Saturday, 27 August 2016

Writing a block buster

WARNING: contains self-regarding nonsense

I've been trying to get a game down on paper – on digital I guess – since the weekend and am completely tied up in knots and stressed to fuck about it. Which is completely stupid because a) it shouldn't be this bloody hard and b) nobody asked me to write this, nobody's paying me to write this, nobody knows I want to write this. I made up a rod for my own brain and am now beating myself up with it. I can't move past it and can't resolve it, being a monotasker of singular intensity, which is great when I'm on top of the task at hand – nobody can clear moss out of the paving blocks on a driveway like me – but a complete fucking crippling deadlocked disaster if I'm unable to complete the task. In this case, unable to even bloody start the task. It's in my head, swirling and crashing against my forehead like a scratched CD or the Tasmanian Devil, and I can't resume anything like a normal mental life until I get this sorted. Somehow.


Write what you know, they say, so instead of trying to write the thing that I want to write, I'm going to attempt to use a loophole in my brain's stupid monotasking rules and write about writing about the thing that I want to write. I think meta-writing is allowed. Perhaps by just splurging out every thought I have about my problem I can get this bastard problem out of my head, maybe get the actual thing I want to write about sorted and done and dusted or failing that, at least express my frustrations here in a way that maybe gives me some insight into a way forward, or failing that even, gives me some small satisfaction that I've written something even if it is just this meta-flagellation. Sometimes I think I just need to get a certain word count down and recorded to stop my head from filling up and harming itself. Maybe that's why other people keep diaries and proper writers write. It's not for the fame or to get an idea across or to entertain others. It's to stop their brains from filling up. So I'm just going to start squeezing my mind and get all the idea-pus out and keep squeezing until it all comes out in a jumble and my brain bleeds clear and true. It might empty my brain with no clear useful thoughts set down here, but It Will Be Out Of My Brain, and that is a good thing. For as long as I can remember, I have feared forgetting things. Whether it’s the name of an actor in a TV show, the secret identity of a superhero, or a cool idea for a game I once came up with, the thought of losing that thought is terrifying. Like Dr Hans Zarkov, formerly of NASA, once said: don't take my mind – it's all I have.

So – and I apologise for the overuse of so in this – let's call the problem what it is – block. Writer's block I guess, but that is probably a self-aggrandising term considering I've hardly written anything to get bloody blocked in the first place. It's more like thinker's block at this early stage. It's not like I'm stuck at chapter 7 or anything. How to describe what it feels like? It's like… it's like I have something, part of an idea for a book/game, but not all of it. No, that's a rubbish description. First off this book/game is a Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) thing – a very particular sort of writing, which probably doesn't help. A strangely structured story with multiple paths to the ending or multiple endings. It requires story writing skills plus game writing skills and a very particular approach to structuring and balance, as the reader has agency when reading it – they choose to go left or right and are thus invested in the material in a way that differs from passively reading a conventional fiction book from start to finish. It must feel fair to them, like they had enough information to make the right choice or at least feel as if they had a chance of 'winning', if indeed winning is an option, and if it isn't I suppose that I ought to state that in the introduction to the CYOA.

But I'm straying here – what I'm supposed to be doing it describing my thinker's block. OK, so I've an idea for a CYOA. I got this idea at the weekend, possible on Sunday. Probably in the bath, which is a terrible cliché but it does work for me sometimes. As does going to the loo or doing the washing up. Enforced 'creative thinking time sat in front of the laptop' is sometimes the very last thing I should do. Anyway, it had been a semi-unsatisfactory weekend for various stupid reasons; hours spent searching for a computer security reader so that an online game could be played, guilt at not organising my time enough to visit my family for a couple of hours, frustration at trying to do some relaxing model painting only to discover that some of the paint had dried up and the brushes were manky, and sadness that someone seems to have replaced my formerly excellent close-up eyes with old person's eyes which go all blurry when I bring a model up close to paint. In many ways I am the opposite of Colin the Forger from The Great Escape played by Donald Pleasance. I can't see close up to work and people six feet away are not a blur.

So I was frustrated and feeling unproductive. Unproductive is bland word. Maybe worthless. Stupid, right? But if I haven't achieved useful things every day I feel rubbish and black sadness starts to creep in. I refuse to name it the D word because I think that makes it real. Also I dislike the metaphor of the Black Dog because I like dogs and it in no way feels like a dog to me. If I had to describe or characterise it, I would call it the Tar Pit, sans woolly rhinos (a reference which will only make sense if you had an Aurora model kit in the 70s), because it's deep and cloying and sucks me in and makes it hard to breathe.

Actually that's probably worth mentioning – I'm finding it hard to catch my breath. The air quality this summer in our area has been shite. I'm on the Ventolin several times a day which is very unusual for me. It occurred to me this week that being slightly short of breath all day is almost certainly a sure way to experience constant low level anxiety. The perfect breeding ground for other problems.

Sorry, I still haven't described the block. What it's like… It's like there's an idea or a bunch of ideas crashing around in my head, but they're all only partly formed. I can't catch onto to one without it melting away the moment I turn my attention to it, like trying to grab your reflection in water – a lazy metaphor I must have pinched from somewhere. I am unable to focus, to concentrate. The sheer, sheer pressure of wanting to get it down on digital and out of my head is interfering with my ability to calmly organise it mentally. I simply can't hold a thought about the CYOA long enough to get it all out. Sure, I've made an attempt – I've got a small 2-page word doc knocking around that I started to write this week, and a 3 minute voice memo on my phone. I guess they indicate some sort of progress, but it's nothing like the coherent 'story ideas' I've seen written down in – I dunno – Alan Moore scripts.

That's another thing – I get very depressed that (shit – sorry – I used the D word) as soon as I have an idea of an idea I think that it can't possibly be as good as something Alan Moore or indeed any professional writer could write, and I get very intimidated and the spectre of failure creeps in. I mean, there are so many writers out there, people who wrote their first Victorian detective story at the kitchen table before getting the kids off to school, or down the pub in the evenings. How come those people can do it, and I can't? I don’t have kids to worry about or even a very demanding job. Christ, I've hardly had anything to do at the office the last two days and could easily have skived it, writing the CYOA right there in the office quietly, but no - I couldn't. I'm too caught up in the block and panic about the block and frustration and Tar Pitness - Tar Pity? - about the panic.

What is the block like? It starts off not as a block but as the initial surge of the idea in the bath, something that is a feeling of an idea that could be a cool thing to write – a general emotional impression of the sort of thing I want to do (a choose your own dinner party, if you can believe such a ludicrous thing). It's like a surging fire inside, a wave of Feeling and Idea that if I can just surf the crest of and think it through to its complete shape, I can get it down on paper and out of my head and feel happy about it. Christ, I think as long as I got the idea out of my head and on digital, I would probably be OK if I didn't actually write the whole thing out properly, just a structure from start to end and the characters and so on. So I was surfing this wave of creativity, feeling it inside me, getting out of the bath and then, I dunno, I lost it. I fell off the wave and it rushed past me and I've been trying to catch up with it ever since. The wave is in me and rushing past me. It's like a merry go round spinning far too fast in front of me. When I was on it, it was fine, I was going at the same speed as it and it was all good, but then I fell off or threw myself off and now it's far too fast for me to jump back on. I keep trying and reaching out my hand and I cling on for a few minutes and start to get up to speed but then I slip off again and the merry go round keeps rushing around and around in front of me. I can't turn away from it or turn it off. I need to get back on it or I need it to be gone like it was never there.

Now I could at this point mention how I have trouble knuckling down to work on things like this. How the washing up and sorting out my comic boxes and watering the plants seems like being productive. Hell, it is productive, just not productive on the thing that is most important to me – writing something, creating something. I will leave nothing else in this life but the things I write. I don't build buildings, or make movies or save lives or have babies. When I am gone there will be nothing left of me but words and ideas. And if I don't get them down then I will limp through life knowing that I have wasted my time and added nothing, left nothing. My mind is all I have. But sometimes I think it hates me.

