Last Postcard from Edinburgh

Saturday 21 August 2010

Dear Phil

I am afraid Edinburgh has run out of postcards.

And besides, I don’t wish you were here.

I don’t mean that unkindly. Not this time.

People (by whom I mean Andrew Haydon) have expressed astonishment that I should venture to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Of Unallocated Seating so willingly. There has been more puzzlement still at the lack of subsequent moaning about it.

In case you think I might have gone soft on “general admission”, be reassured: I’ve been mostly seeing shows alone and that is where unreserved seating comes into its own:  I can be last into a show and still sit up the front as there are usually odd seats to be filled. It’s brilliant.

Actually I didn’t play my Nobby No-Mates card at Hit Me: The Life And Rhymes of Ian Dury. I sat up the back. I thought the music might be quite loud and it was. HMTLAROID is a two-hander biography with Mark White as Ian Dury and Josh Darcy as his tour manager and general factotum Fred ‘Spider’ Rowe. With the exception of a brief (but spookily good) turn by Darcy as Janet Street Porter, no other characters are portrayed directly. White and Darcy tell the entire story either to the audience or to each other. That clunking sound is not caused by the polio-damaged Dury’s (surprisingly flexible) callipers:  it’s the leaden thud of narrative devices. I’m sure Ian Dury fans will love it – Mark White has got Dury down to a T (as far as I can recall – it’s all so long ago). It’s a testament to the talent of the actors that the thing  pitches along agreeably enough for 90 minutes.  I’m sure you knew that Dury apparently had affairs with Helen Mirren and Jane Horrocks? I didn’t. (***)

So yesterday was my day for musicals and stand-up comedy. The next stop was Hamlet: The Musical. I think this was my “sleeper hit” of the fringe. I thought this would be rubbish but it was terrific. Six performers and a six-piece band romp their way through the Bard’s classic retold (for the better IMHO) through musical theatre in 70 minutes. They claim to be giving it the Andrew LLoyed Webber treatment but it’s much better than that: wittier, more tuneful, and with greater variety. The humour is occasionally corny (“You can’t make a Hamlet without breaking eggs”) but the gags come thick and fast.  It’s also agreeably intelligent: Hamlet reads Regicide for Dummies and wonders what “blench” means. Even the puppets (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) are brilliant.  All this and a top notch cast too. Wonderful. (****)

By the way, I forgot to mention that I saw Showstopper! The Improvised Musical the other evening. I’m sure I don’t need to explain it. The one I saw was a “celebrity edition” in which Kate Copstick – chief comedy reviewer for The Scotsman newspaper – had been asked to write a review of a fictional play which the cast then performed. It was all very clever although probably somewhat hampered by the fact that they had unwittingly unleashed Ms Copstick’s rather pedantic inner satirist who left them little room to manoeuvre. (***)

But back to last night and my evening of comedy. For some reason I can’t remember much about John Luke Roberts Distracts You From A Murder except that it was rather disappointing considering the reviews. The best part was undoubtedly the bit when he derided two dozen members of the audience one-by-one by reading out randomly selected insults. (***)

And finally – and after much nuisance call making to press offices, I managed to secure a ticket for this year’s big must-see stand-up. Bo Burnham: Words, Words, Words. The big deal is that this American prodigy is only 19 years old and yet he’s not only funny, he can command a room. Burnham became a star from his bedroom through YouTube. Those clips don’t really do him justice but here’s one anyway. Blindingly good. (*****)

One Response to “Last Postcard from Edinburgh”

  1. Phil K Says:

    Unallocated seating!!!!!!! Why didn’t tell us you werre suffering up there?


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