A postcard from Edinburgh

Thursday 19 August 2010

Dear Phil

I see that your new sideline selling jokes to postcard manufacturers has taken off. I recognised the work as yours instantly. Very amusing.

Anyway, as it happens you were right to turn down my suggestion that we get away from it all for a few days. I arrived in Edinburgh to find that they are running an entire festival of fringe for the whole of August.

Every nook and cranny of the city has been converted into a “performance space” of some kind. A man walked into a bar yesterday only to find himself watching a play.

I was that man.

The play was DC Moore’s Honest in which Welsh actor Trystan Gravelle plays a man in a pub telling a story about how he grew up a bit and stopped being a c-word (his word, not mine). Excitingly it included a reference to one of my local neighbourhood characters – “Byron the Midget” I really felt the South Lambeth Road had finally arrived.

Actually it was the kind of thing you dream of in fringe theatre: polished, funny, absorbing,  intimate, touching (but no intimate touching) and only 35 minutes long. And you don’t even need to leave your seat in the pub to see it. Fringe theatre doesn’t get much better than that. (****)

10 Dates With Mad Mary sounded promising: “‘Mad’ Mary McArdle has just been released from prison and is looking for love, but finding a ‘nice boy’ among the geeks and freaks of small town Ireland will not be easy.” but what I saw of it seemed rather po faced.  I fought sleep almost from the off, but sleep won the battle quite convincingly. Let’s be charitable and place the culpability on the five and a half hour journey, the excesses of the previous night and the bracing Scottish air. As I missed most of it I really don’t feel qualified to rate it.

I don’t feel qualified to rate Stick Man Live On Stage! either, although obviously it gets points for having punctuation in the title. Apparently Stick Man is a big deal kids’ book and given its success I really do think we should write one ourselves if we have an afternoon free. The Live On Stage! version is altogether more elaborate: a three hander all set to music with songs and props and beach balls thrown into the audience a la Cage Aux Folles (but that really is where the similarity ends). The audience of young children and their parents seemed to love it. I enjoyed it too (the lovely @amazingelf was in it and was marvellous of course) but I couldn’t really relax as I was mostly feeling very conspicuous at being the unaccompanied man in the audience and wondering if someone was going to insist on my being vetted.

The worst thing I’ve seen – the only time that I have actually wanted to die – was
Mike Wozniak and Henry Paker: The Golden Lizard a half-baked attempt at madcap surrealism and silliness about a librarian who gets caught up in an adventure involving a terrapin and the East Pole. SOMEONE recommended this to me and if I ever remember who it was they are in for the high jump. (*)

At the other end of the scale, the most thrillingly inventive thing I have seen was Celebrity Autobiography in which a panel of people (some of them guests) read excerpts from celebrity autobiographies (hence the title). The excerpts are verbatim. Sometimes the humour lies in the triteness of the writing or idiocy of the writer (Mr. T: The Man With The Gold;  Eminem: The Way I AmBritney Spears’ Crossroads Diary) and sometimes in the pretentiousness (Diana Ross: Secrets of a Sparrow). I don’t think I shall ever be able to forget Michael Urie‘s (Ugly Betty) howlingly funny recitation of the filth that is Tommy Lee’s TommyLand which appears to be a manual on how to pleasure a lady. I shall never eat celery nor drink pineapple juice again.

Some of the pieces involve intercutting two or more people reading related autobiographies. So while Peter Andre prattles on harmlessly about watching TV and which edition of Trivial Pursuit he prefers playing, Jordan is barking about how much she hates body hair on men and how she insists on a shaved pubic area because “who wants to end up with a mouthful of hair?”

The show climaxed with Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher and Elizabeth Taylor competing for the true version of events over the split up. James Lance‘s rendition of a giggling Richard Burton is a memory I shall treasure for a very long time.

I know you will never consider coming to Edinburgh now that you know there is so much theatre up here so let’s hope that Celebrity Autobiography comes to somewhere near you. It was so good that I may have to go every night. (*****)

I hope you are well and please try and remember that I no longer eat celery next time you cook dinner. Otherwise I am likely to vomit.


One Response to “A postcard from Edinburgh”

  1. […] Read the full review here. This entry was posted in Honest. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. « Read The Stage’s Review Of Potted Panto […]

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