Sorry, that all got a bit dark. So, the block. It's whirling and bouncing and yelling in my head. I have bits of ideas for this fucking CYOA but I can't get it sorted and coherent enough to the point where the merry go round runs smoothly to its conclusion, slows down and goes quiet. So let's call a temporary halt to all this navel gazing and meta shit and look unblinkingly at the idea and try to get it down. I'll just bung it all down in any order so that hopefully a lot of the jigsaw puzzle pieces are at least on the table. Then maybe I can see them all in one go and start to rearrange them, find the edge pieces at least and maybe make up some of the missing corner bits.

Oh lookee – I've written over 2000 words of whiny crap in 58 minutes. Yaaay.

I really should have ended this on the 'I think it hates me' bit, as that is kind of cool, but I really did go on to write another 3000 odd words on the actual game, which I have not shown here, just in case I get the bastard thing written. At the time of posting this up, it's still not written, but I have at least started it. The Tar Pit still has me in its clutches, but I am reaching spastically for a handy vine to pull myself out. Or is that a quicksand metaphor?

Saturday, 13 August 2016

The Chocolate Ocelot's 2016 Fringe - Day Eight


Big Bite-Size Breakfast Show
QueenDome @ Pleasance Dome
Good morning Edinburgh! Three funny, eccentric, thought-provoking menus of Bite-Size Plays with free coffee, croissant, strawberries!
The Ocelot says: Horribly early (for us), but very well worth it. My thanks to friends Gordon and Anna for the anniversary gift of a Fringe voucher which we spent on this. Had no idea what to expect as we plodded into the Pleasance Dome with a lot of old people (it was way too early for the under-30 Fringe crowd), and were handed tea, coffee, croissant and a single strawberry, all of which made shuffling into the auditorium and sitting down extra perilous. What we got was six short scenes, varying from outright comedy sketch (Chugging for Kittens) to grim, twisty drama (two-man prisoner thriller Broken). The mood change between scenes is sometimes a bit jarring, but it's certainly an excellent showcase of the range of the Bite Size Plays cast. I rather liked the kidnappers/pineapple sketch and the Hamlet was gay sketch. They cycle through different 'menus' of sketches every three days, so conceivably you could go three times. High quality, good value for money. 5/5

Escape from the Planet of the Day That Time Forgot
Downstairs @ Assembly Roxy
A professor with a rocket in his cellar, his female ward and his eager assistant – together they find themselves on a distant planet before escaping to... where exactly?! A new British B-movie inspired affair, with sinister plant life, Norse gods, time travel, dinosaurs and a whole pile of pluck!
The Ocelot says: Once again indulging my love of Gavin Robertson shows, this is far closer to Fantastical Voyage and Thunderbirds FAB than the psycho drama of The Six Sided Man (also on this Fringe). With a three-person cast, there was more variety of characters, as the professor (Robertson), his female ward (Katharine Hurst) and Geordie assistant (Simon Nader) fly into space in an ironing board rocket (good prop work) and encounter Triffids and evil Norse gods before escaping back in time. A little light of pace and in need of a better climax (the third act with the dinosaurs feels like a separate episode and ends on a non-cliffhanger), but the vocal and physical work was excellent. Good use of the stacked grey boxes as fortresses, tunnels, talking walls and space helmets. My favourite performances were Simon Nader's Shatnerian Loki and the entire cast's prowling dinosaurs. 4/5

Erin McGathy: Love You Loudly
Ballroom @ Gilded Balloon at the Counting House
Erin McGathy (This Feels Terrible, Drunk History, Community) presents a comedy show about love, guts, despair and wearing wedding dresses covered in candy for approval.
The Ocelot says: I'll admit I put this on the list purely because of Harmontown, the podcast in which Erin McGathy makes a semi-regular appearance as TV creator Dan Harmon's girlfriend and then wife (and now ex-wife). Though billed as comedy, this painfully honest (see the period/sex/bedsheets story), personal show bravely recounts various disastrous relationships in which she sometimes emerges as the archetypal crazy stalker girlfriend and sometimes as a damaged person in need of a hug and a good therapist. It has a happy ending though, so fingers crossed that this, her first Fringe show, will not be her last. 4/5

Palais du Variete @ Assembly George Square Gardens
In this colourful and turbulent concoction of pure joy and intimacy, watch Casus bring a blank canvas to life and reveal our innate need for human contact. This is a circus show that does not let you forget that to feel is to be human and in a moment of danger, a grasping hold is survival.
The Ocelot says: I do like a good bit of physical acrobatic stuff, and the spiegeltent in George Square is the perfect venue to see this 5-person troupe of superb athletes use each other in a variety of breathtaking stunts/dances/exercise (I'm not sure what the right term is). And my word they are strong, lifting each other up three people high, swinging and catching each other, twirling from the trapeze and generally looking like the sort of humans you'd offer up to visiting aliens as a justification for our existence. I also liked that one of the women did as much of the heavy lifting as the larger chaps. You go girl. 5/5

Alexis Dubus Verses The World
Voodoo Rooms
Winner, Chortle Award 2015. More lyrical tales from the road mixed with iffy wordplay and first-rate bullshit. 'Does what great stand-ups do but does it in verse... Uniquely funny' ***** (Scotsman).
The Ocelot says: A bit like his spoken word show Cars and Girls from a few years ago, this is Alexis out of Gallic Marcel Lucont mode and appearing as himself (albeit in a green velvet suit), the guy from Great Missenden spinning rhymes and tales from his travels around the world. Charming and funny. I'm glad we were able to persuade CJ to come along to the Voodoo Rooms with me and give him a go. Looking forward to getting the CD of the show. 4/5

Dave Lemkin: The Village Hall
Ciao Roma
Lower Swell is having its summer festival! Come and be a part of the village as character comedian Dave Lemkin brings to life all the guest speakers: Colin Jackson, a self-employed management trainer (a former manager himself until a staff mutiny made his position untenable), Jaqueline Dulay, who you all know as the village's yoga teacher who leads a meditation on spirituality and overcoming violent thoughts, and finally local celebrity, former Tory bigwig, the Rt Hon. Dickie Daventry.
The Ocelot says: A bit more character comedy for us, this time underneath an Italian restaurant of all places. A late start didn't help, and the comedy caretaker who ushered us in was probably a bit too broad. But I enjoyed the rest of Dave Lemkin's characters to one degree or another, and couldn't help but go aaah when he brought his little cockerpoo puppy in as Dickie Daventry's dog Thatcher. Some of the costume changes were a bit too long, but the end results were pretty good (especially for Daventry). Amusingly/awkwardly, an entire row of old people left during the rude vicar section, citing not feeling well, though I suspect that they left due to the show being not as cosy as they had been led to believe, a perennial problem with comedy shows that perhaps don't make their adult content plain up front. 3/5

Shadows Over Improv
 The Frooty Goose @ Billy Connolly Memorial Theatre
The H P Lovecraft Improvisation Players put on a different sanity-stretching play every day, with suggestions from the audience. "A tentacular spectacular!" (
The Ocelot says: This evening's show at the gloomy BCMT was attended by a strange mixture of freaks and fools, ourselves included. Tonight's set-up from the audience was a setting (Peckham), an academic (a Business Studies lecturer) and a strange item from outer space (I shouted out 'kettle' but they heard it as 'cattle'). Thus we witnessed the strange tale of cows from the stars infiltrating the Peckham city farm, their peculiar coloured milk turning all who drank it mad. The improvised play ended with a dark ritual conducted at Brockwell lido to summon a bovine elder god from its depths, thus retroactively titling tonight's story The Call of Cowthulhu. 5/5

