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2014 PREVIEW GUIDE

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Tim Key AND THIS YEAR, HE’S GOING GRAND

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2014 Edinburgh Festival Preview PUBLISHER Sam Friedman EDITOR Evan Beswick CREATIVE DIRECTOR Matthew MacLeod DEPUTY EDITOR Tom Hackett THEATRE EDITOR-AT-LARGE Matt Trueman COMEDY EDITOR-AT-LARGE Lyle Brennan WEB EDITOR & SUB EDITOR John Hewitt Jones WRITING TEAM Ed Ballard, Billy Barrett, Sean Bell, Julian Hall, Si Hawkins, Dan Hutton, Miranda Kiek, Andrew Latimer, Catherine Love, Edd McCracken, Stewart Pringle, Arianna Reiche, Jay Richardson, Joe Spurgeon, Tom Wicker

SALES & MARKETING Gillian Brown, Lara Moloney, Tom McCarthy, George Sully, John Stansfield

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@festmag / www.festmag.co.uk / hello@festmag.co.uk Published by Fest Media Limited, Registered in Scotland, number, SC344852 Registered office 3 Coates Place, Edinburgh, EH3 7AA 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 or the publisher.

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Contents 58 Acts of Disunion

6 Tim Key

With the vote on Scottish independence only weeks away, how are writers tackling the biggest issue to face the country in centuries?

Managing that rare feat of marrying mainstream success with uncompromising innovation

18

68 Paines Plough

Comedy Picks

Paines Plough’s pop-up theatrical bolthole The Roundabout is sure to stand out at this year’s Fringe

Lead comedy critic Lyle Brennan picks out this year’s best and most promising comedy

24 Pippa Evans

78 The Gig’s The Thing

on stepping out from behind the muchlauded mask of her character Loretta Maine

30 Wizards of Oz

2014 finds writers setting aside the conventions of theatre for the raucous, free-wheeleing energy of gigs

88 Glen Matlock The one-time Sex Pistol on showing audiences a good time

The Australian comedians making their mark on the Fringe

97

40

Jim Davidson

The Cat in the Hat

on his plans to win over a younger audience and challenge the mainstream

Dr Seuss comes to the Fringe with the return of the National Theatre’s spectacular production

52 Theatre Picks

Lead theatre critic Matt Trueman reveals Fest’s tips for 2014’s best theatre

98

54

Mark Watson: Kids in tow

Not so much transgressing as stomping over the boundaries of taste, ethics and rationality

For that moment when you’re changing nappies in the Assembly toilets while pestering people to turn up for your life-changing 9am show

Kim Noble www.festmag.co.uk

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Poet WITHOUT A PLAN

Since winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award, Tim Key has managed that rare feat of marrying mainstream success with uncompromising innovation. But, as he tells Sam Friedman, there is no grand vision Images: Idil Sukan/DrawHQ

“W

e just have to play this one with a straight bat, Sam”, Tim Key tells me solemnly. “There’s no other way”. We’re discussing how to deal with the fact that our interview has got off to an unfortunate start. “How about I introduce it,” he says after a long silence. “Would that help?” “It’s worth a try”, I concede. So he begins:”Sam’s asked me to say a few words about the concept behind this piece. The concept was that he would interview me in the place where I did my first comedy gig. That would be his angle. He could use phrases like ‘well, this is where it all started’ and ‘so I s’pose you were stood over there’. So we arranged to meet in The Albany, and as I walked up Great Portland Street the memories really did come flooding back. “In the end, though, there was a fuck up and Sam was at a different Albany, in Deptford. I then had to rush across London on the hottest day of the year and I was sweating as a lady took photos of me in a theatre I’d never been in before. To be fair to Sam, he was very apologetic and bought me two pints in a nearby pub—The Amersham Arms—where, completely coincidentally, I did my first poetry gig. But by then the photographer had gone and all we had was each other.” Key reclines in his chair, looking pleased with himself. ‘That sort of thing?’ It feels a bit emasculating to let someone else do your job for you, but when that person happens to be Tim Key it’s hard to resist. After all, there’s few better over 100 words. Of course, Key’s verse is usually contorted into short and beautifully strange poems, which he writes on the back of pornographic playing cards and reads aloud before tossing them nonchalantly into the ether. Key has been honing this innovative, form-bending approach to standup

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for several years now, but at this year’s Fringe it perhaps reaches its pinnacle with a 15-night run of Single White Slut at the enormous 770-seater Pleasance Grand. “But things haven’t always been so straightforward, have they?,” I ask Key – desperately trying to shoehorn my ‘concept’ back into conversation. “No, they haven’t, Sam,” he deadpans back. Certainly, Key’s upward trajectory has constituted a rather bumpy and non-linear ride. The first few years, he recalls, were particularly ropey. He describes a string of excruciating early gigs, most notably a comedy contest where he came ninth out of nine. “It was like I was that brave English lad who does the gymnastics, gets ranked 1, and then has to watch as one by one everyone else passes him. Devastating.” Such a wounding experience was exacerbated by the fact that Key was accompanied by his friend Mark Watson, who was also starting out. Watson won. “It was a fairly chastening experience, really. Here we were finding out whether we could do standup and our findings were more or less… he could.” The problem in the early days, Key tells me, is that he really didn’t know what he wanted to say. “It felt a bit like someone doing a tribute act of what they thought standup should be like,” he says. “I was sure I could do something better, but after seven gigs the facts were pretty stark. I couldn’t do any better.” I first saw Key at the Fringe in 2004 where he performed a one-man play, Luke and Stella. It followed Luke, a sensitive youth caught up in a vicious circle of small-town lad culture, and featured Key darting around the stage, in the title role, responding to lines and characters that the audience couldn’t hear. It was a fractured, unsettling and remarkable little play that left me baffled and enthralled in equal measure. It only attracted modest (and largely u

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preview guide 2014 fest 7


COMEDY t︎ bewildered) audiences and Key has never performed it since. But nonetheless it was a turning point. “At least it was something I thought was interesting, that didn’t have zero worth.” From there Key’s career gradually began to build up a head of steam. First he teamed up with his Cambridge Footlights friends Stefan Golaszewski, Tom Basden and Lloyd Woolf to form the sketch group Cowards, who enjoyed three successful Edinburgh runs. And then came the quartet of slut-themed poetry shows, beginning in 2007 with The Slut in the Hut, continuing with the Edinburgh Comedy-award winning Slutcracker, then Masterslut, and culminating this year with Single White Slut. Key has also taken on a number of more high-profile projects, most notably as Charlie Brooker’s poet-in-residence on Screenwipe and Newswipe and more recently as Alan Partridge’s hapless co-presenter in Mid Morning Matters and its film follow-up, Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. What is interesting about Key’s ascent is that unlike many of his fellow comedians, he has so far managed to marry more mainstream success with the retention of a certain cultural cachet. He is often seen as the figurehead for a new breed of alternative comedy associated with the London-based venue and production company, The Invisible Dot. In recent years, the Dot has become a byword for a certain brand of unusual, offbeat comedy. It acted as an incubator for the likes of Jonny Sweet, Alex Horne and Claudia O’Doherty, and is now busy cultivating a promising second generation, including at this year’s Festival Liam Williams, Natasia Demetriou and Ellie White. I suspect Key knows what I’m talking about here, but he remains coy about romantic talk of artistic movements and aesthetic paradigms. “It’s all smoke and mirrors. It may look like that from the outside but inside it’s just a lot of troubled individuals trying to work out how not to fail.” Although there has been near-unanimous critical praise for The Dot, one charge leveled at some of its acts—including Key—has been that they’ve somehow taken the bite out of ‘alternative’ comedy, shifting the genre in a kind of post-political direction that

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“It may look [planned] from the outside, but inside it’s just a lot of troubled individuals trying to work out how not to fail.” prefers experiments with form than explicit social critique. In a recent and otherwise glowing review of Single White Slut in London, for example, Guardian critic Brian Logan notes that “sometimes one starts to crave something meaningful amid the advanced whimsy”. Key initially winces at the mention of this. “Wow,” he says with a deep intake of breath. But rather than defensive, his eventual answer is thoughtful and considered: “You could definitely level a charge at my shows that there isn’t much meaning, but then I guess I don’t really know what meaning means. Some of my favourite things have got meaning. Simon Amstell and Daniel Kitson talk about stuff, but then Adam Buxton doesn’t really talk about much stuff, or Tim Vine. And you never know, they might not be talking about the big topics, but something they say might just stay with you. I guess what I like is to be kept interested, to watch someone who’s got an approach you don’t really recognise, where you just think: ‘now, where does that come from?’” For a moment Key seems genuinely earnest. The knowing half-smile

temporarily absent from his lips. But it’s fleeting. More often there is a skilful slipperiness to the way he talks about comedy. He carefully evades bigger, more probing questions, batting them away with deliberately distracting analogies and charming humility (although he cheerfully warns me the modesty is strictly reserved for interviews). The point, he finally tells me, after a string of dead-ends, is that there’s “no grand narrative” to his comedy, no aesthetic vision for transforming standup. “With me it’s more: tried to do it. Couldn’t do it. Worked out a new way. Another circuitous route up the mountain.” The kernel of another analogy emerges and he grabs at it gleefully. “Yeah, that way was too steep and too difficult and it looked like there was too many climbers on that side of the mountain. They seemed to be finding it really easy and doing it naked, so I just had to go back down to the bottom of the mountain, buy loads of kit, and make my way up another part.” n SAM FRIEDMAN Pleasance Courtyard, 9:40pm – 10:40pm, 13–25 Aug, £10 – £16

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ROLL CALL There's some notable names in the Edinburgh class of 2014 – and some notable absences. Fest checks on who's here, and who's got a sick note

Missing in Action NAME

Claudia O’Doherty

COMMENT You’ll have to look elsewhere for your annual dose of high-concept faux incompetence. O’Doherty’s been focusing her energies on breaking America this summer, having been linked to a mysterious Judd Apatow flick featuring Tilda Swinton, basketballer LeBron James and the Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man. Yes, really

Pajama Men

All-conquering comedy duo Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez are, well, off conquering elsewhere. So well-received was last year’s outing, Just the Two of Us, that they’re still touring it

Doctor Brown

2012 saw Doctor Brown (Phil Burgers to his parents) scoop the Fosters comedy award. He was down to eight dates last year. Slacking off? Not likely. He’s sharing the wealth as an instructor with his performance workshop, Clowning with Doctor Brown-ing

Sammy J

Well, not absent as such – we’re told the musical Mr J will be flying in from Australia for a stag do anyway, and thought he might as well break out a best-of set for the first night. Puppet pal Randy will remain in his box

Max & Ivan

Michael Che

Anthony Hopkins

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Following a huge 2013 for the sketch duo behind The Wrestling Max & Ivan are Edinburgh absentees this year – they claim, on the advice of their astrologer. Oh, also, they’re written a play, commissioned by the Soho Theatre, plus a piece for radio, The Casebook of Max and Ivan, to be aired in August. Not quite turning a blind eye to the Fringe, they’ve recommended six shows on their website, in case you’re interested The darling of New York’s standup scene pulled out of his second Edinburgh run after landing a plum job as a correspondent on The Daily Show. Just about excusable

An actorly heavyweight, Hopkins made his directorly debut with Dylan Thomas Return Journey. But it’s been chugging along for a while now, and he’s content to let it loose on Edinburgh without him

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Present & Correct NAME

Neil Hamburger

Rachel Chavkin

Daniel Kitson

Josie Long

A revolting disgrace of a washed-up club comic, Hamburger is the alter-ego of Gregg Turkington, who’s been away writing a feature film starring John C Reilly and Michael Cera. He’s couwghed and hacked his way back to Edinburgh.

The founding artistic director of Fringe favourites the TEAM, Chavkin is here in her own right, directing Chris Thorpe in Confirmation

Elusive as the Yeti, he’s dodged the press for years – now he’s not even in the brochure. But rest assured, Kitson’s at the Stand all month, with musician Gavin Osborn for the first half of the run, then with Fuckstorm 3001 colleagues Alun Cochrane and Andy Zaltzman

Fringe 2013 came and went without Long’s increasingly political, yet unflappably optimistic standup. Hardly one to sit about, she’s gone and made two films, both shot in Glasgow. She’s also had her first real experience of heartbreak. Accordingly, she says, she’s returning with her most personal show to date

Sam Simmons

Three rollicking years preceeded a year off in 2014 for this Aussie star of the surreal. So what’s he been up to? He’s only moved to LA, stormed the Conan O’Brien show, and filmed a pilot for US channel Animal Planet. Apparently it was about armadillos

Anne Archer

She’s the Hollywood star who potted Glenn Close’s bunny boiler in Fatal Attraction, now she’s playing the aerobically active activist and actress, Jane Fonda

Geoff Sobelle

Sofie Gråbøl

Steven Berkoff

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COMMENT

It was way back in 2010 when Geoff Sobelle stunningly recreated the end of civilisation – in an office. He hasn’t been back since. A double whammy (Elephant Room; An Object Lesson) might make amends

The heroine of The Killing and of the Scottish wool industry is performing at the Traverse

Fear not, the Fringe stalwart is here, if only for two days. Bizzarely, the fringe website contains a “warning”: “The show will consist of Stephen Berkoff doing both dramatic monologues and discussion/storytelling, while being painted by Peter Howson onstage”. Beware

preview guide 2014 fest 11


THEATRE

WATCHING YOU

Edward Snowden’s revelations have inspired theatre makers in many different ways. Catherine Love asks where performance can shine a light

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THEATRE

T

en years ago, George Mann had a nightmare. While still at university, the co-artistic director of Theatre Ad Infinitum dreamt of a chilling Orwellian future – all eyes in walls and strictly policed thoughts. The unwavering gaze of Big Brother on a terrifying scale. Today, in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the pervasive extent of state surveillance, that bad dream looks closer and closer to reality. It is this discovery of the lengths to which we are routinely surveilled and the astonishing lack of public outcry—“we seem to be sleepwalking towards a society that’s losing its freedoms and liberties”—that has finally provoked Mann to explore that nightmare on stage. “It felt like the subject matter was extremely urgent right now,” Mann says as he recalls his decision to run with the idea. “It was now or never.”

Left: Notoriously Yours Below: City of the Blind Bottom: The Interview

“We seem to be sleepwalking towards a society that’s losing its freedoms and liberties” Mann is not the only theatre-maker at the Fringe this year considering the repercussions of Snowden’s revelations. For a number of shows at the Festival, surveillance looms large, either as explicit subject matter or ubiquitous backdrop. There is a question, however, of how well-placed theatre is to address this issue. “I don’t think there’s all that much that’s interesting to say about that state of surveillance,” says playwright David Leddy, who has used surveillance as frame rather than canvas for his downloadable drama. The narrative of City of the Blind, which Leddy describes as “a downloaded book that comes to life with video and audio and

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photos,” is instead primarily about a United Nations whistleblower whose superiors are attempting to silence her. Surveillance is introduced through the voicemails and video footage that audiences are presented with, raising the question of where this material has come from. But Leddy, who describes himself as “very suspicious of political theatre”, has doubts over whether artists have much to add to this debate. “Now that we know the extent of it, I’m not really sure how one could artistically comment on that other than making quite a simplistic piece that says ‘Wow, it’s really bad that we’ve got no privacy any more, isn’t it?’” u

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THEATRE

The Light

t︎ Van Badham, newspaper columnist and writer of multimedia show Notoriously Yours, disagrees. “Since adopting this strange double career of mine in journalism and theatre, I’ve become particularly interested in the differences in form between the two and the potential of theatre to ‘speak’ to journalism – that is, to provide the speculative space for the implications of what’s revealed in reportage.” Notoriously Yours attempts to create that speculative space by reimagining Alfred Hitchcock’s noir spy thriller Notorious against the backdrop of the contemporary surveillance state. For Badham, it is a non-didactic way of discussing difficult political issues, using the noir genre as a metaphor. “Noir obviously is the perfect stylistic complement to a story about surveillance because noir explores the hidden and unseen, the shadowy edges of the personality, the mutability of objects in light,” she says. A popular genre is similarly twisted in Theatre Ad Infinitum’s show Light, which speaks the visual language of dystopia and science fiction. “The style, I felt, had to be embedded with metaphors,” Mann explains. The central metaphor is right there in the title. The use of LED torchlight

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in the show was inspired by the visions of the future that Mann saw in science fiction, while simultaneously discovering that “light” is a GCHQ codename for metadata and personal information. And much like noir, it also evokes the shadowy unknowability of being surveilled. “We’re literally keeping the audience in the dark,” says Mann. “It creates a very filmic effect, but it’s also very controlling. So the audience get to feel sometimes that they’re in control and sometimes that they’re not in control.” One genre that audiences might not expect to see dealing with this subject matter is comedy. Michael Franco’s play The Interview, however, operates on the logic that laughter can be just as unsettling as horror. The piece looks at enhanced interrogation techniques in a state dominated by surveillance, exploring the idea of torture on stage. Franco insists that humour is central. “Granted it’s a very dark and fucked-up comedy, but it is a comedy nonetheless,” he says. He adds that his aim is to hold the mirror up to audiences, hoping that they will “not be afraid to laugh even when it’s that guilty uncomfortable kind of laugh”.

Creating a sense of discomfort and complicity on the part of audiences is an aim of much of this work. Just as those watching City of the Blind are put in the position of those conducting surveillance, Badham explains that her manipulation of noir conventions in Notoriously Yours “recruits the audience into a vicarious surveillance role,” thereby forcing theatregoers to face the sinister implications of this observation. In a less confrontational way, Light uses dystopia as a way of looking differently at the present. “Actually it’s not about the future, it’s about distancing ourselves from the present so we can better see it,” says Mann. “It’s about giving perspective to the present using the metaphor of the future.” Mann acknowledges that his contribution is unlikely to change the world, but he hopes—like many of these theatre-makers—that he can at least jolt audiences out of their complacency and get them thinking about an issue that is ever more central to our lives. “This could and does happen to anyone,” Franco stresses – a message that is at the heart of The Interview. As Badham chillingly points out, surveillance already affects all of us. “Think back to every dirty text message, illicit Tinder conversation or webcam session you’ve done, and imagine someone having that information at their disposal to share with whom they’ve chosen. Now realise that this is not an imaginative situation; that data is already recorded, saved and accessible to people you don’t know, you didn’t elect, you can’t see and have no control over. How’re you feeling now?” n CATHERINE LOVE NOTORIOUSLY YOURS C venues - C south, times vary, 31 Jul – 25 Aug, not 11 Aug, £8.50 – £10.50 CITY OF THE BLIND Online at www.DavidLeddy.com (with Traverse Theatre), 24h, 2–25 Aug, £8.99 THE INTERVIEW Underbelly, Cowgate, 6:00pm – 6:55pm, 31 Jul – 24 Aug, £6 – £10 LIGHT Pleasance Dome, 5:15pm – 6:35pm, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 11 Aug, 18 Aug, £7.50 – £13

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PRESENTS

9:10pm

19 - 24 AUGUST

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TICKETS AVAILABLE AT KILILIVE.COM

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COMEDY

Comedy Picks Fest comedy critic Lyle Brennan picks out the best and most promising comedy shows of 2014

The Fresh Faces

Gein’s Family Giftshop

Brent Weinbach

Pleasance Courtyard, 10:45pm – 11:45pm, 30 Jul – 24 Aug, not 11 Aug

Gilded Balloon, 9:15pm – 10:15pm, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 11 Aug

There’s a whiff of the cult hero about this deeply strange US import, so get in good and early. His latest album tells you all you need to know about Weinbach: deadpan absurdism, inspired interactive set pieces and a cacophony of off-key accents and impressions. He’s also an accomplished jazz pianist.

Fifties killer Ed Gein liked to make things out of corpses. And while the work of his Manchester-based namesakes isn’t quite that ghoulish, it’s not exactly sugar and spice. They cleaned up at this year’s London SketchFest competition, taking both the panel and the audience prize — a sure sign they’re worth a look.

Demi Lardner Gilded Balloon, 10:30pm – 11:30pm, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 11 Aug

After winning Australia’s top open mic competition last year, Lardner made the most of her prize; RAW Comedy sent their champion out to Edinburgh’s So You Think You’re Funny?, and she made it two for two. Now, aged 20, and with a precocious knack for imaginative jokes that turn on a dime, she steps into the big leagues.

Fin Taylor Just the Tonic at The Tron, 10:20pm – 11:15pm, 31 Jul – 24 Aug, not 12 Aug

Book-smart he ain’t, but young Taylor has a fine brain for comedy. He positions himself as an anti-intellectual, but with enough self-aware wit to avoid coming across as a ‘lad’ or a boor. In rubbing his less high-minded pursuits in the face of the smug and pretentious, he’s found a prime vantage point for observational standup.

Lucy Beaumont Pleasance Courtyard, 5:45pm – 6:45pm, 30 Jul – 24 Aug, not 12 Aug

Get past that down-with-the-kids title (Twerk it Out?) and you’re in for a treat. With an accent as broad as the Humber, a faux-naive outlook and some artfully understated gags, Beaumont presents her native Hull like a dear but batty relative next to the bland, unwelcoming South. She’s surely on her way to the top, so catch her before she gets there.

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The Top Tips

COMEDY Adam Riches Pleasance Dome, 9:45pm – 10:45pm 30 Jul – 24 Aug

It’s been a blast watching Riches’ return take shape over the past few months. Expectations will be high considering his previous show, a barrage of in-your-face characters, took the big prize in 2011. But with zero regard for personal space and cameos from Sean Bean (sort of) and Ryan Gosling (ish), this looks like a worthy successor.

Joseph Morpurgo Pleasance Dome, 5:20pm – 6:20pm, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 11 Aug

One of the big discoveries of last year’s Fringe. When he’s not soiling a great novelist’s legacy in the improv smash Austentatious, Morpurgo’s in the lab concocting bizarre character comedy. Now we know what he’s made of, he’s well placed to spread his wings with something even more ambitious and atmospheric.

Nick Mohammed’s Mr Swallow musical Pleasance Dome, 7pm – 8pm, 30 Jul – 24 Aug

An unfailingly impressive character act, Mohammed slips back into the guise of this unhinged life guru for a grossly overblown musical extravaganza. He’s embellished previous Edinburgh shows with some astonishing displays of skill, from memory tricks to mathematical wizardry. Let’s see what he’s got up his sleeve this time.

What Does The Title Matter Anyway? Underbelly, Bristo Square, 9:00pm – 10:00pm, 6–19 Aug

Inspired by the TV show that introduced improv the masses, this blowout live event revives the spirit of Whose Line Is It Anyway? in one of the city’s grandest venues — with some original stars to boot. Unplanned, unauthorised and undoubtedly a massive draw for fans of the muchloved format.

Sarah Kendall Pleasance Courtyard, 9:30pm – 10:30pm 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 11 Aug

The breezy anecdote that closed Kendall’s 2012 show, about the time she was caught calling her teacher a cunt, is blown apart to expose the comedic licence at play. Behind it lies a tender coming-of-age tale with a Breakfast Club feel and an affecting thirdact reveal. Could be one of the most talked-about shows this year.

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Festtory c e r i D Knox a n o i Catrcommends… re

Lovecrumbs 155 WEST PORT

Like all achingly hip places, it’s tricky to fathom whether the design of this cafe is pure cutting-edge brilliance or pure Grandma’s front room. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much mis-matched crockery in one space. But it’s great. The main selling point for me is that they display their (incredibly delicious) cakes in a vintage wardrobe which lends the whole experience that elusive Narnia-cum-John Lewis appeal. “I’ll have a slice of the lemon drizzle please, yes the one sitting in the hat drawer.” FOOD

10

of wonder. They have old cinema chairs which are monumentally uncomfortable and I was once served a pint of Guinness that tasted of socks, but it all adds to the vibe. FOOD

10

10

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You get a flask of hot water to top up your tea ATMOSPHERE

8

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FRINGEYNESS

5

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SECRET WEAPON

Bang for your buck: literally huge slabs of cake FATAL FLAW

Hipsters

The Waverley 1 ST MARY’S STREET

This pub is slap bang in the middle of the Fringe, at the busy end of the Royal Mile, but you’d never know it to walk in there. Mainly because most of the time you can’t walk in there – the opening times are scattergun at best. But get through the door and you’ll find a peaceful little haven

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couldn’t have taken the hit)

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menu: “all our dishes come with chips; no extra cost”? My point being, I don’t like my mutton dressed up as lamb. City Restaurant is happy in its own greasy skin and I love it for that.

FRINGEYNESS

SECRET WEAPON

FOOD

Do I have to say it again? It sells only whisky.

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FATAL FLAW

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Members only. I mean, please.

ATMOSPHERE

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That bag of McCoy’s gets a 10 from me DRINK

DRINK

10

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9

ATMOSPHERE

8

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ATMOSPHERE

FRINGEYNESS

9 3

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SECRET WEAPON

Chock-full of really old men so you can have a history lesson into the bargain Mainly closed

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society THE VAULTS, 87 GILES ST

After three weeks of Haribo Tangfastics and late night Crunchy Nut Cornflake binges I do sometimes crave something a little more… stuck up. This place is pure Edinburgh refinement and you can sample everything from popcorn flavoured whisky to a dram with a hint of fish and chips. Don’t expect anything other than whisky, but choice is overrated by week three of the Fringe anyway. It’s members-only but you can go in as a guest. So you’ve got three weeks to get yourself a rich friend. Go! FOOD

0

8

DRINK

4 8

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FRINGEYNESS

FATAL FLAW

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DRINK

City Restaurant

7

City Restaurant

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35 NICOLSON STREET

FATAL FLAW

Often confused with City Café, but never half as lauded which amazes me. I mean, who would choose comfy booths and ‘posh’ burger and cheese over a place that shamelessly proclaims in its sticky-to-touch-

You tend to come out smelling like you’ve been marinating in vegetable oil overnight.

SECRET WEAPON

The salt ‘n’ sauce.

Catriona Knox plays Pleasance Courtyard, 3:15pm – 4:15pm, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 12 Aug

N/A

Unsampled (I went there during week 3 – my wallet

Cake at Lovecrumbs

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COMEDY

Target Practice Audience participation needn’t mean putting the screws on the crowd. This year, lord of misrule Ben Target experiments with a new approach: being irresistibly nice

W

ithin 90 minutes of pulling into Waverley station, I’d played 40-a-side volleyball, kicked a pint into my bag and been hustled through Cowgate by a man in French knickers. It was the year before last, in the Adam Riches / Dr Brown interregnum, and participatory comedy was still “having a moment.” Ben Target, the man in the pants, entered the fray with a boisterous yet dreamlike experience so meticulously packed with props and set pieces, it could hardly have been conceived overnight. This year, though, with August imminent, not only is his show half-written – he’s going to leave it at that. It’s all about freedom to experiment, he explains, to shake off expectations (he made the Best Newcomer shortlist last time) and get closer to playing himself. Target is, by his own admission, a “head in the clouds” sort of guy. He speaks gently and thoughtfully – a distant cousin to the lord of misrule who once rushed whole audiences outside to find, and then beat him with “the humiliation stick”. Of his recent work, Target says: “It’s closer to the surface of me. Discover Ben Target felt like a bit of a mask. I had engineered set pieces that I knew the outcome of, whereas the new show is a celebration of having fun on stage.” For him, that’s worth celebrating, having rescued his love of performing from the notion that he had to outdo his last show. He says: “I stopped enjoying comedy because of that pressure I put myself under.” So he opted out of Edinburgh last year, filming quirky shorts with comic

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Joe Parham and playing music festivals instead. There he came up against a new kind of crowd: addled, distracted, disengaged. But Target wasn’t fazed: “It made me start to drop my my material and go out almost with nothing other than an improviser’s mindset.” That gamble heralded a period of intense trial-and-error for Target, who says he’s had other comedians ask him to stop playing standup clubs because he’s so warped the mood in the room. He adds: “Some of my previews have just been me putting on a dance tape and working out for an hour – and a lot of people have left, because that’s not comedy.”

