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Celebrity excitement on Friday was bumping into Amanda Palmer, (formerly of The Dresden Dolls, now touring solo) outside the Bowery. A friend and I were in line waiting for Die Roten Punkte, and she was picking up her guest pass for the show. We’ve got tickets to see her in concert next Saturday, so we were quite excited and a bit flustered. We were even more flustered when she sat directly in front of us in the audience. We didn’t say hello (after much deliberation) because we didn’t want to disturb her, but my friend did take very blurry picture of the back of Amanda’s head with her phone (which is possibly more disturbing and stalker-ish now I come to think about it):
That shadow is a rock star.
I also managed to continue my largely unintentional spree of violence against the famous by whacking her in the shoulder with my bag. I’m sorry Ms Palmer.
Die Roten Punkte sounds like a really good name for a punk rock band if you don’t know what it means in German – “The Red Dots” – the translation gives the game away. They’re essentially a White Stripes parody band in clown make-up, but save some comedic energy to send up Nick Cave, The Cure and Kraftwerk as well.
More a comedy performance than a concert, the duo mix slapstick with dance, stand-up, improv and audience participation. Songs like “Straight edge girl” and”Ich Bin Nicht Ein Roberter (I am a Lion)” are hilarious, but also pleasantly poppy.
The Robot Lion Tour
Die Roten Punkte
Pleasance OVER THE ROAD
Until the 31st of August (not the 17th)
I must admit this is the sort of show I would never have picked to see on my own, and while I probably wont try to make a habit out of going to see a cappella covers of pop-songs (A mashup of Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ and Justin Timberlake’s ‘Sexy Back’? It happened), Out of the Blue was a fun hour of exuberant geekery.
Out of the Blue
C1 @ Chambers Street
Until the 31st of August
Sources tell me this one is selling out fast and all profits from the show go to an Oxford area hospice, so book now if you plan to go.
Performance poet Luke Wright prides himself on being the first person to show up on a google image search for “Foppish Buffoon”. His new fringe show, The Petty Concerns of Luke Wright, is an hour of poetical reflections on ambition, tight trousers, famelessness and the tricks creative people play on themselves to keep motivated when success is taking its time coming.
For me the highlight of the performance was Wright’s stanza by stanza knock-down of a poem he wrote about a road accident when he was fifteen. From the waves of laughter triggered in the audience, I don’t think I was not alone in recognising the mix of mortification and affection inspired by looking back at ones self-indulgent adolescent attempts at poetry.
Some the poems Wright performed can be read on his site here – I don’t recommend reading too much of the blog if you are planning to go to the show, as some of the material seems to be directly lifted from old posts.
Luke Wright is an energetic performer, and while occasionally his audio-visuals look a bit too much like a school power-point presentation for comfort, Petty Concerns is a fun show.
The Petty Concerns of Luke Wright
Underbelly @ George IV Bridge
Until the 30th of August.
Now this is what I was ranting about the other day. Quirky, slap-dash, brutally abbreviated Goethe and a bunch of lip-synched pop songs.
Written and performed by German actor/dancer/singer/author Bridge Markland, Faust in the Box is the sort of thing you’d be pressed to find outside of festival season. Classic German literature performed in a cardboard box.
You might not find it as fun if you’re not familiar with Faust, or don’t like hearing a devil hand-puppet singing snippets of Placebo songs.
You don’t like Faust, singing devil hand-puppets or Placebo?
Are you dead inside?
Faust in the Box
Underbelly @ George IV Bridge
Until the 29th of August
I was back down at Assembly on George Street last night to see another Australian stand-up comedian Hannah Gadsby. Adam Hills is producing Gadsby’s run at the fringe this year and gave her a shout-out in his show on Thursday night.
Gadsby is fairly new to the stand-up circuit, and it wasn’t hard to tell – the pacing was a bit bumpy and she mumbled through a few lines that might have been hard to decipher for audience members not familiar with Australian colloquialisms.
Beyond the jitters she put together a good show, focusing on her experiences growing up in an insular Tasmanian town and dealing with an unusually doctor-phobic mother while constantly getting into bizarre accidents involving bicycles, sheet glass and cricket stumps.
Kiss Me Quick I’m Full of Jubes
Assembly @ George Street
Until the 30th of August
Private Peaceful is another adaptation of a novel by the brilliant children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo (of War Horse fame).
Similarly to how War Horse relates sophisticated ideas about war to young audiences by focusing on the relationship between soldiers and animals, Private Peaceful focuses on the childhood recollections of a sixteen-year old boy who lied about his age to be able to fight alongside his brother in the First World War.
Finn Hanlon gave an amazing performance as Tommo Peaceful, controlling the pace of the piece while not just developing Tommo’s character but also bringing a great deal of life to the characters within his recollections. This is no small achievement – the play is a 60 minute reflective monologue performed on a stage empty of all but a dilapidated folding bed.
The strength of the play is in how beautifully it captures how Tommo’s favourite memories are poisoned by his time on the front; his first glimpse of a aeroplane in a country field, running along the mud tracks of a stream with his best friend, and getting piggyback rides from his big brother.