Axis of Awesome: Won't Ever Not Stop Giving Up
Debating Hall @ Gilded Balloon Teviot
Jordan, Lee and Benny are back with a brand new hour of world-class musical comedy. They've toured all over the earth and their videos have over 200 million hits online. They've even got a plaque from YouTube. A plaque!
The Ocelot says: We went to see this on the strength of their Four Chords song which we saw on YouTube. And what a great way to end our week at this year's Fringe. A packed enthusiastic crowd, great comic music and just a lovely vibe. I will admit unapologetically to being extra interested in seeing how lead man turned lead woman Jordan performed, and also how she was treated by fellows AoA members Lee and Benny and by the audience. She looked great, sounded great and got a lot of love from everyone. Hurrah for Jordan! Transitioning publicly used to be a horribly intrusive, traumatic experience, but thanks to brave people like her (and her friends being super cool), it makes it more normal and easier for other folks. Check out their song The Elephant In The Room for a guide to what is and is not acceptable to ask a trans (sorry, bald) person. I got their latest CD and a very rare (I hate photos of my stupid face) photo of me and the band afterwards. 5/5

Quirky Incident
I did an awesome forced march from the George Square (one of the more southerly venues) to the Voodoo Rooms (in the north) in about 30 minutes, and even had time to get a slice of yummy pizza from the Udderbelly square on the way (actually not on the way but I really wanted that pizza). In the rain too. I am some kind of a walking god/goddess/gender-non-binary deity.

OK, that's it. EdFringe 2016 over for me, Herself and CJ. My thanks to guest stars Ian, Mitchell, Clive, Paul, Laura and James. I promised not to go on too long and failed, as we all knew I would. Hope you liked the crappy reviews, stupid made-up shows and tolerated my timid criticisms and gushy gushings. Till next year, or maybe not.

The Chocolate Ocelot's 2016 Fringe - Day Seven


Puppet Fiction
Laughing Horse @ Newsroom
Everybody be cool, this is a mother*cking puppet show! The ultimate Tarantino homage, this is Pulp Fiction with strings attached. The award-winning cult show from New Zealand returns to the Edinburgh Fringe with more miniature madness and mayhem. Combining the joy of live puppetry with an iconic piece of pop culture creates a unique and hilarious theatrical experience.
The Ocelot says: Left the show early. I feel bad. Forgot that visibility at the Newsroom is shocking. Half the room downstairs is dominated by a whacking great structural support a metre across which blocks the view of the cramped corner performance area where the puppet show was taking place. And the sound of the a/c didn't help either. Combine that with a somewhat too faithful and somewhat plodding recreation of the interminable Jules/Vincent dialogue from the movie's opening and the odds were just too great. CJ was the first to give it up as a bad job, and Herself and I were close behind. Sorry, the Puppet Fiction people. Would've helped if you'd spoken up a bit though. 2/5

Pippa Evans: Same Same But Different
Bannermans (a venue without an @. Amazing!)
Pippa Evans returns from winning an Olivier (Showstopper! The Improvised Musical), some bits on TV (Drunk History, Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled) and a sitcom on BBC Radio 4 (Josh Howie's Losing It) to tell jokes and sing at you.
The Ocelot says: Jolly good show from the slightly gawky and ever so charming Evans, who I'd quite like to see doubled up with Ellie Taylor (not like that, you filth), and bounce off each other's posh girl/Essex girl personas. Love how she's not afraid to pull faces and lollop all over the place. Great belting singing voice too. 4/5

Woody Allen(ish)
Frankenstein pub
Simon Schatzberger performs Woody Allen's iconic and legendary 60s stand-up comedy routines. Including The Moose! A must-see for all fans of Woody and classic American stand-up comedy. 'Uncanny, like going back in time and seeing him live' (Jon Culshaw).
The Ocelot says: Simon Schatzberger does a note-perfect Woody, as he recreates all the old gags I remember from a tape I listened to as a kid, including the moose story. He has the voice, the look, the head scratching tics, and a nice suit. Gentle enough comedy, though probably a edgy back in '68, I enjoyed this for the nostalgia and to pretend I had seen Woody himself perform it (though I have seen him play with his jazz band at the Festival Hall). Not something that you'd see twice, but a nice little gem. Simon himself is a very nice chap and happy to talk about our shared enthusiasm for Woody Allen. 3/5

Mordor She Wrote
Frooty Goose @ Humbuggers
Someone's murdered that nice old Mr Gandalf, and only elderly authoress Galadriel Fletcher can unravel the plot! Tolkien meets Lansbury in a madcap mashup of hobbits, rings and cosy detection.
The Ocelot says: A spirited if chaotic production from the Highland Coo de Theatre company. With an average cast age of 73, the action scenes were somewhat less than pulse-pounding but the December to December romantic subplot between the elven sleuth and Radagast was strangely erotic. 2/5

Will Seaward: Magnificent Bastard
Sitting Room @ Gilded Balloon at the Counting House
Will Seaward has decided to become a real super-villain and take over the world. And he's going to do it live onstage at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Tremble ye innocents! Nothing can stop him! Nothing! Ha ha ha! Warning: Audience may be eaten by piranhas.
The Ocelot says: Every bit as lunatic as I had hoped. Packed into a tiny room at the Counting House with inappropriate music wafting in from the courtyard, the beaming Will Seaward involved us all in his evil scheme of the day (he has a different one planned for every day of the Fringe, the mad bugger). I was fortunate enough to be chosen as one of his high priests and knocked out a rather fine hula dance, if I do say so myself, in an attempt to reawaken the volcano under Arthur's Seat. And congrats to CJ for becoming Will's Number One evil minion. Bonkers, joyous stuff. "I hope you enjoy the salt mines!" 4/5

Colin Hoult / Anna Mann: A Sketch Show for Depressives
Beneath @ Pleasance Courtyard
Star of BBC's Murder in Successville and Being Human, Colin Hoult returns as the delightful character Ms Anna Mann in a show to put down your black dog at last or at least chuck him a bone.
The Ocelot says: A most welcome to the Fringe for Colin Hoult, whose shows we've been enjoying since 2008's Zimbani. Here he revisits luvvie Anna Mann (check her out on YouTube), in a series of typically odd sketches, ably aided by her two male dancer/assistants 'Bruce Wayne' and 'the other one', played by Andrew Bridge (also appearing in Aart as Mikey the Aartist) and the rather fit Tom Greaves (of Tom and Will's Open Swim). A pity that the room was only half full. Got a chance to chat to him on the way out and talk about previous shows, and he was most gracious. "Oh fuck off. I love it!". 4/5

Andrew Roper – Superhero Secret Origins: Special Edition
The Alcove @ Laughing Horse @ Bar 50
It’s back! The interactive comic book knowledge bomb. Part stand-up, part lecture, part madness, all superhero. Learn things you never thought you didn't know about our favourite comic book heroes. Updated for 2016 with a look at women in comics.
The Ocelot says: More of a lecture than a comedy piece - which is absolutely fine by the way. I do like a good talk about superheroes and comics. Mr Roper knows his stuff; shockingly, a little more than me, at least about the background for today's talk, which was all about Wonder Woman and her creator Dr William Moulton Marston (a name I always get mixed up). The venue and set-up wasn't ideal, as the projector on the seat next to me kept packing up, but Andrew put on a nice slide show, some cool theme tunes including the various TV versions, and a complex examination of both the character's feminist credentials and her creators' (plural intended) unconventional lifestyles. But most importantly, I was the first person in the festival to correctly identify the Superfriends theme tune from a couple of seconds of music. "Merciful Minerva!" 5/5

House of Edgar
Space 3 @ theSpace on the Mile
This original musical uses folk-styled songs to retell some of Poe's most famous stories, weaving them into a ghostly new tale. Unpredictable, unusual and unique.
The Ocelot says: There's always a show too far at the festival and for me, this was it. No fault of the excellent young cast from the Argosy Theatre Company though. I was just dog tired and too hot. I fear I may have drifted off a little halfway through, lending this musical about Edgar Allen Poe and his rivalry with writer Rufus Griswold even more hallucinatory. Some standout performances, especially from the chap who portrayed the protagonist of the Tell Tale Heart with wild-eyed, Jekyll and Hyde like intensity. I rather enjoyed the 'battle of the narratives' between Poe and Griswold too. "Nevermore!" 4/5

Quirky Incident
Having cravenly snuck out of Puppet Fiction, we consoled ourselves with tea and coffee in the Newsroom upstairs, where I proceeded to trip up some steps and nearly send the entire tray of drinks flying. Fortunately though I only spilt the milk juggette (It was a small jug, that's what it's called, I have decided). So I count that as a small victory in the face of near certain beverage disaster.