In a way, his time with non-Fringe crowds has made him more typically “Fringe”: experimental, inclusive, spontaneous. This August the event he calls “summer camp for comedians” will see him shift from showing off the ways in which he can toy with the audience, to exploring what they can achieve together. As for what form that will take, he paints an intriguing picture: “It’s similar to primary school where the day is broken down into a series of activities that engage most of our senses, from painting to singing a song communally to drinking milk together.” And the centrepiece? “We’re all baking a cake together.” Whether that’s literal or imaginary, the severe, “benevolent dictator” of 2012 did not seem the baking type. But, as Target explains, it’s time for a new persona: “I figured out fairly recently that I’m maybe not this alpha male that we’re all taught we’re supposed to be. I’m just a fairly nice guy. Like I’d be a good uncle. Like a fucking… silly man.” With that in mind, he’s taken a different tack from his contemporaries. Whereas Nick Helm “bullies his audience”, Adam Riches rides the force of his macho parodies and Dr Brown hones a nervy balance of “quiet and enticing”, Target has a new weapon: niceness. “In terms of coercing people to do things, maybe it’s a lot easier to shout at them,” he says. “But there are other ways of doing it: care and love.” “Can these get people to do things?” he wonders. It’s going to take most of a month, and your co-operation, for Target to find that out. n

LYLE BRENNAN

Banshee Labyrinth, 2:00pm – 2:50pm, 2–24 Aug, not 11, 18, free

preview guide 2014 fest 19


COMEDY

OUTSIDE THE

COMFORT ZONE As a fresh crop of ingenious formats dares comics to show us what they're really made of, Fest meets the people throwing down the gauntlet. There's no filter, no script – and no guessing what could happen

T

he body does some curious things when the brain makes it give up the truth. It’s early July in a London pub cellar, and the way some of tonight’s acts move on stage doesn’t suggest “jitters” so much as “nerve gas”. Each has agreed to jettison their usual sets, “to be honest to the point of regret”, and for those who enter into the spirit of things, the strain certainly shows. They sweat and contort and groan into their chests. There’s a lot of clutching of necks. These are common sights at It Might Get Ugly, a new mixed-bill night that’s part group therapy, part truth-or-dare, and when it transfers to Edinburgh this year, it’ll be in good company. At recent Fringes there’s been a proliferation of innovative concept shows engineered to coax the comedian out of their comfort zone. Each creates an environment in which guests live or die by their skills as a comic, and no arsenal of solid material will help: they’ve got to be the real deal. Chief among them is Set List, which was devised by Los Angeles comics Troy Conrad and Paul Provenza in 2010 and is about to make its fourth trip to Edinburgh. The idea couldn’t be simpler: a short phrase, nonsensical or suggestive, is displayed as a guest standup takes the mic. For the next few minutes, they must squeeze out of it all that they can. The level of comedians who’ve tried it (from Eddie Izzard to Robin Williams) is testament to the unique rush it provides. Building on its success,

20 fest preview guide 2014

It’s feeding time for the Beasts at Joke Thieves

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this year Conrad unveils its sibling, Prompter, in which comics read out previously unseen, TEDstyle educational talks expounding outrageously wrong-headed ideas. What's more, the autocue’s on the fritz – and when it cuts out (at carefully chosen moments), they must ad lib to keep the lecture going. Closer to home, last year saw the Edinburgh debut of Joke Thieves, Will Mars’s London night where four acts reel off a trademark five minutes before an audience member pairs them off to recast each other’s work as their own. It’s a comedy crucible, exposing well-crafted routines to playful deconstruction and some not-so-subtle digs. Finally, with This Is Your Trial, standups don the wig and gown for an improvised day in court. It’s a logical extension of prying crowd work, with guest “lawyers” summoning a random defendant from the audience, throwing an arbitrary charge at them and winging it until a verdict is reached. So what itch are comedians scratching by shunning the safety of a standard mixed bill? For Troy Conrad, it was boredom. The nightly cycle of half-hour spots was getting old – until he dropped a fresh ingredient into the mix. Short-form improv games, adapted for a solo performer, reinvigorated comic and audience alike. Recently Conrad got to see the effects of that stimulus in action. One of Set List’s open mic acts, a neuroscience PhD, had him take part in a study where comics had to come up with jokes while hooked up to an MRI scanner. Lo and behold, a whole other region of the subjects’ brains visibly crackled into life. Of his newer project, Conrad says: “When the prompter goes out, I’d say a different part kicks in, the 'fight or flight' system, the amygdala – they call it the 'lizard brain'. And that’s why there are such creative, amazing performances.” Both of his formats pursue that spark largely to serve jaded comics, and Conrad is full of violent analogies for the “visceral, meaningful experiences” they report. There’s a combative feel to Will Mars’s Joke Thieves, too – but here it’s between the acts partnered. Mars says a big part of the idea—rooted in his past life as a sales manager, having his team swap pitches to challenge the old hands— was to harness comedians' competitive nature. “When you’ve spent ten years travelling up and down the motorway to forge a career, when you’ve spent all that money and lost relationships, the last thing you want to do is find out another comic can make your stuff funnier in five minutes.” Hence the mutual mockery. But does it ever go too far? Mars insists: “No one’s fallen out permanently, but we have had a couple of bruised egos along the way.” Meanwhile Karl Schultz, host and creator of It Might Get Ugly, says he was seeking a break from his character act, the outlandish Matthew Kelly, when the idea came about. He’d always admired straighter comedy but, he says, “Once I decided it was time to do more honest standup myself, I found I couldn't get many gigs as ‘me’ for love nor money.” So he went one better, booked a room and enlisted acts brave enough to take the mantra “be yourself” to u

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f o s st Te it W

COMEDY

Prompter

Gilded Balloon , 3:45pm – 4:45pm, 30 Jul – 25 Aug

Guest lecturers are forced to deliver god-awful lectures from a ‘faulty’ autocue. When it goes black, they just have to keep on digging...

Joke Thieves Just the Tonic at The Caves, 10:30pm – 11:30pm, 1 – 24 Aug, not 12

The comic equivalent of a swingers’ party. Guests perform a set of their own, then try someone else’s on for size.

This is Your Trial

Assembly George Square Theatre, 11:20pm – 12:20am

An improvised kangaroo court in which you, the audience, are the accused. But the heat’s also on the comedian-lawyers who must build a case out of thin air.

It Might Get Ugly

Pleasance Courtyard, 11:00pm – 12:30am, 30 Jul – 24 Aug

It’s confessional comedy in the extreme as acts reluctantly offer up specially written material exposing an unsanitised, unflattering version of themselves.

Set List: Stand-Up Without a Net Stand in the Sq., 11:20pm – 12:50am, 1–25 Aug, not 5, 12, 19

When a nonsensical topic is thrown onto the screen, the guest comic has just seconds to turn it into gold. A global smash that’s spawned a Sky Atlantic adaptation.

preview guide 2014 fest 21


COMEDY t︎ the nth degree. Faced with having to air the dirtiest of laundry in public, some of them got cold feet. “On the afternoon of the first night I was busy experimenting with various bath bombs for future reference when I suddenly got three calls in a row from acts demanding I talk them off a ledge,” says Schultz. “Much like the bath bombs, their fears fizzed and dissolved into their own unique solutions.” Their apprehensions are understandable. What's in it for the acts? “To share something is healthy and nourishing," says Schultz. "Though the show's not intended as worthily as that.” Instead it’s about candour for the sake of “breaking new ground”, and the highs and lows of “emotional risk”. These formats range from the fast and loose to the relatively structured, and none guarantees success. But each has its own way of creating the conditions for those little moments of magic. At one extreme, Set List has long made a virtue of its simplicity. These days its reputation precedes it, and perhaps a major factor in why so many acts swim rather than sink is its status as a rite of passage among comics. With IMGU, the brief might sound so flexible that more confessional comics could smuggle in established material. But Schultz assures me the audience can tell when that’s happening. From what I've seen, that, along with the implied sense of a pact between the guests, is what keeps the spirit of the night in place. Will Mars speaks of how Joke Thieves feeds off the crowd’s sense of anticipation, with their attention in the first half split between absorbing the original sets and predicting how they might later be pulled apart. The comedians see the chance to reward that, and so part two arrives amid a riot of ever more inventive callbacks. As for Trial, its creator David Allison says audience's knowledge of (inaccurate) legal dramas does a lot of the work in establishing courtroom decorum. But with the possibility of the accused derailing the whole process, it's been a wise decision to recruit a few steady hands – step forward, director Paul Byrne, judge Tim FitzHigham and

22 fest preview guide 2014

This Is Your Trial’s judge Tim FitzHigham and court clerk Thom Tuck

court clerk Thom Tuck. Out of all of these formats, though, Prompter involves the most supporting structure. Conrad says: “I feel responsibility to give the comics a really good, solid foundation so that they can tear the house down.” And so there are 72 talks in the bank, each embellished with diagrams, stage directions for speaker and audience – and titles (eg 'Teaching A Foetus To Enjoy Pregnancy Intercourse') colourful enough to guarantee inspiration when the screen goes blank. There's even a guinea-pig comic, Greg Kashmanian, who essentially road-tests each talk—improv and all—while sitting in a cafe. “He’s the guy in the winery who has the best taste buds," says Conrad, "and we know from watching him when it’s ready to go.” When these various setups click into place, it can produce some pretty special sights. Conrad recalls a Prompter lecturer persuading two straight men to kiss as “one of the most hilarious and cringeworthy things I’ve ever seen”. At IMGU, I

watched Harry Hill give a packed theatre not the TV Burp wackiness some came expecting, but a gloriously frank assault on the rotters who axed his X-Factor musical just a month into its run. And at Joke Thieves an experiment with sketch—a weekly fixture this August—saw double act Short and Curly having to re-do sketch group Beasts force-feeding eclairs to one of their number. The latter being a trio, a ringer from the crowd was recruited. Guess whose turn it was to eat. It’s highlights like these that keep the comics coming back, and across the board, the shows’ creators have been surprised by how few “deaths” there have been. They’re unanimous, too, on the subject of the crowds: in each case more supportive and game than your average night. Though it’s always gratifying when the act you’ve paid to see turns out a precision-tuned set, formats like these prove traditional Fringe hours are only one side of the story. You just don’t know what your favourite comics are capable of – and often, neither do they. n LYLE BRENNAN

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preview guide 2014 fest 23


COMEDY

Getting to Know

PIPPA

EVANS Stepping out from behind the much-lauded mask of her character Loretta Maine, Pippa Evans is set to take this year’s Fringe... as Pippa Evans

P

ippa Evans is in a pre-Edinburgh panic. “I recognise the stages. It goes: ‘I’ve had a brilliant idea!’, ‘Maybe it isn’t...’, ‘Oh no, what have I done?’, and then ‘Oh well, I’m here now!’” Her previous Fringe forays, however, suggest that her time up north will be worth the trip. Her debut in 2008 came with a nomination for the If.comedy award (now the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award) for Best Newcomer, for which Pippa was, so to speak, pipped to the post by Sarah Millican. “The glare of that was quite intimidating and I don’t think I was ready for it, even though it was lovely to be nominated,” she says. “It made me realise that I wasn’t ready as a comedian and as a writer to do the things that people were offering me to do. Now I’m in a much better position to do that, but have no desire for the glare!” Since the nomination, Evans has propelled her most club-friendly character, troubled American singer Loretta Maine, as her stand-out persona. Loretta is a creation you could imagine as a drinking partner of Courtney Love back in the day and, for Evans, she is infectious and familiar enough that she talks of her almost as a real person. Loretta will be back this year for her third show/album, and will be

24 fest preview guide 2014

attempting to go all pop on us. Meanwhile, Evans resumes service with long-form improv troupe Showstoppers and brings an under-the-radar solo hour Don’t Worry, I Don’t Know Who I Am Either. The show is the moment when Evans comes out from behind her masks, albeit with some ‘visitors’ passing through. It’s partly a by-product of the Sunday Assembly, the life-affirming humanist ‘church’ that was set up by her and fellow comedian Sanderson Jones, a venture that will soon have 100 outposts worldwide. “Since doing the Sunday Assembly I have been invited to talk as myself a lot more. Even though that’s how I started comedy, I was always more confident about being someone else. So the show is about finding your own voice and the impossible task of defining yourself.” Just being a comedian, says Evans, doesn’t give her enough definition. And the Sunday Assembly? Well, the glare has also exposed the need for her to think outside of a gag. “I started being asked what I believed in over a range of issues and I have spent a year thinking about things, really. There were things for which I didn’t have an opinion or a punchline—failing on both counts!— so, at the very least, I wanted to be

sure of why I was unsure.” At the heart of Evans’ work there’s an ongoing struggle between certainty and the unknown that sometimes cannot be bridged. Loretta Maine’s rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle is particularly precarious, and while Evans finds definition in identifiable viewpoints she acknowledges that identity itself is hard to pin down – including in that most specific of beasts, the Fringe brochure. “You have to be so specific about show descriptions now so that you are ticking boxes. At the moment it is labelled, ‘comedy, musical, cabaret’ – but I’d quite like Don’t Worry, I Don’t Know Who I am Either to just be called ‘a show’!” n JULIAN HALL LORETTA MAINE: STRONG INDEPENDENT WOMAN (UNLESS I AM VERY TIRED) Assembly George Square Gardens, 7:45pm – 8:45pm, 31 Jul – 24 Aug, not 11 Aug, £5 – £10 PIPPA EVANS: DON’T WORRY, I DON’T KNOW WHO I AM EITHER Bannermans, 1:45pm – 2:35pm, 2–24 Aug, not 4, 11, 18, free SHOWSTOPPER! THE IMPROVISED MUSICAL Gilded Balloon , times vary, 30 Jul – 24 Aug, not 21 Aug, £10 – £15

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Festtory c e r i D oe Pascds… a r a S ommen rec

one! There are no slogans on the wall and they don’t insist you have a beard so you can bring your meat-consuming acquaintances and they won’t complain as much as normal. I love the food and atmosphere and the fact I can sit in the window in the early afternoon and drink cocktails, weeping and watching passers by. FOOD

Baked Potato Shop

9

nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK

10

nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS

6

nnnnnnnnnn

SECRET WEAPON

Frankenstein’s

The ssssssh gun.

The Engine Shed

FATAL FLAW

19 ST LEONARD’S LANE

Located in an old shed from the ‘innocent railway’ (so called because it never killed anyone!) this is a great vegetarian restaurant that also caters for vegan legends. They make their own organic tofu on site AND they act as a social enterprise offering employment and training for young people with learning difficulties. It’s near Arthur’s Seat but they have other chairs that you are free to use.

Freemans Coffee Shop

You can’t book in advance during the festival, so sometimes you have to queue for a few minutes.

2-6 SPOTTISWOODE ROAD David Bann

The Baked Potato Shop

Frankenstein’s

56 COCKBURN STREET

26 GEORGE IV BRIDGE

This tiny eatery is great if you are skint and/or starving. They cater for vegans and vegetarians, the service is quick and friendly (or maybe I am just a really great guy and everyone loves me?). Josie Long took me here after she had forced me to go swimming in the sea on the coldest day in the world. I was hyperventilating but a massive tuber covered in avocado sorted me right out.

I do not like cool places for drinking, I like grim touristy places with karaoke that is easily accessible. Hence this amazing bar, stocking all the alcopops of the rainbow and a real live Frankenstein who descends over the dance floor as you worship him. At midnight I think it is, although the more I think about this the more I doubt it happened. This could have been WKD hallucination…

It’s not being used as a venue so your scone won’t be interrupted by student ‘guerilla theatre’

FOOD

nnnnnnnnnn

FATAL FLAW

FRINGEYNESS

I have never seen Take That in there.

nnnnnnnnnn

David Bann

FATAL FLAW

FOOD

9

nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK

9

nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS

8

nnnnnnnnnn

SECRET WEAPON

56-58 ST MARY’S ST

A vegan/vegetarian restaurant masquerading as a NORMAL animal murdering

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8

DRINK

4

nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS

DRINK

nnnnnnnnnn

6

nnnnnnnnnn

8

SECRET WEAPON

Invisible anthrax. Only one table so you may have to take away which is GREAT when it’s sunny and annoying on the other 360 days of the year.

7

SECRET WEAPON

Cheesy disco man. You know you want it. Let’s see you grinding to Justin Timberlake after three and a half Reefs. FATAL FLAW

I don’t know if the Frankenstein in a coffin coming out over the dance floor really happened.

The greatest thing about living in Scotland for one month of the year is this cafe. They make all different clever kinds of coffee, like slow cold drip and hot squirty fountain etc. which I am too boring to try, but I love the long tables and the delicious avocado on toast and once I saw a dog working in here. Also I once sat next to Amanda Palmer in Freemans and tried to become best friends by pulling great facial expressions. I also once saw her in Black Medicine too, so they deserve a mention. FOOD

9

nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK

9

nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS

8

nnnnnnnnnn

SECRET WEAPON

Dog employment. FATAL FLAW

Amanda Palmer is not my best friend - yet. Sara Pascoe plays Assembly George Sq., 8:15pm – 9:15pm, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 11 Aug

preview guide 2014 fest 25


COMEDY

Calendar Girl Lou Sanders is a woman on a mission. And no ordinary one, at that

I

t’s not unusual for comedians to have a sideline, a backup job to fall back on if they get fed up with the circuit. Lou Sanders, seven years into her career and returning to the Fringe after a year away, has two. She intends to use her show—an hour of lewd, good-natured surrealism at the City Cafe—to promote them both. First project: become a calendar girl. “My calendar’s not sexy,” she says. “I’m a feminist. With the calendar I’m pushing my passion, which is fruit and vegetables.” The calendars will be available to buy. Twelve months, twelve photos of Lou modelling a different seasonal marrow or legume. Factoring in what she says is “really quite a big mark-up”, she’s hoping that she can reach the milestone of £20 in profit in August from calendar sales. But the Fringe is about more than tawdry profit and loss. It’s also about networking with important people who can advance your career. “There might well be people in the audience that have contacts from the calendar world,” she says. “The main focus at this stage is getting my name out there in the circuit.” Her other sideline is where things get serious. “The calendars are just my personal passion,” she says. “The erotic stories are something God-given that I feel I should give to the world, in the way that William Blake gave poetry.” She can’t recall the circumstances of how she came to write her first erotic story, in the way that a prophet probably couldn’t tell you what he had been doing in the wilderness before God appeared in a pillar of flame. “I was in a trance. I was talking about wangs and buttholes and suddenly I thought, ‘Woah, the Holy Spirit is moving me here.’” Together, the combination of fruit calendars and erotica mean Lou Sanders in Another Great Show Again will be a great first-date experience, Sanders declares. For one thing, the calendars will be a helpful resource for young couples who want to know if they’re compatible. They just have to check the months they were born in. “Melon and a courgette, you’re going to be a great couple. Two kales? Not so good.” For couples who pass the test, the show has advice for

where to take things next. “It’s got some different bedroom moves – moves that I pioneered myself.” Sanders discloses the names of the moves: Gentle Ben, The Stepdad, and Pauline and the Blind Dog. Two years ago, Sanders began her show borne on to the stage by ladder, flinging glitter around, and ended it by setting herself on fire. There’s plenty of fuel left in the daft tank, but there’s also a part of Lou Sanders—a new-agey sort who goes on retreats and likes yoga—who might want to branch out. Not for a while though. “I’d like to talk about feminism and spirituality and stuff but I don’t know if it’s my calling,” she says. “I’ll let someone else do it. I’ll be the one singing a duet with a vagina on a stick. Someone needs to do that, too.” n ED BALLARD

“I’ll be the one singing a duet with a vagina on a stick. Someone needs to do that.”

26 fest preview guide 2014

Laughing Horse @ City Cafe, 10:30pm – 11:20pm, 31 Jul – 24 Aug, free

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preview guide 2014 fest 27


COMEDY

WHAT I'VE LEARNED Stuart Goldsmith's The Comedian's Comedian Podcast is required listening for anyone who's serious about comedy. He tells Fest how spending more than 80 episodes getting under the skin of standup's best and brightest has informed his own material.

I

'm doing comedy all wrong. Chances are you've been trained in your job. Even if you're self-employed maybe you were an apprentice, or you took some classes. Even weirdo live-art performance artists can find one or two courses that might teach them the difference between “juxtaposition”, and another thing that isn't juxtaposition. Maybe they could put the two together. In 2011, I realised that I'd had no training whatsoever in what had then been my main source of income for four or five years. I wondered if I could find some master craftsman of comedy who'd be prepared to deliver a lecture or masterclass in how they did it, to a paying audience of me and a bunch of other stand-ups of my level*. Simon Evans said he wasn't interested, but he'd let me buy him a coffee. Two hours later, I scrambled to write down all his words of wisdom: great stuff, big stuff, fascinating conceptual stuff about art and storytelling, and other stuff I don't remember because I didn't scramble fast enough. I wished I'd recorded it, and then kicked myself when I realised just how simple that would have been. (By this time I'd also heard a few episodes of the WTF podcast, and got frustrated at Marc Maron interrupting guests to talk about himself. Maybe he'd have been a bit less self-involved if he'd once been a street-performer?) From what I remember, my conversation with Simon was a perfect example of how the interviews now tend to run. Everyone says they don't have a system. Everyone then goes on to explain in intricate detail exactly how they cobbled together their version of “how I do it”. The choices they make and why; the strategies they practise before and on stage; the way they absolutely refuse to or swear by—or aren't too fussed about—all the tiny little flecks and jots and into-

28 fest preview guide 2014

nations and breaths and rhymes and rhythms and curses and banalities and cornerstones. I thought if I could learn all those things, familiarise myself with all those decisions, if I could work backwards to discover the formula, then I'd be able to be like them. I'd be able to stop just “doing comedy” and be “A Comedian” like the people I grew up mimicking in the school classroom, to an enraptured audience of one friend. I'd be able to take my place in “The Comedy Industry”**. And gradually, piece by piece, interview by interview, I realised I was

doing it all wrong. I always had been! There is no formula, and any time spent looking for one will necessarily make you more like someone else, or everyone else, and less like yourself. The people I regard as greats are great precisely because they did it their way. New acts and wannabe new acts email me and ask me for advice—the show has established me as some minor sort of comedy expert***, or at the very least pundit, in a way I never intended or expected—and these days I always say the same thing: “don't take any advice from anyone.” I still do the interviews, and I still


ask comics**** what their system is, but now it's simply to fuel my fascination, not because I think it'll help. I see the industry as a giant thriving garden of butterflies and wasps and earthworms and Sam Simmons with a trowel, and every type of plant under the sun...and I'm determined to nail the bastards to a bit of card. I've learnt the big lesson – I was doing comedy all wrong, but now I'm quite happily doing it all wrong my own way. * there's no such thing as a “level” ** there’s no such thing as “the comedy industry” *** there’s no such thing as “a comedy expert” **** nope STUART GOLDSMITH: EXTRA LIFE Pleasance Courtyard, 7:00pm – 8:00pm, 30 Jul – 24 Aug, not 13 Aug, £6 – £11.50 THE COMEDIAN’S COMEDIAN PODCAST WITH STUART GOLDSMITH Heroes @ Bob & Miss Behave’s Bookshop, 11pm – 12am, 10 & 17–20 Aug, £5

ur o y o D ework hom

COMEDY Fest recommends four more playlist essentials to get you into the spirit of the Fringe

Rubberbandits: Serious About Men Limerick’s premier gangster rap outfit—they of the Spar-bag masks and filthy little gobs—lay down a collection of bad-taste bangers, from ‘I Wanna Fight Your Father’ to ‘Spastic Hawk’. Learn the words so you can holler along with Mr Chrome and Blindboy Boatclub at one of their riotous live shows.

Richard Herring’s Fringe Podcast ‘Rhefp’, as all the cool kids are calling it, is the hungover Scottish cousin of Herring’s much-loved Leicester Square Theatre edition. Recorded at the Stand, it features interviews with the Fringe’s best comics, a few bite-sized sets, and more baffling in-jokes than you can shake a talc-filled tit at. Your host is as immature and disrespectful as ever. May he never change.

Glenn Wool: Let Your Hands Go A real classic from the road-worn king of the reprobates. If you’re yet to catch one of Wool’s consistently acclaimed Fringe hours, this is the perfect introduction to his gleeful takedowns of the suited and the sanctimonious, spoken with all the howling fervour of a televangelist.

Tom Rhodes Radio This journeyman US standup ambles round the world, flattering the pants off anyone who steps in front of his mic. You might not know too many of the interviewees, but Fringe mainstays like Stephen K Amos, Des Bishop and Chris Martin will keep the culture shock at bay. Amicable, in-depth chat that’s good for long drives and chronic loneliness.

ENNIO uctions present

THE H LIVING BACEK’S PAPER ! CARTOON

Glynis Henderson Prod

TTO Starring ENNIO MARCHE

Directed and designed

by ENNIO MARCHETTO

and SOSTHEN HENNEK

AM

T” O O H E T U L O S B A N A ’S T “I l - 15 Aug 2014 |

NY Times

nce.co.uk

0131 556 6550 | pleasa

10:30pm | 30 Ju

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preview guide 2014 fest 29


COMEDY

WIZARDS OF

OZ

“Traditionally, we’re not looked at as innovators at all,” says Australian Sam Simmons. But with a rich history of Antipodeans migrating to the Fringe, it seems an increasingly difficult viewpoint to sustain.

“I

t’s the story of a man who’s been swept out to sea on a windsurf sail. Inevitably in that situation, you’re going to start talking to yourself because you’re going mad, you’re going to start thinking about cannibalism and suicide…” Back at the Fringe with Death of a Sails-Man after a year away, because he wasn’t 100% satisfied with his previous show, the wilfully odd and stubbornly perfectionist Sam Simmons is leading a “new wave” of Australian comedy absurdism and creativity finding its fullest expression in Edinburgh. From January onwards, working through the likes of the Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and New Zealand Comedy Festivals, antipodean acts are buffing up their shows nightly. By the time they reach Edinburgh in late July, give or take some last-minute cultural reference modifications, theirs tend to be among the most polished, yet seemingly risk-inclined hours in the brochure. Simmons works “extra hard to get his show ready for Edinburgh, with a full three-month run in Australia,” before decamping to the “genuinely super-enthusiastic” Los Angeles for “two to three more months working, working, working. Making it better.” Regardless, while Sails-Man attracted strong reviews in his homeland, the former Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee has re-written “nearly two thirds” of it. “It went really well in Adelaide and I got a bit lazy,” he explains. “It was a bit self-indulgent and I wanted more silliness, less of this fucking sappy, pathos-y thread running through it. I’m so sick of learning in comedy shows, so many boring epiphanies about what you learned from your dad dying, playing a song and supposedly everyone’s happy.”