A fantastic piece of children’s theatre.
Michael Morpurgo an Simon Reade
Udderbelly, Bristo Square
Until the 31st of August
Morgurgo is also going to be speaking at three events the Edinburgh Book Festival: some tickets still available.
I heard an interview with Nigella Lawson where she talked about her experiences as a restaurant reviewer. She said that she was always reluctant to write really negative reviews, saying that she thought on some occasions it was more charitable to just say nothing.
That is my inclination about Horse. I always think I’m going to love physical theatre, then about ten minutes in I’m itching to leave and cursing myself for thinking an hour of dramatic movement and half-arsed dancing will be entertaining.
Rather than write a full review I’ll just briefly summarise what audiences can expect:
Woman dances like a horse with a mop for a tail. Falls into a stack of hay bales. Is heckled. Gets into jodhpurs and a riding jacket (slowly) and reads from a riding manual. Changes into pastor’s outfit (slowly) and holds a equine religious service. Strokes members of the audience. Changes back into original outfit (slowly) and pretends to ride a hobby horse. Stands topless on said hobby horse. Jumps into a water trough, emerges dripping wet and dressed in formal attire. Sings.
Actually the last costume change was quite impressive. It was a fairly small trough.
I don’t think my disappointment after seeing Horse was just the inevitable realisation that I don’t really like physical theatre. For one thing the somewhat misleading positive reviews on the promotional poster are actually for one of Company FZ’s previous fringe productions. For another: half the audience walked out. Seemingly from boredom rather than shock or excessive hay inhalation.
It’s the Edinburgh Fringe! I don’t care if you’re provocative, silly or poorly rehearsed. Just don’t be boring.
The Bosco at Hullabaloo
until the 31st of August
Thousands of tourists are shuffling up and down the Royal Mile in shorts and rain ponchos. It’s fringe time.
I started off my fringe by heading down to the Assembly venue on George Street to see the first night of Adam Hills’ new show Inflatable. I’ve mentioned Hills here before. He’s a fantastic comedian who manages to be both consistently amusing and non-offensive. I must admit I’ve never actually seen stand-up live before, but I’ve seen enough on television to know that a huge amount of it tends to be rather crap.
The only thing more depressing than bad stand-up comedy is watching an audience chortle away (out of a sense of obligation, one can hope) while some poorly groomed gentleman in his late thirties rants about why he dislikes his uptight partner, can’t operate a parking meter or thinks Welsh people sound stupid.
Adam Hills isn’t like that. The first night of Inflatable started with an impromptu re-enactment of Flashdance with a bottle of IRN BRU and a jolly IT consultant from the front row. I won’t say too much about it – I imagine in-depth reviews don’t add much to stand-up – but the show is definitely worth seeing.
Assembly @ George Street Assembly Rooms.
Until the 31st of August.
I slept through my first fringe show, The Axis of Awesome’s Comeback Spectacular. This was not entirely unexpected as I got into Edinburgh at about 10am and sleep-walked around the old town for five hours (at which point it was about midnight Sydney time) – at least I gave them the ticket sale. It was disappointing because I was looking forward to seeing what sort of response Axis of Awesome would get here in Scotland – they are wildly popular with Sydney uni crowds, and one member of the band was kind enough to play me Ziggy Stardust era Bowie songs on the piano when I was bored and sober at the Arts Revue after party last year.
So the next morning, spurred on by my Fringe failure the night before I grabbed a ticket to a play called Table 23, staring friends of a friend who studied at East 15, a reputable drama school in London. The show was held over at the university campus (near the underbelly tent – pictured above), so I got a chance to orient myself a bit better in the city.
I was quite impressed with the play. It had been given a reasonably warm but not glowing reviews.
The problem noted in those reviews I’ve seen (and I agree) is that the main plot point of the play is implied, but not very clearly. Someone has died, and the main character is sad. Mysteriously sad. He and his sister are estranged. It reminds me of the feeling you get from the overuse of ellipsis in juvenile literary attempts – something bad has happened, but it is so very bad it can’t be mentioned. Often you get the feeling the author hasn’t even decided. I’ve seen plays with the same problem at Short + Sweet in Sydney. Given that the rest of the play works as a dark comedy, the actual story seems overly earnest and not entirely necessary.
All credit for the success of the play really hangs on the physical skill of the actors (they make up a group called Hot Tubs & Trampolines). While the plot of the play was thin on the ground, the puppetry, dance and physical theatre performed by the ensemble cast was enthralling.
They were even lucky enough to get a mention in the Times coverage of the Fringe.
Unfortunately the Times lists Table 23 as one of many plays that “peer into the darker side of online social networking and internet chatrooms”. Mercifully, it didn’t.
Hot Tubs and Trampolines
Sportsmans, Gilded Balloon
(My review here might be slightly biased as one of the Hot Tub and Trampolines actors once drove me around Essex in search for a Sunday roast. But subjectively, she was brilliant in this.)