disturb. Consistently defying categorisation and wrong footing expectation, their show introduced Fringe goers to a range of colourful cabaret characters. These evocative misfits, they explained, were amongst the legion of freaks and talents to have entertained music hall and club audiences since the birth of the cabaret scene in the sinful Parisian streets of Montmartre over 130 years ago. Acts like dancer the Glittering Raven, escape artist Darievo and “Esmerelda, the bearded lady—six foot ten and a little bit shady” were memorably brought to life—vignettes from their lives interspersed with songs and skits in the grand tradition of cabaret. The show delivered a damning riposte to the Simon Cowell brand of television variety, as the near supernatural performers fell from grace to be replaced by a stream of homogenised singers and comedians telling the same jokes in slightly different ways. It was with sadness and anger that the characters and performers combined to confront the regression from Grand Guignol to Britain’s Got Talent in a single shameful century of dumbed-down entertainment. It’s perhaps telling that their dubious biography claims that, while their act was established in the 19th century, the Martyrs only gained popularity in the German Kabarett scene of the early 1900s and particularly in the underground clubs of the liberal 1920s Weimar Republic. It is this period of cabaret history the pair seem to draw on most – a time when the art form was the pre-eminent form of satire, holding the rich and powerful to account in packed, smoke filled, underground rooms. That is not to say their inspiration is solely from this period, as their shows
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dip into multiple golden eras of cabaret – from the decadent clubs of Paris, through American vaudeville to the bawdy British music hall tradition. It’s a high-risk and intentionally divisive tactic – particularly with a cast of only two to deliver the thrills and spills traditionally associated with a larger ensemble. Their previous shows have not been perfect but the signs for 2012 are auspicious. With the cabaret business booming, particularly north of the border, Gustav and Jacob have the zeitgeist very much in their favour. Just last year, the Fringe gave the genre its own section in the official programme, while this year’s T in the Park festival introduced a dedicated cabaret stage, and the delightfully dirty Cabaret Noir is doing great business across Scotland’s central belt. The Creative Martyrs have a unique role in this movement and could well be a highlight this August, while at the same time resolutely remaining a niche product firmly in the ‘not for everybody’ camp – an act seemingly designed by the Cabaret Gods for the hedonists of the Edinburgh Fringe. f
An Hour Long Sinister Wink @ The Voodoo Rooms
9:50pm – 10:50pm, 4–25 Aug, not 13, 20, free
AUGUST FESTIVAL 2012 - SELECTED PROGRAMME HIGHLIGHTS
WE ARE NOT HERE
Witty and penetrating new writing starring Nalini Chetty and Samara MacLaren. "When the subject turns to abortion, cosmetic intervention, birth, motherhood, sex, love, misogyny, fear or just how you feel in your own skin, women still won't tell the truth to each other unless they are very very drunk" - Caitlin Moran.
An ironic and grotesque exploration of modern alienation and the impossibility of living in the present. Taking off where Waiting for Godot left us, Italy’s Babygang explore the desperation of life in a world without meaning with black humour and intellectual bravery.
A multi-character, autobiographical performance piece written and performed by actor and New York Times bestselling author, Jillian Lauren. Mother Tongue traces Jillianʼs circuitous and humorous journey to get pregnant and, when that proves unsuccessful, to adopt her son in Ethiopia.
A non-verbal comedy featuring powerful acrobatics, off the wall clowning and throbbing percussion, Detention is about 3 naughty high school boys chasing around a beautiful female classmate in a detention class - and the ensuing chaos, mischief and uproar.
DR. QUIMPUGH’S COMPENDIUM OF PECULIAR AFFLICTIONS
REMAINS TO BE SEEN
ART & LANGUAGE EXHIBITION
A brilliantly witty new chamber opera by Martin Ward (Royal Opera) and Phil Porter (RSC) performed by a first-class cast. The celebrated doctor revisits the bizarre cases on which his mighty reputation was built…
Art & Language was the foremost conceptual art grouping of the 60s and the 70s. This exhibition will display two large works from 1973 as well as other items relating to the group’s famous ‘Index’ installations from this heroic period of linguistic conceptualism.
THE ROYAL DICK Our new bar serving a wide range of wines, spirits and beers, including the new Summerhall Pal Ale, excellent food, coffee and soft drinks. Open from noon till 3am during the festival. The Summerhall Cafe opens at 10.00am every day.
Box Office 0845 874 3001 Summerhall, 1 Summerhall Edinburgh EH9 1PL
Carolee Schneeman is a worldrenowned artist in many disciplines. Schneeman will install 3 major video pieces and a never-beforeexhibited photographic series and during the exhibition's first week she will create a major new work in situ at Summerhall and give a performative lecture.
Humour is focused upon a gritty social reality in this curated group show displaying the talents of nine of Edinburgh’s most gifted emerging artists. At times satirical, ironic and playful but never dull nor reverential.
VISUAL ARTS / THEATRE / MUSIC / LITERATURE / FILM / EDUCATION / For full programme details visit
It is increasingly a kids’ world out there. With a bigger section than ever before, there’s never been so great a need for a cool, clear-eyed critical gaze to sift through the Fringe children’s programme. We’ve called in the experts...
Ben Salters AGE 11
Likes: Football, Italian food and making people laugh. Dislikes: Getting out of bed, cold pea soup and carrot cake.
Maxwell Stephenson AGE 9
AGE 6 AND A HALF
Likes: Pink things, Mama Mia and her dog Jake.
Likes: Playing and watching football, his Nintendo DS and chess. Dislikes: Homework, chores and sweets.
Dislikes: Ice cream, being cold and going to bed. 80 fest edinburgh festival preview guide 2012
festkids Billy Salters AGE 6
Likes: Football, fruit salad, rollerblading. Dislikes: Peppers, tomatoes and sandwich crusts.
Ross Salters AGE 11
Likes: Music, chocolate brownies and his dog Toby. Dislikes: Brussels sprouts, maths and getting up early.
Likes: Doing headstands, pasta pesto and going down hills on her bike.
Likes: Reading, making Powerpoint presentations and mountain biking.
Dislikes: Tomatoes, rainy days and falling off her bike.
Dislikes: Peas, sitting still and classical music.
Curiouser & curiouser
The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean is one of the most eagerly anticipated kids’ shows at the Fringe. Caroline Black talks to its star, Shona Reppe about the magic of ‘scrapology.’
y interview with Shona Reppe, designer, puppeteer and mum, starts with us both apologising in advance about the possibility of being interrupted by our respective children. “They have a knack of always appearing when I pick up the phone”, she explains. The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean is a one-woman show, for children age seven and over, based entirely around a dusty old Victorian scrapbook. Reppe is cast as Dr Patricia Baker who is a Doctor of Scrapology, a ‘scrapologist’ if you will, and through her forensic investigation with her white lab coat, tweezers and bright lamps, we enter a secret world that unfolds page by page into the most magical of stories. “I find scrapbooks fascinating as you can put anything in them. They’re puzzling to everyone except their owner. It’s not like
a diary; it doesn’t necessarily make sense. It’s a collection of objects put together that can create a story and I’m trying to decipher that. That’s the fun of it and I think children really understand that.” “It’s not a typical children’s theatre set up. It can be hard to put your finger on exactly what style of show it is, but it’s been described as part-journey into the imagination, part-detective story, which I think is spot on.” It’s certainly clear that it’s not a show for tots, as they will need to just sit and watch, take it in and understand the twists and turns as they’re revealed. Reppe is clear it’s also not “a shouty-screamy show. I don’t aim to check they’re awake by shouting ‘Hooray, put your hands up!’ I’m doing a show for people. They just happen to be kids.”