Note the hideous leather puppet

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Chocolate Ocelot's 2016 Fringe - Day Six


I think I've done pretty well up until now, getting each day done and out on the day, though admittedly 'on the day' was actually '2am in the morning, in bed' at one point. But inevitably, time and fatigue has caught up with me a little, hence this report comes to you the morning after. 
You will note that this was something of a studenty day.

Lime Studio @ Greenside @ Nicolson Square
Sherlock, the world’s most loved detective returns to solve the case of the Speckled Band and more. We know Mrs Hudson and Watson, but who brought the sock puppet? An irreverent, fast-paced comedy.
The Ocelot says: It wouldn't be the Fringe without a youth theatre production or two of Holmes. This fast paced romp from Bablake school, performed by four young ladies and a young chap, is entertaining enough, though I struggled to understand the sometimes gabbled and garbled dialogue, especially from young Mr Holmes. 3/5

Game's a Foot, Try the Fish
Theatre 3 @ theSpace @ Surgeons Hall
Rakish aristocrat and first-time detective Charlie Montague is hired to prevent a murder. The chap dies. Or does he? PG Wodehouse meets Agatha Christie in this hilarious one-man murder mystery
The Ocelot says: An older lady on flyering duty (the director, I suspect) came up to us while we were at the Greenside for the previous show (a rather nice venue that does reasonably priced (under £.50) cups of tea), and implored us to see this show. You can imagine my immense satisfaction at waving my prebooked ticket at her. Anyway. This is a one-man show, which I had totally failed to realise until it started, but writer/performer Tom Taylor does a decent job of playing half a dozen Christie/Wodehouse type characters at a seaside hotel, though the lead role of the silly-arse detective had a decidedly odd accent, starting off as strangely French/Afrikaans for a line or two. The plot is actually fairly complex for a comedy murder mystery. 3/5

Ellie Taylor: Infidelliety
Just the Tonic at The Tron @ Just the Tonic at The Tron
Star of Mock the Week, The John Bishop Show and Snog Marry Avoid gets to grips with that pesky bit of marriage known as monogamy.
The Ocelot says: I love Ellie Taylor. No really, I love Ellie Taylor. I do. She has all the charm in the world and puts on a great comedy hour about love and marriage and pregnancy and stuff. I do like seeing attractive women gurning and doing lots of stupid voices. It was at the Tron pub in what passes for a basement performance area, dodgy noises, dank surroundings and all, but she made that part of the experience. Also she taught us the word 'minjury'. 5/5

Bristol Suspensions in: Netflix and Trill
theSpace on Niddry St (Lower) @ theSpace on Niddry St
Snuggle in, unwind and let the award-winning a cappella sensations and 2016's Voice Festival University champions, The Bristol Suspensions, give you a night you won't forget. From Muse and Michael Jackson to a viral internet mega mix, watch these talented students make music using nothing but their mouths.
The Ocelot says: A very pleasant sound experience. It's sometimes nice to just close your eyes and let all the blended voices surround you, especially in a relatively small space like this. If I have one criticism, it's that some of the solo voices were no louder or clearer than the 15 or so backing voices. I didn't recognise all the songs (and I'v come to the realisation that I mainly like a cappella if it's a popular tune) but I loved their version of the Fairly odd Parents theme. 4/5

This Walking Life
Frooty Goose @ MacLachlan Theatre
A newly qualified, but disillusioned lawyer embarks upon a quest to find himself via an extended hiking trip, but only discovers the re-animated corpses of the dead. He eventually encounters his recently deceased classmates and the inescapable conclusion that his past defines him.
The Ocelot says: A strangely bleak experience, despite the upbeat Britpop soundtrack and cast of attractive (though shambling) twenty-somethings. Strangely, South London seems to morph into long straight forested roads interspersed with abandoned gas stations and diners, perhaps reflecting the lead characters inner desolation and lack of sense of self. The middle act at the farmhouse full of lawyers was a bit dull. 3/5

Homeopathy and Other Jokes
Space 2 @ theSpace on the Mile
After five years of sell-out shows, the worryingly funny doctors of tomorrow are back for their 17th year at the Fringe! Catch this fast-paced sketch show before the Right Honourable Mister Hunt forces us to flee to Australia.
The Ocelot says: An actual proper medical student revue from St George's Medics' Revue, the very core of the Fringe, and yet the first one I have ever seen. What they lack in polish they make up for in pace, cramming dozens of quick skits in. A couple of the 8 or so medics performing in scrubs were really quite good. 3/5

One Musical to Rule Them All
Forest Theatre @ Greenside @ Infirmary Street
Napier University Drama Society returns with an all singing, all dancing, contemporary parody of The Lord of the Rings epic. Embark on a misshapen parody adventure across the non-specific fantasy world with our colourful cast of companions, as they dodge villains and plot holes alike on their quest to destroy curiously powerful jewellery, while singing the whole way!
The Ocelot says: Splendid stuff. Good singing and dance numbers, and the plot liberally hacked around to make a reasonable hour-long story. The obvious 'just get the eagles to do it' problem is addressed too. Nice mix-up with the kiddie play about the solar systems that had been double-booked. Standout performance is Martina Vondrova, clad in black catsuit and golden hula hoop, as the One Ring, a largely silent but slinky and comical role scowling and scampering about the stage. 4/5 

The Ruby Darlings
Voodoo Rooms
The Ruby Darlings give an outrageously honest yet totally sexy look at life with a vagina. Want to know what a mooncup is? Discover the real beauty of the aubergine? Shave your pubes into crop circles? See this lip-roaring, tongue-bending musical journey through sexual inyourendos.
The Ocelot says: As recommended by Herself and Cj from two years ago. Despite my absolute fear of being interacted with as they trawled the audience discussing genitals, I enjoyed the songs, especially holding up my 'badly wrapped kebab' sign for one of the vagina songs. I say one of, as it was a very vaginal show. One bit about getting trolled and hitting back at the haters didn't seem to fit, as with several other shows this year feeling themselves unable to get through their act without raging about Brexit/Boris/TheWickedTories, but on the whole a jolly fine, rude, slick night, ending on a rousing mass chorus of Say No To Anal. 4/5

ACMS: The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society
Stand 3 @ The Stand Comedy Club 3
ACMS returns for its sixth Sisyphean year at the Fringe, hosted and curated by Thom Tuck, 'an authoritative and slightly creepy blowhard' (Scotsman), and John-Luke Roberts, 'a lever-operated mouth on a stick' (Fest).
The Ocelot says: A failure! A noble failure! Good to see the ACMS again, this time in a much more decent venue way over on Queen Street. I do like the atmosphere, the safe structure of 'permitted heckles only' and above all else, Thom Tuck pulling faces. Most of the featured acts were great, like Johnny and the Baptists, resident trumpeteer/intro man Steve Pretty and Joz Norris. Only one act, a Swedish/Chinese woman lying down on some chairs at the back, totally bombed but even that was funny, especially when Thom tried to get us to all quietly sneak out without her noticing. 4/5