30 fest preview guide 2014

Arriving in the Scottish capital, “you can’t be bringing a shit show, otherwise financially it’s not worth it. I want to be great. I like having other comics come and see my show and then to see some little ‘mini mes’ next year. That’s really inspiring. Especially coming from Australia, because traditionally, we’re not looked at as innovators at all.” Citing everything from an “extreme right-wing government” and macho Australian culture “that gets offended by the effeminate nature of what I do,” to a “weirdy theatre scene in Sydney that’s merged into comedy a little bit,” Simmons can trace a progressive response of “ridiculous” originality and oddity via the likes of Dayne Rathbone and Claudia O’Doherty through to newcomers like Zoe Coombs Marr. “That doesn’t get reflected on mainstream television” in Australia, he says and, having hit a personal glass ceiling, Simmons relocated to LA, “where I feel unique. It inspires me to push what I’m doing a bit further.” Another Fringe favourite of recent years, Felicity Ward, who’s endeared herself to audiences with her high-energy, creative approach to unsparing personal honesty, has also been forced to escape Australia to get a perspective on it. The sketch performer-turned-comic has, along with her friend and fellow award-nominated stand-up Celia Pacquola, split her time evenly between Australia and the UK in recent years. But she’s now moved to London for the foreseeable future, attracted by our established tradition of radio comedy and the sheer number and density of gigs, and “because I simply didn’t know how to get better at home.” Originally conceived in the UK and during television pilot season in the US, The Iceberg has turned out to be Ward’s “least personal show yet,” and includes a series of

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COMEDY

observations on Australian politics “and the embarrassment of how we’re representing ourselves internationally.” Like Simmons, she sees Edinburgh as “so brutal, I wouldn’t want to bring a show that wasn’t match fit. “If you can give yourself a 60show lead from doing it in Australia, why wouldn’t you give yourself every advantage that you possibly can?” She points to her best-received show of recent years, 2012’s The Hedgehog Dilemma, as an example of an hour that became successful in Australia, picking up award nods everywhere, before transferring to critical acclaim in Scotland. However, it was while performing the far less personal, more straightforward and relatively “freeing” stand-up of last year’s Irregardless that Ward says she “really got my head around Edinburgh mentally” for the first time. “There are no guarantees at the Fringe … the Australian reception can be an indicator but I’d never rely on it.” Despite this warning, Ward champions one act currently making a real impact Down Under: Steen Raskopoulos, a Fringe debutant and the younger brother of Axis of Awesome’s Jordan, whose character comedy showcase, I’m Wearing Two Suits Because I Mean Business, is led by hard-nosed corporate aggressor Toby Zegamo. The Sydney-based comic is “a dazzling performer, just so watchable,” Ward enthuses. Raskopoulos himself explains that his show has benefitted from his study of improvisation, especially at the Improv Olympic in Chicago. “Over there, it’s all about the truth in comedy and keeping everything grounded, whereas the stuff we do here [in Australia] and that I like is pretty absurd and very character driven. So it’s been nice to

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Above: Felicity Ward Below: Steen Raskopoulos Bottom: Sam Simmons

find a nice medium of pushing that absurdity in my range of characters but keeping them grounded, so they can appear believable.” With glowing notices at home, there seems little danger of Raskopoulos becoming complacent or peaking before the Fringe, as his frequent recourse to audience interaction ensures that “the show is always different. “With standup and maybe plays sometimes you can go into autopilot, just do the show and walk off,” he says. “Whereas I enjoy the rollercoaster of needing to be really on so much of the time. If I’m not, then it’s not going to be funny. I’ll be stuck in my head and the audience won’t enjoy it as much.” And Raskopoulos has sought help from a very British source to help keep the rollercoaster on track. “Tom Parry from Pappy’s has been giving me some tips and helping me with a couple of sketches to make them work for UK audiences. I’ll be discovering how far I can push the boundaries, while leaving you guys still feeling safe within the world I create.” n JAY RICHARDSON FELICITY WARD: THE ICEBERG Underbelly, Bristo Sq., 9:25pm – 10:25pm, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 11 Aug,£13 SAM SIMMONS: DEATH OF A SAILS-MAN Underbelly, Bristo Sq., 8:50pm – 9:50pm, 30 Jul – 24 Aug, not 11 Aug, 18 Aug, £13 STEEN RASKOPOULOS: I’M WEARING TWO SUITS BECAUSE I MEAN BUSINESS Underbelly, Bristo Sq., 8:10pm – 9:10pm, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 12 Aug, £11.50

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COMEDY

A LIGHTER SHADE OF

DARK In the past, the pitch-black humour of sister act Toby has drawn laughs and gasps in equal measure. Here, for sanity’s sake, they resolve to perk things up Image: Sarah Daykin (left) and sister Lizzie

T

he last time the Daykin sisters performed as Toby, the show ended with Sarah pulling a carrier bag over her head and apparently gasping her last. The wails of grief from Lizzie—finding her sibling slumped at the volcanic climax of an hour-long, or rather life-long, tussle for attention— verged on traumatising. It was as dramatic a finish as anything at Edinburgh – but this was comedy, and it needed a payoff. So Sarah, attention-craving tormentor of her browbeaten little sister, sprang back to life: a wannabe actress whose latest, cruellest charade would burn the last of Lizzie’s goodwill. This was par for the course in 2011’s excellent Lucky, a theatrical sketch show in which the frame narrative meant every skit—by turns bad-taste, surreal or tightrope-tense—carried a subtext of poisonous resentment. When the Daykins insist its sequel will be lighter, then, expect something just a shade paler on the devil’s Dulux chart.

32 fest preview guide 2014

“We’ve really got to be able to have fun this year and not worry about whether we’re going to summon up the teeears of the end of the worrrld,” groans Sarah. The last Toby run was something of a test – they were sharing a flat in London, skint and frustrated, and a lot was riding on the Fringe. Lizzie, who’s hardly the mouse she plays, says: “We worked together at a call centre, then we came back and did work for Toby and we never gave each other a break.” These days life is happier; they’re living with their boyfriends and they’ve escaped the drudge-work. Yet they’re still not afraid to kick up a fug of bad feeling – sometimes neutralising it with a silly turn, other times letting us stew. That delicate art of creating laughs one moment, then horrified winces the next, is something they’ve honed since their debut in 2010. “Sometimes we love that reaction,” says Sarah. “But last time there was a continuation of the gasp, then the

gasp, then the gasp… and we’d hope to puncture it by the end. With this one we’re trying to learn how to have a bit more up and down.” Inevitably, they’ve split a few crowds. But even more divisive than Toby was the relentlessly macabre Thrice, the trio they formed with Nathan Dean Williams last year. As he was the one writing, the sisters struggled with the lack of creative control. “That was a tough show,” says Lizzie. “We hadn’t had time to put some heart and lightness into it.” This year they’re free to go a little easier on the audience, with the guiding hand of director Stuart Bowden, a physical comic and storyteller. Apart from anything else, the slightly broader appeal he’s encouraged is probably best for their sanity. “I really feel the death,” admits Sarah, prompting a snigger from Lizzie. “Sometimes I’d have that bag on my head and I’d be like, ‘You know what? I do want to just die’.”

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COMEDY

Even when Lucky found its audience, simulating such enmity each day really took its toll. “I cried after nearly every show,” Sarah recalls. (“No you didn’t, Sarah,” Lizzie cuts in, chuckling. “That’s bullshit!”) Yet, draining though it is, they find themselves returning year after year to the darker side of humour. It’s the habit of a lifetime for a pair who grew

up in Kent idolising the League of Gentlemen, “angry children” who’d spend hours playing made-up characters such as “Leroy” (Sarah) and his carer, or bickering as a divorcing couple. It was at an early gig that their own estranged parents met for the first time in years – and sure enough, they had to sit through a sketch based on the collapse of their own marriage. What’s

so irresistible about making comedy out of real domestic strife? “It just makes it funnier,” says Lizzie. “It’s more truthful.” This, clearly, is a family firm that’s not in the business of light entertainment. n LYLE BRENNAN Pleasance Courtyard, 5:45pm – 6:45pm, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 12 Aug, £6 – £11a

an enlightening Buddha Maitreya afternoon of NATURE’S HEART SONG MUSIC POETRY

LIVE!

Tickets available from Ticket Booking Line 0141 226 0000 or visit www.edfringe.com/whats-on/events/nature-s-heart www.buddhamaitreya.co.uk

£15 Adults £10 Concessions £30 Family (2 adults and 2 children)

.

celebrating life together. sunday17august14 2.30 - 6pm

Artspace@St.Marks, 7 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh EH1 2DP

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preview guide 2014 fest 33


COMEDY

CREATURE FROM THE DEEP With a proud pedigree in playful physical comedy, Trygve Wakenshaw could be the name on everyone’s lips this year – if only he could say it right.

T

rygve Wakenshaw’s name is so awkward and unpronounceable that even he gets it wrong. The Kiwi performer only recently found out that he has mispronounced it his entire life. He was in Oslo creating Kraken, his new show for this year’s Fringe. In his citrus-sharp New Zealand tones he introduced himself to locals as ‘Trig-vee’. In the guttural baritone of Norwegian, where the name originates, came a correction, with added phlegm. And lo, ‘Treug-veh’, heard his name for the first time. “I’m probably the only Trig-vee in the world,” he says, not without pride. It is fitting, then, that the man with the unpronounceable name should be responsible for some of the Fringe’s most indescribable shows. With last year’s hit Squidboy (which is revived again this year), Wakenshaw created something barmy, scattergun and utterly charming. Alone with his generous imagination on stage, his silent clowning built something that fidgeted and wriggled away from description. Try and explain it to friends and words turned to ash in your mouth. Kraken, he says, is a “spiritual extension”

34 fest preview guide 2014

of Squidboy, both in form and its nominal obsession with aquatic invertebrates. “I tried to write an unwritable show,” he says. “I wanted to structure it more like a piece of music, with motifs and recurring phrases, than like a story. I think I just got bored of narrative a little bit. I just wanted to try and push where I could go without having to tell a story.” Wakenshaw’s own tale is equally whimsical. Like few before him, he left his native New Zealand in search of a clown school. Armed only with a grant from the government and “blind faith” he attended Philippe Gaulier’s prestigious institution in Paris in 2008, whose alumni includes Doctor Brown, the 2012 winner of the Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Award. “The experience was like being turned into a flowerpot and filled with dirt in the hope that a seed was in that dirt,” he says. “Then it, the school, ends and you are left to wonder if that seed will grow or you will forever be dirt.”  Squidboy was the first sprout to take root. Kraken is the next. Both have been produced by Stephanie Brotchie from the production company Don’t Be Lonely, who, after working with Doctor Brown and 2012’s rather brilliant The Hermitude of Angus, Ecstatic, is fast becoming a giant rubber stamp confirming that a show contains a heartwarming comic centre. “Steph Brotchie is the reason I’m back in Edinburgh,” says Wakenshaw.

“Sure, Squidboy was wonderful and I’m an extraordinarily talented physical comedy performer on the verge of greatness, but if it wasn’t for Steph noone would have seen it. She makes me want to capture shooting stars and high-five mermaids.” Kraken is poised to continue the unlikely success of the art form that dare not speak its name: mime. For a creative process that has been lazily lampooned and derided for years, the success of Doctor Brown, The Boy With The Tape On His Face, and now Wakenshaw signals a remarkable turnaround for the form. “I couldn’t say why this is but it’s certainly happening, isn’t it?” he says. “I guess it’s the natural cultural swing that affects comedy so strongly. Comedy has such a short half-life compared to other arts so it has to keep reinventing. It’s probably just a phase. I’m putting my money on contemporary dance as the next big comedy movement.” n EDD MCCRACKEN Underbelly, Cowgate, 8:40pm – 9:40pm, 31 Jul – 24 Aug, not 11 Aug, £7 – £12

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Festtory c e r i D

t

nd evrie D r e ds… and

Alex ecommen r

Brew Lab 6-8 SOUTH COLLEGE ST

An obvious choice perhaps, but it’s just perfect for coffee. Everything you want: good coffee, beautiful interior, a bit unfriendly baristas with beards and soft couches. Avoid only if you want to deny that you’re a hipster. NB: Only slight flaw is that if you want to connect to the internet it constantly spams your Facebook with where you’re sitting, leaving our friends in Belgium wondering why the hell we would bother them with that information. FOOD 7

Farmer’s Market CASTLE TERRACE

This is great if you are tenacious enough to get there early on a Saturday morning. Almost everything is fresh and grown around Edinburgh. If you have the possibility to cook at your apartment it’s just a beautiful alternative to a mostly unhealthy Fringe. FOOD 10 nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK 5 nnnnnnnnnn

the coffee stands are okay ATMOSPHERE 9 nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS 10

SECRET WEAPON

DRINK 9

Early start’s a bit hard if you have a late show.

nnnnnnnnnn

SECRET WEAPON

Electric sockets everywhere. FATAL FLAW

The attention-seeking internet connection.

nnnnnnnnnn

ATMOSPHERE 9 nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS 5 nnnnnnnnnn

110 HANOVER STREET

British pub food with a twist. The only place that can make me enjoy haggis. It’s also funny how some reviews on Yelp constantly mention the

DRINK N/A

Don’t remember, doesn’t matter

FRINGEYNESS 0 nnnnnnnnnn

(Perfect if that’s what you’re looking for) SECRET WEAPON

The baskets.

12 QUALITY ST, NORTH BERWICK

This one is a bit of a cheat as it is not in Edinburgh, but it’s in North Berwick harbour which is only half an hour train ride away. My girlfriend discovered it last year, when we wanted to escape the Fringe for a day. It’s just a beautiful haute cuisine fry shop. Delicious lobster, fresh from the sea.

D

Sa

m

FATAL FLAW

The whole town needs the sun to look beautiful. Alexander Devriendt is the Artistic Director of Ontroerend Goed theatre company. SIRENS Summerhall, 8:30pm – 9:50pm, 12–24 Aug, not 18, £8 – £12.50

« e at In « h de « pe « o U nd « f 30 nde en a t r « Ju be S « T l - lly el « a i eg 24 , C « lS -m Au ow ra p h « g, B « a 8. arn n « S co « 50 ts « pm m an «

1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd August Tickets selling fast!

thedungeons.com/Edinburgh www.festmag.co.uk

nnnnnnnnnn

nnnnnnnnnn

The staff.

Deadly Dungeon Murder Mystery! A thrilling Fringe debut from Scotland’s Best Visitor Attraction 2014. Who killed Judge Mental? It’s up to you to find out!

FOOD 9

ATMOSPHERE 8

SECRET WEAPON

Lobster Shack

The Dogs

Brew Lab

DRINK 6

(for a healthy Fringe…)

FATAL FLAW

FRINGEYNESS 9

nnnnnnnnnn

Don’t go if you want to be ‘served.’

Vegetables.

nnnnnnnnnn

FOOD 8

FATAL FLAW

The cakes are good

ATMOSPHERE 7

unfriendly staff, but I just love it. I love to feel like guest and not like a customer. Sarcastic remarks make food so much more delicious.

nnnnnnnnnn

nnnnnnnnnn

nnnnnnnnnn

Farmer’s Market Lobster Shack

Si

m

m

o

t e he C Di f n om n B oS o e U te m D R R in Y Gh ’S e e aW Re a tU RD Rn S!

n

S:

preview guide 2014 fest 35


COMEDY

“WE’RE NOT ROCKSTARS, WE’RE DWEEBS” Content, successful, cool – a standup should be none of these things, says John Robins. He casts a matter-of-fact eye on comedy, happiness and love

I

t’s not quite akin to a magician revealing an illusion and being ostracised from The Magic Circle. But when John Robins brings up “pussy lines” in his latest show—those verbal tricks male comics try onstage to lure female fans into bed—“Russell Kane, for one, is going to be very angry,” he quips. Though hardly one of the more misogynist or lewd performers at the Fringe, Robins argues that the practice is essentially human nature. Every heterosexual male comic at some point, “either consciously or not, specifically writes material or tweaks stories to impress women. And the cleverer they are, the harder it is to spot.” Other acts have identified it in his material, just as he’s spotted it in theirs, and “it’s become a sort of weirdly acceptable joke among male comics”.

36 fest preview guide 2014

The first time he performed this exposé from his new Fringe show, This Tornado Loves You, “at the back of the room there were eight or nine comics, and the girls all turned to the boys with an expression of ‘Is this true?’” Robins is way of “bullshit” comedy trends and orthodoxy; he has always been a bit of an iconoclast. While his schoolfriends were into Nirvana, the future XFM DJ was championing Queen. And when it came to the early days of his comedy career, he was soon challenging the more grandstanding atheism he saw on the circuit. All performers are “peacocks” to an extent, he concedes, but comedians should never be cool – “We’re not rock stars, we’re dweebs.” “It’s not about winning, we’re the people who didn’t get the girl or boy

at school. So when I see a comic putting across an image to impress people or look sexy, something’s not right. You should be in the Rolling Stones, not a comedy club.” Last year’s show Where Is My Mind? represented a critical breakthrough for Robins. Yet although it’s the hour he’s proudest of, he’s under no illusions as to the role a £10,000 marketing budget and a room in the Pleasance played in its success. He describes his Edinburgh shows as “emotionally driven”, and most of them have been about relationships – he’s currently happily involved with fellow comic Sara Pascoe. As a teenager, though, he recalls “feeling pulled from pillar to post by crushes and infatuations” and wrote This Tornado to reject the idea that “there’s a perfect person out there, because that means that everyone you meet disappoints you. It’s about the clash between fantasy and reality.” So comedians needn’t get too sold on happiness. Robins used to live with Jon Richardson, the quickest wit he knows, before the exacting Richardson moved to unfashionable Swindonin order to distance himself from friends and family and focus on his misanthropic stand-up. It seems to have worked for him. Robins dismisses stand-ups exploiting audiences simply to unburden themselves of their problems, insisting: “You have to be led by what’s funny”. But he acknowledges the obvious temptation to “make life decisions for the material” and that some comics routinely put themselves in harmful situations to “get a story out of it”. In part, that’s because “no-one wants to hear that you’re doing well. The deal between performers and audiences is that they’ve had a tough week at work, they’ve paid £10, they want to hear how crap your life is. So you can be blissfully happy, four months go by, and then you start panicking that you’ve got nothing to write about for Edinburgh. “There’s this inherent tragedy for comedians that when life’s going wrong and you’re getting into embarrassing scrapes, it’s unfortunately much, much funnier.” n JAY RICHARDSON Pleasance Courtyard, 9:45pm – 10:45pm, 30 Jul – 24 Aug, not 11 Aug, £6 – £12

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preview guide 2014 fest 37


COMEDY

An ce n e i d Au ith… w

It’s not just impoverished young actors and comics trying to make it big – there’s proper celebrities at the Fringe, too. But what to expect from an evening with the stars? Fest reads between the lines Every summer, a bunch of celebrities will decide that they need to do a run at the Fringe. The reasons are familiar enough – they're going through a costly divorce, or a cushy sinecure has been taken away from them, and now they need a few bob to make it through to retirement.  Or maybe they've simply reached the point where they don't care what anybody thinks. They've always wanted to do an one-man show, and who's going to stop them? Some celebrities have spent so long on the Personal Reminiscences circuit—running through the same old anecdotes, year after year—that it's become a kind of profession. But judging by their programme blurbs, these shows are a nightmare for the public relations professionals who have to sell them. Ed Ballard reads between the lines of a small selection...

Ian Lavender: Don't Tell Him Pike Don't tell him Pike...but maybe he will!

To clarify, he definitely will. If you leave the show without having been told anything by Pike, it's time to ask for a refund

Enjoy an afternoon with Ian 'Stupid Boy' Lavender  in conversation with Edinburgh's Steven McNicoll. Dad's Army was Ian's first professional job  and he found himself thrown into a group of some of the best and funniest actors in the business.  Dad's Army became one of the most popular and iconic We were going to take issue with this, but it turns out that John Le Mesurier actually did win the inaugural Nobel Prize for comedy

television programmes on the BBC with a

Watch Ian’s expression closely as he looks at his younger self being yelled at by Mainwaring for the ten-thousandth time

to watch. Your questions welcomed and

following which included Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in her Scottish eyrie, who weekly delayed evening dinner

A bit harsh to slag him off in his own press release, no? The Queen Mother spent her summers in an eagle’s nest and had an all-weather television installed so that she could watch Dad’s Army while coddling her royal egrets. This is the kind of trivia you can expect to glean from an afternoon with Ian Lavender

answered with truth and humour and accompanying visual clips. 

resignation

The Assembly Rooms 4:00pm – 5:00pm, 30 Jul – 24 Aug, not 31 Jul, 11 Aug, £9.00 – £10.00

38 fest preview guide 2014

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COMEDY Jeremy Paxman: Paxo Treading the hallowed boards for the first time, broadcaster, author and "Spitting Image" puppet  Jeremy Paxman spins lyrical on pogonophobia, underpants and the

human

condition. Directed

by

Sarah Esdaile with surprises galore  an

He can't take credit for the puppet, though

opportunity to personally quiz the grand

We're damned if we're consulting a dictionary for you, Jeremy

Does the stage at the Pleasance Courtyard even have boards? If so, have they been accredited for Hallowed status? Without wanting to invoke the Trades Description Act, Fest is nevertheless dubious

inquisitor himself PAXO unstuffs the man

Puppetry of the Paxo. That's all we're saying

ranked by GQ magazine as 'Britain's 26th rudest person'

Don't expect to get an answer, though, not even if you repeat your question 12 times. Slippery bugger

An accolade ranked by Fest magazine as "The Fringe's 17th lamest accolade"

Pleasance Courtyard 5:20pm – 6:20pm, 18–25 Aug, £15.00

Nancy Dell’Olio: Rainbows from Diamonds TV personality Nancy Dell’Olio reveals her

This makes glamour sound like a debilitating disease... Biting critique of celebrity culture, or dodgy syntax? We're going with the former. Go Nancy!

secrets to surviving with glamour. This is a woman who has never let fate smudge her make-up. With unrestrained glamour and Damn right!

self-deprecating wit, Nancy shares her beliefs on choosing how to live with

Screw you, fate!

...underwear? Italian underwear?

yourself, even if your life is a media Alarm bells are sounding

sensation.

Confessional,

witty

and

inspirational, Nancy holds court in an Rule two: never downsize, no matter what the rentcollectors say –  even if they start taking your STUFF, the MONSTERS

Rule one: If you're not a media sensation, maybe go on Strictly Come Dancing

entertaining hour, sharing her passion for life, and her advice for getting through the dark times, holding firm to the knowledge that the best is yet to come.  

That's right, Nancy. Chin up. Forget the Q&A session, would you like a hug?

Gilded Balloon 8:15pm – 9:15pm, 14–24 Aug, £11.00 – £13.00

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preview guide 2014 fest 39


COMEDY

“I’M A COMIC.

EVERYTHING I SAY ON STAGE IS TO GET A LAUGH.“ Often dismissed as part of the pre-PC ‘old school’ of stand-up, Jim Davidson seems an unlikely fit for the Fringe. He tells Tom Hackett of his plans to win over a younger audience and challenge the new mainstream

“S

orry it’s a bit National Front,” says Jim Davidson, handing me a mug of tea emblazoned with the Union Flag. We’re sitting on the sofa in his London base in Harley Street, Davidson having just offered me a drink. “Are they still going, the National Front?” he asks, shaking his head to make his disapproval crystal clear. We’ve been talking about Davidson’s relationship with his ‘traditional’ audience – mainly white, predominantly working class, and according to Davidson, sometimes more conservative than he is. “I’m playing to their right-wing prejudices,” he shouts from the kitchen. He is talking of a 2009 DVD of a live show in which he plays a ranting, aspiring politician version of himself. “I can sniff what the audience want, and I’ll go on that rant with them. Do you want sugar?” Davidson is at the Fringe for the first time this year, and in many ways he doesn’t seem the most natural fit. Renowned for popularising the sort of pre-political correctness comedy that grew up in working men’s clubs prior to the ‘80s, and somewhat brushed aside

40 fest preview guide 2014

in more recent years as the ‘alternative’ comedy movement established itself in the mainstream, he has struggled to find a foothold in that new establishment since. That said, his live shows still attract thousands. In this context, it seems fair to ask how Davidson will adapt his comedy to suit an environment whose very origins are in the more left-leaning, intellectual world of ‘alt’ comedy. But for Davidson, this won’t be a problem: he’ll do what he does anyway and change himself to fit. Comparing himself to Al Murray’s ‘Pub Landlord’ character act, Davidson cheerfully admits to telling lies about his beliefs “all the fucking time,” pandering to his audience’s views in “the same way that Al Murray does, same way that Nigel Farage does; same way that anybody plays to the crowd. It’s how Hitler got away with it all those years!” He chuckles at himself. “But I’m a comic. And everything I say on stage is to get a laugh.” As has now been widely reported, Davidson has had a funny year. Invited to take part in Celebrity Big Brother at the start of 2013, he was picked

up by the police on his way to start filming the show, then detained over allegations of sexual abuse as part of Operation Yewtree. Although the allegations were not related to children and the police eventually dropped the investigation, he feared that his name would be forever tainted. “It were ‘orrible,” he says simply. But another invitation to Big Brother beckoned, and in January this year Davidson walked out of the house its biggest ever winner in the public vote. “I got more nominations [for eviction] than Gone With The Wind, and yet I got more votes than anyone else in the history of Big Brother,” he says proudly. “It was a way of people saying: ‘you’ve had a shit year – here, have a better one. We don’t care what people say about you, we like you.’” It’s a marked difference from his appearance on Hell’s Kitchen seven years ago, when he used the word ‘shirtlifter’ to gay Big Brother winner Brian Dowling and was forced to leave early by a resulting spat. Davidson is unrepentant about the incident, insisting that Dowling “played the homophobic card” against him and was actually upset about something else entirely. But he does say that he approached the Big Brother house differently from the Kitchen.