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“The majority of my audiences come with a whole bunch of adults too, especially in the Fringe, and the shared experience between a child and a parent if they’re both enjoying the show is just the best thing for me. I love it when parents come just because they think it’ll be good for their child, and then they enjoy it too and can chat about it together afterwards. That’s when I know I’ve done my job.” Reppe’s very honest about how much of a challenge the show was to get right. “It was a really hard show to create. I knew I needed to build atmosphere on stage, as it’s actually quite a simple set; a big old book and me. So I’m using small bits of projection, animation and film, which I haven’t done before, to enhance the story and keep it animated and engaging. The music is also very important, there are little clues in the sounds, it’s quite fantastical from the word go.” Part of the Made in Scotland showcase, the show will be the first time Reppe has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe since 2002. After this ten years absence, it’s a happy and excited return and she’s clearly delighted to be reunited with director Gill Robertson from Catherine Wheels Theatre Company and composer Danny Krass, whom she worked with on the highly acclaimed production ‘White’. “Creating this has been a very collaborative experience and I’m lucky enough to work with good friends who help me develop the show, which also makes it very exciting. I might start with an idea about how the background should be designed or what I’ll wear but when we start rehearsing it evolves. I’m always open to ideas.” I wonder how she knows she’s onto a winner when she’s creating a new show; how she knows her audience will get it. Does she try things out with test audiences or her own children as she goes along? “Not really, I tend to trust my instincts that it will work. I’m not terribly prescriptive. If it works, it works and that’s the magic of theatre.” If her audience leaves with one thing what would she like that to be? “On many occasions children have said to me straight after the show they’re going to start a scrapbook and that’s really nice. But I suppose the story is about how we go through life but have we really looked at the detail that’s going on around us? We think we’ve got the picture but actually if you look closer something completely different is going on, other things are happening that we don’t even notice. It’s all about those different layers.” f
The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean Traverse @ Scottish Book Trust times vary, 3–26 Aug, not 6, 13, 20, £6 – £10
& other terrific tales
FESTIVAL FOR KIDS
With all of the self-contained Book Festival’s activities located in the city centre marquee village of Charlotte Square, it’s the perfect place to spend the day. Everything you need is on hand: buggy park, toilets, baby changing facilities, a newly expanded children’s bookshop, a great cup of coffee and excellent lemon muffins. The new drop-in session space—free and open all day every day—has something for every age; The National Museums of Scotland are on hand with special handling boxes containing different historical objects for older children; Edinburgh City Libraries with the popular Book Bug singing sessions for tots and Edinburgh Under 5’s are busy with their engaging and entertaining story telling for little ones. Are you sitting comfortably? is a daily free event celebrating the art of story telling with leading children’s authors Sue Heap, Kathyrn Erskine, Philip Ardagh, Jeremy Strong and Tony Bradman reading their favourite stories. It’s a great way to see one of the popular authors if you don’t manage to get tickets for their events. The full programme is an exciting read, packed with the best-loved children’s authors and illustrators the world has to offer. It also has its fair share of A-listers alongside some surprising names you might not even know are kids authors. Grannies appear to be all the rage with David Walliams, star of Britain’s Got Talent and Little Britain, sure to charm the children with his new book Gansta Granny and best selling crime writer Val McDermid presenting her first children’s book My Granny is a Pirate.
Scamp Theatre & Watford Palace Theatre present:
Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler Reviews for Stick Man - Live on Stage!
‘Wonderfully exuberant & imaginative’ DJ Simon Mayo brings his latest offering Itch about an accident-prone, science-obsessed 14 year-old, whilst BBC Reporting Scotland’s presenter Sally Magnusson brings our national dish to life with her debut Horace and the Haggis Hunter, a tale of a refugee haggis. Young Doctor Who fans will be lucky enough to hear all about the Doctor’s new adventure in Dark Horizons from author J T Colgan; Jacqueline Wilson will offer an exclusive sneaky peek into her book Four Children and It whilst other likely festival favourites include Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Andy Stanton, Michael Morpurgo, Cathy Cassidy and Catherine Rayner. If you have a reluctant reader don’t assume there will be nothing for them, quite the opposite. Vivian French is this years children’s guest selector and her passion is making books and reading accessible, allowing youngsters to gain confidence through storytelling, and using storytelling through drama, songwriting and illustration. Her ethos: you might not find reading or writing easy, but you can still be a great storyteller. It’s not all about the written word; there’s an amazing selection of illustrator events to choose from too. Artist-inresidence Chris Riddell will be leading the activities and hosting master classes for both adults and children and collaborating on live art; Morris Heggie former editor of The Dandy might just reveal what, or who, inspired characters such as Beril the Peril and Stephane-Yves Barroux, French illustrator of the popular Mr Leon’s Paris, will be showing us how it’s done.
Time Out Critics’ Choice
‘Zesty and delightful’ Independent
2 - 27 AUG 2012 (not 9th)
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Doctor’s orders Doctor Brown’s anarchic clowning won him many fans and plaudits when he debuted at the Edinburgh Festival in 2011. This year he’s back, and he is entering the world of kids’ comedy. Tom Hackett finds out what makes him tick.
’m just bored. I’m just really bored,” says Phil Burgers, partway through our interview. He’s been extolling the pleasure of “pure, raw” live performance and “silly, stupid play” for a good five minutes, so this sudden comment comes as a surprise. You’re bored? “Yeah man, so many things out there are just so, so boring.” Reports of Burgers’ live shows, in which he performs as his mostly mute, borderline insane clown character ‘Doctor Brown’, make it clear how this boredom manifests itself. The bushy-bearded, slightly wild-eyed American takes out his frustration with the mundane by creating an anarchic world in which normal social boundaries seem to be stripped away. Many of the things that Doctor Brown does on stage are hard to watch, and harder to describe. He brings out props and acts out strange, ritualistic dances with them. He moves amongst his audience and invites people up on stage to help him with odd tasks, or participate in awkward role plays. He does all manner of daft things with bananas, fans, masks, and swivel chairs. In his shows for adults, which he has been touring to great acclaim for a few years, he frequently gets semi-naked and often seems to pose a physical threat to the punters. Burgers describes his kids’ show, which premiered at the Fringe last year, as pretty much the same thing “minus all the adult themes.” This is hard to imagine, because the adult-oriented menace of his shows is the main impression many people leave with. But for him, the transition was elementary. “I realised that I was already doing a kids’ show for adults,” he states, “and I thought I might as well just do it for kids.” The playfulness that kids naturally respond to was already there, and all he had to do was strip out the “sex and violence,” and develop what was left. “I’m just being an idiot with kids, in the same way as you would be with your nephews or your children,” he says, perhaps too modestly. “I think anyone has done a clown show, if you like kids and if you’ve made a child laugh before. It’s just that. But done in
a theatrical setting, with some of the tricks of the trade.” Burgers is almost evangelical about playfulness. “I just believe in play, in children’s play. I just believe in it as a form of living,” he says excitedly. “I love playing and being a total idiot. I love it. It’s free, as opposed to having to get things right, and be good, and be moral, and be educational. I don’t wanna have to do stuff I don’t wanna do.” He has a kind of down-home directness in conversation, and resists over-analysing his approach. He trained in Paris with Philippe Gaulier, a legendary scholar of clowning and a notoriously hard taskmaster, but the only thing he’ll say about this is that it was “very difficult… But good. Difficult was good.” When I press him further on his training and career thus far, his frustration with anything too pat or obvious erupts again: “Is this going to be another boring question?”
