Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Chocolate Ocelot’s 2013 Fringe - Day Seven

Last day. Sad face.

Due to the stupid amount of time it takes me to write up each previous day’s Pouch report, every morning this week has been something of a rush here at McOcelot Mews. So even though we are keen to nip out to catch a free interactive detective show called The Hawke Papers at The Blind Poet at 11:00, there’s no way I can finish hammering at the laptop, pull on an increasingly manky timetable t-shirt and rush across town in time for the start. Which is a shame.

Speaking of the fabled t-shirt, it has served its purpose well this week, both as a scheduling tool and also as an aid to meeting people. But after several hot days in various cramped theatrical venues, it has rather started to walk around on its own. So I opt for my venerable (but clean) Chimp Guevara top instead. Next year, Herself announces, we shall have black t-shirts, so they can last longer.

I should also point out here that m’colleague has also equipped herself this week with wee laminated timetable cardlets, attached to her person by a sturdy steel ring, which miraculously have survived this entire adventure without coming off, being sat on or gouging out a small person’s eye, which is a result. Well worth repeating this key piece of Fringe equipment next time.

Laughing Horse at the Counting House

Billed with a running time of only thirty minutes, this midday show appeals to us on paper not only for its compact duration but also its performer, Snog, Marry, Avoid presenter Ellie Taylor. More stand-up performers should be honest about how much material they have, and just put on half an hour’s worth of good stuff, rather than try to stretch it out to a full hour by various means (throwing stuff open to the audience in the hope of some good back and forth banter, an ill-conceived game show segment, or the inevitable uke number, for example).

This is a damn tight, very entertaining show, eventually running to about forty to forty-five minutes, which was just fine in this case. Ellie is personable, friendly and most importantly of all, funny. She recounts tales of her time as a model, weird holidays with her family and Essexy anecdotes with a practiced delivery. The smooth patter, funny voices and gurning all go down very well. I’d certainly see her again.  

The Space @ Surgeon’s Hall

Because we just can’t resist going to comedy murder mystery shows, as may have become evident by now.

Oh dear. This wasn't great. You should know that I hate to speak ill of anyone who's brave and resourceful enough to get off their bums and spend a month at the Fringe, often playing to tiny audiences, no matter how… um… not all that good, they are. But Whodidit is not all that good.

This is a spoof murder mystery, of the ‘mad strangler kills off everyone in a big house one at a time’ variety. And we get to see each and every mad strangling, which is essentially the same gag repeated over and over. Some of the lines are delivered ponderously and with little feel for the comedy in the script (and some of the lines are actually funny, though much is fairly timid pantomimish japery from the Clitheroe Kid era). A couple of the actors manage to kill all feeling of pace and jollity with their straight delivery, which is a shame. And it’s an hour and fifteen minutes long, which is waaay too long.

But here are the good bits: the cast all appear to be hovering around retirement age, so fair play to them for putting on a show which, ponderous as it is at times, still requires nipping on and off stage to make a few costumes changes. Also, the big chap who plays the murderer and the uncle in the wheelchair ain't half bad, and the chap with the Lionel Jeffries 'tache who plays the inspector executes a most impressive judo roll during a mimed tussle to great effect. Finally, their breezy, colourful clownish costumes are perfectly complemented by the jolly pairs of crocs the cast are all sporting – the ideal footwear for the older performer, combining comfort, style and grip in one rubbery package.

Alexis Dubus: Cars and Girls
The Dram House

The Dram House, just off Guthrie Street, currently abuts a building site, wherein the old Gilded Balloon stood. Hence the peculiar backdrop to this hour of poetry, as I cannot take my eyes off the enormous bliming crane-claw thing hauling several tons of concrete up and down scant metres away from the window behind Mr Dubus’ head. This impending sense of constructorial death adds piquancy to the performance, in my opinion.

I should also say that I am now unsure how to pronounce Dubus, since the ticket guy outside the Dram House pronounced it Dubois. That can’t be right, can it? I’d been going with ‘DOObus’. Message me if you know the right answer.

Since we weren't able to summon up the financial support to put in a reasonable bid for a private show from Alexis' French alter-ego Marcel Lucont, we are more than happy to sit in on his work in progress poetry, which boiled down to a couple of longish stories from his early twenties, one a hitch-hiking trip with a girlfriend through France, Spain and Morocco, the other his dreamlike experiences at the Burning Man festival in Nevada in the company of his friend Hayden (hmm, nice name).

