Category Archives: Fringe 2011

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011

Good Vibes


A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again & again
Alexander McCall Smith

Shows So Far – 35
Hangovers – 3

The Fringe is something of a garden of artistry, when come August every plant blooms at the same time. Some, like the Lady Boys of Bangkok, are perrenial & flower every year. Some, like the productions of Shakepeare, are ancient Yew trees, whose mother plant slowly spreads across the garden. As a flower is the beautiful result of a year of element nourishment, so a show is the end-product of a Company/performer’s perspiration – the veritable tips of the iceburgs of effort. As Im patrolling the Fringe, at every show I attend I am plucking a bloom & slowly arranging them in the bouquet of this blog, whose perfume fills the air as long as the Fringe continues, attracting punters bee-like to the shows with their pretty aromas. Then once the fun is over I shall preserve said flowers in an archive, to be enjoyed as pressed petals by posterity…

Victor Pope

Today was a late starter, I didnt even stir til 3PM, by which time hundreds of shows had started, been played out, & concluded to varying degrees of applause. About 4.30 I stumbled up to Luke’s pad for a couple of bottles of wine – less a hair of the dog & more the whole coat! From there I proceeded to THE INFINITE DELUSIONS OF VICTOR POPE (5-27 – not wednesdays – 18.50) at the JEKYLL & HYDE for a spot of sound engineering. Day by day he is slowly honing his set, but even so the audience are deepely divided bunch. Some acclaim him a the greatest genius since John Cooper Clark, others’ walk out half-way throu shaking their head in disbelief. Meanwhile I’m banging a bongo & passing shaker makers out through the audience, forming something of a hippy jam-band. Victor’s set is a series of comedy songs, through which he dons articles of clothing to accentuate each number, from a dentists’ glove for his song My Dentist is a Psycho, to a medallion for his cover of Slick Rick’s number Treat her Like a Prostitute. This is probably the highlight of ths how, for just before singing it he gives us his top ten anti-comments for his you tube video of the song, among which are;

fucking gringo!!! is this whitey really trying to be Slick Rick? madra le! Someone had better shot this fake! ZERO MTR CREW

omg please die ASAP… slcik rick is 1 of my favourite rappers. dont ruin classics. funny tho…. as in laughing at u. not with u. lol @ irish accent

Word up! Fuckin white shit ass fucks!

Damo sound engineering - by James Yip
Me sound engineering for Victor

After the show I went up the Cowgate & the wicked venue there, the subterraneanesque CAVES where Just for Tonic are hosting their shows. The one I attended is called MOONFISH RHUMBA (4-16, 18-28 – 20.30), a very comfy sketch show etched in the ether by a couple of cockney comdey comperes. With one guy plucking funky strains from his guitar & the other like oozing cool like a seventies pimp, they are like the bastard love children of the Flight of the Concords & the Two Ronnies. Very funny stuff & the audience loved them, especially when a number of the guys donned long wigs & joined them on stage for the lesbian song. I was sat – more led down on several chairs, actually, crusing off the liquer – at the back & while there I noticed the unsung heros of these shows. One guy was sat with a laptop on his lap, conjuring the complex sound effects with perfect synchronicity. By him was the sounds & lights guy, another vital cog to the show’s overall effect. We audience members rarely notice them, but where would the ‘stars,’ & the show, be without them!

I had a little time to kill before my last show of the day at THE MERCHANTS HALL, so kicked back down at the JEKYLL & HYDE to see this Irish comedian I’d been chatting to before & after Victor’s shows. His name is AIDEN KILLIAN, an immediately likeable young Dubliner, whose show TAKE THE RED PILL (4-28 / 21.21) has an interesting marketing gimic. He basically gives out red capsules of gelatine with his flyers, whose placebo effect had me raving the other day! The show is based upon his battle with the banks over a house they tried to reposses from him. The guy took them on, howvere, & won, resulting in both a very witty show & a warm feeling from the auidence as we connect with the common man. As it was a free show, come the finale he went to the door & took money from the punters as they left. He scored two tenners from two seperate guys on dates (who were obviously trying to impress their birds in an effort to get laid), & another £44 in coins. He says that’s a common amount, & he says he’s turning a small profit, so good on him.

For my last show of the day I was joined by the lovely-as-lillies Katie Craig at the MERCHANTS HALL on Hanover Street. We found ourselves amid very Georgian decor, with portraits hanging from the walls including an original painting of Mary Queen of Scots. The show we giggled through was CHIMPROVISATIONS b(4-20 – 22.30) by an amenable group of young ‘uns called MONKEYS WITH PUNS from Exeter. There are 4 guys & two girls & they take us on a fun ride of very funny sketches, before allowing a guest comedian the floor to break things up a little. Then they turn to improv games, including the one from Mock the Week where they have to give us ‘Things people wouldn’t say at a…’ They are an absolutely charming bunch, with as swift a wit as Ben Jonson & the ebbulience of a school outing, they crack the snappy whip of quipping with a fun-loving polish!

After the show me & Katie hit the Voodoo Rooms, whose classy bar seemed a perfect desert to our amusing main course. It was there that we met a couple of random punters to the festival – who are just as important to its life-blood as the performers. It was a father & son team, with dad a human rights lawyer & lad just about to start uni at the London School of Economics. They’d been in town a week & caught only comedy, seeing some of the leading names. The chances of me meeting them on another occasion are slim indeed, but loving our conversation it made me realsie that there is more to the Fringe than the shows – for here a vast cross-section of humanity mingles in festive merriement, & all who attend are enriched mightiy by the experience!