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Right Dr Brown Left Magical signing tiger
festkids Burgers’ reticence on certain subjects is matched by his near-silence on stage. Whilst other mute performers might cite artistic lineage stretching back to Buster Keaton or Joseph Grimaldi, Burgers claims it was a “totally unconscious” decision. When he started performing, he says, “it was just like, ‘okay, people are entertained, it’s been five minutes and I haven’t said anything, so I might as well just keep not saying anything.’” In any case, he points out, “if you see someone walking across the street alone (and silently), they can still be interesting, no?” Warming up again, he talks of being “captivated” by silent people in cafes, in parks. “You don’t have to talk to be interesting,” he says. “Because people are interesting.” Burgers says he never rehearses, so “everything is developed on stage, with the audience.” This means that you can never quite be sure what you’re going to get in any one gig, though of course there are set pieces that crop up each night.
As he was last year, he’s also joined onstage by a singing tiger. “He’s like my sidekick, and he’s my narrator, and he offers like a bridge between my silence and the kids.” This is in fact Australian thesp Stuart Bowden, taking a break from his grown-up Fringe show to dress up in a big stripy outfit and strum a ukulele. Apart from that, there’ll be plenty of wordless, knockabout humour and mildly uncomfortable audience interaction. But one thing there hopefully won’t be is boredom. “I don’t want to be like (he adopts a mock sincere tone) ‘Oh, you know, I’m working on a kids’ show, the kids are very important.’ I don’t care about that, and I don’t think they do either.” Instead, he repeats, he just wants to play. “It’s just an hour for them to see someone, an adult like their parents, playing,” he says forcefully. “And based on their reaction, they’re into that.” f
Dr Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown And His Singing Tiger Assembly George Square
12:45pm – 1:35pm, 2–26 Aug, not 13, 20, £6 – £8
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Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales
If your baby likes to boogie then Monski Mouse’s Baby Disco Dance Hall (Assembly George Square) will surely be a hit with parents and kids alike as DJ Monski Mouse mixes funky nursery rhymes with quirky retro dance tracks; a playful interactive disco for all ages, there is even a soft furnished baby area for teeny tots and it looks set to give popular returning Baby Loves Disco (Electric Circus, 36-39 Market Street) a run for their money. If making music is more their thing then Mil’s Trills’ Music and Stories (Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance) appears to have it covered; hailing from New York and with ukulele in hand, children get
There is plenty to snigger at with this year’s comedy line-up; the perfectly named Mr Snot Bottom’s Stinky Silly Show (Gilded Balloon, Teviot Row House) is a standup gig that will gross out parents and make the kids howl. Treasure Island (Gilded Balloon Teviot, Teviot Row House) which offers a barrel of laughs for the whole family and critically acclaimed Dr Brown Brown Brown Brown Brown and His Singing Tiger (Assembly George Square) joins us with his own brand of madcap physical comedy which will keep them giggling. Some different pieces of physical theatre promise great fun. Monsters Got Talent (Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance) is an interactive show where the audience get to decide just who should win the monster puppet talent show; no Simon Cowell but there is a tap-dancing unicorn. Slap-
The Snail and the Whale
Bold and exciting, Swamp Juice (Underbelly, Bristo Square) is a shadow puppetry adventure about a scary swamp monster, complete with an eye-popping 3D finale and catchy score. The popular TV show Horrible Histories (Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance) hits the stage with William Wallace, Henry VIII and all the gory details that kids have come to love about the series. Meanwhile Dr Bunhead’s Blast Off (Assembly George Square) takes a look into the scary, and let’s face it, more exciting side of science with crazy pyrotechnics and dangerous experiments. For kids who are usually impossible to please, try I Hate Children Children’s Show (Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance) which returns with its hilariously sharp magic show; Shlomo’s Beatbox Adventure for Kids (Underbelly, 56
Cowgate) proves he is too cool for school by making all kinds of music with just his mouth and a microphone or Korean dance troop Hi-Kick (Assembly, Mound Place) who mix football, comedy and dance in what promises to be a fresh and exciting piece of physical theatre. If you’re after something a little different then The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean (Traverse Theatre) is a likely hit: a magical story told through the forensic exploration of a Victorian scrapbook. Catherine Wheels return with their exploration of friendship in The Ballad of Pondlife McGurk (Sandeman House, off High Street) whilst The Submarine Show (C too, Columba’s by the Castle) is a physical comedy with two men, no words and a lot of laughs. Traditional standup comedy is on offer with James Campbell Comedy 4 Kids (Assembly
There is a show for even the youngest of children: babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers. These companies get creative, providing a wide choice of music, storytelling, puppetry and dance.
4-7 year-olds For young school age children you’ll find much to entertain and appeal to their curious natures and humour. From laugh out loud comedy to stage razzmatazz, interactive shows to traditional plays, there is something to suit all tastes.
7+ year-olds mpanies This age group sees co go all out step it up a gear and have high to thrill the kids who and to expectations and dem sults? be entertained. The re t them Performances that ge eir seats and thinking, up out of th r jaws drop. those that make thei 86 fest edinburgh festival preview guide 2012
festkids their mitts on the musical instruments and are even encouraged to bring their own. There are some enchanting and rather special pieces of theatre on offer; Paperbelle (Royal Botanic Garden) is sure to delight, set in a world of white paper it’s a gentle yet magical exploration of colour; Night of The Big Wind (Uderbelly, 56 Cowgate) sees a young Irish boy battle with the weather using innovative props and puppetry; Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales (Underbelly, Bristo Square) promises an engaging mega-mix of Julia Donaldson’s popular titles whilst the gorgeous Bubblewrap & Boxes (Gilded Balloon ,Teviot Row House) return to tell their story using acrobats, clowning and, of course, cardboard boxes. Sesame Street Live - Elmo Makes Music (Meadows Theatre Big Top) needs no introduction and will no doubt appeal to the very young and their nostalgic parents alike. Other recognisable and likely hits are Andy and Mike’s Tick Tock Time Machine (Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance), which
teams the CBBC front man with his childhood pal Mike in what promises to be a madcap crazy ride, and Hairy Maclary and Friends (Assembly George Square) for musical canine capers of every shape and size. The Ugly Duckling (C, Chambers Street), Magic Porridge Pot (Spotlites, The Merchants Hall) and The Enormous Turnip (The Merchants’ Hall, Hanover Street) all promise ideal introductions to little theatre goers; interactive with storytelling and music. Children’s puppetry is a timeless medium that has a magical ability to engage young audiences; Ronnie LeDrew’s Brilliant Bag Show (Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance), Pips and Pandas Meet the 3 Bears (Fairmilehead Parish Church, 1a Frogston Road West) and The Red Bus Puppet Shows (The Meadows, by the cricket pavillion), which plays out on the top deck of a double decker bus, will all delight even the youngest of children.
