We hurtle headlong to the end of an all too brief Fringe week. Boo and very much hoo. One day I shall be a rich creature of leisure and spend the entire month of August here. And probably go insane sometime around the third week.
But first, a quick guide to eating on the hoof at the Fringe. The edible contents of the Ocelot's Bat-Utility-Rucksack are as follows: one packet Shortbread Highlanders (the round ones with demera sugar round the edge), one Stoats porridge oat bar (breakfast in a slab!), one increasingly powdered packet of tablet (brown confectionary heroin), three rounds of peanut butter sandwiches and one neglected apple (forgotten under a battered copy of the Fringe List magazine, with Red Bastard on the front).
Eating out at the Fringe can soon add up, as everyone’s out to charge you double for eating in the city during August. Go to a supermarket when you arrive, get your own food fixings, and take a packed lunch every day. Like we almost do.
Tea At Five
Space @ Surgeons’ Hall
Shows at the Fringe are getting earlier and earlier, even as the performers seem to be getting younger and younger. Case in point: Tea At Five: The Katherine Hepburn Story. 11:05 in the am and we rock up at Surgeons’ Hall, one of the classier Space venues, to see this one-woman show of the famous Hollywood actress’ life story. Rapid fire dialogue, flawlessly delivered by Megan Lloyd in that uniquely upper class transatlantic Hepburn voice.
Perfectly conveys the woman’s fortitude, humour and lust for life, even when barrelling through bleaker life events like abortion and death. One F-bomb expertly deployed to great effect. Brilliant. Our thanks to Space director (that sounds so cool – ‘space director’. Launch all rockets!) Charles Pamment for our complementary show passes.
I note that when this play first debuted, Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway) took the role. Perfect.
The Sign of Four
Just The Tonic at the Caves
Worth mentioning that though they are not really caves, the Caves do share many features of a natural hole in the ground. This particular deep, dark dungeon is especially dank and not a little moist. Those of you who have ever Labyrinthed down Chiselhurst Caves will know whereof I speak. I could almost hear the distant ghostly strains of a Gauntlet II machine as we ventured down into the venue and took our places.
The Sign of Four – a classic Sherlock Holmes tale – is brought to us by Free Range Productions (I did see a woman dressed as a giant fried egg outside Just the Tonic; not sure if she’s a Free Range promoter or an agent for the rival Sunny Side Up theatre group). They are partnered with Quite Nice Theatre, who are putting on Snakes! The Musical. A five-strong cast, they immediately win me over by playing the Granada / Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes theme tune.
Everyone takes a turn at multiple roles, with the large curly haired chap milking the character of over-the-top proto hippy Thaddeus Sholto for all it’s worth – prompting Herself and I to simultaneously remark (with some admiration, I might add), ‘What an eccentric performance.’ The lady who plays Mary also put in a hilarious turn as the Welsh police inspector Jones, whilst the chap playing peg-legged villain Small carried a lot of the plot exposition with conviction.
Holmes might have benefitted from more of a Holmesian accent or delivery (he did sound a bit middle-class modern), but both he and the lovelorn Watson held the whole thing together very well. Might be worth considering cutting down from eighty minutes to an hour, possibly trimming some of the massive backstory in the final section.
Dan Willis: The Walking Dead
Laughing Horse @ City Café
A free and unreserved gig, and well worth going to if like me you a) like The Walking Dead TV series b) like comics and c) have often fantasised about what you would do in a zombie apocalypse. Though not unique territory (I'm thinking of Dr Dale’s How To Survive… shows from a few years back), Dan’s one-man show is friendly, inclusive and funny. We were warned that there would be spoilers if we hadn’t seen up to the end of season three of the series, and we weren’t disappointed (Andrea – Nooooo!). Dan ran a fun Celebrity Zombie Survival Group contest (in which Bear Grylls and Kari from Mythbusters scored very highly), which is great as long as it’s kept relative short.
References to Supernatural, Lost, comics and general discussions on the best place to hole up when the dead rise (he chose well) made this entirely my cup of emergency rations tea. Some discussion of whether Daryl or Michonne is coolest may occur. Do go and see.
Sam Lloyd: Fully Committed
Gilded Balloon Teviot
You know, him off [scrubs] - Ted, the put-upon flunky and occasional barbershopper.
Brilliant one-man show about a struggling actor spending the day from hell as he mans the phones in a classy New York restaurant. Over an hour and a half of near non-stop dialogue, Lloyd portrays not only the increasingly frazzled reservations guy Sam, but also 36 other characters calling in, from his nice old dad, to a couple of dozen troublesome customers trying to book tables, to jerk colleagues, rival actors and a bastard chef.
Very New Yorky, kinda Neil Simony, the character of Sam feels like a Jack Lemmon role, but I doubt even he could have mastered so many voices and switch back and forth so rapidly. Lovely to see the full range of an actor’s ability like this in a show that is frenetic and frayed but never veering into farce. Damn good value for money. Mr Lloyd is outside in the bar afterwards for autographs, sales of The Blanks CDs, handshakes and chats.
Rob Deb: Big Bang Theory of Life
Laughing Horse @ Counting House
I am going to misspell Counting House one of these days. I apologise in advance. Nice as ever to see Mr Deb, who we've seen doing several free shows in the past, always it seems in the back room of a pub where half the audience are drunk and/or mystified by the niche material. Not so us: it’s about The Big Bang Theory, comics, cosplay.
The venue is a tiny loft, in fact I think it’s actually called The Loft, in the eves of the Counting House, and boy is it hot. Rob kindly hands out portable batter powered fans before the show. They spin amusingly, suggesting, though not actually conveying, cool air.
After the show proper, when the majority of the audience has fled to get more drinks, or simply in fear of the 37-year old shouting envy and disdain into the face of an addled young student in the front row, there are four of us left. We talk cosplay, Rocket Raccoon and the Superior Spider-Man, which quite frankly is everything I want in a free show.
This venue is well south of everything else we’re seeing at the Fringe, but worth a short hike down the right hand side of the Meadows. There’s a nice courtyard bar, a wooden longship and a statue of a jade orang-utan. What’s not to like?
Song Noir by double-act Pumajaw, promised much. Well actually we were just lured in by the words Song and Noir, which appealed greatly to us both, being fans of things like The Long Goodbye (especially Sandra Lawrence’s smooth version). What we had failed to spot were the words Reinvention and Retro-Futuristic on the flyers. Therein lies the difficulty.
Basically what you get is an hour of David Lynch score. The breathy Pinkie on vocals and John Wills on guitar give us a mix of cult movie/TV music reimagined in their own unique style, mixed in with their own avant garde numbers. A black and white back projection of what look like outtakes from Eraserhead sets the tone.