A permitted heckle

Quirky Incident

The quirky incident today was that there was no quirky incident.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The Chocolate Ocelot's 2016 Fringe - Day Five


Oh Hello!
Five @ Assembly George Square Studios
Jamie Rees returns in a tour de force performance as Charles Hawtrey, one of the leading lights of the Carry On film franchise. Hear of his hilarious run-ins with Kenneth Williams, his disdain of the Carry On film producers and his complex relationship with his senile mother.
The Ocelot says: Given the subject of the one-man show, yet another flawed and tragic British comedy actor, this was never going to be a barrel of laughs, but Jamie Rees turns in a spot-on performance as 'the other one' from the Carry On films, and he does a fair decent Kenneth Williams too. My only problem was with the venue - as with the Nosferatu show, both performing area and seating were on the same level, so sitting a few rows back, I was hard pressed to see the actor when sat down. 4/5

Dusty Horne's Sound and Fury
QueenDome @ Pleasance Dome
It’s 1963. The pioneer of cinematic sound, Jack Foley, has inspired a generation of great ‘foley artists’. Dusty Horne is not one of them. Nevertheless, Dusty will attempt to join the pantheon of celluloid greatness by revealing the secrets of her craft, before a live audience.
The Ocelot says: Wasn't sure what to expect from this, but I'm a sucker for live sound effects and movie memoirs, even fictitious ones. Natasha Pring plays Dusty Horne as equal parts Norma Desmond and Delia Darbyshire, a self-professed god of sound effects, forgotten and eclipsed by the real-life Jack Foley. She looked and sounded great, as did the many foley effects she created before us. The live smashing of a water-melon was particularly explosive, and I enjoyed the clips from various old movies too (especially the giant moon spiders). Some very jolly mass audience participation, as we helped recreate a memorable scene from Hitchcock's The Birds (I kept the glove afterward, sorry). 5/5

Remains of Tom Lehrer (Performed by Adam Kay)
Wine Bar @ Gilded Balloon Teviot
From pigeon poisoning to masochistic tangoing via the periodic table, Tom Lehrer’s satirical songs are revisited and reimagined by award-winning musical comedian Adam Kay.
The Ocelot says: I'm not a massive Tom Lehrer head, but that's mainly just down to ignorance of his songs, though I do know The Element Song. Adam Kay plays and sings a good selection of his works both famous and obscure, as well as updating and adapting some for modern, British ears. I think I kind of expected him to do it all in a Tom Lehrer voice, but it's not that sort of show. You gotta admire Lehrer for retiring from public performance at his height, and for being so splendidly popular yet subversive all that time ago (I'm thinking particularly of the Masochism Tango). I think I would have liked to have seen a collaboration between Lehrer and Dr Seuss. Can someone sort that out for me please? 4/5

Kill the Beast: He Had Hairy Hands
Pleasance Two @ Pleasance Courtyard
The year is 1974, the town is Hemlock-Under-Lye and when werewolf attacks threaten teatime, there's only one person you can call...
The Ocelot says: ...and that person is paranormal-obsessed detective Eglantine Whitechapel. This is a highly-polished comedy adventure delivered with grotesque surreality by the Kill the Beast writer/performers. Very well choreographed, some dashes of Boosh-like weirdness, nice back projections and a lot of laughs. I especially liked the wolf-effects at the end created as a group effort using gloves, bits of fur and two small torches. Splendid stuff. I quite fancy seeing their other show Wake the Damp too. 5/5

Loud Poets
The Netherbow Theatre at Fringe @ Scottish Storytelling Centre
This is slam style, make some noise, fist-thumping, pint-drinking, side-tickling, heart-wrenching poetry. This is poetry for the masses. This is the spoken word revolution.
The Ocelot says: Herself and CJ went to see this without me. I was too busy watching Milo McCabe (see below). But they seemed to like it. As you may know, the Ocelot does not willingly submit to poetry.
Herself says: The boys were OK; the girls were sublime. 4/5

Milo McCabe: The Unflappable Troy Hawke
Laughing Horse @ City Cafe
Homeschooled by an overly nostalgic mother, Troy confronts the 21st century as if waking from a 1930's time capsule... with insightful and hilarious consequences.
The Ocelot says: Thanks to Kill the Beast overrunning, I had to peg it from the Pleasance to the City Cafe for this free gig but made it with minutes to spare. I do enjoy Milo McCabe's character Troy Hawke; he looks like George Valentin from The Artiste and sounds like a fruitier version of Robert Donat from The 39 Steps. Not entirely sure the audience got the vibe of his show, which is essentially that innocent 30's throwback Troy inadvertently gets into and out of scrapes in modern Croydon, but I certainly enjoyed it. And he has the best jawline/soupstrainer combo at the Fringe. 4/5

Norris & Parker: See You at the Gallows
The Attic @ Pleasance Courtyard
Their hotly anticipated second debut hour. A sordid soiree full of wild, dark and ridiculous sketches, characters and songs woven within a narrative of underlying aggression between Norris & Parker themselves.
The Ocelot says: Good double-act stuff from N and P, who we have seen before, this time accompanied by deadpan Alan Moorish keyboardist Kristoff and foul-mouthed techie Steph. Some nice singing from one of them, and (intentionally, I think) less tuneful singing from the other. A little audience participation and a bunch of fun, silly, very physical sketches, all bravely performed in black leotards. I thought the periodic digressions into topical political comment didn't sit all that well with the rest of the show though. 3/5

Pokemon Ho!
Frooty Goose @ OpenSpace
A full-participation late-night, live-action adaptation of the game that conquered the world. Stalk the streets of Edinburgh old town at night, seeking out elusive actors in full-size Pokemon bodysuits and 'catch' them with special foam balls. For teams of 3-5 adults.
The Ocelot says: Quite an exhausting way to end the night, as the three of us ran and dodged around the Royal Mile after midnight, hunting down human cosplay Pikachus, Squirtles and Charmanders. I myself had quite the game of cat and mouse with a 16-stone Jigglypuff who was surprisingly quick on his feet around the back of the Radisson Blu. 5/5

Quirky incident:
So I'm making my breakfast porridge and without thinking, I absent-mindedly preload a tablespoon with Lyle's (what the feck ever happened to Tate?) golden syrup after putting the bowl (actually a glorified plate) into the microwave. Way too early. What the hell do you do with a loaded spoon of slow-dripping syrup? There is literally nowhere to put that mofo. Except back in the syrup tin as CJ later pointed out but let's say that I didn't think of that.

So I am left with no recourse but to continue twirl the spoon round and round and round for the entire duration of the porridge microwave cycle. And given that I have to take the bowl (actually a plate, did I mention that already?) halfway through and give it a stir, I can't use the spoon I already have because that would contaminate both items before their time, I have no recourse (again) but to stir the bowl with my finger, all the while twiddling my syrupy spoon in the other hand. It was quite a sight.