dash Galaxy (Uderbelly, 56 Cowgate) looks to be energetic and chaotic as comedic puppeteer Jeff Achtem creates shadow puppets using only bits of rubbish and household objects, whilst the audience of The Machine (Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance) is asked to help the clowning assistants in this latest visual piece by well loved company Little Cauliflower Theatre. For those looking for a more traditional offering, Julia Donaldson’s The Snail and the Whale (Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance) is a sure hit with its familiar rhyming words, live music and touching story; the delightful puppet show Cloud Man (The Netherbow, 43-45 High Street) will capture young imaginations with tales of the rare Cloud Men whilst two separate shows by one company Polly and William (both C nova, India Buildings,
Victoria Street), can’t go wrong with their interactive tales of a girl, a fairy and a magical bookshop. Champion of Champions! (National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street) makes sure the Olym-
pics are never far from our minds as it presents its own mythological Games musical featuring Viking, Greek and Celtic teams; even the pirates of Captain Codless and the Legend of Plunge Island (C too, St Columba’s by the Castle) romp through the Olympics as they head to their treasure. If you suspect you’re raising a future drama queen or king then get them in the mood with some classic Bugsy Malone (C too, St Columba’s by the Castle) then let them have a bash themselves at Drama Workshops for 5-12s (The Merchants’ Hall, Hanover Street). With a different theme every day, from Darth Vader School to Mamma Mia, it’s sure to suit every taste. Wannabe singers and dancers too can try their hand at The BIG Sing-a-long! (St Mark’s artSpace, 7 Castle Terrace) and Flamenco for Kids (C eca, Edinburgh College of Art).
George Square) and presenting a variety of comedians are Comedy Club 4 Kids (The Bongo Club, Holyrood Road); both popular and acclaimed choices are sure to crack even the toughest of young audiences. The Showstopper’s Family Matinees (Gilded Balloon, Teviot Row House) are comedy improvisation at it’s best and will have the whole family amazed at their quick wit. Traditional with a modern twist, there are a selection of circuses to get involved with; Mother Africa Circus (Assembly Hall, Mound Place) is a high energy African display of acrobatics, stunts and live music; ACE – A Circus Extravaganza (Royal Botanic Gardens, Inverleith House Lawn) showcases young UK circus artists and kids can even give it a go by signing up for their circus school, Circus for Success (Bonaly Outdoor Centre, Bonaly Road).
James Campbell Comedy 4 Kids
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directory A handy guide to Edinburgh beyond the festivals
TOP CHEAP EATS Former Neighbours star Mark Little takes us on a whirlwind tour of Edinburgh’s best spots for a cheap meal. The Dogs
110 HANOVER STREET, EH2 1DR0131 220 1208
Excellent centrally located restaurant which is handy for George Street. It does very nice British seasonal food which is very good value in a nice setting, with different little rooms making up the venue, and nice decor. It has an unpretentious, chilled bar downstairs, which is a great place to relax away from the crowds over a drink or two!
cake in the afternoon as well as lunch and dinner. It made the news recently for having squirrel on the menu!
248 MORRISON STREET, EH3 8DT0131 221 1155
Dumpling restaurant near Haymarket Station which does a wide range of boiled and fried dumplings as well as other dishes. The lunch set menu is very good value but the main menu offers much more variety and a better range of tasty dishes.
94 HANOVER STREET, EH2 1DR0131 225 2131
An Edinburgh institution which is a vegetarian canteen style cafe and also has a more formal bistro round the corner. Its central location off
10 ANTIGUA STREET, EH1 3NH0131 558 1947
George Street makes it an excellent place to fill up on quick, delicious and very reasonably priced vegetarian food all day and in the evening – great for when you feel like you’ve had one too many Festival junk food meals and to replace lost energy & vitamins!!
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6A NICOLSON STREET, EH8 9DH0131 557 4567
First floor bistro restaurant near the Festival Theatre and the Pleasance which has a relaxed atmosphere and nice decor of mixed funky retro furniture. A good place for coffee and
Edinburgh’s oldest Indian restaurant (it opened in 1947) has had many different locations over the years and is currently based at the top of Leith Walk, opposite the Playhouse. It’s good value, delicious Indian food and has the added bonus of being BYOB which makes for an even cheaper night out. Mark Little: The Bullshit Artist Assembly George Square
10:20pm – 11:20pm, 1–27 Aug, not 8, 14, £8 – £16
festdirectory THE BEST PUBS With so many drinking holes in Edinburgh, Vladimir McTavish does his best to guide you through the pick of the bunch. The Star Bar
Old Chain Pier
1 NORTHUMBERLAND PLACE, EH3 6LQ 0131 539 8070
One of Edinburgh’s best kept secrets, hidden away in a lane in the New Town between Dublin Street and Northumberland Street. Great beer, great range of malt whisky, and a great beer garden. It also boasted one of Edinburgh’s first 3D tellies, which is situated above the main door as you enter the pub, so when they are showing a football game in 3D the first thing you see as you go in the door is a whole load of people wearing dark glasses looking straight at you. My friend Lewis watched the whole 90 minutes of the 2010 World Cup Final wearing 3-D glasses before realising at full-time that BBC did not broadcast in 3D. That alone speaks volumes for the quality of the alcohol on sale here.
3 DUBLIN STREET, EH1 3PG 0131 477 2563
Situated at the top end of Dublin Street, directly opposite The Stand, Lord Bodos virtually becomes the venue’s ante-room in August and is a watering-hole for a great many comedians. Shona, the manageress is probably the friendliest and most entertaining hostess in Edinburgh, and the regulars include some of the city’s more colourful characters. One word of warning, however; if you happen to meet a wiry middle-aged Aberdonian who claims that he works for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center, don’t be taken in. It will almost certainly be my friend Kevin, a comedy writer, full-time wind-up artist and one of the aforementioned regulars.
The Star Bar
The Old Chain Pier
10 BOWHILL TERRACE, EH3 5QY 0131 551 6645
Ferry Road, Inverleith. It may appear to be a seventies theme pub, but in reality nothing has changed since 1974, either to the décor or to the clientele. If you are a fan of combover haircuts, this is the place to drink. I was once in here on a Sunday afternoon at around 5 pm, and a guy had fallen asleep directly beneath the dart board. However, this didn’t put the pub darts team off their match, in the course of which he never woke up.
32 TRINITY CRESCENT, EH5 3EE 0131 552 1233
The Beehive Inn
The Beehive Inn
18-20 GRASSMARKET, EH1 2JU 0131 225 7171
Nestling beneath Edinburgh Castle, in the Grassmarket, the Beehive has one of the best beer gardens in the city. A lively pub at weekends, the top floor is one of the most bijou comedy rooms in town.