“I’m playing to their right-wing prejudices,” he shouts from the kitchen. “I decided that I would just be me, and not try and do ‘shock horror,’” he says. “Not use TV as an extension of the stage act.” Although not every housemate got on with this new, “real” Davidson, enough people did, and he struck up a seemingly unlikely friendship with Dappy, a young rapper from the group N-Dubz. “I think he was the most honest person in the house,” he says warmly, “and he saved my bacon.” Days before our meeting, Davidson had been to support Dappy in court as he faced an assault charge. Ticket sales to Davidson’s shows u

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COMEDY

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preview guide 2014 fest 41


COMEDY t︎ have risen sharply since Big Brother. “It proved to me that there’s a new audience out there, and this new audience come to me without baggage,” he says. “There’s younger people coming, you can tell with the autographs, the selfies, Twitter… and it’s exciting.” He grins. “I don’t think they do see things in terms of ‘old-school’ and ‘new-school’ any more. They just see me as a comic, who happens to be older.” The Fringe seems the obvious next step in this process of attracting “young people who love comedy,” he says. “I want to get up there and get into them a bit.” his wry smile daring me to take the statement literally. He’s dismissive of the “same little mob” of comics that appear “every panel show, every chat show” and argues that he now represents “the alternative” to the mainstream, fully aware of the irony that statement contains. “Aren’t we all sick of talking about what’s in the fridge?” he laughs, referring to the cosy, observational stand-up that many of his more media-friendly peers trade on. “I mean, people seem to laugh, so they must be doing something right. But wouldn’t it be nice to say [he puts on a deep, avuncular growl]: ‘you’ve had a taste of beer, sonny; here comes a large Scotch.’?” But for all that he’s excited, Davidson recognises that the Fringe is a bit of a “leftie hotbed,” and is convinced that “there are a lot of people up there waiting for me to fail.” He’s sussed that I might represent the “educated, left-leaning comedy people” that he will encounter a lot of at Edinburgh, and seems determined to win me over. Davidson is open, warm and unexpectedly charming. He cracks jokes constantly, and I start to feel that he’s treating me as he treats his audience – partly sincere, partly pandering to what he thinks I want to hear. When I admit to not finding his stage act funny, he looks briefly crestfallen. “Have I made you laugh today, though?” he asks. I reply that he has, but he’s not convinced: “Well, I’ve made you smile, at least.” Given this willingness to bend to the whims of his audience, I wonder how much Davidson’s stage act will change to accommodate the “leftie hotbed”. I quote him a joke from the 2009 DVD in which a suicidal man calls the Samaritans, only to be greeted by a Pakistani call operator who asks “Can

42 fest preview guide 2014

you fly a plane?” “I wouldn’t do that joke now,” he says, dismissing it as an example of him “scraping the barrel” for a joke that would fit the ranting version of himself he was then playing. “Would I?… I don’t think I would really, no,” he ponders. “There’s a lot of things I wouldn’t say now. Only because they’re not acceptable now, and you’ve got to sit and have these sorts of conversations. I did think it was funny, though.” A few times during our meeting, I question whether Davidson feels a responsibility not to reinforce any prejudices his audience may have. His answer is always emphatic. “No!” he laughs, appalled. “For God’s sake, no. I’m a comic!” His audiences’ beliefs are their prerogative, he says, and in any case: “They won’t choose to believe anything because I, the comedian, said so.” The answer comes even more clearly when I ask Davidson how he feels about the Samaritans joke again in the context of, for example, increased attacks on Muslims in the UK. His first response is to jump on my facts. “Are you talking about, just because they’re Muslims, or the ones that walk round with the banners saying ‘Behead British Soldiers?’,” he asks. “Do you think they might bring these attacks on themselves?” Either way, he says, “There’s always nutters attacking other nutters.

And I don’t think comedians have anything to do with it.” Even so, Davidson implies that the broad national and ethnic stereotypes on show in his previous work will be toned down for the Fringe. But he shows no such compunction when I ask about the misogyny he’s sometimes accused of. “You’ve just got yourself an extra five minutes, I love this subject,” he says gleefully. “I think that the women thing is totally up for grabs for me.” He makes his point by goading me with some even harsher, apparently more sexist lines than I’ve found in recordings of him on stage. All a joke, of course, as his abundant laughter at my shock confirms. Our hour up, Davidson starts to show me to the door. I ask about the arrangements that keep him in this beautiful flat while he’s visiting from Hampshire, and he explains that the production company keep it for him and other clients as a base. “National Front,” he stage whispers , leaning in close. He opens a cupboard. “Nigel, you in there?!” he bellows. “You can come out now, he’s leaving!” I laugh a very loud and unforced laugh, for the first time that afternoon. Davidson beams as if his day’s work is complete. n TOM HACKETT Assembly Hall, 9:15pm – 10:15pm, 1–25 Aug, not 18, £12 – £15

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COMEDY

From the Harp Otherworldly comedy singer-songwriter Ursula Burns may seem like she’s fallen from the sky. But her art is rooted more firmly in reality than you might think

W

hen Ursula Burns claims to have “dropped out of the sky” into comedy, you have to check yourself from taking her literally. Not because she strums her harp angelically, sings beautifully and once played on a fire escape in London as the building burned down. Nor because she appeared unheralded by the Fringe brochure on the Free Fringe last year, yet ultimately garnered a Malcolm Hardee Award nomination for comic originality. No, it’s just her sheer otherworldliness. More fey than Tina, she’s had “years of being away with the fairies”. Joining a circus of “waifs and strays” at 14, she performed in England’s last horse-drawn theatre company and learned the harp from her mother as they harmonised W.B. Yeats’ poetry. “I haven’t watched television in 20 years,” she admits. “I don’t know who the best comedians are or what material they’re doing.” After decades recording solo albums and touring with the likes of Van Morrison, Billy Bragg and Loudon Wainwright III, last year Burns uploaded some songs to YouTube, which a stranger forwarded to the Irish Musical Comedy Awards. To her lasting surprise, she was invited to attend the live event, won the contest and found herself fêted as a comedian. Still, she’s no flash of Celtic twilight. Songs like ‘I Do It For The Money’ will disabuse anyone of the idea that this Ulsterwoman’s only about the artistry. What’s more, her advocacy of divorce and pleas in vain to God not to be borne into the “war zone” of Belfast in the 1970s. She reflects that while she’s “actively striving for light, I really have to stop myself from getting upset about the state of the Earth, the state of politics, the state of everything. If dark things are coming out in the show, they’re possibly reality.”

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Her comedy career isn’t entirely a happy accident either. While her mother and grandfather were harpists, Burns’s father was a singer of comic verse by the likes of Tom Lehrer and Crawford Howard. Even her first album, 1998’s Sinister Nips, with its title tune about domestic abuse, contained elements of humour. “Mysterious songs with funny lyrics,” she recalls. “But I didn’t realise they were comedy at the time.” Compellingly, it’s her Paraguayan harp that actually channels her wit. “When I moved on to making piano albums, my songs lost that,” she explains. “This harp has a really deep bass which has led me to develop my own unique style of playing. It’s a mix of South American and Irish flavours that draws out the cheekier, funnier side of my playing.” Wonderfully, it also inspires a screechy, cod-Hispanic accent on numbers like ‘Hospital Song’, a bizarre romantic ballad where the protagonist asks if his sweetheart wishes to go and watch the nurses

at the Royal Victoria Hospital café. That the song is based on a genuine incident, a Belfast babysitter asking the children if that’s what they’d like to do, only makes it weirder. “I bundled them straight in the car,” she marvels. “Went home, made dinner, went to bed, woke up in the middle of the night with the song. Just from that one line.” She elaborates: “As soon as that harp came through the door, that side of me sprang again from the depths. It gives me confidence.” Indeed, so intimate is Burns with “Harpy”, who has four cracks in his frame and is nearing the end of his working life, that “it’s like an extension of my body. When there’s something up with it, I feel it very upsettingly. That said, I also work it really hard, I don’t wrap it in cotton wool. I have to break down the fuddy-duddiness of the harp’s image.” n JAY RICHARDSON The Stand Comedy Club V, 12:30pm – 1:30pm, 30 Jul – 24 Aug, not 31 Jul, 11 Aug, £7 – £8

preview guide 2014 fest 43


A SPLIT DECISION THE AMAZING BUBBLEMAN AND THEY PLAYED SHANG-A-LANG ANDREW LAWRENCE ANDREW MAXWELL AYE RIGHT? HOW NO? BARBARA NICE BETTE DAVIS AIN’T FOR SISSIES BILLY, THE MONSTER & ME! CAMILLE O’SULLIVAN COCKTAILS WITH THE DIVA DANNY BHOY DAVID KAY DES CLARKE

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DON’T TELL HIM PIKE DR BUNHEAD’S SECRET SCIENCE LAB ELAINE C SMITH ENTERTAINING IDEAS THE FAIR INTELLECTUAL CLUB FRED MACAULAY HANCOCK’S LAST HALF HOUR ITISON PRESENTS: THE VERY BEST OF THE FEST JERRY SADOWITZ LIZ LOCHHEAD LOST VOICE GUY MACBRAVEHEART OWEN O’NEILL PAM AYRES

THE PITILESS STORM THE PURE, THE DEAD & THE BRILLIANT NICK REVELL ROB DEERING RORY MCGRATH & PHILIP POPE RUBY WAX SCOTT CAPURRO SHAZIA MIRZA SIDDHARTHA THE MUSICAL 13 SUNKEN YEARS TOM SHILLUE TOM STADE TOWNSHIP VOICES TRIAL OF JANE FONDA VIRGINIA IRONSIDE WORBEY & FARRELL

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11:05AM

1-12 AUG

PREVIEW 30th JULY

THE ASSEMBLY ROOMS

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54 George Street EH2 2LR

0844 3008 preview guide693 2014 fest 45 www.arfringe.com


COMEDY

ON THE

CREST

OF A WAVE Touted as part of a dream team of fresh young talent, off-kilter character comic Natasia Demetriou sets about finding a voice all of her own

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W

atching her sing a capella and don a polyester pizza costume—all within the first 15 minutes of her act—it’s hard to imagine that Natasia Demetriou has seen so little of the spotlight of late. Since the formation of her sketch group Oyster Eyes in 2010, she seems to have spent as much time championing her friends’ work as she has perfecting her own. But maybe that self-effacement is a reasonable reaction when The Invisible Dot’s producers tout you and your social circle under the imposing label “The New Wave”. “I feel very lucky that there’s a group of comedians who are coming up together at the same stage in their careers,” says Demetriou. “You’ve got Sheeps, Ellie White, my brother [Jamie Demetriou], Oscar [Jenkyn-Jones], Mae [Martin], Claudia [O’Doherty] – although she’s been doing stuff for longer. We’re really lucky that we have this shared sensibility, and we are genuinely very good friends. I think they’re the funniest people in the world.” It’s hard work to get her to sing her own praises. But with multiple appearances in Channel 4’s Comedy Blaps shorts, a recent spot on Live At The Electric, some enviable TV writing credits and a BBC radio comedy in the works (a satirical internet roundup), a solo hour from Demetriou is long overdue. “I’d been doing some workin-progress stuff last year in Edinburgh, but that got a bit messed up because I love my brother too much!” she says. “He was having a really tough month with laryngitis. When it was all done I said ‘right, I need to just book in a date and do a show, just to see if I can do it.’” Brother Jamie’s three weeks in Scotland were indeed a trial by fire: a gauntlet of triumph and catastrophe that included the aforementioned laryngitis, laptop theft and the type of early mega-acclaim that must have been exhausting to live up to, all capped off with a surprising snub for the Best Newcomer shortlist. It’s no surprise that, for his older sister, the first run-through of her solo debut was a daunting prospect. “I was totally silent for

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COMEDY “In comedy you can get really bogged down and worried that something’s been done before, and I just hope that I have a strong enough vision for my work to be distinct.”

about three days in the run-up to be down to the fact that, rather the show. I just thought I was going than ape the usual suspects of alt to die,” she says, grinning with a comedy, she’s made idols of acts shadow of that remembered terror. you’d never think to identify as her “But it was just the greatest crowd. influences – French and Saunders, So I thought, yeah, maybe I can Peter Kay, and one even less likely keep doing this!” comedy troupe: “The Muppets Her audience that night was were my and Jamie’s thing! I seated in the garage-sized space honestly think Sesame Street gave of The Invisible Dot, London’s us a sense of humor. We watched it cradle for the young, talented, and religiously.” maybe-a-little-bit-accidentally hip. To Demetriou, any good perforAnd among a set of up-and-commance is ever-evolving. “I’ve got a few ers as tight-knit as theirs (many of shows coming up where I’ll be makthem studied together at Leeds ing decisions about the characters,” University), Demetriou understands she says. “If I get to Edinburgh and the importance of asserting her one of the characters isn’t working own identity. “In comedy you can out, then I want to be able to change get really bogged down and worthings up. I don’t want to be having ried that something’s been done that panic of, ‘This is what my show before, and I just hope that I have a is and I must do it like this every night strong enough vision for my work no matter what!” she explains. “I feel to be distinct.” like I just want the show to be so “Distinct” is likely a given: in its much fun. For both the audience and earliest form, You’ ll Never Have me.” n ARIANNA REICHE All Of Me looks like an hour of eclectic character pieces sprinkled Underbelly, Cowgate, 9:20pm – with Demetriou’s own flavour of 10:20pm, 31 Jul – 24 Aug, not 11 Aug, 1 17/07/2014 13:35 magnetic strangeness. It could fw_ad.pdf £6 – £10.50

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Semi-Finals of the Funny Women Stage Award 15th August - 9.30pm Laughing Horse @ New Empire Bingo Hall Venue 110

Delivering fab frewse! entry sho

freestival

1-25 August 2014

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COMEDY

Local Heroes The Fringe brings in acts from around the globe. And also a few from just down the road. Jay Richardson finds a Scottish scene in rude health

I

nternational diversity is a huge part of what makes the Edinburgh Fringe so unique. But with the Pleasance, Assembly, Gilded Balloon and Underbelly launching their combined brochure in London this year, one might be forgiven for wondering if the festival truly cares about showcasing Scottish talent. That might seem ridiculous given the Government-backed Made In Scotland strand of music, theatre and dance, as well as Daniel Sloss performing 30 shows at the 1,200-seater Edinburgh Conference Centre, not to mention the Fringe-within-a-Fringe of the Scottish Comedy Festival @ The Beehive Inn. Yet Scottish comedians remain overlooked by the media and Fringe audiences, reckons Jo Caulfield. The English stand-up of Irish parentage, born in Wales, tours across the UK and moved to Edinburgh three years ago. She swiftly established the popular storytelling night, The Speakeasy, and the panel show and podcast The Good, The Bad and The Unexpected, both featuring a significant number of Scottish acts. “Everyone’s struggling for any kind of Fringe press and there are tonnes of comics that go unnoticed,” she reflects. “But what I find funny is audiences that go a whole month without seeing a Scottish comedian. As visitors, you would think it’s logical to see people from the country you’re visiting, more so than coming all the way from London to see Richard Herring.” The Good, The Bad... is about to follow The Speakeasy onto the airwaves, with a series commissioned by BBC Radio Scotland. So Caulfield and producer Richard Melvin will be scouring the Fringe for new talent to feature, with an emphasis on acts from Scotland. “It’s exciting” she says. “We’ve got people in already who we

48 fest preview guide 2014

Garry Little

know are brilliant but some new blood keeps everyone on their toes and gives you a better product as well.” As well as performers, “we’re looking for writers, people who can put the lines in for guests who perhaps aren’t quite as good in that department”. She cites Gareth Waugh and Robin Grainger as local acts who rose to the challenge of The Good, The Bad’s live shows, “from really putting the

work in, it’s very gratifying when you see people getting better before your eyes”. The pair are appearing in Game of Loners, a triple-hander at the Beehive with Gareth Mutch, with Waugh also delivering a work-in-progress, Absolutely Nothing, and, cheeringly, appearing in Scottish showcases at the Gilded Balloon and Underbelly. For the Scottish press, it’s all too easy to focus on the unfamiliar

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COMEDY performers who are here for only three weeks, and remain slightly blasé about those you can see all year. Yet some Scottish acts have built up such a head of steam over the last twelve months that they can’t be dismissed. By any measure, Gary Little has had “a cracking year”, following up a support slot for Bill Burr by scooping best headliner and best show at the inaugural Scottish Comedy Awards. However, back at the Fringe for the first time since 2009, he has to build enough “momentum” from the festival to raise his profile. Despite topping the bill at some of the most established clubs in the UK, including The Stand and The Glee, he still struggles to get bookings elsewhere, fighting an uphill battle without a London-based agent. “You phone up venues and the fuckers just don’t get back to you,” he laments. “I’m too old to keep travelling down for 10 minute spots. So I’m just hoping to do a good show at the Fringe, get some nice quotes for a future poster and then maybe I can get more gigs out of it, a wee tour perhaps.” For Caulfield, putting Scottish voices on to Radio 4 with The Speakeasy was logical while they were recording at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. But it was also important “because unfortunately, everybody on it sounds like me. I don’t think that they’re deliberately overlooking those with regional accents but a lot of people at the BBC are middle-class and from the south, so they tend to gravitate towards people like themselves. So we featured Gareth Waugh, who’d never done that kind of radio before, Keir McAllister and Janey Godley, who was fantastic. People like Gary Little and Janey, their style is very earthy and powerful. When Janey does The Speakeasy, audiences are absolutely mesmerised by her.” The Independence debate ought to shine a “spotlight” on Scottish comics, she suggests. It’s certainly an opportunity, agrees Mark Nelson, who believes that any stand-up from north of the border who ducks the issue is failing as a comic. “I’d like to think they’d mention it a wee bit” he says, “because it’s such a massive thing that’s happening for the country, certainly in my lifetime, they have to make at least passing reference.”

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Jo Caulfield

“Everyone’s struggling for any kind of Fringe press and there are tonnes of comics that go unnoticed” Nelson recently recorded standup and sketches with Susan Calman for that other huge event in the Caledonian calender, the Commonwealth Games (as part of the BBC Scotland television show Don’t Drop The Baton), though he naturally followed the work and started gigging outside of Scotland as soon as he became a full-time comic. He doesn’t accept that Scottish comedians are ignored at the festival and maintains that talent will always rise to the top, regardless of accent. “I’ve heard Scottish comics claiming that they don’t get a fair deal but it’s small-mindedness, it’s got nothing to do with where you’re from. If you’re good, you won’t get overlooked. Look at Susan [Calman], she’s Scottish but is always a big feature at the Fringe and always gets great write-ups.” For one of the nation’s most promising newcomers, Susie McCabe, Scottish acts can’t take audiences for granted and need to work harder, as the diversity of the Fringe means they’re “up against guys telling jokes and juggling knives”. But “there is a certain snobbery within the comedy world that ‘aye, they’ll just be too Scottish’. You never hear anyone say Josh Widdicombe’s too Devon or John Bishop too Scouse.”

Embarking on her first full run at the festival to make herself “a better comic”, her material reflects where she comes from, but she’s striving “to make it as generic as possible, not parochial. Because audiences at the Fringe are spoiled, they can see anything they want, whenever they want.” Still, “they need to know that the Scottish scene is actually in a really healthy state. It’s healthier now than when I started three years ago and everyone seems to be busy. I just want a couple of good reviews that can put me on the map outside Scotland, evidence to show that I’ve got something.” n JAY RICHARDSON GARY LITTLE: THE THING IS The Stand Comedy Club, 5:30pm – 6:30pm, 4–25 Aug, not 18, £10 JO CAULFIELD: CANCEL MY SUBSCRIPTION The Stand Comedy Club, 7:05pm – 8:05pm, 1–24 Aug, not 11, £10 MARK NELSON: PLEASE THINK RESPONSIBLY Gilded Balloon , 8:45pm – 9:45pm, 31 Jul – 25 Aug, not 11 Aug, £6 – £12.50 SUSIE MCCABE: TOURIST MISINFORMATION The Stand III & IV, 7:00pm – 8:00pm, 30 Jul – 24 Aug, not 31 Jul, 11 Aug, £7 – £8

preview guide 2014 fest 49


COMEDY

A New Day Dawns He's not done a full-length show since 1996. But one of the UK's most prolific comedy writers has been coaxed back into live performance. And despite accolades and experience, he's terrified

I

t was on a visit to last year’s Fringe, during a typically tipple-fuelled debate, that Kevin Day resolved to re-enter the fray. Fellow comic Terry Alderton was the antagonist: “For a couple of years I’d been telling him about an idea for a show, and he kept saying ‘I don’t believe you’ve got this idea',” Day recalls. “He said to me ‘You’ve got to stop swanning about. You either come up here as a comedian, or don’t keep coming up here.’” Which sounds a bit harsh, but his old mate had a point. Day hadn’t done a full-length Edinburgh show since 1996, and was starting to feel a fraud for calling himself a comic. “People would say ‘where can I see you perform?’ and I’d say, ‘Well, I don’t really,’” sighs the South Londoner, now nursing a tomato juice in a Waterloo watering hole. “Football fans come up and ask what I do for a living, what my day job is.” The main Day job nowadays is writing for pretty much every major panel show, notably Have I Got News for You, while he’s been most visible onscreen as Match of the Day 2’s roving reporter – hence the oblivious supporters. For clued-up comedy folk, though, Day remains a mighty influence, the man who introduced many to the idea of an issue-based, revealing hour. His 1993 show I Was a Teenage Racist is still one of the Fringe’s most eyebrow-raisingly honest moments, documenting a brief, regrettable flirtation with the National Front. The title of his new one, Standy Uppy, may suggest frivolity; there are theatrical flourishes—lights, sound effects, a big ghost story—but there are also more personal insights. It’s the show he intended, coloured by crisis. “My wife’s been very ill this year, so a theme has emerged that wouldn’t have done. It’s changed the perspective,” he explains. “I explore the idea of why I thought making jokes through-

50 fest preview guide 2014

out the process and subsequent diagnosis was a good idea, trying to explore the notion of whether or not I genuinely can’t articulate emotion without humour.” Thankfully the deeply worrying prognosis has taken a hugely positive turn recently, meaning that Day can fret about the show again. In truth his “swanning about” at the Fringe was often work-related—he directed Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen Volume 2 last year—but a full hour of his own is a different ball game. “I’m terrified of doing it, terrified of it, but really excited,” he smiles.

“I’m terrified about how it’s going to be received. It’s a long time since I’ve been reviewed.” You do wonder, after such an intense year, why he didn’t push it back another 12 months. But shortly after our own lengthy pub debate, Day emails, and sums up the mood. “I have actually felt guilty at times about neglecting an art form that I adore,” he concludes. “It’s also the first thing for ages I’ve consciously decided to do.” n SI HAWKINS Gilded Balloon , 6:15pm – 7:15pm, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 12 Aug, 19 Aug, £6 – £11

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Festtory c e r i D ll axwe M w … e Andrrecommends

The Sheep Heid Inn

Pommery Champagne Café Bar

43-45 THE CAUSEWAY, DUDDINGSTON VILLAGE

SIGNET LIBRARY

This is right near the top of the Royal Mile and it’s super-classy. Don’t get me wrong, I love beer gardens and burger vans, but if you just fancy kicking it up a notch once or twice during your Festival, this is the place to do it. It’s a Fringe-only venue housed in a giant library where you can breeze in, smash back some champagne in proper glassware, eat a bit of smoked salmon and just generally be really lordy before diving back into the grottiness of a lot of the rest of the Festival. FOOD

7

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DRINK

10

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It’s champagne! ATMOSPHERE

6

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FRINGEYNESS

2

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One of Scotland’s oldest pubs, this place is like a mirage – you walk up Arthur’s Seat and down the other side and it’s like you’re not quite sure it’s really there. It’s been the focal point of major plotting in the twists and turns of Scottish history for hundreds of years, including the murder of Mary Queen of Scots’ lover. It’s got leather chairs and a beer garden, and it really is the ultimate plotting venue. If you need to play chess and all around you people are playing chequers, go and have a quiet pint alone in the Sheep Heid. FOOD

6/7

n n n n n n n nn n n

6 for pub grub downstairs, 7 for the Sunday roast upstairs DRINK

6

See a panda while drinking a coffee at the zoo

Fishers 1 SHORE, LEITH

There’s a few of these dotted along The Shore in Leith, situated in such a way that there’s always a bit of late afternoon light if you get a table outside. They do delicious Scottish seafood – oysters, langoustines, all the frutti di mare. I go at least one day every Fringe, normally with my dad and some relatives. The staff are extremely knowledgable about the Fringe and have recommended some properly obscure shit every time I’ve been there in the past.

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FOOD

ATMOSPHERE

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10

10

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DRINK

FRINGEYNESS

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2

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6 10

Swankiness.

Mostly locals, but you get the odd Fringe fan-strokerambler

FATAL FLAW

SECRET WEAPON

(Excellent staff knowledge)

Scotland’s oldest skittle alley.

SECRET WEAPON

SECRET WEAPON

Lots of swankers.

FATAL FLAW

Surrounded by cobblestone streets, so lethal in heels.

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FRINGEYNESS

8

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Sunshine on Leith. FATAL FLAW

Quite hard to get a table sometimes.

A Coffee Van at the Top of the Hill in Edinburgh Zoo 134 CORSTORPHINE ROAD

The best place to drink coffee in Edinburgh is out of a van at the top of Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh Zoo. You get an incredible 360 degree view over the Firth, the airport, the castle and the city and there’s a little old lady who bangs out coffee in Styrofoam cups. For the view and the tranquillity there’s no place like it. The old lady shared her last muffin with me and my starving son on the last day of the Fringe last year, so gets bonus points for kindness, too. FOOD

6

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(For the muffins) DRINK

6

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ATMOSPHERE

8

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0

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SECRET WEAPON

Awesome view of the city. FATAL FLAW

You’ve got to pay into the Zoo. Andrew Maxwell plays the Assembly Rooms, 10:20pm – 11:20pm, 1–12 Aug, £15 Fishers

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preview guide 2014 fest 51


THEATRE

Theatre Picks Fest’s lead critic Matt Trueman nails his colours to the mast with 2014’s top recommendations

The Fresh Faces

Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve Fucked Underbelly, 31 Jul–24 Aug (not 13), 6:50pm

Does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. Rob Hayes— one of the most distinctive young writers around—presents one young man and a veritable menagerie of his sexual conquests. If you enjoyed Fleabag last year, this one’s for you.

Nothing Summerhall, 5–17 Aug, 10:50am

Lucyna Raczka’s eight monologues—performed in whatever order the cast so choose in the moment—became the big success of this year’s National Student Drama Festival, with one critic dubbing it “a clear literary successor to Simon Stephens, Sarah Kane and Chris Thorpe.”

Mental Pleasance Courtyard, 7–10, 14–17, 21–24 Aug, 6:30pm

The Girl Who Assembly George Square, 1–25 Aug (not 11, 18) 3:05pm

An intriguing proposition: a musical that’s different every time. Noisemaker’s Scott Gilmour and Claire McKenzie return with a new musical inspired by Choose Your Own Adventure Novels about a young girl seeking her parents. Performed by students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

That mental health is such a recurrent topic at this year’s festival is a damning indictment of government policy. Artist and activist ‘the vacuum cleaner’ presents this autobiographical performance of psychiatric records and police warrants in a confined pop-up performance space.

Party in the USA! Underbelly, 30 Jul–25 Aug (not 11), 3:00pm

Could New York’s JV Squad follow in the footsteps of The TEAM? They certainly seem cut from the same cloth. Their brash and delirious debut charts the 2008 Financial Crash from the perspective of a Deutsche Bank intern dropping enough acid to float on the stock exchange.

Little on the Inside Summerhall, 1–24 Aug (not 6, 13, 20), 9:00pm

Alice Birch has basically got Young Playwright of the Year sewn up already, with premieres at the RSC and the Orange Tree either side of the Fringe. Her lyrical, looping play for Clean Break shows a friendship blossoming behind bars.

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The Top Tips

THEATRE Title and Deed by Will Eno Assembly Hall, 31 Jul–25 Aug (not 11), 6:05pm

Crowned a successor to Samuel Beckett by New York’s critics, American playwright Will Eno is something of an acquired taste, but this swirling meditation on loneliness and life away from home, spun out of mundane details, is a dazzling piece of writing.

