26 August 2008
By Michael Holland
JUST SPENT 3 days living under an umbrella. Or it seemed like that. I was in Edinburgh to experience the Arts and Fringe Festival there and it rained every day without exception. Even so, that did not spoil the fun that is to be had in August in Edinburgh.
The Fringe part of the festival is a training ground for comics and theatre companies so is often very hit and miss. You are literally tripping over performers here, and can see theatre and comedy all day everyday for free, so be prepared to see a lot of dross; but in amongst the crap are real gems. And as it is a sounding board for most acts that means that the best will usually end up in London at some point.
My first night there I managed to get tickets for The Great American Trailer Park Musical; a big, brash, ballsy take on the stereotypical trailer trash dwellers. Spot on with the redneck humour and way of life. This was my highlight and a must to catch when it goes on tour.
The wonderful Simon Callow recreates monologues once performed by England's greatest novelist in A Dickens Festival. Here, rather quite at home in knickerbockers and wigs, Callow brings a variety of characters to life in a terrific bout of story-telling.
It was good to see Turner Prize nominee and Bermondsey Artists' Group stalwart Richard Wilson RA exhibiting a selection of his films, drawings and a sculpture at the festival, and I very much enjoyed Tracey Emin's first retrospective show - 20 Years. Love her or hate her, you just have to love her. Behind all the Emin hype there lies a very good artist. Her openness knows no limits and I felt quite sad after seeing a show that reveals every dark and heart-rending secret of her existence.
But then there's the non-stop comedy to cheer you up again! For a start there's Potted Potter: The Unauthorised Harry Experience. A budget-less, irreverent and funny look at all Rowling's books in under an hour.|
Joke-e-Oke is quite brilliant in its concept, and quite hilarious in its practice. This is Karaoke for would-be comedians. Instead of picking a song to sing you pick a favourite comic's routine, and the words come up on the screen for you to act out. We had a Dame Edna, Richard Pryor, Chris Rock and Rodney Dangerfield in various guises. As a booby prize in the second round, one young woman did an excellent version of Bernard Manning, eliciting groans and heckles from the crowd with her references to Pakis and stupid Irishmen.
Rowan Campbell, one of the many acts in the daily 12 hours of free comedy at a Wetherspoon's, described a fellow Australian locked up in Quantanamo Bay not as a terrorist but as an extreme backpacker. Excellent.
New York's way-off-mainstream Rick Shapiro has a hard-edged outlook on modern life; sometimes a bit too manic but shows flashes of genius. On being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder he argued that he can have sex with a groupie for five hours without losing concentration.
The last show I crammed in during the flying visit was Edinburgh regular Lucy Porter. Quite good but relies too much on bantering with the audience. I think she has 15 minutes of rehearsed routine and the rest of the hour is padded out with talking to crowd members. Could do better.
Also wanted to see Jimmy Carr but then realised he's on TV more than the News these days and will probably not have much more to offer.
Most of these acts and shows will be heading this way sooner or later so watch out for them.
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