This pub is actually built into the sea wall in Newhaven, so if you manage to get a seat by a window, it feels as if you are drinking on a boat. It has a really good selection of lagers and real ales, and serves good food. However, it does seem to close down, re-open, go on fire, re-open on a seemingly regular basis. Get there quick in case it closes again. Vladimir McTavish The Stand Comedy Club III & IV
times vary, 1–26 Aug, not 2, 13, £7 – £8
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festdirectory DAY OFF DOG -EARED COLLECTIVE’S Edinburgh is an outrageously beautiful city. Here, Dog-Eared Collective pick out some of their favourite sights. The Meadows
Just minutes from buzzing Bristo square, The Meadows provides the perfect leafy antidote to the streetbeating Fringe mayhem of town and The Mile. Happily though, the heady mix of buskers, ladyboys and occasional locals will stop any cultural withdrawal that moving away from the main Fringe drag can provoke. Plus there’s always plenty of space for a well earned lie down on the grass or some tennis. Nice.
Greyfriar’s Bobby alerts the pedestrian to this hidden gem like a silent, Scottish Lassie. Akin to the Meadows, the graveyard provides a mini oasis away from the bustle of the flyerers and show hawkers. And if you stay stationary, you can always catch the highlights of its haunted history in French, Spanish or Italian as the various tour guides snake through. Ah, there’s nothing like a body snatching hot-spot to sit and enjoy a sandwich, oui?
The Nicolson Street/Clerk Street Gauntlet If you like to bag a bargain then be on your marks as this street provides a second-to-none run of charity and vintage shops, which stretches all the way from Marie Curie at South Bridge at one end to Armstrong’s on Clerk Street at the other. So if you come armed with as much stamina as you have style, you can leave with fitter calves as well as fatter flares.
Arthur’s Seat With more unfazed prowess than Billy Crystal’s hair, Arthur’s Seat rises from the hills behind the picturesque Pleasance Courtyard and gently whispers “put down your Twix Duo and eat my panorama instead”. However, just like Billy’s hair, its disarming allure can be fleeting many performers spend the Fringe entertaining the idea of an epic endorphin-soaked climb, only to find the real struggle is getting out of bed post late-night gig.
86 CANDLEMAKER ROW, EH1 2QA
33-39 SOUTH CLERK STREET, EH8 9NZ0131 667 0091
Greyfriar’s Bobby, beloved mascot
Although this is not technically a landmark, just standing outside this confectionery kingdom can change your day for the better. Bedecked with sugared mice, M&M cakes and the Twix Duo brownies which keep us all from climbing Arthur’s seat, this is the only place to go for a super-sized sugar rush. So whether you’re celebrating success or commiserating failure – stick a tray bake in your cake-hole and feel better. Also great for those last minute “whoops, I forgot to buy Mum a present” moments! The Dog-Eared Collective @ Underbelly
3:50pm – 4:50pm, 2–26 Aug, not 14, £6 – £11
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festdirectory , FAVOURITE CAFES Returning to the Fringe after a six year absence, Sarah Kendall recalls her favourite spots to recharge. Black Medicine
Blue Moon Café
2 NICOLSON STREET, EH8 9DH 0131 557 6269
36 BROUGHTON STREET, EH1 3SB 0131 556 2788
Located one block away from the Pleasance, this café has got me through my mid-festival energy slump many times (and by mid-festival, I mean from around August 3rd to 26th). I don’t who is in charge of the music the café, but whoever you are, I suspect we are exactly the same age, and you too dressed like a member of 4 Non Blondes in the mid 90s. What’s Up?
20 FORREST ROAD, EH1 2QN 0131 225 7069
This is technically not a café, but it is one of my only sources of nutrition during the festival, and my mother wants me to thank them for keeping me alive during the month of August. I love everything about this place – the décor, the staff, the hangovers they’ve cured, and of course, the awesome sausages. Why not meet there with a close friend and say things like, “Hey, you love cramming sausage in your mouth, don’t you?” Or, “Mmm, a nice big sausage! Your mother likes sausage, doesn’t she?” Or, “Do you know, I like nothing more than a...” Oh, you get the idea!
I had one of the best eggs Benedict here that I have ever had in my entire life. And I’ve eaten eggs Benedict a lot in my life, and in many different countries. So for one eggs Benedict to stand out, it has to be a pretty bloody good eggs Benedict. And the coffee is great too. Don’t even get me started on how seriously I take coffee. Imagine how seriously I take eggs Benedict, and then multiply it by my love of sausage. Yes, I just said I love sausage. It really is the joke that keeps giving.
2 HUNTER SQUARE, EH1 1QW 0131 225 7669
I love this café. There’s nothing quite like a hot bowl of soup to warm you up on a cold, wet, miserable summer day in Edinburgh. Like Monster Mash, I rely on this place heavily for nutrition during August, though you can’t make all those great jokes about sausages in a soup shop. Well you could, but it might seem out of place because there’s no sausage on the menu. People would presume you were just plain vulgar, or mentally ill.
88 LOTHIAN ROAD, EH3 9BZ 0131 228 6382
The cafe/bar at the Filmhouse cinema on Lothian Road is open long hours and is a great place to pop in at any time of the day for cheap, filling and quick food with lots of vegetarian options. It also has a great range of beers and wines as well as coffee and cakes and always has a friendly, busy atmosphere.
Sarah Kendall - Get Up, Stand Up @ Pleasance Courtyard
8:30pm – 9:30pm, 1–27 Aug, not 13, £5 – £11
Other Voices: Spoken Word Cabaret
A whirlwind of sumptuous wit and panache! Come and hear some wonderful words from the other side of the door...
Banshee Labyrinth 156
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festdirectory TOP FIVE BARS From charming dive bars, to high class establishments, Liam Mullone picks his favourite Edinburgh bars Bar Missoni
1 GEORGE IV BRIDGE,EH1 1AD 0131 220 6666
I like this place mostly because it has no atmosphere. I spent much of my childhood living in huge hotels in the Far East, running amok through the corridors and kitchens, and even though that was a very lonely time I still find the cold, impersonal nature of hotel bars very comforting. In my childhood they all had bleak Cold War names like Sputnik and Polaris and Checkpoint Charlie’s; I’d sneak in and they’d be full of smoke and chrome and hookers. This place is just like them, but without the smoke or hookers sadly. I do miss the Cold War.
The Cambridge Bar and Grill 20 YOUNG STREET, EH2 4JB 0131 226 2120
This is a perfectly normal-looking gastropub which specialises in hamburgers. I don’t know where or if I’ve tasted a better one. It also serves Thistly Cross cider and Fruli. There are many points in a Fringe run where you need to cheer yourself up and, quite frankly, if you can’t repair your resolve with a Thistly Cross and then a bit of prime dead cow and then a pint of strawberry beer then your case, and possibly your show, is hopeless. I’ve shrugged off family tragedies with this combination.
You’re also forced to talk to people because it’s so small and often crowded, and when it’s wet outside it can be a bit like a steam room with policemen, which is a horrifying kind of steam room unless that’s your thing. I think I come here mostly as therapy for my shyness and because it feels like the 1960s.