Wedding

Before Us

Forest Fringe, 11 Aug, 5:00pm

Grab a handful of confetti, pray silence for the best man and forget everything you ever knew about Don’t Tell the Bride, Shunt’s Hannah Ringham and Glen Neath are organising a wedding at Forest Fringe. An actual wedding. With an actual bride and an actual groom. Any lawful impediments?

Underbelly, 31 Jul–24 Aug, 8:10pm

Of all the bearded Antipodean hipster storytellers to have descended on Edinburgh in recent years—and that’s not the niche category you’d think— Stuart Bowden is easily the most endearing and accomplished.

Confirmation Northern Stage at King’s Hall, 31 Jul–24 Aug (not 12), 4:30pm

As important a piece as you’ll find at this year’s Fringe, playwright Chris Thorpe (There Has Possibly Been an Incident) and director Rachel Chavkin (Mission Drift) attempt to forge the possibility of dialogue between political extremes. Can left and right ever get along?

The World Mouse Plague Summerhall, 13–25 Aug (not 18-19), 9:30pm

The Third Reich meets Rentokil in what promises to be a characteristically daring piece from the acclaimed performance duo Ridiculusmus. As deadly serious as they are dead funny, David Woods and Jon Haynes muddle the vocabularies of pest and population control together.

Blind Hamlet Assembly Roxy, 31 Jul–25 Aug (not 12, 18), 2:50pm

Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour handed actors an unseen script in White Rabbit Red Rabbit. Now it’s our turn, as a blind writer asks the audience to help him with Hamlet. Another chance for Ramin Gray’s ATC to explore the possibilities of liveness, after last year’s smash The Events.

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THEATRE

MAN ON THE

EDGE Not so much transgressing as stomping over the boundaries of taste, ethics and rationality, Kim Noble is something of an original.

L

ast time I saw Kim Noble, he was stood on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in a horse mask, holding a sign above his head. It was 3am and, if memory serves, the sign said one of two things: either ‘The End is Neigh’— which seems far too cheap—or else “President Alan Cunting Titchmarsh is Dead. Get Over It.” Which seems about right. Fringe-goers’ last glimpse of him was in 2009, at the end of Kim Noble Will Die: dangling 10 foot in the air, dressed as a dilapidated Superman, cradling a puppet of the son he and his partner lost in utero, to the roar of Guns and Roses’ ‘Sweet Child of Mine’. Which seems about as wrong as it gets. That show was effectively a staged suicide note: every night, Noble vowed to throw himself off George IV Bridge unless enough of us turned up to stop him. He’d been diagnosed with manic depression five years earlier and had just been through a particularly rocky break-up. Kim Noble Will Die was a manifestation of his mental state. We had to text his ex-girlfriend abuse, and watch videos of him self-harming or being pissed on in the street. He doctored rental DVDs to save others from crap films and masturbated into Vagisil bottles in the name of legacy, before replacing them on supermarket shelves. Female audience members got take-home pots of his (chilled) semen so that they might bear his kids afterwards. Pitch-black doesn’t come close: this was nihilism served neat.

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Noble didn’t jump. He met someone touring the show in America—one of the women left holding his seed, in fact—and started a relationship, the end of which has triggered another new show. “I do worry that I’m repeating myself,” he says in his deep, deep drone. “Just using a different font.” This time, though, he’s not so beserk. “The starting point was feeling kind of lonely: living in a bedsit, not knowing where to turn, not having a proper job, not having a partner. All that crap. Someone said to me recently, ‘I hope you’re never happy. That would be the end of your work.’” Noble enjoys that contradiction, I think; being best at his worst. Even offstage, his humour is self-vilifying. (“Maybe I’m just a fucking loser.”) He’s half-hangdog and half-puppyish, with sunken eyes, but cheerful colouring: lagoon-blue irises and carroty curls. His voice is so low and plodding, you’d think it stuck in ‘morose mode,’ but when he jokes, a raspy laugh cuts through. You could say the same of his work, which hovers on the edge of comedy. His art-house double act, Noble and Silver (with uni pal Stuart Silver) won the Perrier Best Newcomer award in 2000 and, soon after, their E4 series, Get Off Me!, mixed disdain with conceptual daring. The first episode was a spoof ‘Making of…’ doc. Another was shot in a single take, with Noble running through London in search of Silver. “We shot ourselves in the foot by doing something

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THEATRE

that wasn’t easy: six programmes with no connection or overall meaning. You’d tune in next week to something radically different. Channel 4 saw it and went, ‘What the fuck have you done?’” Then, in 2004, Noble’s breakdown broke the partnership up. “That was when I really started filming, documenting everything.” It’s a coping mechanism as much as anything else, though he resists the idea that it’s therapeutic. “Therapy makes me think of, like, ‘I’m drawing some flowers. I feel a bit better now. Let’s analyse the flowers.” Mostly, it’s about relating to others and to the world: “It feels real. I’ve got this need to capture stuff because then I know it has another life beyond the actual thing happening. It exists outside of just one man alone, doing something in a bedroom.” After his last break-up, Noble set out to seek company and connections. “The first thing I started to do was videotaping my neighbours without them knowing,” he deadpans. “Then drilling holes in the walls and recording them.” This isn’t a joke. Nor is it all bad: Noble stopped someone stealing their car. Mostly, though, the act became mundane: “OK, they’re having sex. Go and get the recorder out. Chart it down. Write it up.” It sounds like a dumbass version of Tehching Hsieh’s Time Clock Piece, in which the Taiwanese performance

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artist took his photo in the same spot on the hour, every hour. For a year. That’s kind of the point. “A lot of my work touches on madness,” he continues. “I don’t quite know where the show stops and I, my life, begins…I wouldn’t say that all the things I’m doing are art.” His illicit shifts in B&Q, wearing a uniform he made himself, they’re real. So is his two-year online relationship with the man who thinks he’s a woman. As are their phone calls. And, um, their dates. “It’s taking that desire for connection to the extreme. What lengths would you go to please somebody? I’m often asked whether I’d sleep with them.” He doesn’t even pause. “Yes, I would.” “The thing is it doesn’t strike me as weird. It’s like, Fuck it, I’m going to chart my neighbours’ sex life over a year. That’s a project.” Only, with every passing project, Noble becomes more and more immune. “I lose myself in it. I forget that drilling through your neighbours’ walls is a weird act.” And ethically? “Ethically, I’m in a minefield.” Noble says he’s not good at defending the work on those grounds, but insists it’s more about him than it is them: “It’s their sex life, but it’s about the idiot listening in…Morally, I stand by the fact that I’m not setting out to hurt anyone.” Is that enough? Probably not, but the question itself is part of the art. And there are limits: “People think I’ll do anything and fuck anyone up, but that’s not the case.”

That said, he has just crossed a line. “I never thought I’d film my family – and I have.” His mum was in the last show. His dad, who has dementia, is in this one. “I felt, fuck, I’ve got to record this.” Why so? “There’s a kind of departing. He’s losing a sense of connection. It suddenly felt very necessary that I include it.” “I don’t think I’ve really captured all the real day-to-day sadness of that existence, living in this mind that’s not sure what’s going on, the angst and anguish and anxiety of living in this perpetual cycle.” The point is that, with Noble, there’s always a point. He’s not overturning taboos for the hell of it. He’s not interested in sheer jackassery or shock for shock’s sake. There’s always commentary beneath, some attempt to articulate a universal or attack consumer-capitalist society; its contraints, its groupthink, its banalities. In that, Noble’s the perennial outsider, free from the conventions that bind the rest of us. “I’m desperate to live with a partner and a kid, in a normal house with a proper, regular income. Is there a loathing of that in there? I suppose so, but maybe that’s just a reaction against it because I can’t have it. Fucking hell, I’m a wanky, middle-class artist living in South East London.” n MATT TRUEMAN Traverse Theatre, 11:15pm – 12:20am, 19–24 Aug, £13 – £19

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Festtory c e r i D mith Ian Smends…

recom

The Elephant House

heading towards more accessible pop hits, but if anything, this makes the night. Watching a drama student performing ABBA to a group of infuriated and inebriated hard rocking regulars is an absolute joy.

21 GEORGE IV BRIDGE

DRINK

A brilliant cafe known as being the birthplace of Harry Potter with, I imagine, very little evidence other than an illustration of JK Rowling sitting there. Rowling’s done some writing there, but it could have just been her shopping lists or some of her early rejected work—like ‘The Big Mysterious Pig’ or ‘Harold’s Bread Bin’—and not the famous tales of that spell-casting mischief merchant. It should be known for its amazing breakfasts, tray bakes, quirkily uneven seats and elephant ornaments. FOOD

8

nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK

6

nnnnnnnnnn

ATMOSPHERE

7

nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS

6

nnnnnnnnnn

SECRET WEAPON

With the correct window seat, the view of the castle is brilliant. FATAL FLAW

People taking pictures while wearing Harry Potter merchandise.

Opium 71 COWGATE

The main reason this dark drinking pit is incredible is that every Monday it does death metal karaoke – a £1.50-a-drink night populated by mentalists, screaming all their favourite songs. The theatrical Fringe crowds somewhat dilute the ferocity of song choice,

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8

nnnnnnnnnn

ATMOSPHERE

8

nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS

5

nnnnnnnnnn

SECRET WEAPON

A 60+ man who sings and rips his jacket off.

The Royal Mile

FATAL FLAW

The regulars always seem one more ABBA song away from murdering someone.

The Royal Mile

Princess Mall Food Hall PRINCES STREET

Mother India 3-5 INFIRMARY ST

I go to this restaurant every year. At least twice. I love it so much that I save going until the middle of the Fringe, to give myself some motivation. I’ve been known to shout ‘Do it for Mother India!’ half way through a show if I’m flagging. It’s the best Indian restaurant in the world (and I’ve been to ones in London and Darlington). It’s tapas-based too, so you can order two or three curries each. Wash it down with a Tiger beer and a side of conversation and you’re LITERALLY having some curry. FOOD

10

Person A: Hey Ian, you can’t choose to talk about a food hall in a shopping centre can you? There’s too much stuff. Ian: Shut up mate and get back to reading the rule book and eating Ryvitas, you lifeless, dull shell of a man/woman. Yes, there’s the standard Subway and Maccy D’s, but there’s also the only place I know of in Edinburgh that sells peppermint squares. If you’re feeling homesick, come here to experience a shopping centre food hall exactly like every other. FOOD

7

7

nnnnnnnnnn

ATMOSPHERE

6

nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS

4

nnnnnnnnnn

SECRET WEAPON

Ever heard of a Peshwari naan? FATAL FLAW

The fish pakora is hot beyond belief.

FOOD

7

nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK

7

nnnnnnnnnn

nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK

ATMOSPHERE

4

nnnnnnnnnn

nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK

The Royal Mile is crammed with pubs, cafes, a fish and chip place and souvenir shops. Why not sit and have a drink outside and take in the sights of the flyer-covered street? I’m talking about those mini-stages were you can see snippets of bad student theatre and listen to horrific a cappella versions of ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’. Other performances include children who have been forced to play an instrument and people standing still having painted themselves bronze and inexplicably being paid for it.

ATMOSPHERE

4

nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS

3

nnnnnnnnnn

SECRET WEAPON

You can get a starter, main course and desert from three different places.

8

nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS

10

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SECRET WEAPON

Sometimes dogs will bark at the performers. FATAL FLAW

Sometimes performers will bark at dogs.

FATAL FLAW

I’m pretty sure the toilet costs £1 to use. Regardless of what you’re doing.

Ian Smith plays Pleasance Courtyard, 6pm – 7pm, 30 Jul – 24 Aug, not 12, £6 – £10

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THEATRE

FLESH &BLOOD Rosana and Amy Cade use their bodies to ask stark questions about what we mean when we talk about female sexual empowerment

T

his isn't the first time that real-life siblings Rosana and Amy Cade have dramatised their own bodies. Five years ago they danced naked together in Nic Green's Trilogy. In this year's Sister, the pair open with a strip tease – "an experience [the audience] might not otherwise have had," they suggest. This completed, the Cades remain naked throughout as they share their own personal narratives. Though born only 22 months apart, the sisters seemingly bring narratives from very different lives. Amy is a worker in the sex industry. Rosana is a performance artist whose work includes Walking: Holding. Amy "talks positively about her sexuality and experiences in the porn and sex industry." Rosana's narrative "is one of feeling pressured to be sexual and behave a certain way as a teenage girl." But by juxtaposing these two stories and journeys, Sister sets out to ask many huge questions about modern feminism and femininity: "What is female sexual empowerment?" Rosana notes via email, "Can it look like a Doc Marten as well as a high heel?" Unsurprisingly, these experiences kick-started a conversation about their respective relationships with feminism and the female body. Rosana began asking Amy about the ways in which her experience in the sex industry had shaped her attitudes towards gender identity. Half a decade on, and after visits to Glasgow, London and Brighton, Sister arrives at Summerhall, and sees the pair collaborating again on a show which interrogates these ideas via the framework of their sororal relationship. The aforementioned nudity is important in Sister, and attempts to question the way audiences look at the nude female form. "We look at our own bodies in a controlled gaze," says Rosana. "We are sexual in our own skins. We both individually use our body strength. We hug, we sit. Eventually we use it casually and functionally as we dismantle the pole." The Cades tell me that—unsurprisingly, considering the show's title—their relationship as sisters is "a vital component" of the piece, and allows them a springboard from which to interrogate the different ways in which women

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relate to one another, taking ideas of authority and idolatry into consideration. Ultimately, they hope that a history of "love, respect, support and acceptance" allows them to create "open and honest dialogue about sex work and sexuality." Though Sister does exactly what it says on the tin by discussing familial female tensions (with the help of the odd family video), its aim goes far deeper than that. It attempts to ask questions about sex education and the way sexual identity is discussed, but also to present nudity as "natural, un-astonishing, ordinary". Both Amy and Rosana "believe all ranges of bodies should be seen naked in public more often." Sister, they hope, goes a small but significant way towards presenting that alternative. n DAN HUTTON Summerhall, Aug 1 – 24, not 5, 12, 19, 8:15pm – 9:30pm, £13

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THEATRE

Acts of Disunion With the vote on Scottish independence only weeks away, how are writers tackling the biggest issue to face the country in centuries? Through fairies, tortured unionists, and abandoning theatre altogether

O

f the many curious things that lie between the folds of the Fringe programme, consider this one. This year’s Festival takes place mere weeks before Scotland makes its biggest decision in 300 years. On 18 September the country will be asked: should it become an independent nation? And yet, of the 910 theatre productions on offer, only eight seem to be bothered about it. That’s two less than the number of productions of Hamlet. The sheer size and proximity of the vote appears to have warped the theatre programme to the point that the centuries-old fractious family life of royal Danes has a tighter grip on the theatrical imagination than the imminent break-up of the United Kingdom. So what’s going on? The comedy programme is rammed with independence gag-fests. Have playwrights collectively lost their nerve? David Greig, one of Scotland’s foremost dramatists, doesn’t think so. On the contrary, he never expected many independence-themed plays this year anyway. “If you wanted that you should have been looking three years ago,” says the writer of the hits Midsummer and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. “Writers are very good at sensing the zeitgeist, seeing things we didn’t quite realise were on the horizon. Or you could come in five years’ time when there will be loads of stuff reflecting on the referendum and all this crazy time we’re living through.” If, as Greig suggests, the high winds of theatrical expression are to be found in the years surrounding a major event like the referendum then this year’s theatre programme is the eerily calm eye of the storm. With a relatively clear playing

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David Hayman

field, how then is this cluster of shows facing up to its monumental subject matter? Greig has one idea, which might explain further why many have shied away. “Right now the only thing you can really do if you are writing theatre

about the referendum is effectively propaganda,” he says. “Propaganda has a bad name, for good reasons. But the truth is it is perfectly reasonable to do shows that push your particular point of view. But it’s not really what the bulk of artists do. They don’t work that way.

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THEATRE And if they do it is a one off.” Mention propaganda to Alan Bissett and he gleefully admits that his play, The Pure, The Dead and The Brilliant, is most definitely that. The author, playwright and keen tweeter has been one of the loudest cultural voices trying to get people to vote yes. “All art is propaganda,” he says. “Any artist presents a view point of the world. There is no such thing as apolitical art. The difference with propaganda is that these things are front and centre and isn’t embarrassed by it either.” With no blushes or apologies, The Pure, The Dead and The Brilliant imagines what would happen if a cast of Scottish mythological creatures— including the Banshee, Selkie, and a demon called Black Donald—crossed over from the fairy kingdom to try and convince people to vote no. “And their tactics curiously mimic the Better Together [pro-Union] campaign,” says Bissett.

David Greig

“The truth is it is perfectly reasonable to do shows that push your particular point of view.” He believes that theatre can certainly sprinkle a bit of fairy dust over the audience’s voting intentions. “A play can go to places that politicians can’t, can say things politicians can’t, in a way that connects with people more directly. It’s not like they’ll go from being completely against independence and are now fervently for it – that’s unlikely to happen. But one thing that a play can do is make people realise the emotional truth of the story in front of them, that they naturally wanted to believe that independence could be possible, and this has just confirmed it for them.” Where Bissett is deploying the depth charges of satire and humour to convince people to vote yes, David Hayman is using pained, probing realism to needle the conscience of the average Scot. And by average Scot, he means life-long Labour voter. Such is the party’s hold on Scotland, 1959 was the last year it did not win the most Scottish votes in a Westminster election. The Pitiless Storm is a one man show written with Chris Dolan. Hayman plays Bob Cunningham, a “died in the wool, tribal Labour supporter” who is receiving an OBE on the eve of the referendum. Cunningham is considering voting yes, going against the wishes of a party who he feels has betrayed him.

Hayman, star of ITV’s Trial and Retribution, has gone through a similar dark night of the titular storm. He was once a Labour member, still refers to it as “the people’s party”, and refers to fellows as “comrades”. But after the UK’s misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ideological disappointment of New Labour, he now finds himself speaking at radical independence events. He hopes that his beloved party can find its lost soul in an independent Scotland. And he hopes that The Pitiless Storm will help articulate the confusion and conflict many Labour supporters are feeling about the referendum. “I’m not doing it for people to scurry off and vote no,” he says. “I'm hoping they're going to go home, think about it and ultimately vote yes. Therein lies the power of theatre. If it changes people’s minds or helps clarify the confusion in their minds, that is all to the good. “Theatre is a powerful weapon. It is important for us to make a creative contribution, not just a political one.” So, that’s two approaches: cheeky satire and needling realism. Other plays, such as MacBraveheart: The Other Scottish Play, deliberately swither between farce and pretentiousness because their writers too swither over which way to vote. But what of Scottish theatre’s u

Alan Bissett

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THEATRE

The Pure, The Dead and The Brilliant

t︎ other leading lights? What has the gravitational force of the referendum done to their art? Let’s return to David Greig for a moment. Rather than create a new play to convince people to support the independence that he too craves, he, along with director and actress Cora Bissett (Roadkill, Glasgow Girls) and writer Kieran Hurley, are planning to bottle the energy, ideas and enthusiasm of the grassroots independence movement and offer it up for passers-by to take a swig. All Back To Bowie’s, their daily lunchtime event in St Andrews Square, is independence moonshine. Billed as “a daily hour of gentle thought and hard daydreaming,” it is a cabaret of ideas, music, reviews, polemic and discussion about Scottish independence, a place for those visiting from south of the border or further afield to get a glimpse of what Scotland has been blethering about

for the past few years. “The referendum has blown off the roof of what politics is,” says Greig, with double-espresso enthusiasm. “What the referendum has done is ask, if you were starting a new country from scratch, what would you do? That makes you ask other questions. It is a way of thinking about the world that this moment is allowing and people are leaping on it with vigour. So Bowie’s, to me, is the place to be to get that atmosphere, to get that feeling. We will be modelling yes.” The National Collective, one of the strongest cultural movements for independence, is doing something similar in the evenings at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Finally, what of the no vote? Is anyone giving it a voice, singing the praise of the union on stage? Apparently not. Greig paints a delicious counterfactual picture of why this may be. “If we had

been living in an independent Scotland for 300 years and the proposal was we join a union, you would find Unionist cabarets, Unionist plays and Unionist parties. The union would be the change, the assignment, the new idea, the opportunity.” And so, it appears the playwright’s ultimate guiding ideology is neither independence nor unionism, but restlessness. Come back in a few years and see where that insatiable curiosity has taken Scotland. n EDD MCCRACKEN THE PITILESS STORM The Assembly Rooms, 12:30pm – 1:40pm, 31 Jul – 24 Aug, not 11 Aug, £12 – £15 THE PURE, THE DEAD AND THE BRILLIANT The Assembly Rooms, 2:30pm – 3:30pm, 31 Jul – 24 Aug, not 18 Aug, £10 – £15 ALL BACK TO BOWIE’S Stand in the Square, times vary, 1–24 Aug, £8

A New Play Combining Text & Physical Theatre

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Festtory c e r i D pbell m a C es s…

Jam ommend rec

Davidson’s Mains Park EAST BARNTON AVENUE

One year, I stayed in Davidson Mains for a laugh. It really is a lovely part of Edinburgh and my favourite thing about it is that nobody there has ever heard of the Fringe. The fish and chip shop’s only poster is advertising a circus that’s coming to town in September. The park is excellent for children. I was once there with my boy and saw a man put his baby on the swing and then leave. He came back half an hour later and I asked him if he liked taking his children to the park. He said “It’s better than hooverin!”. I’d kill for a review like that. FOOD N/A nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK N/A nnnnnnnnnn

Hermiston Gait Shopping Centre CULTINS RD

I’m not usually a fan of supermarkets but this one is great. It’s so huge you can almost forget that you’re in a shop at all. I like to pretend that I’m actually in a space station, gathering alien supplies for a mission to another galaxy. I don’t know a lot about intergalactic travel but I’m guessing you would need a lot of food and towels. If you’re in Edinburgh though, it’s a really nice place to go to get away from it all. You can watch normal people doing their shopping and being frustrated with the self-service checkout. FOOD 10 nnnnnnnnnn

(there’s everything) DRINK 10 nnnnnnnnnn

(there’s everything) ATMOSPHERE 0 nnnnnnnnnn

Oxgangs Library 343 OXGANGS ROAD NORTH

This is my favourite venue in Edinburgh. I did a show here last year and because of the way Edinburgh City Council’s finance system works, I still haven’t been paid. What I love about it is the innate honesty of the people in the area. Also, it’s a building full of books. In there you will find everything you need or want to know. It is run by a stern line of women and men, guarding the written word from decay. FOOD N/A nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK N/A

FRINGEYNESS 0

FRINGEYNESS 10

nnnnnnnnnn

nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS 0

(unless you are hungry.

nnnnnnnnnn

SECRET POWER

(it’s very subversive to sit in a library these days).

SECRET POWER

Just off the bypass.

SECRET POWER

Better than hoovering.

FATAL FLAW

Free books.

Has probably killed some small businesses.

FATAL FLAW

FOOD 6 nnnnnnnnnn

(bring your own) DRINK 6 nnnnnnnnnn

(bring your own)

(dead)

nnnnnnnnnn

(quiet)

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I used to come here every day. It’s the quietest place I could find. Some of the graveyards in Edinburgh are full of famous folks and stories but this one is just a nice humble place to be. It’s good for picnics and meditating. Or both.

ATMOSPHERE 6

(the lighting is too harsh).

You have to get the bus.

153 CANONGATE

ATMOSPHERE 6

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FATAL FLAW

Canongate Cemetry

nnnnnnnnnn

ATMOSPHERE 6

(depending on the fog)

Hermiston Gait (wooo)

It’s endangered.

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FRINGEYNESS 5 nnnnnnnnnn

SECRET POWER

It’s quiet and free. FATAL FLAW

No one talks to you. James Campbell plays The Famous Spiegeltent, 2:00pm – 3:00pm, 7–10 Aug, £7.50

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THEATRE

As if by Magic… After a four year Fringe hiatus, polymath performer Geoff Sobelle reappears with two shows of anarchic magic and inventive installation.