Havin a Pop

Sitarist - by James Yip


Far set in town & smoke I see
Spring gallant from the shadows of her smoke
Cragged spired & turreted, her virgin fort beflagged
Robert Louis Stevenson

Shows So Far – 30
Hangovers – 2

Raining again! Yet, as we apprach the 1/3 mark off the Fringe, spirits remain high among the myriad campers. This morning I was double booked, resulting in the first occasion when Damowords had two reviewers – myself & Paul – out in the field at the same time. My show was SANS MOTS (11-29 / 13.25) at the C VENUES – ROMAN EAGLE LODGE. This show is all all about Tuscany’s curly-haired MATTEO CIONINI’S passion for the universal art of mime, & had both child & old un’ giggling away as he presented his various tales, clowns & escapades. He came across as something of an un-moustached Charlie Chaplain, the highlight of which was his orchestral conductor. This was an energetic blast thro Motzart’s Eine Kleone Nacht Musik, full of dead-pan humour, such as controlling the CD with his baton & turning it into a machine gun. The most amusing moment came from an unexpected source – a baby had been crying on & off through the show, but was suddenly silenced by the shows own (invisible baby) who’s recorded cries completely drowned out the flesh & bones version. These were being handled behind the scenes by ANNA CETI, who’s own show I would see later in the day with Paul. She met Matteo at university in Turin, & they’d agreed to support each other’s one-person shows during the Fringe, reaffirming the good energy of their friendship. As for SANS MOTS, it was a great hour of the kids & the kid within us all!

Sans Mots – Highlights from Matteo Cionini on Vimeo.

A member of the audience was the young, attractive, as-dappy-as-me CRESSIDA BROWN, artistic director of London’s OFFSTAGE THEATRE. She’s not bringing a show up this year, but instead is one of the judges for the TOTAL THEATRE awards. They’ve been going since 1987 & are recognised nationally and internationally as a benchmark of achievement. The idea is that a team of twenty judges will try & see every show that’s on at the fringe, then on or around the 17th of August stay up all night on coffee, red bull & amphetamine, arguing with each other over the winners. It’s nice to see how everybody has a role to play in such a massive festival – & how everyone just has to be here in my beloved city. Over to Paul…

Macbeth on a dreekit afternoon!

I was looking forward to MACBETH at the NEW TOWN THEATRE (12-28 / 13.00h)by Icarus productions this afternoon as it would be my first play of the festival in the more traditional vain of theatre. And I wasn’t disappointed! Opening with a dramatic sword fight on a darkened set with a full moon shining down on the actors, and immediately we are transported into the world of Shakespeare. From here the classic begins as the three witches plot the wicked downfall of Macbeth and the Murder of King Duncan. The stand out performance goes to Lady Macbeth played by Sophie Brook whose sinister plotting and eventual downfall is preformed pitch perfectly. I think I am in love(maybe for the third time this week!) The use of the moon was very atmospheric turning to blood red at moments of treachery, and then becoming a full force of dark nature in the scene where Macbeth becomes lost under the spell of the witches. In fact all the moments of treachery and bloodshed were absolutely thrilling, sending chills down my spine, especially when Macduff’s wife and son are murdered. Absolutely spine-tingling!

I am by far not an expert on Shakespeare or ‘the Scottish play’ but on a miserable wet festival afternoon it isn’t bad to be transported back to the dark days of Scotland in the year 1000 A.D.

Go and see!

Tango of the heart!

After a couple of beers in Sandy Bells I went to see AN IMAGINARY HISTORY OF TANGO (C Aquila, Venue 21 4-14 16-29 / 4.55pm). I wasn’t convinced at first but Anna Cetti’s performance and love of tango soon sucked me in. Using puppetry, dance and video projection, Anna takes us through her intimate love affair with the tango. The audience participation (which for once relaxed me rather than have me in fear of my life) that had a member of the audience being crowned ‘king of the tango’, was very funny indeed, and was all part of a bigger picture to explain the wider social etiquette and rules of the ‘milango’ tango halls.

But this was not just about the tango. We were also treated to philosophical ponderings as Anna explores and compares Plato’s symposium to jammy dodgers biscuits! What a rant she gave us! Excellent! During this surreal philosophical lecture I got to thinking about the symposium and its musings on love, when before I know it, Anna has us all picking another member of the audience of the opposite sex to see how long we can look into each others eyes. And I am beginning to realise this is more than just theatre I am experiencing, as I question the hidden secret meanings of a simple glance.

While I am recovering from this experience Anna suddenly changes mood and takes us into a heart felt love story of a woman who is unable to ask a man she loves to dance with her, and once again questions are being asked. This time about our endless search for love and the hopelessness of it all. The dance of love indeed!

For the finale(or so I thought!) Anna tango’s majestically around the stage in the best dance of the show. But its not over yet! She now enters into the audience and with an elegant outstretched hand invites us on stage to dance (we have no choice as by now we are all cast under her spell). And so the show finishes with me waltzing with a girl from Australia I have never met before. I didn’t expect that! Just like I didn’t expect to be dreamily walking home to write these words with my heart a little bit lighter.

Bring on the rain my dear sweet Edinburgh! It matters not when Anna is in town!

Paul Fletcher

Sophie Gatacre

Back in Damoworld , after sharing Anna’s wonderful performance with Paul, & tangoing with a middle-aged German lady, I went down to sound engineer for VICTOR POPE, where my lady friend Caska had turned up. She agreed to afterwards join me for a show entitled SAMANTHA’S HOT LINE (12-27 / 20.05) by the bubbly Sophie Gatacre &, like me, had an enthralling hour with this mad bird from London. The story is she was once married to a rich stockbroker, who had ran off with his secretary, abandoning Samantha & their son Sebastian. In an effort to keep up appearances (& buy Sebastian a horse), she’s turned to phone sex, resulting in several hilarious ‘personas’ for her booty-calling clients. From the bucking bronco cowgirl to the holy nun she gives us a canny insight into what goes on in the minds of lonely men. At one point, during her naughty teacher routine, she even gave a member of the audience a pants-down spanking, causing the guys mate to cry out, “THIS IS FUCKING SURREAL!” A great piece of one-woman writing & showmanship, she even gave out free wine at the end of the show!