BALMORAL HOTEL, 1 PRINCE’S STREET, EH2 2EQ 0131 556 2414
I keep bringing my bicycle to the Fringe to save money because I stay with a friend in Leith. But it’s a false economy; by the time I’ve reached the top of Leith Walk I’m ready to chain the bastard thing to a lamppost and duck inside the Balmoral Hotel where things are just so calm and hushed and polite and civilised, and everyone makes you feel like a valued human rather than damp scum. I’m a bit of
The Oxford Bar
8 YOUNG STREET, EH2 4JB 0131 539 7119
I have an irrational fear of Scottish policemen. Well, it’s not entirely irrational because they beat me to a bloody pulp when I was a student at Stirling, but I really ought to be over that by now. So I’m always quite nervous in here; it’s frequented by coppers and was the haunt of Rebus in Ian Rankin’s novels.
The Oxford Bar
a rum nutter, and this is one of very, very few places to serve Flor de Caña, the Nicaraguan blend that kicks all others in the huevos.
19 BLAIR STREET EDINBURGH, EH1 1QR 0131 220 0125
When I lived here in 1992 there was this unfortunate fashion craze for black and white, and they wouldn’t even let you in the City Cafe after 8 unless you were monochrome. Now the place seems to have got over itself it’s pretty nice, and the only real Fringey-haunt I can tolerate – even though they have weird rules about when they’ll make you a milkshake, and the staff respond to requests as if you’ve just asked them to re-grout a sink. But the food is reliably good, and in this transient, over-glossed world I love the way the decor hasn’t changed a bit since I was 22.
Liam Mullone @ The Stand Comedy Club III & IV City Café
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times vary, 2–26 Aug, not 13, £7 – £8
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festdirectory BEST RESTAURANTS Fringe veteran Jo Caulfield guides you through the top places to eat in Edinburgh. Mums
4A FORREST ROAD, EH1 2QN 0131 260 9806
If my Mum had cooked like this I would never have left home. It’s comfort food cooked from scratch with quality ingredients. Bangers and mash, macaroni cheese, shepherds pie, veggie haggis, neeps and tatties. With that stomach lining you’re ready for a serious night of festival drinking. And they play fantastic music. If you want to eat a chicken and rosemary Pie while listening to Iggy Pop, this is the place.
77B GEORGE STREET, EH2 3EE 0131 220 9980
I love Cafe Andaluz, delicious food and a good wine list. I like the informality of Tapas, by which I mean you can eat other people’s food and it’s totally acceptable. I always wish I’d ordered what other people are eating and with Tapas you can ditch your ‘mistakes’ and help your self to everyone else’s plates. I’ve been here several times with other comedians and we always go crazy with the menu. The last time the waitress told us we were ordering
far too many dishes. How fantastic is that? She didn’t want us to waste our money. Mind you, she also said we were ordering far too much wine - we soon proved her wrong.
27A MARCHMONT ROAD, EH9 1HY 0131 228 3800
A small Italian in Marchmont. Less of a restaurant, more of a takeaway, but it certainly lives up to its name.
Their Putenesca is really tasty and comes with free garlic bread. I also like the fact that the owner always calls my husband “Boss” – how ironic! As if my husband is allowed to be in charge of anything! And Marchmont wines is right next door! How convenient is that? Why not pick up a pizza and a bottle of wine and spend a couple of hours on the Meadows.
113-117 LOTHIAN ROAD, EH3 9AN 0131 622 7499
Fast Mexican food. Burrito’s, fajitas and bowls of chilli. Reasonable prices and Brewdog beer. When I’m getting my hair done I use Illegal Jacks as a creche for my husband. If they had Sky Sports I don’t think he’d ever come home. Suits me fine.
THE ROYAL MILE, EH1 2NF 0131 225 5613
Beautiful, romantic, classy - but enough about me. If you want to treat yourself but not actually spend a fortune, go for the set lunch or early dinner at The Witchery. The food is wonderful but you’re mainly going for the look of the place. It’s gothic chic done by gay men; huge candlesticks, winding stone stairs, swathes of rich velvet and thrones as chairs. My ideal end of Festival party would definitely be held at The Witchery, with all my family and friends. And on the way home I’d pick up my husband from Illegal Jacks. Jo Caulfield @ The Stand Comedy Club 8:15pm – 9:15pm, 1–26 Aug, not 2, 13, £7 – £10
World premiere of new drama with dance performed by 6th formers from North London Collegiate School.
When three year old Skye is left alone in a car, who has the right to judge?
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festdirectory TOP MUSIC VENUES Looking for somewhere to go once the show’s over? Comedian Rob Deering gives you a guide to his favourite live music haunts.
Late ‘n’ Live at the Gilded Balloon
13 BRISTO SQUARE, EH8 9AJ 0131 650 4673
See, this is a very subjective take on the form, but I think in the early hours, when it goes off, this is a pretty unbeatable gig. Whether you watch all the comedy from an almost respectable 1am or crawl in to see the band after 3, you’ve got a big rocking stage and an excellent sound system; and whoever the band are they’re bound to be compellingly entertaining. They have to be, or their audience will immediately retire to a) bed, b) someone else’s bed or c) a bush somewhere.
The Liquid Room
9C VICTORIA STREET, EH1 2HE 0131 225 2564
For a more formally respected music venue that’s there all year round, the Liquid Room is great. They have club nights as well as bands, the line-up of acts is quietly hip, and the room is just the right size for a great atmosphere. Plus it’s on Victoria Street, which always feels like a gateway from the shiny touristy-ness of the top end of the Royal Mile to the grubby hedonism of Cowgate and Grassmarket.
The One, Pleasance Courtyard ‘Beneath’
4-6 SOUTH BRIDGE, EH1 1LL 0131 557 5114
60 PLEASANCE, EH8 9TJ 0131 556 6550
Talking of grubby hedonism on the Cowgate, Bannermans is fun. Definitely at the rocky end of the spectrum, this is the place for whisky and histrionics, sticky floors and fat riffs – there’s a fairly strong chance you’ll see headbanging here, and even some possibility of pumping devil’s horn hand gestures. One of those brick-ceilinged, atmospheric places that Edinburgh does better than anywhere. Just the spot to experience other people’s sweat. In a good way.
The Pleasance’s reputation is based not on live music so much as comedy and theatre, and their panoply of genius spaces is geared to that. But The One is still a fabulous place for a night out, particularly when it’s not raining. And it’s there that I will be attempting to single-handedly create the greatest live-music-standup-comedy event in the history of entertainment every night of the festival. All my musical dreams, late ‘n’ live adventures, stadium rock ambitions, not to mention all my musical instruments in one noisy little box. Should be fun.
212 COWGATE, EH1 1NQ 0131 556 3254
Last but not least, an Edinburgh institution. Whistle Binkies combines all the best of the above: out-til-dawn hours, the inimitable atmosphere of the vaults under the Royal Mile, healthy crossover with the comedy on the Fringe – all this, and, like all Edinburgh’s best pubs and bars, it has a stupid name. One night—or, early morning—in Whistle Binkies I had to admit defeat and go home because I could no longer see. Great days. Rob Deering @ Pleasance Courtyard 8:15pm – 9:15pm, 1–27 Aug, not 8, 14, £6 – £12
HHHH “Bloody, marvellous stuff!”