Monday, 8 August 2016

The Chocolate Ocelot's 2016 Fringe - Day Four


Six-Sided Man
Downstairs @ Assembly Roxy
There are two rules: Never give the dice an option you're not prepared to follow, and never disobey the die! Darkly hilarious, seductive... from Luke Rhinehart's cult novel, The Dice Man. A disillusioned psychiatrist lives his life by giving options to a dice, and introduces a patient to the lifestyle.
The Ocelot says: I've been a fan of Gavin Robertson's physical shows for 20-odd years, since Thunderbirds FAB and Fantastical Voyage. This show with veteran actor Nicholas Collet is an interesting mixture of psychopathy and humour, though we did sometimes lose track of who was playing who (patient/psychiatrist/inner ego). I especially liked Robertson's tragically lonely, ordinary photocopier repairman, played with touches of Hancock and Gervais. 3/5

Intergalactic Nemesis: Twin Infinity – A Live Action Graphic Novel
Pleasance One @ Pleasance Courtyard
The year is 1942. Are you ready for the adventure? Live sound effects, voice acting, cinematic score, and over a thousand projected comic book panels combine in a one of a kind live extravaganza for the kid in everyone!
The Ocelot says: Not sure what I expected of this. I guess more of a super-heroic comic-booky experience, though it turns out to be a strange three-way hybrid of classic radio show, pulp adventure serial and (slightly too static) comic art. At 90 minutes, it's a good half hour too long, and also relies a little too much on the audience having seen the previous two or three shows in the Intergalactic Nemesis series. 3/5

Radio Active
Pleasance One @ Pleasance Courtyard
Angus Deayton, Helen Atkinson Wood, Michael Fenton Stevens and Philip Pope reunite to bring classic scripts from the award-winning BBC Radio 4 series back to its Edinburgh Festival Fringe birthplace.
The Ocelot says: One for the nostalgic, which includes me in this case. I think it was two classic radio shows from the 80s reprised on stage with the original cast, sadly minus the late Geoffrey Perkins (shockingly misspelled as Geoffery on the back screen at one point). The highlight for me was Deayton, Stevens and the musically talented Pope performing Status Quid's interminable spoof Boring Song. We saw them all hanging out in the Pleasance courtyard afterward. I wanted to go up and say hello to Michael Fenton Stevens and say that we were once on the same Thames river boat with him at Robert Rankin's party, but Herself - wisely in the cold light of retrospection - advised that this didn't sound so cool. 4/5 (mainly for the songs).

A Dame of Thrones
Frooty Goose @ The Lombard Project
A talented improv troupe insert a different classical British actress, reprising one of her most celebrated roles, into George RR Martin's acclaimed but bloody saga.
The Ocelot says: Today we saw Dame Judi Dench's put-upon spinster Laura from A Fine Romance attend a dinner with the Boltons, with unexpected results. Apparently tomorrow will be Dame Maggie Smith's Lady Violet paying a surprise visit to King Joffrey. 5/5

Mr Swallow – Houdini
Forth @ Pleasance Courtyard
Following his critically acclaimed portrayal of Dracula, Nick Mohammed's alter ego Mr Swallow is back with a magical, musical biopic of Houdini that he's definitely rehearsed this time. Definitely!
The Ocelot says: I feel a bit bad about not enjoying this as much as Herself and many of the audience. They were lapping up Nick Mohammed's clownish Mr Swallow and his put-upon assistants trying to stage a tribute to Harry Houdini. But I think I made the mistake of mentally stepping back early on and thinking his character in particular was just a bit too silly, and then couldn't go along with the conceit like everyone else. Probably the same reason that some people just didn't get Norman Wisdom or don't get Count Arthur Strong. But we did see Neil Pearson, Angus Deayton, Phil Pope and Ellie Taylor in the audience, so that was cool. Oh, and he did do some decent close-up magic and a fair Chinese Water Torture escape at the end. 3/5

Nosferatu's Shadow
Grassmarket 4 @ Sweet Grassmarket
Who was Max Schreck, the man behind the monster? Why is he solely remembered for the only horror film he made during a career encompassing 800 parts and 50 films? How did he continue working through the rise of Hitler and the Nazis?
The Ocelot says: A magnetic performance from writer/actor Michael Daviot as the character actor now known for a single monstrous role. Despite the utter lack of atmosphere that can only come from staging a show in a bright, modern hotel meeting room, his tall gaunt presence - reminiscent of John Carradine - rich voice and blazing eyes are, to quote Herself, 'spellbinding'. 5/5

Adrian Gray's The 007 Conspiracy: James Bond's Terrifying Truth, Exposed!
The Little Kirk @ Just the Tonic at The Community Project
A one-man conspiracy spy-thriller high-tech romp – with some PowerPoint gags as well. Adrian Gray, presents the story of self-appointed ‘truth theorist’ Adrian Gray (no relation) who claims to have uncovered the dark truth behind the James Bond franchise, and discovers that sometimes, the truth is kept hidden for a reason.
The Ocelot says: Though some folks may feel a little gypped for coming to a show that is not entirely as advertised, do go along with it and enjoy the ride. Reminds me a little of some of Johnny Sweet's solo efforts like Mostly About Arthur. Loved the ending; I don't want to spoil it, but it does involve a chicken coronation. Sorry, that probably does spoil it quite a bit. 4/5

Quirky Incident
Nothing quirky happened today. Sorry. I can't just force quirkiness to occur, ok? I mean, sure, some people did come up to me and asked for directions, as has happened previously. And yes, I did heroically chase after some chap who'd dropped his train ticket and he only said 'thanks' in the most desultory fashion, the ungrateful bastard. But that was kind of it. Not every day can be Quirkday. Sometimes it's just... Blahday. 

Oh, no, wait, something odd did actually happen today, although it mainly happened a couple of days ago. This bloke got in the queue for Intergalactic Nemesis behind us. I don't want to be horrible about him but he does look a bit like notorious Afrikaner white supremacist Eugene TerreBlanche, only wearing an oversized Bathory t-shirt stretched over his belly. Anyway, I recognised him from Saturday when he was in the same audience as us for three consecutive shows. In three different locations. THIS IS WEIRD. I think he might be following us. Not sure why, but it can't be good. If you don't hear from me again, call the number hidden in this blog (you'll know how to find it), and give the codephrase 'We all wanted to do the Paddington mum'.

I think this is Edinburgh's first cat brothel

Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Chocolate Ocelot's 2016 Fringe - Day Three


Exhibition Gallery 1 @ National Museum of Scotland
The idea of a shared Celtic heritage across ancient Europe retains a powerful hold over the popular imagination. But many ideas about the people known as Celts are more recent reimaginings, reinvented over the centuries.
The Ocelot says: Look, I like a good exhibition as much as the next person who likes exhibitions exactly the same amount as me, but do we really need to see 37 gold torcs and 53 silver brooch pins? I contend that we do not. Two or three gets the message across quite adequately. You could keep the rest safely locked up, or even flog them to the Chinese and free up more museum space for, I dunno, a celebration of Oor Wullie or something more interesting. I did like the wooden chariot though, and the silver Gundestrup cauldron. It was just like in Slaine. 3/5

Fête Worse Than Death
The Annexe @ Paradise in The Vault
Welcome to the village fête in Llanfairchwaraesboncen, nestled in the South Wales Valleys. Join your host, 76-year-old village busybody Eirys Evans, in a fun-filled romp complete with competitions, slide shows and audience participation. 
The Ocelot says: Jolly good character comedy from Karen Sherrard on her first Fringe (we had a bit of a chat beforehand). She played a little old Welsh lady running a crappy village fete and the fete's star guest, not-Charlie-Dimmock lady gardener Esme de Flange, whose stream of relentless horticultural double-entendres was like a Viz strip come to life. Sadly I didn't win anything in the raffle. 4/5

Etherwave: Adventures with the Theremin
Grassmarket 3 @ Sweet Grassmarket
Notorious performer Hypnotique tells her personal story about the world’s first electronic instrument (from 1920s Russia) and its influence on music today – including Led Zeppelin, Kraftwerk and Portishead. In this multimedia talk and music performance, expect tall tales of KGB espionage, spooky soundtracks and her encounters with Amazonians, Bob Moog and Simon Cowell.
The Ocelot says: The theremin's a weird instrument. Like the violin, if played badly it's a dire assault on the ears and the soul. Still and all, Miss Hypnotique puts on a most entertaining and educational hour about the invention and use of the peculiar electronic instrument. 3/5