After the show me & Caska went up to the FOREST CAFE, where I hosted the nights music. ROSIE WILBY & MIKE DR BLUE MCKEON plugged their shows & enjoyed the stage, while VICTOR POPE palyed with his drummer from GINGER & THE TRAMP & did the same. I did my TINKY DISCO at the end, & got folk boogie-ing about a bit. I’ve got another show on the 20th down Leith & these are my meagre contributions to the Festival. 3 years ago I played a nobhead Israeli soldier in a pro-Palastein play, which was pretty cool to do, but I much prefer the pace of two shows in a month. eVEN SO, playing last night counts as a show, so I guess I might as well put on a wee film of mi disco… hope you enjoy it…

Summerhall Sandwich


Furthganyan Embro folk come hame
For three weeks in the year
& find Auld Reekie not the same
Fu sturrit in a steir
Robert Garrioch

Shows So Far – 25
Hangovers – 2

This morning, as I went to see my first play of the day, I picked up the ‘Three Weeks’ bi-daily broadsheet containing 30 reviews. One of them, unfortuantely, was for VICTOR POPE’S first show, & really slates the guy. I mean, come on, it was his first performance for god’s sake (it was that bad) but there was no allowance for settling in given at all. If the lady who made the review (I know where you live darlin’) saw yesterday’s gig, she would have written a completely different, & probably wonderful review. A cursary glance through the rest of the reviews gives us many a negative vibe. I dont know if you’ve noticed, but I havent slated one show yet (tho privately I might have), for I realise the effort that goes into creating a performance & yanking it half way round the world at one’s own expense. Instead I’m more about the essence of the show & shall leave the opinions & attendance to the watcher. Who’s right is it anyway to criticize someone else’s hard-wrought work! Either better it yourself or shut the fuck up!

Realm of Love

Lunchtime today, after hiking through another soggy city, I found myself at SWEET VENUES at the Apex Hotel on the Grassmarket. The play I was presented with is called THE REALM OF LOVE OR FOLDING LAUNDRY (5-14 / 12.20), from the American PERIHELION PRODUCTIONS, which is is something of a recurring dream come to life. Its author, Karyn Traut, had said dream one night & wrote it down, the word-seeds that would one day blossom into this extremely relaxing flower of thought. The main part is played by a cute actress (Anoo Tree Brod) in her 30’s, who defines the sovereign Realm of Love to a gentlemen ‘friend’ (Brian Westcott) as she folds & plays with her washing, at one time donning a towel like a bridal gown. It is more of a monologue than a play, with the guy helping the narrative ebb & flow. This made it possible that the two actors (she’s from North Carolina & he’s based in Alaska) could rehearse over Skype – as far as they know a world first! At the end of the show the playwright & actors sat down for a discussion, which centred on the ambiguity of the man & woman’s relationship – a deliberate device by Mrs Traut. A soothing & reflective show, with many a poetic flourish, it was like having a nice bath with bubbles listening to classic FM with a glass of Chardonnay, especially immersed in that lovely Carolina accent!


I spent the rest of the afternoon at the SUMMERHALL at the far eastern edge of the Meadows, a new venue for the fringe, swarming all over the old Royal Dick Veterinary School. My ever elegant mate Bonnie is front of house & very kindly gave me full access to a couple of shows. The first number was No.52 – TO BE OR NOT TO BE.. OR WHATEVER IT WILL BE (7-16 / 14.30), a wyrd mix of singing & physical theatre, which tells the story, rather operatically, of life in a common suburban household. The O’Reillys are actually TWO’S COMPANY THREES A CROWD, from Rose Bruford College in London. They start off singing the Lord’s Prayer, & sing other classics throughout, such as the Pater Nostra in Latin, & some South African numbers such as the very special tones of Siya Hamba. Around that they present a disharmonoius domestic (yet real) habitat, with dad, wife & teenage daughter sometimes conversing all at once, yet not to each other, finishing with a great bellow from dad. The sensation of seeing this play was like rushing through a wind tunnel, an image invoked when one of the actress started vacuuming up. A surreal, niche affair, but definitely worth watching.


Having an hour or so to kill between shows, I had a great hour wandering around the art installations of the SUMMERHALL. The most interesting was an exhibition of 20th century French artists, CHRISTAIN BOLTANSKI’s work, by local art dealer, Paul Robertson. I knew nothing of the artist himself (im a poet y’see), but had a fascinating tour round the – extensive collection with a wee biog to boot. It tunrs out Boltanski’s dad was a jew hiding under the floorboards in Nazi-occupied France, who nipped out one night to plant the artists seed in his mum’s womb. Born in fear & darkness, then, Boltanski explored these themes, yet always retained a freshness that inspires his collectors. One piece I saw was the Malmo 1993 phone book, with an errata page of all those peopel who died that year – quirky, yet pricey at £2.500. He was also one of the pioneers of mail art, some of which formed the centre piece of Robertson’s colelction. Back in 1966 Boltanski had found some metal boxes, filled them with trinkets such as meager pieces of fabric & cuttings of his hair, photographed the contents, & sent photo & box off to galleries, frineds & even randoms from the phone book. Roll on 50 years & one of those boxes sets you back £20,000!