LIVE ON STAGE!
pleasance 12 noon Daily 0131 556 6550 www.festmag.co.uk
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festdirectory PERFECT KIDS’ DAY OUT
TIPS FOR A RAINY DAY
Sometimes kids need to run free and go wild in the great outdoors. Edinburgh and its surroundings are perfect for young adventurers and making the time to explore the nearby beaches, mountains and parks is well worth the effort.
Lets’ be honest, rain’s a distinct possibility when it comes to Edinburgh, which can be tricky with the family in tow. Here’s our list of where to head when the heavens open.
National Museum of Scotland
East Links Family Park
CHAMBERS STREET, EH1 1JF 0131 247 4422
North Berwick, East Lothian
Even before its recent multi million pound makeover, The National Museum, with its breathtaking main hall, has been making children and adults smile for centuries. It’s very much a modern museum, with a welcoming hands-on approach to children; let them roam through the vast galleries to find scary dinosaurs and Egyptians at one end and racing cars and hairy highlanders at the other. You’ll find easy access, a buggy park and good coffee, all for a voluntary donation.
Nothing like sea air, fish ‘n’ chips and an ice cream to make you feel like you’ve had a good day out and North Berwick has it all. With a frequent train service from Waverley Station, this charming seaside town has a choice of sandy beaches, cool and quirky shops and even hosts its own mini festival: Fringe by the Sea runs from the 6-12th August with Mr Boom, The Journey Dance Company and Fischy Music Kid’s Concerts all performing in local venues.
Glentress Forest and Go Ape, near Peebles If you have thrill seeking older children then head to this Scottish Borders attraction where you can hire mountain bikes and sample some world-class trails. The site is also home to the new treetop zip wire adventure course, Go Ape. Even with little ones who aren’t yet on two wheels it’s a great place to explore with easy parking, lots of walks to chose from and a coffee shop for re-fuelling or calming your nerves. Be sure to check out nearby Peebles on the banks of the River Tweed with its many parks, restaurants and shops.
East Links Family Park, near Dunbar This place has something for all ages and you could easily spend the whole day here looking at farm animals, throwing yourselves round the huge four level multi activity ‘Fortress’, shooting each other at the ball blast arena or taking a ride on the park train – the list is endless. With 20 acres to explore, even on busy days it never feels overcrowded and it has the added bonus of having just as many activities to do inside as out; handy for this part of the world.
112-116 HOLYROOD ROAD, EH8 8AS 0131 550 7800
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the building is the attraction here; a massive white hedgehog like domeneighbouring the rather more controversial Scottish Parliament building. Inside, the 14 galleries use interactive, 3D film exhibits and a 360° degree showdome to take you on the journey of our planet’s past, present and future. This is one for school age children who won’t realize that they’re actually learning while having this much fun. Go Ape
Firth of Forth walks, Cramond and South Queensferry You don’t need to travel far from Edinburgh to find water and wide-open spaces; the small village of Cramond is perfect for a scoot or cycle along the wide promenade by the Firth of Forth. Time it right and you can walk out to Cramond Island, just make sure you keep an eye on the tide or else you could be there for the night. But for the best close up views of the Forth Bridges head to South Queensferry where you can also get a boat to nearby Inchcolm Island, passing seals on your way.
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Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh Every Edinburgh parent has been here at least once, it’s hard to beat for sheer size of open green space. Admission is free to the gardens which are perfect for running, hiding and making secret dens in. The huge Victorian Glasshouses are worth the admission charge and not just for their warmth, they’re fascinating and you can often find art students sketching the exotic looking plants, which only adds to the atmosphere. Be warned that the café is rather pricey and busy; my advice is to pack a flask.
festdirectory CHILD-FRIENDLY EATS After a hard day watching shows the last thing you need is to be given the evil eye from a waitress when you ask for the children’s menu. Kids Editor and mum of two Caroline Black shares her personal choices. Camera Obscura
549 CASTLEHILL, EH1 2ND 0131 226 3709
103 GEORGE STREET, EH2 3ES 0131 225 1550
Right on the doorstep of Edinburgh Castle, this place offers first class views across the city if you’re prepared to walk up the steps to get there. But the views are only the half of it as this attraction is all about optical illusions like the mirror maze, vortex and infinite star tunnels. This place is part history lesson, part fun fair but it’s a trip that the kids will love. Make sure you bring your own camera to capture their distorted and weird looking faces in the mirrors.
Centotre’s a special place, my favourite. It’s such a gorgeous restaurant that you don’t expect them to be quite so welcoming to, and prepared for, children; but they are. Each child gets their very own little drawing and games bag when they sit down and have a different menu to choose their breakfast, lunch or dinner from. The menu is everything you’d expect from a high end authentic Italian; this is a grown up restaurant that treats kids as customers, not an afterthought.
Ratho Climbing Arena
Head a bit outside of the city centre and you’ll find a state of the art climbing facility that’s set against a giant quarry with something for all ages. There is ceramic painting, an indoor soft play area, the Rock Tots Playroom with its bouncy castle and a climbing tower for those over four years old. Or you could just sit in the café and look through their huge glass wall down onto the active people climbing, abseiling or tackling the Aerial Assault.
This is one of those places that just has a naturally good vibe, the sort of place you wished you lived near to make it your local. You can have all day brunch, lunch and now dinner in their Forth Street restaurant. Expect tasty sharing plates, juicy organic burgers, homemade soups with freshly baked breads and imaginative vegetarian specials; no specific kids menu but it’s the kind of place that you can happily pick and share across the table.
SOUTH PLATT HILL, EH28 8AA 0131 333 6333
Scottish National Gallery of Art THE MOUND, EH2 2EL 0131 624 6200
Edinburgh is lucky enough to have a wonderful choice of free art galleries and this is a particularly great place for children. It’s small enough to not bore them and has a frequently changing range of accessible collections set in the most stunning buildings and grounds. The obligatory coffee shop is better than most and, best of all, if the rain does ease up then the ground’s stunning grass sculptures, garden and land art are perfect for a wee exploration.
36 SIMPSON LOAN, EH3 9GG 0131 229 2902
121 HANOVER STREET, EH2 1DJ 0131 225 6215
16 MORNINGSIDE ROAD, EH10 4DB 0131 446 0233
Browns is a busy nationwide bistro chain that welcomes everyone through its doors, and kids are no exception. Expect a vibrant and fast atmosphere, which is great fun for slightly older children but you might find it a bit full on with small babies. They have a well-priced and good value set menu offering, amongst other things, flatbreads, fish and chips and a rather hopeful house salad; an ideal place for a pre-show pit stop.
131-133 GEORGE STREET, EH2 3ES 0131 225 4442
Technically a bookshop but it does have a child friendly café. Based in the new, rather fancy and laidback, Quartermile area of the city, it’s very close to The Meadows where children can run free or play at the gigantic play park. This is the place to go when you need to escape the chaotic city centre, sit on a big sofa, eat home baking and feel like a local.