M

agic has always been stock fare at the Fringe. But with the bedding-in of the Edinburgh International Magic Festival over recent years, Scottish audiences are getting more accustomed to it as a major art form. Many will recognise the guise in which actor-clown-magician Geoff Sobelle returns this year with Elephant Room: part of a chaotic trio of jesters who are out to trick and deceive spectators with their sleightof-hand. The ways in which conjurers weave storytelling into their routines are becoming ever more technically accomplished and theatrical. In Elephant Room, Sobelle explains that “we’re dealing with something that’s very American, about an ageing magician: a little bit like when you’ve been chasing down your dreams and time has caught up with you.” Sobelle continues a decade-long collaboration with fellow clown Trey Lyford (joined this year by Steve Cuiffo), to elegise a subtle side of western identity that Sobelle started to explore in Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl back in 2010. It reveals a comic and tragically illusive aspect of the American Dream: the demand that you must be calmly resolute to reach your goals, when really the whole pursuit is hectic and random. “There’s three of them up there,” explains Sobelle, “which in a magic show is very rare. It’s almost like you don’t know where to look, although it’s tightly choreographed, and there’s a real feeling of mayhem as they tell you a little too much about their own personal lives.” In Sobelle’s second show, The Object Lesson, audiences are invited to search far more literally; and in an altogether more immersive and intriguing environment. This is his stage venture: a single-room installation in

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a space which won’t be shared by any other show at Summerhall. The room is stacked with boxes, “which audiences should be ready to explore,” he nudges, and we’re invited to lose ourselves amongst the memories within. “The piece has no story, no characters, no fiction,” Sobelle explains. “It’s an installation you’re confronted with that’s fully interactive. People have very different reactions to it because ultimately I wanted to make a piece about you, not about me. I see myself as a facilitator in a way, administering an agnostic ritual.” Sobelle was inspired in this venture by American comic George Carlin. “He has this famous routine about our ‘stuff’ and why everyone else’s stuff is shit!” laughs Sobelle. But, he says, “there aren’t any politics

[in the show], nothing didactic; it’s actually more human. It’s the way objects trigger memories. It’s funny to recognise the attachment we have with things and the way objects demark time, unearthing the hidden life of our relationships with them. “If it’s done correctly, the piece is less about when you go to the theatre and say ‘that was such an amazing story’, but more about you and realising the story your own objects tell you about yourself.” n ANDREW LATIMER THE OBJECT LESSON Summerhall, 6:00pm – 7:10pm, 1–24 Aug, not 6, 13, 20, £9 – £14 THE ELEPHANT ROOM Assembly Hall, 10:40pm – 12:00am, 31 Jul – 25 Aug, not 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, £9 – £15

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50 Shades! The Musical. The Original Parody

Simon Callow in Juvenalia Assembly Hall 15:30 31 Jul – 25 Aug

Assembly Hall 22:30 31 Jul – 25 Aug

SOUTHAFRICANSEASON SOUTHAFRICANSEASON SOUTHAFRICANSEASON SOUTHAFRICANSEASON

Hayani Assembly George Sq. Studios 17:10

Race by David Silent Voice Assembly Roxy Mamet

Sunday Morning

Assembly George Sq. 15:20

Assembly George Sq. 12:40

14:00

South African Season 31 July - 25 Aug

The Zulu Assembly Hall 12:45

C O N N E C T I N G T H R O U G H C R E AT I V I T Y

Inspiring new ways

Bringing you the best of Edinburgh Festival Fringe

www.festmag.co.uk

preview guide 2014 fest 63


THEATRE

W

WE'RE NOT

STOPPING UNTIL SOMEONE

SHITS THEIR PANTS This August, Edinburgh will be infested with pale, dead-eyed hordes staggering through the night. So what else is new? 64 fest preview guide 2014

hile zombies may have occupied the cultural zeitgeist for well over a decade, there may be some sort of life left in the concept yet. If so, few could be more enthusiastic about delivering it than the crew from New Zealand responsible for The Generation of Z; a show that takes audience participation so seriously it places them at the heart of a brutally realistic zombie apocalypse. As an immersive transmedia venture, actor-writer Ben Farry explains, The Generation of Z is a labour of love. "What we've done with every version of the show is to set it in the cultural context of wherever it's playing; it's entirely site-specific. With Edinburgh, we're in negotiation with a few groups, all of whom are going to the wall to make the show bigger and better. Scare Scotland, for example, having been assembling zombie extras; people have even been finding us armoured vehicles. The support, which seems to happen wherever we go, has been great." The Generation of Z's universe has been lovingly crafted, with a level of detail one might expect from a story its creators hope will soon extend to games and graphic novels. "We want it to be visceral," explains Farry, "which is difficult in theatre. There's always the idea in the back of your head that none of this is real. Scaring someone to the point where they can no longer handle it is a definite goal." Producer Charlie McDermott particularly relishes this part of the process. "I said at the beginning, 'We're not stopping until someone shits their pants.' I was joking, but on the last night of our first season, someone did wet themselves. So close, and yet so far…" As one might expect from a show capable of provoking such extreme responses, there are measures in place for when things go awry. "I'm quite worried about Edinburgh," Farry admits, "which is why we need security people in the audience. We had a situation in Christchurch. One storyline calls for an audience member to go off on their own, on a supply run to the other side of the facility. They get 'killed' by my character, who has been infected, and the makeup department transform them into a zombie for the finale. For 99% of people, it's an amazing experience, but this guy... He was very drunk. So the rest of the audience was watching his journey on CCTV. And despite the fact he had been briefed about what was going to happen, when I emerged from the darkness, he hit me around the head with a bottle." McDermott, however, is confident about the show's precautions—now revised, one presumes, to be very bottle-aware—with perhaps a hint of ghoulish curiosity regarding unintended consequences. "I have to give a big warning speech at the beginning. We've got Health and Safety up the wazoo. Blast radiuses for all our explosions, an emergency psychiatrist waiting at the local hospital..." He gives an evil chuckle. "But I like the idea of people signing their lives away." n SEAN BELL Assembly George Square Theatre, times vary, 31 Jul – 25 Aug, not 11 Aug, 19 Aug, £8 – £12

www.festmag.co.uk


THEATRE

Seriously Bad Pharma A year after tackling the dole queue, comedy theatre group Sh!t take a look at the murky world of human medical trials

B

ecca Biscuit and Louise Mothersole want to be tested on. They want to be guinea pigs. It’s a year since their attempts to cut out of the dole queue were documented in the Total Theatre award-winning JSA (Job Seekers Anonymous) and they’ve set their sights a little lower. They’re not looking for an adequately paid, non-soul-shredding eight hours per day of labour. All they want now is to offer their bladders up for some experimental Botox treatment. And can they get on the list? Absolutely not. That’s the bleak diagnosis behind Sh!t Theatre’s latest show, Guinea Pigs On Trial, as the Sh!ts (their term, not mine) take on the shifty world of paid pharmaceutical trials with their combination of joyously scrappy cabaret and hypodermically sharp political satire. "JSA was obviously about the benefit system," Biscuit says. "And one of the things we’ve noticed while signing on was that a lot of the jobs had been replaced by adverts for phase one medical trials."

www.festmag.co.uk

It’s a chilling thought that instead of pouring over your CV, your next Job Centre Case Worker could be more interested in your blood type or your sexual history. Accordingly, Sh!t have taken some creepy dramatic inspiration to match the theme. "The whole show is structured like an episode of The X-Files," Mothersole, a Mulder and Scully fanatic, explains. "It’s our attempt at being these heroic investigators." And their investigations have already thrown up plenty of reasons to be paranoid. Biscuit: "We did an interview with Ben Goldacre," crusading author of Bad Pharma and lucid lid-lifter on the bare-faced corruption of the pharmaceutical industry, "and he said it would be 'batshit crazy' to do this kind of test on swine-flu – and we were offered several of those." When Sh!t began working on the show, they expected no problems in throwing themselves to the mercy of the pharma industry. But in fact it's proven far from straightforward, and it's thrown up one of starkest issues

from last year’s show once again: the gender inequality of the job market. "We’ve discovered that it’s particularly difficult to get on as a woman," Mothersole reveals. "They’ll often only take women who have gone through the menopause, or who’ve been surgically sterilized." They’re worried about the tests affecting fertility, explains Biscuit, which is worrying enough in itself. It’s great meat for their brand of funny and uncompromising performance, and their new show sounds every bit as vital as JSA. It's also an issue Biscuit thinks could a serious impact on performers at this year's Fringe in years to come: "As artists, are we going to have to start depending on other ways of making money, like medical trials, in order to fund our future shows?" If that doesn't scare the sh!t out of you, I don't know what will. n

STEWART PRINGLE

Summerhall, 3:30pm – 4:30pm, various dates between 2 Aug and 23 Aug, £5

preview guide 2014 fest 65


THEATRE

Songs of Travel A new romantic musical tackles the troubled history of immigration and racism in New Zealand

W

ith over 200 performers from New Zealand heading for the Fringe under the 'NZ in Edinburgh' banner, festivalgoers will have no shortage of opportunities to aquaint themselves with the artistic diversity of the Land of the Long White Cloud. Among the shows on offer is The Factory, an exploration of 1970s Pacific Island immigration and the troubling legacy of racism and discrimination left in its wake. Superficially, it may seem unlikely material for a romantic musical, but for the Kila Kokonut Krew—in spite of their defiantly unfortunate acronym—it is exactly the kind of material the groundbreaking theatre company always intended to tackle. "Kila Kokonut Krew gives our Pacific people a creative voice," explains Stacey Leilua, director, associate producer and cast understudy of The Factory. "At the time KKK was formed, there was no other theatre company that focused on committing solely to the recognition, development and celebration of Pacific voices. That was the impetus for creating the company. All too often Pacific Island people were characters in the background, playing stereotypical cleaners or drunken, abusive partners. We wanted to create new work that showcased our people in a positive light – to be able to put them in the foreground and tell our stories in the way they deserved to be told." A much-praised hit at the Aucklands Arts Festival, the play follows young Samoan, Losa, and her father as they travel to New Zealand in the 1970s, searching for the abundant opportunities—the "milk and honey dream"—that many immigrants were promised. Instead, they end up working in a textile factory with a less-than-accommodating boss (whose son Losa quickly falls in love with, in classic musical fashion).

66 fest preview guide 2014

"At the time Kila Kokonut Krew was formed, there was no other theatre company that focused on committing solely to the recognition, development and celebration of Pacific voices.” "We wanted to capture the reality of the migrant experience at that time – the fact that when you left your island paradise in those days you were literally leaving for years, if not forever," says Leilua. "It was a huge commitment. Work conditions were tough; you didn't have strong unions or workers rights like you might have today. We also wanted to show the sense of community and family that the workers had among themselves, as well as the attitudes of many of the Europeans that lived in New Zealand at that time. "It's surreal watching 1970s documentary footage of older Europeans being interviewed about islanders migrating – comments that would be

regarded as blatant racism these days were almost normal. The Factory is a tribute to those that came before us. They paved the way to make a better life for us, so this is about honouring and thanking them for what they endured." At a time of increased support for political parties on the radical right, audiences will be more attuned than ever to issues of racism and immigration. Culturally distinct though The Factory may be, its themes are timely and may well elicit a universal response. n

SEAN BELL

Assembly Hall, 7:15pm – 8:30pm, 31 Jul – 25 Aug, not 11 Aug, £12 – £17.50

www.festmag.co.uk


World premiere of a Zulu Ballet An explosion of music, song and dance Live music by Ladysmith Black Mambazo Including current and former dancers from Rambert and The Royal Ballet

Charity No SC004694 Photo Simon Turtle

#EdintFest

Supported by

Sunday 10 – Tuesday 12 August 8.00pm The Edinburgh Playhouse

Book tickets from ÂŁ10* eif.co.uk/inala 0131 473 2000 www.festmag.co.uk

*Fees apply

preview guide 2014 fest 67


THEATRE

THE MAGIC ROUNDABOUT You can’t miss Paines Plough’s pop-up theatrical bolthole, The Roundabout, at this year’s Fringe. You shouldn’t think about missing what’s going on inside of it either…

“P

aines Plough is like Doctor Who. Every few years it regenerates,” notes James Grieve, quoting Fest’s own scribe Matt Trueman. “We’ve always re-invented ourselves, with different artistic directors, different writers-in-residence. That’s the key to longevity.” He’s right, of course. Alongside George Perrin, a student pal from Sheffield, Grieve is the current co-custodian of the mighty morphin’ theatrical troubadours; much-loved, itinerant, and an inked-in byword for The Next Big Thing. Here, from “a little ramshackle office in London”, risk-taking is avidly embraced, new writing the forever lover. And this year, the company that began in that most revered of traditions—over a pint (of Paines) in the pub (The Plough)—marks its 40th anniversary at the treacherously sharp end of the business. Happy birthday, boys. “Thank you,” they chime, “We’re celebrating with our biggest ever programme of work, with 11 productions touring to 53 places. And counting,” continues Grieve, “We’re going from Lyme Regis to Margate to Much Wenlock to present work by debutants and Olivier Award winners at arts centres, student unions, village halls, music festivals and in our own pop-up theatre. I guess most importantly, though, we’re just doing what Paines Plough has always done – producing new plays by the nation’s best writers and touring them across the UK.” It’s a refreshingly no-nonsense philosophy, and one that has served

68 fest preview guide 2014

Perrin and Grieve and their seven predecessors admirably. It’s also a philosophy, you won’t be surprised to hear, that reflects the evolution of the Fringe itself. “Paines Plough’s first ever show premiered in Edinburgh. The company was formed by a playwright, David Pownall, and a director, John Adams, and David’s play, Crates on Barrels, which John directed, opened at Edinburgh’s Lyceum Studio. We both used to travel to Edinburgh when we were students and Paines Plough was the company we were consistently wowed by. I remember Vicky Featherstone’s landmark premiere of Sarah Kane’s Crave, Abi Morgan’s Splendour… Tiny Dynamite, Gary Owen’s The Drowned World and Mark

Ravenhill’s Product which went on to tour the world.” “Then there was Dennis Kelly’s After the End and Orphans,” chips in Perrin, “Gregory Burke’s The Straits directed by John Tiffany, Evelyn de la Cheneliere’s Strawberries in January… right up until we were last at The Traverse in 2012 with David Harrower’s Good With People.” It’s an explosive list. A catalogue of rulebook-rubbishing playwrights who have defined British drama over the last four decades. So why come back? As a subsidised theatre company who have amply proven their mettle, what left to conquer amid the thrum and whir of another Fringe? “Well, we have a loyal, long-standing audience for our work in u

www.festmag.co.uk


THEATRE

PLOUGHING ON 40 YEARS IN THE LIFE OF THE UK’S NATIONAL THEATRE OF NEW PLAYS

Crates on Barrels, 1975

1974 Over a pint of Paines Bitter at the Plough pub in Bolnhurst, Bedfordshire, writer David Pownall and director John Adams make good their plan to make and tour new plays in the UK. Paines Plough is registered as a company on 1 April.

1975

Grieve and Perrin

Pownall’s play, Crates on Barrels, the company’s first, opens at the Lyceum Studio, Edinburgh, on Sept 11. “An intense theatrical experience” proclaims The Scotsman.

1982

1998

John Chapman takes over as Artistic Director, before handing over to Pip Broughton (1985), Anna Furse (1990), Penny Ciniewicz (1994), Vicky Featherstone (1997), Roxana Silbert (2005) and latterly, James Grieve and George Perrin who take the reins on 1 Feb, 2010.

The incendiary Sarah Kane’s Crave, depicting the disintegration of a human mind, opens. Later that year, Abi Morgan (whose went on to write Peak Practice, Birdsong, The Hour and Sex Traffic for TV) and Mark Ravenhill crop up on the books for the first time.

Love, Lo

ve, Love

, 2010

2005 Philip Ridley’s Mercury Fur starring Ben Whishaw reveals a singular playwriting talent. At other times, Paines Plough have gone on to work with actors from Andy Serkis to Kathy Burke to Josie Laurence. Mercury Fur, 2005

2010 Olivier Award-wining writer Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love opens in Plymouth. Paines Plough wins a TMA award for special achievement in regional theatre.

Wasted, 2011

2011 2014 Paines Plough hits 40 with 12 productions touring to 50 places around the UK, featuring the work of 100 playwrights.

www.festmag.co.uk

Ted Hughes poetry prize winner to be, Kate Tempest, joins the PP stable (with Wasted – “A play about love, life and losing your mind”)

preview guide 2014 fest 69


THEATRE

70 fest preview guide 2014

Phoebe Cheong

“Contemporary stories, formal innovation, great writing. That’s the formula right there.” to theatre buildings.” “Yes, the climate is hard and we’re having to be ever more inventive,” continues Grieve, “But we are fortunate to work with some brilliant people at our partner theatres up and down the country, whose shared passion for new plays and collaborative approaches to production have meant we have been able to maintain our output. New writing will always survive, and indeed thrive, because we have the best playwrights in the world working here in our country, and when you read a great play, you just have to find a way of getting it on.” And how do you know you’ve landed on “great”? “We just look for it. That may sound obvious, but you can feel great writing. You know great writing three lines into a play. We try to work with the best writers, because great writing is universal. “The very best writers usually innovate. A characteristic of Paines Plough plays over history, and we hope today, is formal invention. We are excited by writers who tell stories in new ways, who change our perception of what theatre is and can be. Writers like Duncan Macmillan and Kate Tempest are writing plays that feel

very new, in form and content. And we look for stories that speak to us now, about our friends, our families, our relationships, our politics, our global society. “Contemporary stories, formal innovation, great writing. That’s the formula right there.” n JOE SPURGEON

THE INITIATE Summerhall @ Roundabout, times vary, various dates between 2 Aug and 23 Aug, £10–£17 EVERY BRILLIANT THING Summerhall @ Roundabout, 12:00pm – 1:10pm, various dates between 5 Aug and 22 Aug, £10–£15 OUR TEACHER IS A TROLL Summerhall @ Roundabout, 10:30am– 11:20am, 2–23 Aug, not 3, 10, 17, £9–£12

Thomas Doyle

t︎ Edinburgh, so we want to serve them as well as introduce new audiences to the company and to the plays,” suggests Grieve. “Edinburgh allows us to do both. The Festival is such a great place to showcase new plays, there is a genuine hunger amongst audiences. That’s a big factor. “It’s also important for us to be in Edinburgh to see work. We try to see as many new plays as we can while we’re at the Festival, in the search for the next generation of Paines Plough writers. We need to be at the Fringe to keep us on our toes.” “We could not be more excited about being part of the festival again this August,” confirms Perrin. “Edinburgh feels like home from home for us, and this year we’re partnering with Northern Stage and Summerhall to programme a range of exciting companies and productions in the Roundabout Auditorium, our new pop-up theatre. “Roundabout is a 170-seat, fully self-contained, in-the-round theatre that flat-packs into a lorry and pops up anywhere from school halls to warehouses. We built it because there are so many places around the country that don’t have theatres, and we want to reach new people in new places with great new plays in a surprising and exciting theatrical context. We think Roundabout will offer people a unique, dynamic live experience, whether they are theatre fans or not.” And herein, you suspect, lies the Ploughmen’s greatest achievement: an unswerving adherence to an industry nurturing artistic policy whereby others limply turn to frocks, fame and the familiar to lure in the audiences. Here, a gauntlet is defiantly thrown down to the gripers declaiming death for new writing at the behest of the bottom line. “It’s about the context of the presentation,” explains Perrin. “You can sell a new play at established new writing venues easily enough. But away from big metropolitan centres, where people don’t get many new plays, it becomes much harder. Our response to that is Roundabout. That’s also why we tour our work to music festivals like Latitude and Bestival and to student union campuses, to meet audiences on their own turf rather than always expecting them to come

Top left: Every Brilliant Thing Top right: The Initiate Right: Lungs

www.festmag.co.uk


THEATRE 10:00

CalArts Festival Theater 11th Season on the fringe 12:30

Shadow Puppetry Tale of Persephone

Pomegranate Jam 16:45

19:45

Premire Tale of Van Gogh's Lust

Kaspar by Peter Handke Yellow Fever August 2-23 - £8 Gen £6 Con tickets: www.venue13.com - 07074 20 13 13

l cia

I s UR age NO Dam t

es

Gu

e EL nd HACIS a C MI of N Sp

‘THRILLING! HAD MY HEART PUMPING!’ HUFFINGTON POST

ar

St

‘THE MUSICAL OF THE MOMENT.’

‘EXTRAORDINARY! BREATHTAKING!’

MAXIM ITALY

LA SPLASH

siddharthathemusical.co.uk

31 July - 24 August

(not 6, 13 August)

6.10pm Festival Highlights.com

www.festmag.co.uk

preview guide 2014 fest 71


Festtory c e r i D in ughl o L ’ ds… la O

Or

en

m recom

Mosque Kitchen 31 NICOLSON SQUARE

Ciao Roma 64 SOUTH BRIDGE

I love Ciao Roma. I return year after year and I have a huge sentimental attachment to the place. It brims with Festival memories: nights spent celebrating, commiserating and dreaming. The food is always delicious and the welcome always warm. After a few glasses of wine, the décor makes me feel like I’m on holiday. There are usually a few interesting characters in situ and it’s great for people watching. And of course, there’s a Festival venue in the basement should you fancy some late night comedy. FOOD

8

nnnnnnnnnn

This is a festival mainstay. Don’t be fooled by the lo-fi, bargain-priced and paper-plated set up. The portions here are generous, but more importantly, utterly delicious. I tend to drift here when I’m tired, or it’s raining. The food feels nourishing and wholesome, the community spirit driving the endeavour feels good and the bare bones ambiance offers a welcome respite from the bells and whistles elsewhere. FOOD

8

nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK

5

nnnnnnnnnn

(for the cans – no booze) ATMOSPHERE

7

nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS

9

nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK

8

nnnnnnnnnn

ATMOSPHERE

9

SECRET WEAPON

Soul food.

The Bon Vivant 55 THISTLE ST

A candlelit haven, especially suited to wine lovers, tucked away on Thistle Street, The Bon Vivant is a dimly-lit bar with an awe inspiring selection of wines. The food ranges from small to large plates of all manner of tasty treats. It is the perfect place to kick back and take a breath, good for one-to-one conversations and hiding away. And the lighting is terribly flattering, after a long, hard Festival day. FOOD

8

nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK

10

nnnnnnnnnn

ATMOSPHERE

10

nnnnnnnnnn

FATAL FLAW

nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS

Don’t expect an extensive choice.

FRINGEYNESS

9

nnnnnnnnnn

SECRET WEAPON

You MUST ask to be seated in the Hispaniola. It’s the room at the back. It is bedecked with life size skeletons dressed as pirates. Look out for the glass panel on the floor, beneath which lies treasure. FATAL FLAW

It can get busy. There are often queues out of the door.

72 fest preview guide 2014

5

with a nightcap in the wee small hours after a late night show. We have no VIP area, so artists and audience mingle. It’s a place to debate, celebrate and be inspired. Underground with no clocks or windows we tend, like Vegas, to run on our own time. An embodiment of the feverish, surreal and joyous celebration that is the Fringe. FOOD

10

nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK

10

nnnnnnnnnn

nnnnnnnnnn

ATMOSPHERE

SECRET WEAPON

nnnnnnnnnn

They own the lovely off licence next door.

FRINGEYNESS

FATAL FLAW

Not for lovers of the light.

The Traverse Bar 10 CAMBRIDGE STREET

What can I say? The Traverse Bar is the best place to be during the Festival. Operating almost 24 hours a day, you can kick things off with our award winning breakfast plays first thing and end your evening

10 10

nnnnnnnnnn

(But then I would say that!) SECRET WEAPON

It’s the Traverse! FATAL FLAW

The theatre on offer may lure you from the bar… Orla O’Loughlin is the Traverse Theatre Artistic Director and director of Spoiling by John McCann. The Traverse Festival presents an eclectic programme of Traverse Theatre Company productions and an array of talent from around the world.

www.festmag.co.uk


THEATRE

Achingly Hip Funny men Thom Tuck and Simon Munnery return to the Fringe with a fresh take on a psychological Pinter tragicomedy

H

ow would you react if you spotted a dishevelled Simon Munnery mooching around your property. Call the authorities? Commend him on a long and consistently groundbreaking career in the comedy business? Or become unnaturally obsessed? That’s the conundrum posed by Harold Pinter’s lesser-spotted radio play A Slight Ache or, at least, by Thom Tuck’s latest attempt to raise its profile. Tuck's an old hand at the Fringe, having performed as one third of the Penny Dreadfuls for several years and undertaken numerous acclaimed acting/directing roles. Is he a particularly keen Pinter punter? “Massive. The very first thing I bought with my very first student loan cheque when I arrived at the University of Edinburgh was a Complete Pinter," he admits, "and after that, paid my rent." He first staged the 1958 tragicomedy at university, aeons ago.

www.festmag.co.uk

Above: Simon Munnery Below: Thom Tuck

A Slight Ache is a psychological tale about a reasonably well-to-do couple—played here by Tuck and the experienced Catriona Knox, of the Boom Jennies—and an aging vagrant whose presence prises open the cracks in their marriage and mindsets. That interloper is Simon Munnery’s first role in an Edinburgh play for over a decade, and the mischievous might attempt certain parallels: he too is a slightly mythical figure, whose reappearance at The Stand every August inspires wonder, bewilderment and probably a degree of soul searching among less ambitious comics. Then again, this appealing collision of man and part might never have happened. Tuck initially looked to cast Munnery in Pinter’s The Caretaker, “but you can’t get the rights to do it if you’re going to make any cuts. And there’s no way you can fit it into an hour, and there’s nowhere to put it on longer than an hour. So I went back through my Complete Pinter.” Discussions about A Slight Ache got off to a dubious start: “He said ‘Which one do you want me for?’ ‘The old man, Simon.’ ‘Oh, it’s come to that has it?’” In other versions the vagrant doesn’t appear at all, and critics of previous live performances have bemoaned the lack of mystery. It was, after all, intended for radio. Has Tuck heard the original production? “Not really interested in it,” he insists. “The bits toward the end of the play that are very difficult and challenging as an actor – and hopefully for an audience. I don’t want to find out what the answers to those questions were.” Not that Tuck is actually directing this version, we should add. For an ‘outside eye’ he brought in James Yeatman, best known for successfully heading up several Fringe productions for Kandinsky (“He’s a friend, and would do it for that money.”) So Tuck’s role is a bit like when Tom Cruise buys the rights to a novel, then hires someone else to film him in it? “That’s essentially it,” he concludes. “I’m the Tom Cruise of a 55-seater at The Pleasance.” n SI HAWKINS Pleasance Courtyard, 12:45pm – 1:45pm, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 13 Aug, 20 Aug, £6 – £9

preview guide 2014 fest 73


Festtory c e r i D an domds… n a b n A omme

Henderson’s

rec

Hendersons of Edinburgh 94 HANOVER ST

Hendersons is comfort food for vegetarians: massive servings of homemade stews, salads and vegetarian haggis. For the performer, this is definitely a midday spot, as you’ll need to factor in a couple of hours for digestion or napping afterwards. Its location is slightly off-the-flyered path, so it’s a great place to get away from the bustle of the Fringe. Drinks-wise, you’re more likely to find a pot of tea or a fresh juice than a beer. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if they had some bottles of local organic ale on the go. It’s got that vibe.

whenever possible to enjoy its soups, wraps and juices. Sometimes twice in a day. They do a cheap soup-and-a-wrap deal which a big favourite. Wash this down with a tasty smoothie and you’ve a perfect lunch right there. It’s become a favourite location for Abandoman meetings, and we’ve often bumped into fellow performers doing the same, so this might be a good spot to overhear performance debriefs and panicked show re-writes. If you’re into that. FOOD 9 nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK 10 nnnnnnnnnn

ATMOSPHERE 9

quesillada, which you simply have to try. Plus free refills on soft drinks, which is the icing on the cake.

nnnnnnnnnn

FOOD 9

FRINGEYNESS 8

nnnnnnnnnn

nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK 8

SECRET WEAPON

nnnnnnnnnn

‘The Nutty Professor’. Banana, peanut butter and frozen yoghurt in one glass of awesomeness.

ATMOSPHERE 8.5

nnnnnnnnnn

FATAL FLAW

SECRET WEAPON

FRINGEYNESS 3

It’s very moreish. One visit per day isn’t enough.

Haggis Quesadilla. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

FOOD 9 nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK 7 nnnnnnnnnn

ATMOSPHERE 7

nnnnnnnnnn

SECRET WEAPON

Ridiculously tasty veggie haggis. It allows vegetarians to take a trip to meat town with no guilty feelings. FATAL FLAW

If you’re on the Bristo Square side of the city, it’s a fair walk.

Hula 103-105 WEST BOW

If you look at my credit card statement for August, one word takes precedence. That word is Hula. Since we found this place last year, we’ve been back

74 fest preview guide 2014

Illegal Jacks 113-117 LOTHIAN RD

Finding good food venues can become a big priority on tour. There are so many moments in late-night petrol stations staring at Ginsters pasties, that by the time you hit a city you’re craving a decent meal. We tweeted a search for good eateries and Illegal Jacks got back. We ended up swapping a meal for a freestyle (which you can find on YouTube) and have been good mates since. They do great Mexican food including a haggis

nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS 0 nnnnnnnnnn

Hula

close enough to the main Fringe area but not bang in the centre. They have regular nights here throughout the year with electronica and hip-hop nights, so it’s a shame we’re only here in August! FOOD N/A nnnnnnnnnn

DRINK 9

FATAL FLAW

nnnnnnnnnn

Another one that you have to walk a bit to get to.