Boltanski's boxes

The bottom crust of my Summerhall sandwich was the incredible TRAUMATIKON (6-20 – 16.15), again from Rosebruford, & what a panapoly of personalities graced that stage. It was more of a school hall than an actual theatre, with chairs L-shaping the larg-ish room. But what this did is thrust you right into the centre of the action, which is pre-dominantly set in a restaurant. It felt as if I was actually eating there myself, especially when members of the 25-strong cast, all youthful & litheful, turned to talk to me from time to time. The show is something of a romp through the twentieth century, from Muhammed Ali to some flamenco dancer I never caught the name of. The ensemble are all dressed in stylish black, with ghostly face-paint & strutted around the stage like a Broadway musical. The soundscape was immense, a combination of pre-recorded sounds & three excellent musicians (piano, double bass & djembe), while the movement & sheer synergy of the collective was awesome. It was a compendium of caricature & a banquet of bohemia, from the gigantic winged Valkyrie to the ciggarette smoking photographer letting off her sporadic flashes as she stalked the stage like Jim Morrisson. Even though the collective were often all speaking at once – recreating the hub-hub of the restaurant – it never, ever jarred, & was at times as sweet as honey. The show is long – an hour & an half – but after the conventioanl hour, the tables were all cleared away & we were presented with an avant garde cabaret of the Circus Dramatika Abstractica. Of the acts presented, the dad from No.52 had two hot ladies on chains as his lionesses, clawing & hissing the audience. Very dramatic stuff, & the very feline brunette, sporting silk gloves & high-heels, as she squatted poised to pounce, is the most beautiful objets d’art I have seen thus far this fringe. At the end of the show, co-founder of the Traverse theatre Richard Demarco got to his feet & clapped vigorously for a lot longer than anyone else. He was quoted in the company’s programme so I guessed these guys are his babies & damn right he should be proud!

On the way home (to type this up) I met Paul Fletcher, who was reveiweing ROSIE’S POP DIARY for me. Its great having him on board – both reviews have been to notch – & tomorrow Ive given him tWo assignments. Here’s his from today anyway…

Rosie Wilby

I have temporally decamped from the grass market and the military tattoo for a few days and set up office in the new town of Edinburgh on a quiet street called Bellevue(beautiful view in French). Therefore my itchy trigger finger has relaxed and the zombie military loving tourists of Edinburgh are safe. For now!

Today I went to see ROSIE’S POP DIARY at the TRON BAR (4th-28th – 18.20). A one woman show of music, stories and comedy, where the aforementioned Rosie boldly stands on stage and retells her stories of when she was a journalist for ‘making music’ magazine and lead singer in her band ‘Wilby’. With the help of a slide projection the audience are treated to the life and times of a journalist\musician living through the Britpop 90’s. The stories are funny and interesting, especially when she reads some of her fan mail, and we get a secretive glimpse into the mind of fanatics expressing their confused adoration. Being a kid of the 90’s myself I enjoyed walking in to the music of Suede and harking back to this era in a nostalgic way. The real gems of the show however are Rosie’s songs, which are beautiful and tender. I loved ‘This time’ and ‘You amaze me’, which both made me wish I had bought her ‘Precious Hours’ album back in the day! Is it still available Rosie?

Rosie doing stand up

It is through these songs that the show has its real strength and we got a much deeper glimpse into who Rosie Wilby is. I think it also because these are not comedy songs that this show has an edge over the countless other comedic shows in town at the moment. This is a show about the soundtracks to our lives, about how we change through the years, about how things that’s seemed important when we were young are maybe not that important. Things change, people move on, and it seems for Rosie this is a good thing!

I agree!

Paul Fletcher.

After three hours writing I ventured out into the now sock-soaking wintry weather for my last show of the day, LOOSER WOMEN (11-29 – 22.45) at the GILDED BALLOON. It’s basically ITV’s Loose Women but much ruder. The writers are Suzanne Portnoy & Tim Fountain, & their mouthpieces are the three comediennes, a bolshy KAREN DUNBAR, a heavily pregnant WENDY WASON & cute RACHAEL PARRIS. What follows is an often hilarious hour of sexual revelations, the highlight of which was their recreation of the coital chit-chat a group of 18-year old cockneys, who’d been given a crate of stella & recorded by the writers. The bulk of teh show is made up of contributions from the public, delivered with accented panache from the three ladies (except Karen Dunbar’s Northern Irish, which is comically terrible). See their website if you want to join in . For any couples out there I reckon its a great piece of late-night foreplay & definitely left the auditarium with a semi.

Karen Dunbar

Rachael Parris

Wendy Wason

Tonights the night for mi live disco by the way…

The Forest Cafe – Bristo Place
10PM – 3AM

With Support from


No Riots Here

Uncle Tom Deconstructed

A city forms the folk conceived there
& we see the Edinburghers pass
Alan Bold

Shows So Far – 21
Hangovers – 2

While south of the border England’s cities are one-by-one descending into mayhem, bloodshed & looting, north of the border, Scotland’s capital is carrying on its annual festivities serenely. I mean, Ive lived in Scotland seven years now, for the simple fact there’s a lot less nob-heads up here. Admittedly, the percantage of nobheads is roughly the same (except for Paisely where its almost quadrupled), but therees only 5 million souls up here, scattered over a vast area. Indeed, Edinburgh is a joy to live in, very cosmpolitan with more of a village vibe than modern European capital. But for one month it becomes a veritable Mumbai of the muses, swarming with ballet dancers & graphic artists, comics, singers & novelists. A big shout out should go to the guys & girls who work at the 300 plus venues, an untriumphed army of youngsters that steer HMS Fringe through the endless oceans of August.

A Night's Tale

Some of these are the friendly female staff down at Venue 13 on LOCHEND CLOSE- where I caught BROKEN WING a couple of days back. It was there, as everyone was getting changed practically in the street, that I met the producers of the show, who very kindly gave me a comp to see A NIGHT’S TALE (5-12 / 10.30). The company is called UNKNOWN THEATRE & are based in Cardiff, & their story is refreshing. Voluntary ran & fund-raiosing mental, on a shoe-string budget they charge only a couple of quid to the kids for room hire & get proffessional thespians in who teach the kids there for a cup of tea & a wagon wheel. This is evident from the great harmonies, eloquent speech & graceful acting of this bunch of teenagers singing & dancing through a perfectly pleasant children’s story. It tells the story of Billy Morgan, who follows the Bwca (pronounced Booker) into a magical land which on the edge of destruction fileld with trolls, Faerie Queen’s, wizards & music. The latter was played by four guys to the right of the stage, of which the musical’s writer, James Williams, was plonking the keys. A thoroughly entertaining affair, I loved the leibmotif of the Troll Dance & the bubbling enthusiam of the cast. They must love musicals, as they were, coincidentally, sat next to me at the Showstoppers performance as me on Thursday! Keep it up guys!