Tom Neenan: Vaudeville
Buttercup @ Underbelly Med Quad
Backstage at the Vaudeville Theatre hear dark and hilarious tales of magic, malevolence and misfortune in this one-man portmanteau horror comedy from master storyteller, comedian and writer Tom Neenan.
The Ocelot says: Always a pleasure to see one-man maestro Tom Neenan put on another spoof, this time a riff on the portmanteau horror format like Dead of Night and Dr Terror's House of Horrors. I thought I would be safe on the front row with him, but sadly I was roped into a bit of audience participation, though just for a card trick (which was very well done). The high point for me were the three theatrical agents, played Macbeth-witch style by Tom and his two hands - all very Falsetto Sock Puppetty, which is no bad thing. 5/5

Marvellous Adventures of Mary Seacole
studio 2 @ C venues – C nova
The fascinating story of the Jamaican/Scottish woman who braved the Crimean War to tend to wounded soldiers, described as ‘a warm and successful physician, who doctors and cures all manner of men with extraordinary success’. We watch her progression from a child identifying medicinal herbs, to the horrors of war and epidemic when she entered Sevastopol.
The Ocelot says: Jolly fine life story of the lady in question by Cleo Sylvestre though I remain unconvinced that Seacole made any significant medical contribution, she was evidently a brave and kind woman. Well done to Cleo Sylvestre for doing the whole performance in full heavy Victorian frockage. 4/5

Ballroom @ Gilded Balloon at the Counting House
Combining improvised comedy with tabletop gaming in an epic, sprawling, open world, entirely made up fantasy quest of the audience's own devising. Every show is different. Every choice has a consequence, every success or failure decided by a large D20 (20-sided dice).
The Ocelot says: Paul Flannery of Knightmare Live fame stages a tabletop adventure for 3 'randomly selected' volunteers from the audience, and with silly suggestions from the rest of us, they attempt to roleplay and roll their way through a short quest. At least 2 of the 3 volunteers (bad luck CJ for coming second at Hungry Hungry Battle Hippos) have their own shows on here, including Erin McGathy from the Harmontown podcast. Only problem with this show is that I didn't completely enjoy it coz I secretly kinda wanted to be one of the three adventurers. 4/5

Tdipus Rex
Frooty Goose @ Platform 13
The classic Greek tragedy acted out entirely in dinosaur costumes. Betrayed by his best friend, in love with his mother and far from home, can Tdipus overcome close harmony Persians, Geordie harpies and Cyclops from the X-Men and save the day?
The Ocelot says: Of all the Greek sauropod dramas on at the Fringe, this is the best seen so far. The most memorable scene comes when the titular hero struggles to claw out his own eyes with his pathetically short arms. 3/5

Lady's Guide to the Art of Being a Wingman
Balcony @ Gilded Balloon Teviot
The Desperettes are girls dressed as boys, using techniques for picking up women to pick up men. Got it? Good!  Expect sharp comedy and tight harmonies as the girls defy gender singing a huge soundtrack of classic pop, including Destiny’s Child, Justin Timberlake and Salt’n’Pepa.
The Ocelot says: Slick comedy cover songs from three talented performers from Australia, dressed as Reservoir Dogs in pink beehives. Some light sauce and gentle audience interaction and a fine medley of ladypop singing. 4/5

Quirky Incident
Managed to lose something again. Again! This time it was my trusty dictaphone thing, with which Herself and I record our reviews post each show. This is a) to help me remember stuff for this here blog and b) to make us look sort of like gonzo journos in the hope that someone cool will want to talk to us. I can report that b) has not yet happened. 
But on the plus side, I did find the dictaphone voice thing when I ran back into the Counting House and found it where it'd fallen out of my rubbish jeans pocket. Damn you, rubbish jeans and your shallow front pockets! I lost twentyfive quid out of you at Salute in April, but I was too ashamed to admit it publicly. UNTIL NOW.

Forgot to mention I saw this too

The Chocolate Ocelot's 2016 Fringe - Day Two


Long day today with many many shows, so bear with.

Elsa Jean McTaggart: Sings, Strings and Other Things
Theatre 3 @ theSpace @ Surgeons Hall
Take songs that stop conversations, a voice that could stop wars and a fiddle that stops at nothing, and you have the icon Elsa McTaggart. The show consists of original compositions of traditional style... lively jigs, reels, hornpipes, airs etc, played on the fiddle and whistle.
The Ocelot says: She's like a lovely smiley middle-aged fairy. Plays fair decent electric fiddle and accordion though I always think that the accordion lends an unwelcome French tone to any tune played thereon (see the omnibus edition of Les Archers). Very happy and uplifting. 4/5 

Starship Osiris
Clover @ Underbelly Med Quad
Armed with a cast that despises him and a slim budget, actor, writer, and director George Vere endeavours to bring you his debut sci-fi masterpiece. An intergalactic comedy farce from Willis and Vere.
The Ocelot says: Sub-Trek space opera from Willis & Vere goes rapidly off the rails and off script amid directorial ego trip. Splendidly low budgets effects (binbag black hole into which the posturing Captain Harrison is sucked arse-first) and fast-paced farcical antics. A touch of The Play That Goes Wrong with a fuck-ton more swearing. Herself was roped into to delivering some lines when certain cast members had bogged off, which she did with verve and gusto. 5/5
Herself says: Captain Harrison's tights were so tight you could tell he wasn't circumcised.

A Little Bit of What You Fancy
Frooty Goose @ The Launderette
Sid Little's tell-all account of life in the shadow of a star. Hilarious but touching in all the right places. Sid will be signing copies of his Sid Something Simple album after the show.
The Ocelot says: I now know things about Eddie Large that nobody should ever know. On the other hand, Sid's unexpected rendition of Gangster's Paradise was a delightful revelation. 3/5

Jules Verne’s Extraordinary Voyages: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
studio 7 @ C venues – C nova
We know more about the Moon than we do about the ocean floor. Dr. Arronax, scientist and pioneer of underwater exploration, is determined to discover what secrets may be hidden beneath the waves.
The Ocelot says: One of three Verne stories being staged every days by Not Cricket Productions in the same space right at the top of C Nova (where we saw the Frontier Trilogy last year). Very very minimal set - some muslin sheets and back lighting, but excellent physical acting to convey being tossed about on the Nautilus etc. The character of Prof Arronax was gender-flipped which was fine, but the actress delivered every line with the same blinky grin and the simpering tone, whether she was commenting on the facilities of her cabin or pleading with Nemo for their lives. Nemo was jolly good, as was Farragut and Ned Land. The squid tentacle was unexpectedly hilarious. 4/5

main house @ C venues – C too
There can be no redemption for Jonathan, no hope for Mina, while the Count draws near. With stunning physicality, Push to Shove’s wordless adaptation exposes the darkest desires of Dracula’s world.
The Ocelot says: Vastly cut-down (no dancing Van Helsings here) adaptation from The Lincoln Company with Push To Shove Theatre Company that worked very well. A slender, long-fingered young Drac spidered and slinked around the space, seducing Lucy, Jonathan and Mina in quick succession. Somewhere between physical theatre and dance. Sensual, sexual and pretty to watch. 4/5

Comedy in the Dark
The Old Foundry Room @ Just the Tonic at The Community Project
At Comedy in the Dark, the audience's senses are heightened – things look and sound different in the dark.
The Ocelot says: Hmm. Not so good. Started 15 minutes late with no clear management of queuing or ticket-tearing. It was just standard stand-up sets, but in the dark, not specially-planned material which is funnier in the dark. The MC was not good at generating the right mood and managed to tell a gag in between sets that was so long and tedious that a snore-heckle from the back of the audience put him completely off.  Lloyd Griffiths choir singing and encyclopedic knowledge of Anglican cathedrals was the only high point. 2/5