The family behind S. Luca’s have been making ice-cream in Edinburgh since 1908 and their traditional café serves light snacks like paninis, pizza and lasagne alongside old school sundaes. Although there’s a rather steep spiral staircase to negotiate, you’ll find plenty of space to leave your buggy downstairs. This is a straight forward dining experience where the star of the show is undoubtedly the ice cream, but children love it. Go on, when was the last time you had a Knickerbocker Glory?
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Amuse team T
With the Assembly Rooms on George St under new management, Tommy Sheppard— the venue’s new director—explains what to expect for the 2012 Festival.
Fifteen years of standing up for freedom
he Assembly Rooms opened in 1787 as a function room for the Edinburgh’s New Town. In the intervening 225 years it has been a continuing focus for arts and culture in the city. A key venue for the Edinburgh festival since it started in 1947, The Assembly Rooms is best known in recent times as the venue on the fringe. By 2010 it was beginning to look the worse for wear and in desperate need of a facelift. 18 months ago the city council began a major refurbishment and now £9.3 million later it’s ready to take its place again as the main city centre hub of the fringe. Not only does it look superb—the gold leaf is in all the right places—but the work has combined restoration of the 18th century features with all that you’d expect in a 21st century public building. Air conditioning, new seats, disability access and soundproofing will make it not just the best venue on the fringe, but one of the best performance spaces in the country. We’re determined to make the Assembly Rooms an even better fringe venue than it was before. A new approach will see average ticket prices lower than they were two years ago. Sensible scheduling means that the house will open for big shows at least half an hour before curtain up – meaning no one should need to queue. From the start we knew that the refurbishment plans would mean less circulation space inside the
building – so we’ve been looking how to use the street outside. With the support of local traders and the city council we have drawn up plans to create a large pedestrian area outside the Assembly Rooms. The Famous Spiegelterrace will have a large continental style terrace café under the spread of a huge saddlespan tent, a free classical showcase stage, and of course The Famous Spiegeltent itself making a welcome return to the city. Plenty of space to circulate, buy tickets, catch up with friends and generally soak up the festival atmosphere in one of the finest retail boulevards in the world. And we hope it’ll look a bit special too, with an emphasis on living plants and not a Heras fence or flyposter in sight. But, crucially, the Assembly Rooms rebalances the geography of the Edinburgh festival. It seems crazy that the world’s biggest arts festival has become so over-concentrated in one small part of the city around the university. That’s not good for the Fringe, or for visitors, or for anyone who’s running a business in other parts of the city. Hopefully, the re-opening of the Assembly Rooms will start to bring the festival back into the centre of town. By adding in the Famous Spiegelterrace we aim to create not just a new venue but a city centre hub for the fringe. Maybe over the next few years that’ll encourage others to run venues north of Princes Street. Edinburgh’s got so much to offer we should encourage people to see all of it.
Release the UAE five
Free Dr Binayak Sen
In April 2011, blogger and political commentator Ahmed Mansoor, 42, lecturer Nasser bin Ghaith, 41, and online activists Fahad Salim Dalk, 39, Ahmed Abdul Khaleq, 34, and Hassan Ali al-Khamis, 39, were jailed in the United Arab Emirates. Arguing for democracy and criticising the government, the “UAE five” as they came to be known were charged under article 176 of the UAE penal code which makes it illegal to publicly insult the country’s top officials. After a high profile campaign, the men were finally released in November 2011.
In 2009, Amnesty leant its weight behind the campaign to force the release of Dr Binayak Sen. A public health expert and activist, Dr Sen was imprisoned without charge under the Indian state of Chhattisgarh’s stringent security laws after meeting with the imprisoned leader of a Maoist organisation – a meeting facilitated by state authorities. International observers criticised the politically motivated incarceration of the doctor, whose human rights campaigning had led him into frequent clashes with the state government. Though granted bail in 2009 following international pressure, Dr Sen’s harassment by the state authorities has yet to fully cease.
very year for the past decade and a half, Amnesty international have headed to the largest arts festival in the world to promote freedom of speech. Placing injustice in the global spotlight, Amnesty have delivered a string of good news over recent years, the most recent of which came just this month. With the festival fast approaching Amnesty’s 2012 target, the Burmese junta, finally bowed to pressure and released Khun Kawrio, a Burmese political activist jailed and tortured for criticising the authorities. As Amnesty select a new campaign for this year, choosing from a woefully long list of individuals denied freedom of speech, we look back at some past successes.
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At the beginning of this year, a Burmese comedian namaed Zarganar performed at Amnesty’s Secret Policeman’s Ball. The comedian, however, wasn’t there to tell jokes but to thank Amnesty for their work their work in securing his release and for supporting freedom of expression in his country. Only a few months earlier, Zarganar had been released from a Burmese jail after serving part of a 35 year sentence for “causing public alarm” – in other words for criticising the regime. Since then, Zarganar has worked with Amnesty to secure the successful release of Khun Kawrio.
Find out about Amnesty’s programme this year at www.amnesty.org.uk/edfest
No Pressure to Be Funny @ EICC 3:00pm – 4:30pm, 18 Aug, £10
Stand Up For Freedom @ EICC 10:00pm – 11:30pm, 15 Aug, £18
SOUTH AFRICA’S PREMIER COMEDIAN
Thet s i c a R
Breakthrough Act sA COMeDY AwARDs
‘The coolest comedian’
The TiMes, sA
pleasance.co.uk 0131 556 6550 edfringe.com 0131 226 0000 *well, not really
THE ASSEMBLY ROOMS
APPOINTMENT WICKER MAN MOLLY WOBBLY'S TIT FACTORY THE INTERVENTION JIGSY SIX AND A TANNER WITH THE
NATIONAL THEATRE OF SCOTLAND
LYRIC THEATRE BELFAST
COMEDIANS THEATRE COMPANY
TOM KRAPP'S LAST TAPE OWEN
RETURN LUMBERJACKS STEWART LEE RUSSELL KANE JIMEOIN OWEN JERRY SADOWITZ MICK FOLEY O’NEILL OF THE
STEWART FRANCIS, GLENN WOOL & CRAIG CAMPBELL
LLOYD LANGFORD PHIL NICHOL BRIDGET CHRISTIE STU & GARRY THE THINKING DRINKERS GUIDE SARFRAZ MANZOOR KRISTINE LEVINE MAGNUS BETNÉR MRS BARBARA NICE JARLATH REGAN DAMIEN CROW
BRAZIL BRAZIL PRESENTS FAVELA FUNK PARTY THE BIG FAT ELECTRIC CEILIDH PIAF
CAMILLE O’SULLIVAN KAREN MATHESON
SHOOGLENIFTY THE LOST FINGERS SASKWATCH NEW ROPE STRING BAND BREABACH MICHAEL MCGOLDRICK, JOHN MCCUSKER & JOHN DOYLE JAMES GRANT SAFEHOUSE FLAP SONGS OF STRUGGLE JIMMIE MACGREGOR
CLUB SPIEGEL LA CLIQUE VIRGINIA GAY
PLUS LIZ LOCHHEAD KIDS
LADY CAROL MIKELANGELO FLAMENCO HIP HOP THE BOY AND THE BUNNET
BACK ON THE FRINGE 2012
54 George St | Edinburgh | 0844 693 3008 | www.arfringe.com