The centre-piece of today’s tryptych of showmanship was the rather delightul FITZROVIA RADIO HOUR (10-29 / 16.00). The stage is like a car-boot sale, full of bric-a-brac which is used to make the clever sound effects for the radio plays performed in front of ‘studio audience.’ It takes one back to the bygone days of the 1940’s when the family would huddle round the wireless to hear tales of crime & derring-do. For the live punter the five elegantly dressed cast members – three men & two women – don different head-pieces to bring the plays to life. Its a real slice of middle England Im not used to this far north, & a real hoot to boot. A nice touch is the yellow scripts which the actors carry round wuith them – sometimes reading, sometimes remembering the lines – very realistic. We even get boards held up from time to time telling us to applaud, laugh or do a Nazi hub-hub! Throughout the show we had sporadic advertisements & name-dropping for Clipstone’s brand of tea which were proper funny. Of the four plays presented through the hour, my favorite was TIN. Set in Cornwall, it tells the story of an evil London syndicate wanting to flood a mine in order to raise the price of Tin. Cue drowning men gurgling in bowls of water & a playing card placed in an electric fan to simulate drilling. A real good-time riot of fun & frolics, being both a tribute to the inventiveness of the radio age & the company that has rekindled it for the 21st century.

Uncle Tom: Deconstructed

My final show of the day was UNCLE TOM: DECONSTRUCTED at THE SPACE @ JEFFREYS STREET (Aug 9th, 13th 5:20PM / Aug 10th 3:20PM / Aug 11th 9:20AM), & I was joined at the performance by my erstwhile reviewer, Paul Fletcher, who will now be taking up the words…

I would like to round up all the rioters in London, get them on tour busses and bring them up to Edinburgh. I would then point them in the direction of the Edinburgh Castle and the military tattoo! Do your worse boys and girls! Set me free from this relentless night after night of military pompous and fanfare right outside my window! Grrrrr!

UNCLE TOM: DECONTRUCTED (Aug 9-13, Various times @ Venue 45) by the Conciliation Project is a musical play which puts the 1852 novel ‘Uncle Toms Cabin’ by Harriet Beecher Stowe on trial. It is a show that challenges our preconceptions of who we think black Americans are. And it seems that most of our conceptions come from the above-mentioned book. The characters in the play are split into two groups. On the one side, the southern slave owners, who with faces painted completely white, give a very sinister demon like appearance. On the other side are the black Americans, who do a wonderful job of playing up to their stereotypes at one moment, and then quickly slipping into a more true portrayal of the human condition under slavery the next. The singing and dancing is great, and at some points very moving. ‘Swing low sweet chariot’, and ‘Go down Moses’ are two highlights.

The performances are exaggerated but to a pitch that works very well, which captures the suffering of slavery, as well as the hypocrisy of the so-called Christian-loving slave owners. I especially enjoyed the scene where a slave auction turns into a satire of a catwalk show, the actors strutting their stuff like models, moving their hips and chains in time to the cheesy music. The slavery of human flesh still exists today! Great Stuff! Another scene that also impressed me was when 19th Century slavery was compared to the modern world of sports, and a young black athlete is checked out for his potential to join the college football team! “Don’t worry about getting an education”, the white coach mockingly laughs, “ We will sort out all that! You’re just here to play football! Make us win!”

However being quite cynical I began to think towards the end of the play that this was a classic situation of preaching to the converted. I was sure the middle class audience had already thought about all the issues raised and come to the same conclusions. But thankfully ‘Conciliation Projects’ had a surprise up its sleeve for me! Once the play had finished and the actors addressed the audience to try and get us to share our emotions about the play (I squirmed in my chair having a deep-seated fear for public speaking!), and I ended up speaking to the guy next to me who was over from Oakland, California. He told me that the issues dealt with in the play are issues he has to deal with everyday in America. He was very moved by the play and he made me realise its not just about preaching to the converted! How foolish I am! It’s about having the opportunity to express frustrations and emotions about what is happening in the world right now! And as the actors read off a list of racial atrocities from around the world, from Rwanda to New Orleans, I realised that all this is very important, and just because in my cosy little world I am free from racism it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be screamed about and expressed! It can only be therapeutic! It can maybe even change things! Which is what art and expression is all about! Isn’t it?

Answers on a postcard!

Then I arrive home and switch on BBC news and see the riots are spreading across the country, and the people in charge are predominantly white, while the perpetrators are predominantly non-white! And I have to ask myself! How much has really changed?

Preach on Conciliation Project!

Paul Fletcher

Back in my world (its Damo now), I had to slip away before that talk at the end & sound engineer for VICTOR POPE’S largest, warmest audience yet. Im really enjoying being his lovely assistant, passing out bongos & shaker makers around his audience. This Thursday he’ll be playing with Luke as GINGER & THE TRAMP, down at my Forest Gig. Ive got another artist to play now, Mike ‘DR BLUE MCKEON’, who’s doing his own free show at the same venue, JEKYLL & HYDE (4-12 / 14-18 – 21.30).

So after a pull-out & an addition, here’s the new flyer for Thursday

The Forest Cafe – Bristo Place
10PM – 3AM

With Support from


Culture Vulture


Edinburgh is a hotbed of genius
Tobias Smollett

Shows So Far – 17
Hangovers – 2

Wandering the festival seeing all these shows reminds me of travelling around India. Every day is a state & every venue is a town. Both Darjeeling & Chennai have a central shopping area as all the Fringe venues have a stage, yet all are very different in size & content. However, of all these stages, there’s is only one where the acting takes place in an actual restaurant, & that is the FAULTY TOWERS DINING EXPERIENCE (4-30 / 13.30 & 20.30) at the B’EST RESTAURANT on Drummond St. Waking up rough as a nun’s chuff I shook VICTOR POPE into consciousness, who I gave my second (forty quid) comp to as a thank you for his infinite generosities. We got to the restaurant not long after, with VICTOR overdressing completely, as if he was going for a job interview. The audience all mingled outside & were treated to Basil Faulty & Manuel bantering with each other & us, setting the scene & seating us at our tables inside. What followed was two hours of hilarity as scenes from the series’ were renacted about us as we ate our three course meal; such as Manuel losing his rat under the table. The Company is Australian, led by its Sibyl, & is 13 years old now, but still seems as fresh as a daisy – I guess that the timelessness of such classic comedy. God bless John Cleese!