What the Funk?
Emerald Theatre @ Greenside @ Nicolson Square
Do you know your Green Onions from your Uptown Funk? We got the funk and it’s all here, played by Scotland’s finest eight-piece live band, Lights Out by Nine. The story of funk evolves from the roots of Hammond organ, through bass and brass, to timeless club favourites from across the decades.
The Ocelot says: Groovy funk and soul from a bunch of old white blokes. The only problem was that we wanted to get up and dance but couldn't. Oh, and the young American lady introducing each funky factoid between songs seemed to stumble over her script a lot and mispronounced the names of Sam and Dave, the Isley Brothers and Stax. And some persistent feedback and video tech problems which need sorting. 4/5

Joke Thieves
Main Room @ Laughing Horse @ Cabaret Voltaire
Comedy set swapping live! The cult hit show where comedians perform their own jokes, then each other’s.
The Ocelot says: Not bad, though very much dependent on how each comedian chooses to riff on their randomly selected comedian's material. Lanky Anglo-Frenchman Eric Lampaert did the best, stripping and doing a rubbish impersonation of Welsh comedian Kiri Pritchard-McClean which was as much self-mockery as it was a roast. A Scottish woman's take on Finn Taylor was less successful - just a summary of his material with unfunny put-downs. 4/5 

Dark North and Hungry Jane: Two Plays of Supernatural Horror
theSpace on Niddry St (Lower) @ theSpace on Niddry St
In Dark North, a television psychic discovers there are some spirits who should never be disturbed. In Hungry Jane, a woman, terrorised by the ghost of a young girl, enlists the help of her ghost-hunting former lover. Their troubles are just beginning…
The Ocelot says: The first tale from Slippery Rock Theatre was short but sweet with a spooky rocking chair and the ghost of a dead but very bitey baby. The second was too long and rambled with too many characters, although they were a good mix of the Addams family and the Endless. I liked the grumpy gothy girl. Dr Foot next to us slept through most of it - a reflection on his hard rock Fringe lifestyle more than the play though. 3/5

Quirky Incident
Had cheese sandwich and read comics in Greyfriars Kirkyard, but that's not the quirky incident. I was approached on no less than 5 occasions by different punters all over the city today, asking me for directions. This is a record even for me. Suspect my combination of faux-official lanyard, eye-catching purple jacket and commanding bearing just draws the lost and needy to me. Have so far directed people to Revolution bar on Chambers Street, the ticket office at Surgeons Hall and the toilets at C Nova. Come unto me and I shall guide you.

No, I don't know this man, but I swear he did this just to annoy me
Herself just reminded me that we went to a nice Bohemian art fair at Greyfriars, took photos of a cross-stitched Groot and shared a nice scone.
And we ended the night slumped in a big sofa at C Nova watching crappy short films. There was one about cloning General Franco I think, though I may have been hallucinating by then.

Friday, 5 August 2016

The Chocolate Ocelot's 2016 Fringe - Day One


Welcome to the Ocelot's 2016 diary of the Edinburgh Fringe. This could well be my last year here coz by golly it's an expensive and tiring week, so by all rights I should go out with a bang and blog the crap out of this festival with funny photos, pithy captions and snarky reviews, but I'm going to try and actually enjoy the Fringe this year and not devote 50% of my brain to 'how can I most amusingly present this quirky incident in my blog?' while everyone else is simply enjoying the show/getting drunk/drunkenly spoiling the show.

So here's a few encapsulated reviews of the shows we've seen today, for your information and entertainment. As in previous years, I may have slipped in the odd fake show for my own amusement.

Oh, and I may mention the odd quirky incident after all, coz I can't put the obsessive compulsion to journalise my every waking moment completely to rest.

Pleasance One @ Pleasance Courtyard
A horror-thriller guaranteed to send shivers up your spine, reveals a dark rivalry between two men who share a disturbing past which ties them inexorably together; but whose truth is more real?
The Ocelot says: Good twisty turny horror-story within horror-story play, with excellent shabby lecture room set. PC Dave Quinnan from The Bill (that is his full and legal name actually) was jolly good as the greying old prof. I recognise the female actor from somewhere and will clearly have to do some serious cybermining to figure out where I've seen her before. 4/5
Aha! Carrie Marx, for such is her name, was in Death Ship 666. Stamped and filed.

Lazy Susan: Crazy Sexy Fool
Bunker One @ Pleasance Courtyard
This ‘tender and ridiculous’ (Guardian) duo return to conjure rich worlds with sexy depth and smokin’ jokes. Oh boy! Foster's Comedy Award Best Newcomer nominees. As seen and heard on BBC Radio 4.
The Ocelot says: Excellent two-women sketch goodness, as in previous years. Loved the coke-snorting bears and the tiny pony Gary. Well done Celeste and Freya if those are indeed your names. 5/5 

The Confessional
main house @ C venues – C too
Gripping police thriller that will raise your pulse as it draws you to the edge of your seat. Smash hit Fringe NYC production influenced by David Fincher’s Se7en from Beyond Broadway.
The Ocelot says: Gripping psychological police drama, if a little overlong at 1 hour and 45 minutes. Blair Gibson was especially good as the prissy killer Prentiss, though the burden of the play fell on director/leading man Michael Hill-Kirkland as the police detective. 4/5

Mosley Harmless
Frooty Goose @ Mulligan's Winery
One-man show. Challenges the reputation of one of the nation's most maligned 20th century figures in this sideways, often side-splitting, look at British fascism.
The Ocelot says: Surprisingly slapstick. I enjoyed the puppet show recreation of the Battle of Cable Street. 3/5

Will Seaward's Spooky Midnight Ghost Stories 3
Wee Room @ Gilded Balloon Teviot
Edinburgh's favourite ghost-flavoured comedy storytelling show is back for a third year! Huzzah! And this time it's spooky beyond all imagining! Join Will Seaward on the stroke of midnight for more fear than you can shake a werewolf at!
The Ocelot says: I have no idea what this show was like. Last year when we went, I feel asleep in the middle of the show. In the front row. Two feet in front of Will Seaward. This year I have been sensible and turned in relatively early (though see the quirky incident below). Herself gives it 5/5

Quirky incident
We got completely soaked legging it along Cowgate from the Pleasance to C Too in the middle of a typical Edinburgh summer monsoon. That's not the incident though. The incident was when I managed to lose my lovely set of laminated timetable cards (henceforth known as the 'lammies') along the way, a tragedy I only noticed some hours later down at the Gilded Balloon, as I was 'enjoying' a rapidly cooling £4 flesh-parcel, or 'crepe' as they are sold under. 

So somewhat disconsolately, I bade Herself and CJ farewell and trudged back along the route we had taken earlier, my eyes trained on the pavement for the sight of four laminated cards and an evidently inefficient binding ring. No dice. I got all the way back to C Too (Columba's by the Castle) with not a sight of a scuffed white rectangle kicked into the gutter by Wee Bobby. C Too itself is all but dark and closed by then, save for a couple of young women who were taking tickets and running the snack bar earlier. They said hi. I sheepishly explained that I was 'uh, looking for some little laminated cards?' and they went 'oh!' and 'yes!' and 'wait here!'.

And wouldn't you know it, they had indeed found my precious lammies and had locked them safe in their little cabin where they do the snacks. Hurrah and calloo! I took a photo of them holding my lammies to celebrate. 

So thank you, Elizabeth and Kyoki (I think, sorry if I got your name wrong). You turned a bittersweet end to my first day here into an amusing and quirky incident with a happy ending. Kyoki even repaired the crappy binding ring with yellow tape, gawd bless her.