Daily Archives: August 9, 2011

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!