Next up was THESUES IS DEAD (9-14 – 16-29 / 18.15) – at the C SOCO on Chambers Street. The company are called THE EFFORT, & are based in Brixton Hill, south London. Now, I know Brixton quite well, & have had many a madcap night down the 414 club on Coldharbour Lane, Britain’s most dangerous street. The last thing I expected to find coming from such a ketamine-soaked country was such high brow theatre as this. The story was first crafted by Euripides, then modernized by Racine, before Robert Bruce Boswell’s 19th century English adaptatioin. Finally, the Effort – led by the BBC’s young Jonathon Rowe – radically morphed all this into a fast-paced psychological thriller – but done in classical verse. The story is set in the age of King Minos, before even the Homeric Mycyneans took control of the island – a mythological story older than Moses! Back in the modern day, there was no breath between the scenes played out passionately by the four young actresses & a Hektor-style actor. You can tell the women outnumbered the men as the colours of costume, lighting & bewitching stage design were co-ordinated wonderfully. It was a treasure to be treated with such consummate maturirty from such a young ensemble.

THESEUS IS DEAD – Trailer from Jon Rowe on Vimeo.

My next show was an absolute wonder. I’d been given two tickets to see FLAMENCO FLAMENCO (9-14 / 16-29 – 20.10) the EDINBURGH COLLEGE ART & being on my todd, a young lady behind me was lucky enough to get the other ticket. Her name is Gabby, from Melbourne, who’d just hanging out at the festival getting culture before going to study in France. She’s already majored in English Literature, which was an added bonus. Anyhow, the theatre was impressive, with statues in teh hallway & epic paintings draping the walls, & the show itsel was diamond. The guitarist RICARDO GARCIA, was as able as a master sitar player, & his two dancers were equally as powerful – a classicaly trained Nicole Kidman & handsome Javier Barden, whose hair swirled like a dress as he whirling dervished round the stage – . The effects that Flamenco music can create, with only one guitar, castanets, a soapbox, body-slapping & foot-stomping can on occasion feel like a vast orchestra is playing. Couple this to the elegant swirling of the lady & the powerful bull-like strength of the man, & its one show & a half. The penultimate section saw our musical matador perform a series of solo dancers, incraesingly in complexity & energy. You could literally hear the quickening of the ladies’ hearts in the room – especially cos the guys pants were so tight you coudl make out every countour of his bum crack. Honestly, the way the women were gasping & sighing it was just like being down the bingo. At the very end, after a standing ovation, we were told the Spanish Consular-General had honoured the performers with a visit. This was cool, but as I absorbed the show I imagined a small Spanish village, with a a young beauty dancing in her mother’s dress, while a ten year old girl watched on mesmorized – for this is the true roots of Flamenco. Ole!

Completely buzzing after the show, I took Gabby on a wee guided tour of the town, from a mixed doubles poetry slam at the FOREST CAFE, to WHISTLE BINKES, where my mate Cameron hosts the monday night open mic. I even played a few songs to help him get things going, gaining a free beer in the process. The place was packed, actually, a great central drinking hole that has always felt like an international youth hostel. On bidding Gabby farewell, I set off for my last show, but was caught up by the energy created by this band playing outside THE TRON. They & those about them were proper jumping & it was nice to stay awhile. It tunrs out they are called TRELESE, & hark from Kansas City USA. This is the fourth time in a row they’ve been over here & they just busk themsleves around town. I Like them so much, I gave them a gig supporting my live disco on Thursday, which I guess I’d better start promoting (see end).

My last show of the day, DEBBIE DOES MY DAD (5-27 / 23.00) at the BEDLAM THEATRE, was also American. Apparently Bobby Gordon’s dad was a porn star, who’s early advice (to an 8 year old Bobby) was ‘Grab yer dick son!” & thought if all men would just grab their dick there would be an en to all the world’s problems. I found myself sat at the back of the theatre as Bobby’s fiance was filming the show. He’s a handsome chap I guess, in his mid 20’s, whose show grew out of performance poetry in Los Angeles. It is rather like a coming of age movie, as we are shown several scenes from his early life, revolving around the sole stage prop of a bed. In some way every scene is connected to dicks & sex, concluding with him coming furiously at the same time with an invisible girlfriend in a very realistic manner. It was kinda weird, tho, as his missus was right behind me, sniggering away at her man pretend-fucking on the stage. Only in LA I guess!

Meet Paul Fletcher

The Dick & the Rose


Each is indubitably & absolutely Edinburgh
Each is proudly & consciously different from the rest
Moray Maclaren

Shows So Far – 13
Hangovers – 1

With the recent Tory Arts council cuts cutting the trembling throat of regional theatre, suddenly the Fringe has become important again for our beloved, board-treading companies. To the punter on the street this means an increas in quality, & my first show of the day, Leila Ghaznavi’s BROKEN WING (9-14 / 17-20 – 11.45) is easily the best play Ive seen so far. From the outside, venue 13 – HARRY YOUNGER HALL – looks unspectacular, with a couple of gazebos & two portakabins uncermoniously dumped outside to form the HQ. The actors were getting changed in the toilets at the front of the building for gods sake. However, never judge a book by its cover, for inside one is presented with a wonderful, comfortable theatre & a serene ambience. BROKEN WING’s own stage was an sensous eastern affair, with Persian carpets hanging from the ceiling with sable silks draped over the stage liitered with rose petals. The play itself was a beautifully written piece, played out by Americans, full of realistic fast chat & nail-on-the head Islamic culture. They told us a very engaging, thought provoking story. Essentially a young girl who had been orphaned by an earthquake in Iran had attached herself to this man & shared his bed from the age of 5 (they married at 16). Roll on to the present day & an American photographer has moved into their household – resulting in them falling in love. Subsequently she was stoned to death for adultery – & tho we dont witnness so brutal an act – the poetic description was enough to get me squirming! One of the neatest things about the play was the click of a camera that seperated scenes.