ATMOSPHERE 9 nnnnnnnnnn

FRINGEYNESS 7

The Bongo Club 66 COWGATE

We discovered this venue a couple of years ago when Mark Thomas was on and I can’t believe we hadn’t been here before! The space is great – it’s the perfect size for a Fringe show, and the bar upstairs is awesome too. In fact, it’s the perfect bar to chill out in – nice coffee, and easyfeel atmosphere, and it’s

nnnnnnnnnn

SECRET WEAPON

It’s a great space to get away from the Fringe atmosphere when you need to, like in the dark tunnel that is the second week. FATAL FLAW

I don’t think it’s as established in the Fringe as it should be. Underbelly, Bristo Square, 9:10pm – 10:10pm, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 11 Aug, 18 Aug, £7.50 – £15

www.festmag.co.uk


THEATRE

Prison Break Young playwright Alice Birch is not afraid to be radical, whether she's writing about women's prisons or alarming the Financial Times with her take on women's history. But, she says, it all comes down to story in the end

W

hen it comes to women’s prisons, orange may be the new black, but for award-winning young playwright Alice Birch it’s not orange, it’s green. In 2013 she received a commission from Clean Break, an all-female campaigning theatre company which produces work about women caught up in the criminal justice system, to write a oneact play for the Almeida Festival. She was told that it had to be set on a patch of grass. "I kept thinking about the patch of green, [it] felt very different from what we think of when we think of prison," she explains. "I thought it would be interesting to make it another world and perhaps a world that [the prisoners] had created themselves." This was the inspiration behind Little on the Inside, which is being revived for this year’s Fringe. The continuing appeal of female-authored romance and escapist fiction is accounted for by literary theorist, Jane Spencer, by the way it gives disempowered women a fantasy of power: a chance to express their hopes and visions and to escape in imagination from the reality of oppression. I am reminded of this as I listen to Birch describe the thinking behind her play: "The idea of having an imaginative world where you can be exactly who you are, exactly who you want to be, sounds interesting and useful." Birch is a diffident interviewee, not comfortable talking about her own work – a surprise given the confidence of her writing. Her latest piece, Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again is part of the RSC’s Midsummer Mischief season, four new plays by women which respond to American academic Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s assertion that "well-behaved women don’t make history". It challenges the inbuilt sexism of our man-made language and, as Birch admits, "goes quite hard

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on that subject." So hard, in fact, that while The Telegraph was won over by its "provocative daring," the Financial Times accused it of "coming close to outright misandry." Birch is eager to praise the support she received from her fellow Midsummer Mischief playwrights during the writing process. Could this supportiveness be down to them all being women? Such a gender-essentialist argument is quickly dismissed: "Yeah, it’s great that we’re all women but that’s aside. We’re all writers and writing is writing." It is the only point during our interview that I become briefly aware of the revolutionary anger which so alarmed the Financial Times.

Birch has been commissioned to write another play by Clean Break – this time a full-length project she will not begin until after she has had a six-month residency in a women’s prison. She believes that as she grows in confidence, her work grows more political (FT beware). But in spite of this, Birch is keen to stress that it is always story, not politics, that drives her. Behind each of her plays is "a really good story" and her love of live story-telling, she tells me, "is why I wanted to become a playwright in the first place." n MIRANDA KIEK Summerhall, 5:00pm – 5:40pm, 1–24 Aug, not 6, 13, 20, £9 – £12

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THEATRE

An Open Secret Playwright Mark Ravenhill has teamed up again with the Lyric Hammersmith to devise an untitled show that is "not so much under wraps as unwritten" mere weeks before the performance

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hen is a secret not a secret? The Lyric Hammersmith's clandestine company brings two pieces to the Fringe this year: the devised Show 5 (A Series of Increasingly Impossible Acts) and a new play by Mark Ravenhill. Inspired by Secret Theatre's manifesto and their season so far, the playwright joined the project just weeks before Fest caught up with them, and began rehearsals immediately. The experimental company, which has previously staged established plays without revealing their title in advance, is reevaluating its “secret” aspect to focus on “the importance of the ensemble, the makeup of an audience, and questioning the ways to make work.” Ravenhill is therefore free to spill the beans on Show 6 – which, he laughs, “is not so much under wraps as unwritten.” “Plot-wise,” he says, “there are elements of a conventional thriller narrative.” In a world that's somewhere between a parallel universe and an imminent future, a fatal accident occurs and revolutionary events unfold. But “language has become fragmented and jagged – no thought can ever be completed and sometimes words come at random into people's heads and out

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of their mouths. It's an odd, dystopian world where language doesn't quite function,” Ravenhill explains. “Or maybe that's not so odd – maybe that's our world.” The premise was “kind of an idea I'd had already,” but Show 6 is really coming to fruition for Ravenhill as he works alongside the performers. “One of the main things that you feel in English rehearsal rooms is often fear,” Ravenhill observes. “In this country, people in theatre are only employed for one job, so they might have had a long period of unemployment beforehand and they're terrified of another straight after. But when you put them on a permanent contract like this they're very relaxed, and open to a play changing in rehearsal. As a writer you're able to be much more fearless yourself. I've found it incredibly liberating.” The strengths of the Secret Theatre ensemble, the playwright reckons, are that “they constantly challenge themselves, and really think about what they're doing,” as well as making up “a genuine reflection of society, a cross-section of people who are men, women, black, white, disabled and able-bodied. Even people with working class accents – that shouldn't

be extraordinary, but has become so as theatre's got increasingly expensive and performing has become the preserve of the rich.” He also praises the company's “honest,” German-influenced performance style they've developed and “their enthusiasm about what they're doing even when it doesn't all come off. It's a much more engaging theatrical experience than a well-made, rather perfect but slightly sterile piece of theatre.” “I love writing for Edinburgh,” Ravenhill reflects. “I know the Festival has got much more commercialised, expensive and competitive, but there's still something about it. It just puts me in a good frame of mind to push myself.” Working with Secret Theatre, he says, has encouraged him to be “more formally playful, intellectually provocative, and unafraid… But who knows what we'll eventually come up with.” n BILLY BARRETT SHOW 6 Summerhall @ Roundabout, 3:50pm – 4:50pm, 2–17 Aug, not 7, 14, £11 – £14 A SERIES OF INCREASINGLY IMPOSSIBLE ACTS Northern StageKing's Hall, 8:15pm – 9:15pm, 2 – 17 Aug, not 7, 14, £14

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THEATRE FROM THE MULTI-AWARD WINNING MAKERS OF TRANSLUNAR PARADISE & BALLAD OF THE BURNING STAR

LIGHT LIGHT

FREEDOM IS NEVER GIVEN.

IT MUST BE WON.

STAGE AWARD WINNERS 2009 & 2013 “ADMIRABLE” TIMES | “SUPERB” THE SCOTSMAN

PLEASANCE KING DOME 30 JULY - 25 AUGUST 2014 17:15 (18:35) (EXCL. 11 & 18) BOX OFFICE 01315566550 | WWW.PLEASANCE.CO.UK WWW.THEATREADINFINITUM.CO.UK @THEATREADINF THE GUARDIAN’S ‘BEST OF THE FRINGE’ 2013

BY

DOMINIQUE MORISSEAU DIRECTED BY

STEVE BROADNAX

31 JULY – 25 AUGUST

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THEATRE

“ YOU HAVE TO BELT IT OUT “ 2014 finds writers setting aside the conventions of theatre for the raucous, free-wheeleing energy of gigs. Matt Trueman turns up the volume, gets dancing, and finds out why

8Symphony

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Get ng Giggi

I

t’s the last half-hour of a gig. Bright lights bear down on you and huge walls of huge speakers are blaring. Your favourite band has its biggest hits stacked like planes coming in to land. Every song—however familiar—seems a surprise and every stranger seems a soulmate. You’re sweating. You’re hoarse. You’re euphoric. Now, tell me this: When does theatre ever match that? Honestly? All too rarely. Shakespeare’s no Springsteen and David Hare’s no Arcade Fire. Soliloquies just can’t rouse a crowd like a Jimmy Hendrix solo and no one ever bit the head off a bat onstage at the National. “A lot of theatre just sits you down and shows you something,” says Jimmy Fairhhurst, artistic director of Not Too Tame, a company aiming to make theatre with the raucous, unpredictability energy of a gig. “A good gig gets rid of the rules. It empowers you as the audience and makes you feel free to join in and enjoy yourself.”  Not Too Tame’s show Early Doors, set in a real working pub, has music acts and karaoke built in. They’re not the only ones borrowing the conventions of concerts. New writing company nabakov has pushed its writers to pen gigs in Symphony, while Beats North pairs Curious’s writers up with a DJ. Solo artists Molly Naylor and Ellie Stamp have picked up their guitars and the Paper Birds are working with a beatboxer, Grace Savage. Elsewhere, you’ll find song cycles, jam sessions and folk-offs in the theatre listings. 

“Sometimes you just want to watch some dickhead just doing their best. It can be really endearing.”

THEATRE

Symphony

Assembly George Sq Gardens, 1 – 25 Aug (not 11), 5:00pm

New plays from Ella Hickson, Nick Payne and Tom Wells inspired by gigs and stand-up comedy. “You can get your average 25-year-old into a gig much more easily than a piece of new writing,” says Hickson.

Early Doors

Pleasance Pop-Up: The Pub, 1 – 25 Aug (not 11, 19), 12:00pm

A celebration of all things pub from Not Too Tame. “We’ve lost the sense of communal event in this country,” argues director Jimmy Fairhurst. “That’s why festivals and concerts have got bigger. It’s the way forward for theatre.”

If Destroyed Still True Forest Fringe, 6-17 Aug (not 11), 6:00pm

This isn’t musical theatre or theatre with a live soundtrack. This is theatre as gig – or, if you prefer, gig as theatre. It’s about songs and direct address, set lists that tell stories—as concept albums do—and music that’s integral, never incidental. The form’s been on the rise in recent years. Fringe favourites Little Bulb, Fine Chisel and the Flanagan Collective all double up as bands, while Bryony Kimmings also gigs as her popstar alter ego Catherine Bennett. American ensembles The TEAM and Banana Bag and Bodice splice stories with songs, as have playwrights like Tim Price (I’m With the Band) and David Greig (The Events, Prudencia Hart). It’s not entirely new, of course - Greig was making theatrical gigs with his Glasgow company Suspect Culture a decade ago. But the recent concurrence can’t be entirely coincidental either. So why are today’s theatremakers so inspired by gigs? Partly, it’s about mining the riotous energy Fairhurst mentions above. “We finally get to be sexy and fun,” enthuses Ella Hickson, one of the writers on Symphony, “rather than boring old theatricals.” In that, it fits into a wider thirst for theatre that’s active and experiential. Fairhurst agrees: Gig-theatre “acknowledges us as an audience,” he says, but it does so in a u

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Spoken word artist Molly Naylor looks at teenagers and their bands. “If people want polish and technique, they’ll go to the opera or the ballet. There’s a place for that, but it’s not everything. Trying is good.”

Beats North Summerhall @ Roundabout, 11- 23 Aug (not 14, 21), 7:10pm

Luke Barnes and Ishy Din join forces with DJ Mariam Rezaei to hymn the music of Northern England. For Din, “music’s always played a role in social upheaval. It’s a great way of expressing that anger and frustration.”

Blind

Pleasance Courtyard, 17- 25 Aug, 1:55pm

Beatboxer Grace Savage joins forces with the Paper Birds for this autobiographical show. “Beatboxing isn’t just something teenage boys do in their bedrooms. It’s not all about pumping baselines. It’s also about delicacy, accessibility and feminity.”

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THEATRE

Early Doors

t︎ different way to immersive theatre. “Immersive theatre says ‘Come into our world and we’ll show you a story.’ This is about enjoying a night with us.” It’s a social thing, perfect for the Festival. After Early Doors, Not Too Tame keep the pub open. “Most people stay, because the evening’s ready to kick off. We’re the torchpaper that sets off the night.” Beats North culminates in a disco and Symphony wants its audience pint-in-hand. As Hickson says, “People just want to party, don’t they?” That’s shifted her writing style significantly, swapping “nice dramatic form, structure [and] dramatic rigour” for something more expansive and expressive. “You react with your body: you dance, you want to stamp your feet and feel things without having to think about them. As a writer, that’s huge.” It underpins everything, from the tone of her piece to its subject: “It’s an angsty love song, a big, chest-thumping, heart-bearting ode to London.” The key difference, Hickson reckons, is that “you’re not in control as a writer.” Instead of a captive audience, politely paying attention, a gig gets

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passing trade and talkative pissheads. “Usually, you can play certain games with your audience: you can release information slowly to create tension or work with dramatic irony. Those things become useless. You’ve got to earn your audience and hold their attention.” As such, says Molly Naylor, there’s no room for meekness or softly-softly self-deprecation: “You have to belt it out.” She’s taught herself the guitar for her new show, If Destroyed Still True, having previously used a backing band, The Middle Ones, in My Robot Heart. “I’m not very good, but I wanted the show to reflect that ideology with a bit of a punk spirit.” As with Symphony, the result is “slightly anarchic and a bit shambolic.” “Sometimes you want perfection,” Naylor continues, “Sometimes you want to look at a Turner and go, ‘Fuck, that’s amazing.’ But sometimes you just want to watch some dickhead just doing their best. It can be really endearing.” In that DIY attitude, you’ll find the seeds of a punk spirit; one that prioritises participation over perfection and

guts over brains. There are two schools of thought on that. One points to access; what Hickson calls “this idea that you can broaden your catchment audience with a hybrid form.” It’s a line of argument that sees a gig as hipper, and possibly easier, than theatre. Naylor points to those “really cool friends who go to gigs, but still don’t go to theatre.” This, she adds, is a way of enticing them in.  But maybe it’s more than that; maybe there’s a need for something raw and visceral at the moment, and theatre that makes some noise and gets you dancing is fulfilling it. Music’s always played a role in social upheaval, in the gap between the haves and the have-nots. “There’s unrest,” Fairhurst pipes up. “A lot of people feel hard done by, so they’ll buy into that raucousness, that edge and that energy of attack. The reason punk was so big in the 70s was that it allowed people an outlet to express themselves. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not saying, ‘Sit there and watch.’ We want people to get involved.” n MATT TRUEMAN

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CtheFestival C theatre

C theatre

6 – 25 Aug 3.00pm C cubed

31 Jul – 25 Aug 6.00pm C south

30 Jul – 25 Aug 1.15pm C

DEM Productions

Richard Williamson and CliMar Productions

Tokyo Tapdo!

Sushi Tap Show

The Snow Queen

30 Jul – 25 Aug 8.30pm C

30 Jul – 25 Aug 8.55pm C

30 Jul – 25 Aug 4.45pm C

30 Jul – 25 Aug 11.15am C

C theatre

English Cabaret with C theatre

Five Point One with C theatre

Notoriously Yours

King Arthur

30 Jul –25 Aug 10.00am C

31 Jul – 25 Aug 5.20pm C south

31 Jul – 25 Aug 8.00pm C south

30 Jul – 25 Aug 12.15pm C

Sally E Dean

Something’s in the Living Room

Lysistrata

Shakespeare for Breakfast

Shakespeare in the Garden: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Thrill Me: The Leopold & Loeb Story

English Cabaret Hour

The Adventure Machine

White Slate Theatre

Your Fragrant Phantom

31 Jul – 25 Aug 5.30pm C cubed

C theatre

C theatre

With more than 200 shows and events across our venues in the heart of Edinburgh, we celebrate our 23rd Fringe with an inspiring international programme of cabaret, comedy, circus, dance, musicals, theatre and family shows. See it all with C venues.

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THEATRE

So So Scandalous Writer Tim Fountain made headlines with his 2004 Edinburgh show Sex Addict. Now he’s back with a new play about a newspaper columnist who’s no stranger to controversy herself Image: Lizzie Roper as Julie Burchill

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THEATRE

T

im Fountain can’t get enough of Julie Burchill. He’s dramatized the likes of Quentin Crisp, Rock Hudson and Sebastian Horsley. But his latest play, Julie Burchill: Absolute Cult, is the first time he’s returned to anyone. The one-woman show is a belated sequel to filthily hilarious Edinburgh hit Julie Burchill is Away. So what’s the explanation? “She’s the only one I haven’t killed!” Fountain laughs down the phone. Rather unfortunately, Crisp died on his way to Resident Alien’s premiere, while Horsley passed away days after Dandy in the Underworld opened. In reality, Fountain’s been fascinated by Burchill since the first play. “I’ve watched her career develop and to some extent, by her own admission, go into managed decline,” he says. “She’s probably a better subject now, because of that Gloria Swanson element. And the fact she carries on regardless.” Absolute Cult finds the controversial newspaper columnist at a crossroads: with her career fading, should she go on Celebrity Big Brother? “And we all know what that means,” says

Fountain. “Career salvation or end-ofthe-pier show.” Burchill saw the script for the first play. Has she seen this one? “Not a word of it!” Fountain laughs. “But Julie’s thing has always been that if you give it, you’ve got to take it.” He continues: “And I’m not doing anything other than trying to tell the truth about her as I see her now – for good, for bad and for ugly.” Burchill typifies Fountain’s fascination with ‘the dandy’ who, he argues, doesn’t have to be male. “It’s just someone for whom the veneer has become their essence.” He sees the “high-wire act” performed by those who embrace self-parody as perfect for theatre. “If you say, as Julie does [in the show], ‘I don’t care what other people think of me’, that sets up a tension. You, as the audience, instantly go, ‘That can’t be true, can it?’” Fountain has also dared people to judge him, with his 2004 show Sex Addict, which opened in Edinburgh before transferring to London. In it, audiences chose which of the men Fountain was chatting to online he would have sex

with. The Daily Mail, of course, was scandalised. The suggestion that Sex Addict was just about shocking people still frustrates Fountain. It was, he maintains, about turning an honest spotlight on a reality of life. “Certain sections of the press just wanted me to be judgemental and say, ‘Isn’t it terrible, this Internet stuff?’” A decade on, and a slew of shows like Channel 4’s Sex Box are—superficially, at least—doing something similar to Sex Addict. Fountain is content to let them be. “I’m done with it now. If someone were to ask me what I think about sex, I’d probably take the Boy George line and say ‘I’ll just have a cup of tea.’” But he still likes to “shake things up.” Absolute Cult won’t be for the easily offended. Returning to Edinburgh is “a kind of liberation,” he enthuses. “I’ve written what I wanted to write. No one’s been breathing down my neck.” n

TOM WICKER

Gilded Balloon, 1:45pm – 2:45pm, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 6 Aug, 13 Aug, 20 Aug, £6.00 – £12.50

AL PorT

e theatr

Stories of women in science

Venue18 14:35 July31 £5.00 August1–24 £8.50 (£7.50)

Circo Aereo & Thomas Monckton:

THE PIANIST GET THE BEST FESTIVAL REVIEWS ONLINE

FESTMAG.CO.UK

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Assembly Roxy CentRAl, 2–25 August (not 11th) At 12:00 pm preview guide 2014 fest 83


THEATRE

Absolutely Beastly Kill the Beast made a gory splash at last year’s Fringe with The Boy Who Kicked Pigs. Now they’re back with new show, He Had Hairy Hands. They talk about their love of horror, comedy and warped normality

S

omething blood-curdling is heading to the Edinburgh Fringe – and it’s likely to be hilarious. Following last year’s The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, their grotesquely funny first production, Kill the Beast theatre ensemble are back at the Pleasance Courtyard with new show He Had Hairy Hands. Classic horror and Royston Vasey collide in this 1970s werewolf detective mystery, much praised when it previewed in London earlier this year. When I meet Kill the Beast members Clem Garrity—the show’s director—and performer Ollie Jones, they agree the macabre comedy of The League of Gentlemen has been a major influence on the company’s work, with its weaving of sketches into an overarching story. “It’s based in this warped normality,” says Jones. “We don’t like to get bogged down in anything too serious.” With He Had Hairy Hands, which Garrity jokingly calls “the difficult second album”, they’ve expanded on every element of The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, as well as exploring a lurid new

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corner of the horror genre. “It was very much inspired by the world of Hammer in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” Garrity explains. Moving from a homicidal child to a classic movie monster “felt like a natural progression.” The Boy Who Kicked Pigs was adapted from a novella by Doctor Who star Tom Baker. This time, Garrity and Jones have relished working without the constraints of someone else’s story. “We have a desire to be making our own stuff,” says Garrity. “So people can look back and see the work of Kill the Beast rather than the company who staged, say, Shakespeare.” He hopes that the result is even better: “We’ve worked hard on our gags and creating a more structurally satisfying play.” Kill the Beast’s strong visual style distinguishes them from many new theatre companies. “There are other sketch troupes who don’t put the same level of detail into the design or staging that we do. I think it lifts it,” says Garrity. “It’s a really good starting point,” agrees Jones, explaining that their shows often stem from a strong idea for the setting. In The Boy Who

Kicked Pigs, this was a comically twisted Kent suburbia realised with animated backdrops and in blood-spattered monochrome. He Had Hairy Hands evolved from an overriding sense it should be “grimy, green, sepia and Northern,” according to Jones. “We could see the mildew dripping off the walls, the plastic covers on the sofas and the ceiling peeling off.” The show practically wrote itself after that, says Garrity. “If you know you’re in a town surrounded by moorlands, you instinctively ask, ‘What scenes happen on moors?’” But in the tradition of the best horror movies, don’t expect to see too much of the rampaging lycanthrope at the bloodied heart of He Had Hairy Hands. “I don’t believe in unveiling the monster too early,” Garrity says. “It’s that classic thing of a creature only being satisfying if you get little glimpses.” Deadpan, Jones chips in: “Yeah, in fact, come expecting no werewolf at all.” n TOM WICKER Pleasance Courtyard, 6:30pm – 7:40pm, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 13 Aug, £6 – £11.50

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THEATRE

NORTHERN STAGE AT KING’S HALL UNMISSABLE THEATRE IN A NEW HOME FOR 2014

NOW AT KING’S HALL Venue no 73

AND AT PAINES PLOUGH’S ROUNDABOUT Venue no 26 (Summerhall)

PLAYDOUGH CHEWING THE FAT GOOD TIMIN’ CAPTAIN AMAZING CONFIRMATION I PROMISE YOU SEX AND VIOLENCE SEND MORE PAPER A SERIES OF INCREASINGLY IMPOSSIBLE ACTS SELF SERVICE PRELUDE TO A NUMBER Box Office 0131 477 6630

BRITANNIA WAVES THE RULES BEATS NORTH DEAD TO ME OUR TEACHER’S A TROLL LUNGS EVERY BRILLIANT THING INITIATE SECRET THEATRE SHOW 6

Book Online northernstage.co.uk

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18/07/2014 09:40

A NEW SHOW ABOUT COMING OUT (INSPIRED BY TOM DALEY) PERFORMED BY ROB DEERING, ANDREW DOYLE, ZOE LYONS, CAMILLE UCAN AND A DAILY GUEST STAR

BY MATTHEW BALDWIN AND THOMAS HESCOTT DIRECTED BY DAVID GRINDLEY LIGHTING BY JASON TAYLOR SOUND BY TOM LISHMAN

13:00 30 JUL - 25 AUG (NOT 6, 13, 21)

GILDED BALLOON TEVIOT 0131 622 6552 WWW.GILDEDBALLOON.CO.UK WWW.OUTINGSTHESHOW.COM

Festival Highlights.com

From the of creators ard Olivier Aw nominated smash hit

Potted Potter

by Daniel Clarkson and Tom Clarkson PERFORMERS Daniel Clarkson, Jefferson Turner & Lizzie Wort Hanna Berrigan DESIGNERS Simon Scullion & Louie Whitemore LIGHTING Tim Mascall SOUND Tom Lishman MUSIC Phil Innes DIRECTOR

PS Widescreen Half Size.indd 1

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Pleasance Courtyard 2.50pm 30 July - 25 August (not 6/13/20) Box Office 0131 556 6550 www.Pleasance.co.uk - www.PottedSherlock.com

Festival Highlights.com 10/07/2014 17:28

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UNSPEAKABLE

TRUTHS Ambitious writer-performer Chris Goode is fascinated by the here-and-now and how we respond to it. He talks to Fest about interrogating the zeitgeist beyond Twitter's last character

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THEATRE

“I

"I try to get them to warm to me, to like me and forgive me in advance for all the terrible things I'm about to say.”