Entertaining, touching, educational and frequently rhyming, it’s all good stuff. We chat to Alexis afterwards and say we hope to attend Marcel’s late night cabaret that evening, though the future will prove that our collective flesh will be far too weak to make good on the promise. I'm sure it’s a great show though. Google Marcel Lucont for some fine YouTube material.

Assembly at the Mound

Once more to the gothic building where we saw Avenue Q. The rain has finally decided to show its sodden face over the skies of Edinburgh, but once again the handy Bat-Utility Rucksack has the answer, in the shape of my handy brolly. After a pleasant chat with some ladies of leisure, swapping show recommendations (them - a drumming thing where everyone gets to join in, us - The Show That Goes Wrong), we shuffle inside for a hypnotic hour of ensemble juggling.

The quickest way to describe Smashed, if this makes any sense, is The Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain, but with juggling. Nine people, several dozen apples and some oh-so fragile crockery, set to easy listening fortiesesque music (the only one I can now remember being Little Jack Little’s I Always Wanted To Waltz in Berlin). There’s something incredibly mesmeric and almost soporific (though that may just be because we were incredibly zonked out by this point) about watching nine people dressed in smart suits and frocks simultaneously juggling apples and slowly sauntering by us in a never ending circle.

A couple of segments are just downright weird (the bit with the two women crawling past the seven men on all fours whilst apples are rolled down their spines comes to mind, as does the woman jugglespanking all the chaps), but the majority of the show is rather charming, demonstrating their fruit juggling skills in a variety of show pieces and staged contests.

The finale is a bit of a gear-change from the rest of the show, and involves a few sets of crockery which do not survive intact. I’ll be very surprised if Smashed gets through the entire Fringe run without anyone complaining about this bit, as several shards of broken pottery do go flying into the audience (along with masticated apple pulp).

Excellent stuff, but don’t sit in the first few rows.

By the way, the apples are gala. I know because I asked one of the jugglers afterwards and he gave me a battered complementary fruit as a Mr Benn style souvenir. It made it as far as Princes Street before I finally binned it. Just like the Alleycats a cappella show, I emerged from Smashed desperately wanting to juggle. It may well be that a capella juggling could be my ultimate show of choice next year, after Shaolin Ladyboys of course.

Tricity Vogue’s Ukulele Cabaret
Laughing Horse at the Counting House

We meet up with chum and impro-poet CJ, who’s just rolled into town for his Fringe debut later this week. Sadly we’ll be away by then, but we have just enough time to download all our Fringe-fu into his frontal cortex, as well as press a spare timetable into his hands, with a warning to steer clear of avant garde electro noir and hexagenarian whodiditry.

Then a scamper back across the Nor Loch for our last show! Coz it ain't the Fringe without at least one uke show. Hosted by Tricity Vogue, sporting her splendid golden uke headpiece, we are treated to guest spots from three performing chums, who display their uking and singing skills to the crowd. Judges from the audience score each performer and the winner of the Uke Of Edinburgh award gets to play Tricity’s head-uke. We all get to join in on King of the Swingers and Wild Thing, which is fun.

What is not fun are the drunken twats who totally spoil the show for me and probably the performers too. This is of course an occupational hazard of staging free shows late at night in a pub; there’s nothing to stop pissed up twazzocks staggering in and killing the fun. In this case, the offenders are three middle-aged blokes who damn well ought to have known better, but are clearly so smashed they are unable to stop wolf whistling, chewing loudly, and generally behaving inappropriately throughout.

You can be sure that the Ocelot was quietly raging against them several seats away and trying desperately to manifest heretofore unknown head-asploding powers. In a proper venue with door staff and stuff, this wouldn't happen; they’d get the evil eye or be quietly escorted out, but here at the Counting House, we must simply all endure these fifty-year-old yobs pissing about and screwing up what should have been a lovely feel-good climax to the evening (and our week at the Fringe). Shame on you, drunken old people. When I'm in charge of everything, I will find you and wreak a fitting revenge on Tricity’s behalf, possibly involving giant flying ukes.

So that’s it. Fringe all done for us. But not for everyone else, for it continues another couple of weeks at least. Good luck to all of you still performing or yet to venture on stage / back room of pub. See you next year.


matt's mom said...

Shame you missed Way Back at The Underbelly

The Chocolate Ocelot said...

Sadly the packed schedule didn't leave much room for manoeuvre, but they're in my Watch list for next time :)