She’s gonna get stoned…

I was joined for my next play – THE DICK & THE ROSE (8-13,15-20,22-27 13:30) – by Victor Pope. This was at the very plush POINT hotel, near Lothian Road, & Im still trying to digest the play. The company, OUTCAST CAFE THEATRIX, are from a small town called South Lee in Massachusis, a tight ship ran by its eccentric director. The show is his baby & he announces each scene with a thespian relish that is alomst pantomime. The play is a very visceral, erotic affair, accompanied by a whole host of different instruments, from skiffle washboards to acordians, banjos & a cello. This very avant garde story is about sex & its consequences, & uses a highly unique piece of scenery. You could call it a giant quilt with holes in, from which sesame street puppets, human heads & a giant penis emerge, the latter snaking across the quilt form erection to erection. A warm & visually splendid affair, Ive never seen anything quite like it in my life, & still feel a little dazed writing about it. While watching I realised how cool Edinburgh is at this time of the year, with flash-fires of creativity bursting out all over the city at any given moment. The muses are definitely in town & are having to clone themsleves just to keep things ticking over.

On the way to my next culture-nugget I found myself in the Grassmarket, the great tourist-friendly square at the foot of the castle. In the bygone days before football 30,000 people would flock there to see an execution, but today, on the very spot of the gallows, I found an ebbulient bandmaster driving forward the euphoric music of Britain’s first Guggenmusik band, GUGGE 200. It was invented in Switerland & means ‘Happy Music’ & indeed, the team of tubas sucked up all of my worldy woes! There were several drum kits on trolleys (& one pram) trumpets, bass drums, tamborines & over fifty smiling band members up from Bournemouth. They’ve been going 12 years & have toured all over Europe & luckily they’re on you tube;

Just off the Grassmarket is Paul’s house, who’d joined me for a couple of plays the other day. It was then that he offered to join my ‘staff’ & assist me in my reviewing. He’d already been down to the brass band to tell them to shut the fuck up (to no avail) & was happy to leave the Grassmarket for the short walk to the top of the Royal Mile & the C TOO venue for WHAT IT FEELS LIKE (8-21 – 16.30) from the young, funky, innovative ENCOMPASS PRODUCTIONS. So, with a fanfare of friendhsip & a roll of literary drums, I would like you all to meet your new reviewer, give it up ladies & gentlemen, for MR PAUL FLETCHER;

Paul Fletcher

You would think living in the grass market with an excellent view of Edinburgh castle would be an ideal location to enjoy the festival, but being obliged to listen to the military tattoo every night and having to hustle your way through the crowds of tourists, just to buy a pint of milk, can all become a very frustrating experience indeed. So much so that I want to climb up to my roof and start picking off the tourists with an AK-47! Die! Die! Die! You fuckers! Die! Aaarrggghhhh!

But Wait! Stop me now! Am I really going to turn into another Edinburgher bemoaning how the freaks of the art world disrupt my peaceful city every year?! No! Definitely not! Because underneath this world of zombie like tourism are small cozy venues where fringe productions are lighting up the dark.

Today I saw WHAT IT FEELS LIKE by “Encompass productions”, a play which explores the dream states of near death experiences. It tells the story of Nicholas Harper, who while lying on an operating table after a car crash, has a near death experience. The story takes place in his subconscious, a dark “in-between” reality where we find “Lester and Simpson”, two characters who are apparently there to assist him in his unresolved issues with his long term girlfriend Sarah. From here the play goes on to be a study in human relationships as the audience are treated to different scenes extracted from Nicholas’s memories with Sarah. The play explores the themes of betrayal, jealousy, and how we not only lie to our partners but also lie to ourselves. With the help of “the Aspects”, eerie actors dressed in black, we are further treated to some stunning physical theatre (the lovemaking scene was a thrilling piece of choreography). The play builds to a harrowing finale where Nicholas’s unconscious reveals its very sinister depths. But this is not all doom and gloom, as the well-written characters of Lester and Simpson spatter the play with humour, which serve to pull us further in to this well constructed dream world. Supported by an excellent original score, which had the woman sitting next to me in tears by the final scene, I cannot not recommend this play enough. A feeling shared by my fellow audience members whose very gracious applause said it all!

So what does it feel like to be living in Edinburgh at this time of year? Well who gives a shit about the military exploits on the castle and the annoying badly dressed tourists (buy some decent rain gear you look stupid!) when Encompass Productions are in town with their electrifying play!

See you soon!

Paul Fletcher

After the play (moving as hell by the way) I bid Paul adieu & a happy reviewing & toddled down to the JEKYLL & HYDE to sound engineer for Victor Pope, after which we began a drinking session that didint finish until 4AM. We beganin the SPIEGELTENT, where Edinburgh’s best live band, THE BLACK DIAMOND EXPRESS were playing. Unfortunately, they were late getting on & I had a show to catch, but in the name of supporting your local artists, here’s a you tube link & their myspace. They’re a passionate group of bohemians & aplaying round about town through the festival, including next saturday again at the Spiegeltent & 25th August at the Book Festival in Charlotte Square. Apparently the gig was wicked, spreading love thgrough a large, plush tent bustling with eager music lovers & I was told the stage slowly filled up with hot, dancing chicks playing shaker makers!!