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've always considered theatre a rapid-response medium,” says Chris Goode, “where other art forms have an inevitable timelag.” That said, creating his new solo show Men in the Cities has proven a much tougher and more lengthy process than usual. “I've had to let it dictate the pace at which it's willing to be written,” he explains. No wonder: blending fiction with real, violent events, and interweaving a cacophony of conflicting narratives and voices, Goode's latest piece of storytelling seems set to challenge audiences and artist alike. Billed as a “radically humane portrait of how we live now,” the show incorporates among its various strands a response to the death of Lee Rigby in Woolwich last year. “Like many people,” says Goode, “I now spend a lot of time on Twitter – watching stories gain traction, commentaries emerge, and getting a sense of how a social climate is forming and changing in relation to particular events that unfold. Often these are complex and demand nuance, which Twitter is obviously less hospitable to, so I often want to move the conversation beyond the 140th character.” In Men in Cities, multiple viewpoints on “hot-button topics” interact to “speak to one bigger idea, which I suppose is about patriarchy and how exhausted capitalism feels.” So why a solo show? “There's something very interesting about one person embodying contradictions,” Goode considers, “as well as, for me, being identified with ideas that I don't agree with. Although my work has often thrived on ambiguity of one kind or another, this is the first time that I've given myself a script where I have to say things that I find difficult to say.” Goode has also written himself into the piece, “and my character has become a sort of mediating presence between the fiction and the reality.” This has an ethical dimension too: “I don't want to appear to be commenting on events from a distance, or to have clean hands. The very least you can do when writing in this way is acknowledge your own complicity, and the harm that you yourself do to other people, deliberately or otherwise.” Not that it's entirely a one-man effort – Goode is directed by long time collaborator Wendy Hubbard. Hubbard is "very smart, with the most colossal amount of integrity. She won't let me get away with anything," he laughs. "I have a tendency to have a slightly dishonest relationship with an audience, if I can get away with it," Goode explains. "I try to get them to warm to me, to like me and forgive me in advance for all the terrible things I'm about to say, simply because I feel vulnerable as a performer. Wendy's very good at keeping me honest, and truthful – she has no patience for that kind of sentiment that I'm capable of if I'm left to my own devices." n BILLY BARRETT Traverse Theatre, times vary, 31 Jul – 24 Aug, not 4 Aug, 11 Aug, 18 Aug, £12

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MUSIC&CABARET Never Mind the Sex Pistols, Here's

GLEN MATLOCK The punk musician’s brief time with the Sex Pistols is a source of contention even 35 years on. But, he says, he just wants to show audiences a good time

“I

don’t get up in the morning and think ‘I used to be in the Sex Pistols,’” says Glen Matlock, talking from his London home, his slight grogginess at 11am suggesting a man whose lifelong music career has never endeared him to the concept of mornings in the first place. “But if that’s what people want, you try to give it to them.” Matlock is a newcomer to the

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Fringe – his show I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol taking its title from his autobiography and trading on a relatively brief but undeniably pivotal period of his life. Matlock was part of the band for more than half of its history; an explosive 18 months or so typical of the fast and furious nature of punk. He co-wrote most of the songs on the band’s only album, but missed out on actually playing the chords due to a split with the

band just before they hit the studio. His replacement by the altogether less reliable Sid Vicious has been the source of much speculation and storytelling since, and Matlock remains “a sort of semi-media bête noir” for contradicting the official narrative of the Pistols that has emerged, by shaky consensus, over the decades. His show will give some of his own take on this history, but that’s “more of a hook to hang other things on” – stories of his musical adventures and misadventures since with some of the key musical figures of three and a half decades, as well as songs old and new, played acoustically with a flair and energy that has seen him pull in audiences to solo shows worldwide. Despite seeing somewhat mystified that people still want to talk about the Pistols after all this time, Matlock quickly settles into the wellworn grooves of his story and it soon becomes clear why people still want to know. As he says himself, at a particular time in his life he was in “the hippest place to be in the world.” Matlock describes his teenage self as “kind of driven… lost… and wanting to be different,” and “like every oddball at that time,“ he drifted towards Malcolm McLaren’s ‘Sex’ shop on the Kings Road in Chelsea. “We all sort of gravitated there because we had a gut feeling that something, somehow would happen,” he says, talking of himself and his eventual bandmates Steve Jones, Paul Cook and, slightly later, John ‘Johnny Rotten’ Lydon. Frustrated by “the dearth of anything that was for the kids, by the kids,” at that time, the idea of forming a band soon took hold. Matlock says he named The Sex Pistols with band’s first vocalist, Wally Nightingale, even before McLaren exercised his now legendary marketing skills and business nous by replacing Nightingale with the much more eye-catching and anarchic Lydon. Though containing four very different personalities, Matlock says that the band worked in harmony musically, at least in that early period. Roughly, he says, “it was John’s lyrics, it was my tunes and constructions and it was Steve and Paul’s sound.” He also claims credit for most of the writing of Pretty Vacant, a sort of “primal scream” of teenage frustration that was to become

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“almost a manifesto” for the band. It’s often said that Matlock was somehow too conservative for the Pistols, but he talks convincingly of the need for punk in the political environment of “the three-day week and the air of complete Nowheresville-ness that was London in '74-75,” as well as a music culture that had tolerated “horrible, bombastic songs about nothing… about hobgoblins and the wives of Henry VIII, all that sort of tripe,” for far too long. “I think I was just right,” he says. “But I suppose I would say that.” In a recent interview with America’s Hustler magazine, former lead guitarist Steve Jones described Matlock at that time as a “middle-class mummy’s boy” claiming that Lydon wrote most of the lyrics that Matlock takes credit for and that Matlock (and his mum) “hated the words” at the time. Matlock gives a resigned sigh. “I

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dunno, it’s funny, you catch people at odd moments. I mean I’d quite happily go for a cup of tea or breakfast with Steve when I’m in Beverly Hills,” (where Jones now lives). But, he says in his London brogue: “I think you can tell from my accent that [Jones’ statement] is just not true. I’m from a very working-class background.” “I was milder-mannered than him and I wasn’t a thief like him,” he says, referring to Jones’ well-documented kleptomaniac tendencies at the time. “But the fact is,” he mumbles with the air of a man tired of having to continually defend his position, “they wouldn’t have done what they done, if I hadn’t done what I done.” The story of why he left the band has never quite been settled, with McLaren’s media-savvy statement at the time that he was sacked because "he liked the Beatles" still delighting journalists looking for an easy answer even today. Matlock’s version is that he left of his own volition after Lydon “became more of a pop star than the people he was playing with.” Sniffing trouble even before this, EMI had already approached him with interest as to what he might do next, he says. He admits that what he did do next has been “an up-and-down rollercoaster thing, and it’s been very hard.” Some early success with his band Rich Kids revealed a poppier, more melodic side to his musical interests that he would have struggled to express through the Pistols. “I didn’t want to be a second-division punk band,” he explains, but even McLaren told him that his more tuneful direction was “too much, too soon,” for a country in thrall to punk. The band foundered soon after their

first single hit the charts. A one-off gig with Sid Vicious after the Sex Pistols split was undertaken “to show that there was no animosity” between them and became mildly legendary in its own right, not least due to Vicious’ untimely death mere months later. Since then, Matlock has continued as a working musician, forming bands, touring his own music and sometimes being invited to play with the likes of Iggy Pop and Primal Scream. He reunited with the Pistols for their hugely successful Filthy Lucre tour in 1996 and on subsequent tours in the early noughties. But despite this modest success and his insistence that he doesn’t “cry over spilt milk,” I still get a sense of a man frustrated that the vagaries of fate and fashion haven’t quite gone his way. Still, Matlock promises a “toe-tappingly tasteful good time” to anyone who turns out for his Fringe show, and expresses a lot of love for an audience who he says are typically “a bit hipper than the kind of believe-everythingyou-read, old punk rockers.” A modest aim for a former member of one of the most important ever British bands, perhaps, but Matlock is endearingly prone to modest plans, as his retirement vision reveals. “One day I’ll have a nice little patch of beach down in St Tropez, with a sun lounger and a parasol,” he grins. “And I’ll have Anarchy in the UK in French playing on repeat, and it will seep insidiously into all the beach combers’ minds.” Some would argue that it doesn’t get a lot more punk than that. n

TOM HACKETT

Assembly George Square Gardens, 7:30pm – 8:40pm, 1 – 6 Aug, £18

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GAME OF TONES In a jungle of black-box theatres, the rise of Summerhall as a cross-genre performance venue is a welcome break from the norm. The Neutrinos singer Karen Reilly talks about transforming its Small Animal Hospital into a 360° sonic stage

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usic is really rebellious," says Karen Reilly, speaking like a true iconcolast. "Why know what format you’re going to get? It’s conservative. We went to Berlin to record an album and got really taken in by the building we played in. How could we harvest the sounds from the rooms?" This was the conceptual birthplace of KlangHaus, which sees Reilly's band The Neutrinos run with the idea of a performance space to transform it into a fully immersive, sonorous experience in which the electro-rock band is up close and personal with the audience. "We did some tests for KlangHaus in our own house where we did a show in complete darkness" (audiences should be prepared for this in the show, too). "Playing in complete blackness meant that we didn’t have to ‘perform’ and anyone watching didn’t have to be part of ‘an audience’. We just had to play." But when the lights come up, it gives the group a chance to showcase the piece's visual identity. "What really

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pisses me off about gigs today is the flashiness. I just want my eyes to be lit up," explains Reilly. To this end, the band have employed the talents of graphic artist Sal Pittman, who bathes the room in colour using slides and bars of cut-up paper. The intended effect, Reilly explains, is that "when people come in we want to create another world that they can just be in. We try to leave enough visual and aural space without bombarding you." It appears to be as inquisitive and tonally sensitive an experiment as Ensemble musikFabrik’s Delusion of the Fury at the Edinburgh International Festival, though on a smaller scale. This more epic music-theatre piece, jostling with the rituals and rites taken from Japanese Noh and Ethiopian myth, plunges us into the work of American composer Harry Partch. Director Heiner Goebbels leads us on a percussive and sensory journey, which recreates idiosyncratic instruments full of chimes and clonks that were actually designed by Partch himself. Both shows modify how we ab-

sorb sounds and images – even to the point of disorientation. In KlangHaus, Reilly explains that she wants the audience "to be taken down into different levels of consciousness." The sonic layering of the piece hints at a scientific examination of the way we process the world around us, and Reilly has even gone as far as to experiment with how extracting certain frequencies alters the way we hear. This teasing around the way audiences witness their shows is what ultimately fascinates Reilly and her band – and what may also lead to a potentially transformative music-theatre synthesis. But KlangHaus aren't so carried away by these ideas that they forget the more straightforward pleasures of group singing. Reilly admits that "we've done shows in intimate spaces before and there's nothing like feeling the vibration of other people, especially on harmonies. It’s just exhilarating." n ANDREW LATIMER Summerhall, times vary, 1–24 Aug, not 4, 11, 18, £6 – £12

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CUM. GIT. IT. A Drag artist CHRISTEENE talks us through her sexually adventurous show on the Cowgate. Be ready for the dark, the dank, and the deeply depraved

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t some point in the next three weeks, when you’re a few drinks down and full of enthusiasm about the night to come, you might feel the urge to venture down to the Cowgate and do something thrillingly deviant. If this happens to you, be sure to find a controlled environment in which to let go. This is what The Christeene Machine is for. You’ll get your fill of deviance and you won’t catch anything – except, if you're lucky, some of Christeene’s stank magik. Christeene, the creation of drag artist Paul Soileau, is a sexually omnivorous disco-skank with a filthy mouth. She dresses like somebody who's just had a dangerous backstreet makeover: matted black wig, ripped clothing, messed-up teeth, brutalized makeup. The beats that accompany her squalid rapping sound like trashy '90s electropunk – but next to Christeene, Peaches is about as sexually threatening as the Moldy Peaches. She performs with the aid of her DJ, JJ Booya, and has two dancers in train. They’re not dancers of the chiselled-abs variety but sweating, pale-buttocked, groin-churning gimps called T Gravel and C Baby. Christeene calls them her “sexual assault drones”. There's a satirical edge to Soileau's work in The Christeene Machine: "I am your new celebrity; I am your new America." The opening lines to 'African Mayonnaise' (the video for which features Christeene and her gang going to a mall and doing disgusting things near unsuspecting people) sum up his strategy – in essence, to turn a Gatling gun on 21st century America's hypocrisy about sex. Other songs are just messed up. In 'Working on Grandma', Christeene makes the idea of helping the elderly sound like a euphemism for something perverted beyond comprehension. "I've been working on Grandma / Every single fuckin' day / I've been workin' on Grandma / Tryin' to find a way to make her stay." Christeene’s PR person requested that Fest spell her name CHRISTEENE, as though she’s liable to come crawling out of our computer monitors like the girl from The Ring if her name isn’t properly capitalised.  She is also said to have an “ass that just won’t quit.” 

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MUSIC&CABARET We asked CHRISTEENE some questions. Her responses are reprinted as given. CHRISTEENE, how do you want people to feel during one of your shows? How about after? Shit. U better just feel like ur alive before durin aaannnd after diz show. We here to wake u up an take ya'll back to da woods an back to the secret places dat you may remember when u were a lil child...da places dat you were able to be urself an be dangerous an be free. What's your message to the people of Edinburgh? I want deeez people uh Edinburrrgh to git up and feel da stank majik cummin from diz nay-nay. What inspires you artistically? Vulnerability. What's your earliest memory? Der was a bird inside of my mouth an diz bird would always whisper things too me when I was sleepin or just wakin up. One day da bird took its wings and spreak open my mouth an some wild songz came rushin out. Before dat happened i cant remember nuthin. Who is your style idol?   I don't reallly find myself havin a style idol. Anybody who can break down alll these costumes that we givin when we were born, da male da female and all dat bullshit...anyone who can find there own freedom an style is a idol tooo me. What do you do to wind down?    I sit around with my boyz T Gravel an C Baby an we like to have sum whiskey an we dance a lot an we smoke adult cigarettes. 

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Was 'Tears From My Pussy' inspired by a particular experience? Tearz frum my Pussaaaay came frum a very sad place. I was all broken in tha heart department an there wasnt anyone round who could help me fix myself up, so I wrote dat song to try and help me dry up da cry between my thighs. Would you say 'African Mayonnaise' is a political song? 'African Mayonnaise' iz about celebrity. It's about me fucking celebrity right where it needs it. I couldn't take all dat stupid bullshit anymore. Hell, I still can't. All these people with their arranged marriages too keep dem 'normal' and 'straight'...all these fucking baby bumps and bodies after the babies are shit out. Dem strannnnnge fuckin secret societies. All tha fuckin reality television shit dat people watch like cray pigs. Iz so fascinating and so verrry dangerous and so verrrry full of bullshit. I luv it. I hate it. I wrote a song about it. I read once in a review of your show that "you brought along an ass that just won't quit". Is that accurate? Has your ass ever been known to quit, or even flag for a brief period? Fuck no. And not only my ass, but my two dancers C Baby and T Gravel. All of us got asses dat will not quit! It's just not possible. Sum up your act in three words. CUM. GIT. IT. n

ED BALLARD

Underbelly, Cowgate, 10:10pm – 11:10pm, 31 Jul – 23 Aug, not 10 Aug, 17 Aug, £6 – £12

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On The Money High finance is hardly child’s play, but it’s a world that interactive theatre creators Unlimited are determined that children can and should understand

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elf-confessed “meek, liberal” theatre producer Ric Watts is having a moment. He’s recalling the time that his company’s own show turned him into a hysterical, red-blooded stockholder, cheering on a ruthless hedge fund manager as they won piles of cash at the expense of an ill-fated rival. “I found myself screaming: like yeeeeeaaaahhhrrr!,” he exclaims, his French bulldog, Beryl stirring from her cosy position on his lap, looking mildly perturbed. “The game does this really interesting thing to an audience, where it turns us all into a bunch of rabid capitalists. It’s quite incredible.” He’s describing his reactions to Money: The Gameshow, a show for grown-ups that ran in London last year, which he worked on in his role as producer for Unlimited Theatre. Now Unlimited and writer-director Clare Duffy have re-imagined it as Play Dough; a show that shares its basic template with Money... but is intended for anyone over the age of seven. If turning children and their families into mini-Donald Trumps doesn’t sound like the most worthy aim for a high-quality kids’ theatre piece, Duffy at least is confident that she’s finally sharing her vision with the right audience. “Money has a kind of invisible magic to it,” says Duffy, speaking on a video call from her flat in Tollcross, Edinburgh (Watts and Beryl join us from home in Manchester).  “Because when we use a pound coin in the street, we don’t really think about it but we just know that it’s valuable. We use it to buy goods and that’s it.” Being just outside of this largely unquestioned system, she says that children are better placed to understand its significance. “You can see it as a system, rather than just part of the oxygen that you breathe.” Rewind to 2010, when Duffy conceived the original show as part of the

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Platform 18 award for new directors at the Arches Theatre in Glasgow. Her motivation was to “find the things that are so everyday, so everywhere, that we don’t really notice them.” The political climate of the start of ‘austerity government’ and her limited budget of £5,000 helped to suggest the subject of cash. In a neat marriage of grand concept and real-world pragmatism, she decided to use the entirety of that £5,000 in pound coins on stage, along with two actors who played hedge fund managers, asking the adult audience to help them play ludicrous high-stakes games with the cash in a satirical swipe at the world of high finance. The approach was almost scarily effective. “It’s amazing how quickly five grand stops feeling like five grand,” Duffy says. “At first you look at it and think ‘Wow…’ and then you just go, ‘let’s chuck it around the stage, like it’s nothing.” Excited by the concept, Ric Watts helped to expand the show with a bigger budget of £10,000, in a co-production between Unlimited (of which Duffy is a co-founder) and the Bush Theatre in London last year. The production values were slightly higher and got the show visually closer to the “flashy gameshow” concept, says Watts, though still within a budget: “it turns out that one moving stage light costs more per week than an actor gets paid.” The security arrangements for the money, which involved Watts working extensively with G4S and having a security guard on stage at all times when the money is present, only served to heighten the moment when the money on stage seems to lose all meaning. Despite excellent audience feedback and positive reviews, Duffy came away from the project feeling that “there was a better audience out

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there” for the play. “I was still thinking: this isn’t really going to change anything,” she explains. “Because once you’ve got a job, or any sort of debt, or any sort of dependency on the financial situation that we have, it’s really difficult to imagine it being any other way. And the only people that don’t have that are children.” While getting seven-to-twelve

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year-olds to understand mechanisms such as long and short trading doesn’t sound like the easiest task, Duffy had already found from her work on Money… that the concepts are not as knotty as is often assumed. “It’s not by accident that it’s wrapped up in arcane language, the world of finance and economics,” she contends. “But actually, what they’re

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doing can be equated to pumping up a balloon as quickly as you possibly can in 30 seconds,” an act that any self-respecting child with an appetite for mild anarchy can understand. This may sound facile to some, but Duffy says with some relief that it was backed up by “all of the bankers and stock exchange managers who came to see the [original] show.

Which was great, because it would have been awful if we hadn’t got it right.” In the case of Play Dough, the trading world is made more accessible to a young audience through two new characters: young cousins from different sides of the economic tracks, who find themselves thrown into the high-stakes trading game by their new economic circumstances and a fluke result of actions in their past. As well as giving children a way into the show, the characters reflect some of the hardships suffered by the young under ‘austerity’ government: Duffy and Watts mention family poverty and dependence on food banks, the closure of Sure Start centres and “the highest youth unemployment ever,” all flowing originally from the behaviour at the top of the system that the play attempts to portray. As Watts demonstrates with his dog-bothering excitement, the ‘game’ element of the show means that the message is delivered in about as fun a way as possible. “There’s so many variables that I can watch it night after night and get utterly hooked,” says Watts, more and more of whose work with Unlimited has included ‘interactive’ elements over the last few years. But Watts says he’s “never been interested in something that is pure game,” and that engagement with story and character are key to the success of the play. Duffy agrees, saying that in pre-rehearsal workshops with children, she found them “absolutely hungry for story and hungry for character.” Far from being a gimmicky distraction from the narrative, the idea is that kids “have an embodied experience as the story is being told, of what the story is about.” Play Dough promises to be a fun hour, but ultimately Duffy is very clear that its aims are deeply political: “If we tell a child before they’re ten: ‘this is how money works, that we create it together, and make up the rules of how it works,’” she says, “then we can say: ‘well, if that’s true, then you are powerful enough to change those rules.’ So, if you could, what would you change?” n TOM HACKETT Northern Stage at King’s Hall, 11:00am – 12:10pm, 2–23 Aug, not 3, 10, 17, £8 – £11

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A Chinny Chin-Scratcher Unlike the Big Bad Wolf, anyone over 8 is welcome to come in to HUFF. But they'll have to wait to find out exactly what this intriguing production is made of

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ome way into interviewing theatrical designer and performer Shona Reppe about her new show HUFF, I hit a problem: apart from the fact that it is aimed at children, based on the story of The Three Little Pigs and co-created with Andy Manley, I really have no idea what it is. You see, it’s not a play – there are no actors. Nor, says Reppe, is it an art installation. Is it a bit like a murder mystery

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weekend, I wonder, except without Colonel Mustard in the library? In other words, are the children detecting the story from scenic evidence? "That makes it sound a bit like an interactive science project and it’s not," says Reppe. By this point I’m scratching my hairless chinny chin chin, so she tries to make things clearer: "It’s a theatrical walk-through experience." I’m not sure that helps.

I try a different tack: Imagine I’m a child... "You don’t have to be a child,’ says Reppe, ‘it’s for anyone over 8." OK, imagine I’m my age then. What do I experience on the theatrical walk-through experience? "You are guided through several rooms, each room is more or less timed so that it takes you on a journey. You are free to explore the rooms and the rooms have clues, and the way they’ve been decorated illustrates aspects of the story." How are you guided? "Through sound." So is there, I ask, feeling at last I am catching on, a sort of disembodied narrator? "It’s difficult to describe, you really have to experience it. It’s not: 'Once upon a time there were three little pigs, and now come through this door.' It’s just helping you move from room to room." Reppe considers a bit more and then explains that it’s bit like the National Gallery where "you have people wearing tartan trousers who sit on the room in chairs." She refuses to reveal any more. "I don’t want there to be a spoiler…I will tell you a bit, but I would like to keep things back," says Reppe. "I always think it better to entice." I end up imagining HUFF as being a bit like that scene in Mary Poppins where the children jump inside the pavement drawings. You get to wander through the landscape of a fairy tale and poke inside the cupboards at the same time: "All children, and all people love looking inside things," enthuses Reppe, "and opening drawers, and opening cupboards and exploring – we all love exploring." The statement is typical of Reppe, who, for all her mysterious enticing, is totally evangelical about children’s theatre. Children are the audience of the future, she says, and if we want them to keep attending into adulthood it is essential that they are excited and challenged by the productions on offer to them. If, as she hopes, the most common audience reaction to HUFF is "I want to do it again!" then she is building audiences of the future not out of straw, or sticks, but huffand-puff-proof bricks. n MIRANDA KIEK Traverse Theatre, times vary, 1–24 Aug, not 4, 11, 18, £6

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KIDS

THE HAT

IS BACK

Dr Seuss comes to Fringe with the return of the National Theatre's spectacular production, making less ambitious shows look like child's play

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hildren like to see things happening. They like to see some spectacle. And in this production it’s like they’re watching the pages of a storybook turn over, watching this world unfold in front of them." I’m speaking to Lillie Collier, who together with frequent collaborator Paul Taylor-Mills, is bringing Dr. Seuss’ beloved tale of domestic anarcy The Cat in the Hat to the Pleasance Courtyard.. So what it is that makes the story, with its plain line illustrations and tiny palette of blues, reds and whites so enduringly beloved? "It’s really clean and precise," she answers. "So much kids’ literature now is so complex and detailed, and I think children really respond to the simplicity of it all – the iconic red and white hat, the naughty, trickster cat. There’s something open and approachable and identifiable in it, something for everyone to associate with." Not that there’s anything simple about Taylor-Mills and Collier’s production, which remounts the blockbusting adaptation Katie Mitchell created for the National Theatre in 2009. That show was a blur of slapstick chaos, with absurd balancing acts, elastic performers and a real sense of Mitchell’s considerable genius, refined down to a diamond-hard forty minutes of fun. Collier is well aware of the challenge of taking on the Hat. "They give you ‘the Bible’ when you get the rights. It’s like a huge cheat-sheet explaining how to build (original designer) Vicky Mortimer’s set, which is very much like the illustrations from the book sprung on to the stage, and how to source and build props and costumes. Our designer, David Shields, has been

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able to use it to create pretty much everything that the National production had. We’ve added our own twists, but there’s been no expense spared in bringing it to life." Mitchell’s adaptation sprints along to the rhythm of Paul Clarke’s original score, and that means that Collier needs to direct the onstage chaos, as the titular cat rips through a house one dozy, rainy afternoon, with incredible timing and precision. "Every ball or plate that drops has to fall just right, every tip of the hat has to be perfectly timed, so our actors are as active offstage as they are on. It’s like a production of Noises Off – it’s great fun to watch them all rushing around." But it’s not at all an exercise in

slavish replication, as the company have taken the unique nature of the Fringe to heart and added several new moments of audience participation, almost de rigueur for any kids’ show worth its salt. It all flashes by in a little over half an hour – a perfect slice of relentless fun and carnage for the whole family. They’ve even recreated the demented many-armed machine that the cat uses to clear the house at the end of his whimsical, crockery-shattering rave. "We’re going to use it to clear away all the other flyers on the Royal Mile," Collier laughs, "and give out ours!" n STEWART PRINGLE Pleasance Courtyard, times vary, 30 Jul – 25 Aug, not 11 Aug, £6 – £11

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Kids in tow: an expert guide For that moment when you're changing nappies in the Assembly toilets at one in the morning while pestering people to turn up for your life-changing 9am show. Comedian Mark Watson has it covered

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arenting at the Fringe. Tears, shouting matches, watching yourself age before your very eyes, wondering where the hell your life is going, being awake at 5am, feeling paranoid that everyone else is doing a better job than you... yes, performing in Edinburgh can be rough. And having children isn't a picnic either. So how are you meant to combine these two famously gruelling activities for a whole month while it belts down with rain and people keep walking in front of the pram to hand you a flyer for an unforgettable open-air Czech-language version of Othello? There are two ways of looking at it. You could argue that the mental instability, tiredness and unhealthy habits associated with early parenting make you perfectly adapted to life at the Fringe. Or you could say that if you're already near the end of your tether with one or more kids, a month in Edinburgh is likely to push you over the edge. Either way, a lot of us take it on. Here are a few tips that may help if you're considering this complex double-endurance task.

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BOOK TICKETS EARLY FOR KIDS' SHOWS. The Fringe is absolutely chockfull of children's shows: that's the good news. The bad news is that every other parent up there is slavering for a way to kill the hours, and many of them probably began organising their lamented ticket-planner in around March 2012. Don't turn up at a show, having hyped your kids up by telling them there's going to be a giant rabbit made of candyfloss, only to find it's sold out: your life will not be worth living for the rest of the day. Get on the website in advance. This advice applies across the Fringe generally, but the consequences of missing out when you're dragging expectant children along are much direr.

IF YOU DON'T HAVE A RAIN-COVER FOR YOUR BUGGY, YOU WILL KILL YOURSELF AT SOME POINT IN AUGUST. Enough said.

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See Mark Watson – ‘Flaws' at the Pleasance Courtyard during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 30th July – 24th August. For tickets visit www.pleasance.co.uk. His novel, 'Hotel Alpha’, published by Picador, is released on 31 July 2014

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THE PLEASANCE COURTYARD WILL SAVE YOU. If it's anything like the past couple of summers, the Courtyard has a great kids' area with stuff like a toy kitchen and musical instruments they can bash away at, and - crucially - other kids they can knock about with. It's within striking distance of the bar, allowing you to sneak off and knock back a desperately-needed gin for courage and then return with an even-money chance that they won't have throttled themselves with a bloody tambourine or something.

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SOLIDARITY. Actually, that leads us on to a principle which applies here as much as it does in any aspect of parenting: find other people in the same situation, and cling to them. A potentially exhausting romp in an adventure playground, or a dead-eyed coffee on the Meadows, becomes a lot more palatable if you team up with someone else whose kids are also hitting each other and running into the path of rickshaws.

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HIRE STUFF. There are companies in Edinburgh which will rent you a cot, toys, slings, pretty much everything you need kid-wise for the duration of the month, saving you the misery of carting 28 separate pieces of equipment separately on the train. But if you're reading this in Fest, you are probably 5th - 8th August 2014 already in Edinburgh, so you probably Untitled-2 9.05pm 1 (50 mins) £8 (£6) 0131 226 0000 www.edfringe.com already have done that. Ah well.

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LOOK FOR SOMETHING SOFT. Two years ago some lunatics brought a sort of giant bouncy castle, with odd coloured lighting, to George Square Gardens and passed it off as an art installation. If you put a kid in it, they were mesmerised for an hour or more at a time. This specific thing is probably not around this year, but there's nearly always some sort of funfair-style attraction among the now very numerous gardens and outdoor venues. Head for the foam. DON'T ALLOW YOUR KID TO DANCE SO VIGOROUSLY TO A BUSKER OUTSIDE SAINSBURY'S ON THE MEADOWS THAT HE FALLS AWKWARDLY AND FRACTURES HIS FEMUR, SPENDING SEVERAL NIGHTS IN THE EDINBURGH SICK KIDS HOSPITAL (EXCELLENT THOUGH IT IS) AND SEVERAL MORE WEEKS IN A PHENOMENALLY HEAVY PLASTER CAST THAT COVERS ALMOST THE WHOLE OF HIS BODY AND NECESSITATES YOU CARRYING HIM EVERYWHERE AT A TERRIBLE PHYSICAL TOLL. I would have loved someone to tell me that two years ago.

www.festmag.co.uk

St Mary’s Calne Presents

18/07/2014 The Brown Felt Hat by Tony Layton

09:38

An enthralling Drama by RADA-trained performers A3 Landscape Poster: Usable Area 420mm x 250mm

It’s 1942 in a British seaside hotel. Secrets are unravelled and exposed.

An amateur production by arrangement with Stagescripts Ltd

www.thespaceuk.com

theSpace on the Mile Box Office 0131 510 2382 boxoffice.onthemile@thespaceuk.com

Venue

39

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preview guide 2014 fest 99


Fest Preview 2014  

Fest's guide to the best shows in 2014