My final show of the day was the famous, SHOWSTOPPERS: THE IMPROVISED MUSICAL (5-16/18-28 – 22.50). It was performed at the GILDED BALLOON in the main hall of the Student Union – & massive space (in fringe terms) that was packed to the rafters. Its easy to see why as what occirs on that stage is pure genius. The idea of teh show is that every night, from suggestions by the audience, a completey new, once-in-a-lifetime musical is summoned up from the psyches of the cast & performed with a flourish. Stage left is the director of operations, who deals with the audience & rises from his chair from time to time giving the cast its plot, often hilariously. Stage right are two musicians, a keyboard player who is the mainstay of the music, & a saxplayer/percussionist as his right hand man. The singers are three women & three men who not only make up songs on the spot, but improvise comedy inbetween. Absolutely brilliant. Tonights unique show – DANGEROUS RE-ENTRY – was set on an International Space Station, set in 2050, wih Barack Obama & Vladamir Putin cyrogenically frozen awaiting the discovery of a new planet. The themes of teh songs were Gansta Rap, Sondheim, Abba & Gerswhin, with a romantic sub-plot to boot. The best part was the creation of an alien, with one of the girls standing behind another simulating weird alien tentacles, & the tentative threesome suggested by our recently unfrozen world leaders!

After the performance I rejoined VICTOR POPE, meeting up with Bonnie from Linkey Lea (& all her cute mates), plus THE BLACK DIAMOND EXPRESS for a drink at Cvenues bar. At first glance its something of a school disco, but we turned it into at least a sixth form bash & the place was proper jumping. On getting home in the wee hours I realised I’d been in the field all day, for the atmosphere during Festival time grabs you by the goolies & swirls you about toon, refusing to let go until finally, & exhaustingly, you make it to bed… good night!

Rime Royal


Coming back to Edinburgh is to me like coming back home
Charles Dickens

Shows So Far – 11
Hangovers – 1

Its amazing how, during Festival time, so many otherwise obscure spaces are metaphysically turned into theaters of dreams. This morning’s world of illusion was at the CABERET VOLTAIRE, a night club just off the Royal Mile. The bouncers there are complete tossers, but the only guy standing outside the door early this afternoon was Chris Coxen. He’s a Bostonian who’s spent the past year or two on & off down London, working his comedy magic. I had a nice chat with him, observing the little black dots above his Freddie Mercury moustache which indicated its fakeness. Once inside the venue I was pleasantly surprised to find just four comfy leather mocha couches next to the bar facing a great black curtain. There were about ten of us all together, including the barman, a sound guy & Chris’ comedian mate TOM WEBB who was Mc-ing the show. This was the spelndidly titled SPACE CLONE AUDITION (6-28 / 14.30), the idea being that the audience had to choose which one of Chris’ comedy carachters should be cloned by the US government to send to space to represent mankind. Thesse were a groovy Bermudan club singer & his hairy chest, an expert on motivation, a guy who loved thunder (!?) & an agressive karate expert. Oftentimes bonkers I was guffawing on many occasion, tho was gutted when my favorite, the Bermudan Club Singer, was beaten into second place by the Karate expert as the audience applauded their votes. It was a comfy way to start the day, from the squidgy couch to Tom Webb’s homely bantering with the audience. Nice guys!

& today’s winner of the space cloning competion is… Danny Morsel

While I was watching the show the heavens burst open, the weather turned Autumnal & the game of spot the tourists bagan – ie, shorts, t-shirts & sunglasses with the coat at home in Inverness! I had a couple of hours to kill til my next show, so I had a pint at the Counting House, with one eye on the outside stage there & a young lassies singing to a few soggy drinkers, & the other on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday, where the English football season had just started. Down at Turf Moor, on the day the Clarets legend Jimmy McLLroy received his MBE, Watford sailed into a 2-0 lead. However, 2 debut goals in the last 13 minutes, from Charlie Austin & new-boy Keith Treacy saved Burnley (& me) from the opening day blues. Talking of football, Hearts have just drawn Spurs in the Europa league, which means Edinburgh’s gonna get even busier come August 18th.

Turf Moor - Cathedral of Dreams

My next dose of culture was at ZOO SOUTHSIDE, on Nicholson Street, & a one-man performance of Shakespeare’s poem, THE RAPE OF LUCRECE (6-14 / 16-28 – 17.15). The theater was a largish square room draped completely in black, chairs ringing three sides. This added a quais-globe-like aspect to GERARD LOGAN’S recitation of Shakespeare’s poem. Our immortal bard had written it early in his career, deviating from the stage in order to makes his name as a proper poet & maybe make a little cash. The story tells us how a woman of ancient Rome, Lucrece (rhymes with peace) is raped by a certain Sextus Tarquinius & unable to bare the shame kills hereself in front of her husband. The performance was compelling, & vast swathes of time were swirling about the room; We witnessed a 2000 year old story, the pure, unadulterated words of Elizabethan England dancing off Logan’s masterly tongue, & the atmosperic lights & soundscapes of the modern stage. It was lovely closing one’s eyes from time to time & letting the magic of iambic pentameter conjure up the same visions our illustrious poet saw seer-like 400 years ago. The bard within was really enjoying the versification of Rime Royal, a poetic form of seven lines (rhyming ababbcc), one of the few forms I havent employed in my own work. Here’s an example from the Rape;

O, that is gone for which I sought to live,
And therefore now I need not fear to die.
To clear this spot by death, at least I give
A badge of fame to slander’s livery;
A dying life to living infamy:
Poor helpless help, the treasure stol’n away,
To burn the guiltless casket where it lay.

Gerard Logan

& here’s a link to the Rape’s web-page where you can see Mr Logan in action;

The heavens were still drenching the city as I slip-slopped home. Luke was doing VICTOR POPE’S sound tonight, freeing me up to go home to do some writing. After finishing this blog, & with my hangover ever present & it still fucking chucking it down, Im just gonna cook up some grub, catch up on mi Eastenders with BBC iplayer & wait for the Burnley goals on The Football League Show… what festival?