Its been quite a successful August, really, for the Mumble (www.themumble.net). We manage to get into the national press, & also get our reviews & stars pasted up all across Edinburgh. After reviewing Made in Ilva myself, I got this lovely response back from the main actor.
Don’t know how to thank you
for getting so much our work with the terrific review of MADE IN ILVA
one of the deepest we got
thank you so much
So here’s just a few of those reviews/stars, plus a few photos of Edinburgh;
Just as I was getting into writing poetry about the Edinburgh festivals, along comes some nobbish simpleton to knock me off my stride. His name is Dan Pursey, the boss of Mobius PR company from London. Back in July, Mobius had given me a press ticket for Adam Riches, which I gave to Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert to review. The morning after the show I recieved the following, which Mark admitted to writing while he was pissed. To give ark credit he rang me up beforehand & said Adam’s show was pointless, but I said he should still review it, though.
It was a damp and wind-swept night and the welcoming warmth of the Pleasance Dome began to relaxed me into a state of mind ready for comedy. Tonight it was Adam Riches, a successful comedian with more awards that you can shake a stick at. Joining me was a capacity audience who clearly knew what we were in for. Alas I didn’t.
With lots of audience participation, Adam humiliated his carefully chosen audience members who were middle class and loving every moment of it. Adam utilises different characters drawn from history, all of whom had a Yorkshire accent, which is a star point in itself.
Taking his lead from vintage comedy telly, Adam was silly, pointless and yes, good fun. Which is just what his audience wanted. If you like trashy throw-away telly. Adam’s your man.
Two Stars and one extra for being from Yorkshire.
So That’s Three. Stars.
The review made me laugh out loud… so I put it up on the Mumble. A couple of days later, Anisha Fields at Mobius contacts me with the following;
Hey Damo, Hope you’re having a good Fringe so far. How are all the Damo doubles getting on around the city? Just wanted to send a quick email about Mark Divine’s review of Adam of the Riches. We’re really keen to support up and coming websites, and as you know, are happy to provide tickets to you guys to all our shows. We’re also completely open to critical feedback too, from anyone, provided it seems thought through. On the whole, I can see your site does that. But I’m afraid Mark’s review just felt, well, a bit lazy, (and full of grammatical errors), as well as being factually incorrect (…from yorkshire?) and it didn’t reflect well on you guys, which is a shame. We’re an agency, so when reviews like that do crop up we can have to answer to clients why that journalist was let in to begin with. Not in this case, but that will and has happened on other occasions, and I certainly wouldn’t want our relationship with you guys to suffer as a result of reviews like that. Anyway, that’s our two cents.
After replying, “he’s a special case is our ‘divine’ – & a law unto himself – he’s beyond the reach of both our remits,” her boss & the aforesaid bell-end, Dan Pursey gets involved. Basically he began to threaten to scupper the Mumble if I didn’t take the review down, which include;
1 – I’m afraid we can’t run the risk of booking press tickets for The Mumble if our clients are going to be met with such a lack of respect for their work. Obviously, I hope we can avoid canceling the rest and continue as we have been thanks a lot
2 – We’re going to cancel the outstanding tickets because we can’t trust that this won’t be repeated. In doing so, i am going to write to all the venue press offices and the Fringe press office to explain why. I am then going to write to other remaining press reps in Edinburgh to express our concerns about The Mumble, and explain the decisions we’ve taken. Alternatively – take the review down, and let’s not ruin a good thing.
3 – I hope that, when it comes to securing press tickets this year and in the future, you feel the moral stand you’ve taken in defense of the standards of writing in that review has been worth it.
At the end of the day, The Mumble is an honest website, designed to help would-be show-goers make an informed choice. We cannot be bullied out of our integrity.
Dan Pursey – looks like a bell-end too!
So I went to sleep with his threats rattling mi head. Waking up in the morning, however, & I thought the best thing to do was to put his threats up on Adam Riches review. Interestingly, Mark sent me a re-written version of the review – quite unprovoked – which I put up as well. You can see the full review here, including the initial response to it from a couple of Mumblers, including Mark himself.
A considered opinion?
Threat to block ‘disrespectful’ blog’s free tickets
A row has erupted on the Edinburgh Fringe after a PR company threatened to withdraw free press tickets from bloggers for not showing enough respect to the comedians they are writing about.
Publicists at Mobius laid down the ultimatum after Mumble Comedy wrote a three-star review of former award-winner Adam Riches – saying that if the review was not altered or removed, they would not issue any more tickets, and spread the word to venues across the festival, too.
In return, the blog accused the company of trying to intimidate them into taking down a poor review – saying: ‘We cannot be bullied out of our integrity’.
However, some changes to the review, by Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert, were made after Mobius first got in touch – including correcting the spelling of Riches’s name.
The row is likely to spark debate over the line between established media and fans setting up an online presence in order to score free tickets.
Mumble’s review as it currently stands reads as follows:
‘It was a damp and wind-swept night and the welcoming warmth of the Pleasance Dome began to relaxed me into a state of mind ready for comedy. Tonight it was Adam Riches, a successful comedian with more awards that you can shake a stick at. Joining me was a capacity audience who clearly knew what we were in for. Alas I didn’t. With lots of audience participation, Adam humiliated his carefully chosen audience members who were middle class and loving every moment of it. Adam utilises different characters drawn from history, all of whom had a Yorkshire accent, which is a star point in itself. Taking his lead from vintage comedy telly, Adam was silly, pointless and yes, good fun. Which is just what his audience wanted. If you like trashy throw-away telly. Adam’s your man. Two Stars and one extra for being from Yorkshire. So That’s Three. Stars.’
Riches was was born in Cambridge, and raised in Glasgow and London – not Yorkshire. Although his opening character, Sean Bean, is from there.
Mumble Comedy’s ‘CEO’, Damo Bullen revealed the pressure from Mobius in a message beneath the review, accusing them of ‘chucking their toys out the pram & ask[ing] me to take it down’.
He refused saying: ‘Everyone’s entitled to their opinion & that Mark simply could not get into the comedy of Mr Riches.. The Mumble is an honest website, designed to help would-be show-goers make an informed choice. We cannot be bullied out of our integrity.’
Despite Bullen’s defiance, Dan Pursey from Mobius said the review HAD been changed since it first appeared – although Bullen insists any changes were ‘cosmetic’.
Pursey said: ’The original review also contained some very odd references that, apart from anything else, gave the impression our client’s work hadn’t been met with the respect, care and attention it deserved. These have since been removed. ‘
‘We really do support and encourage new titles, websites and critics and like to offer them access to write about our clients’ work where we can. We also totally acknowledge that everyone is of course entitled to their own opinion.
‘But when we initially (very diplomatically) expressed our concerns the site representative was quite uncooperative, and my worry was that this could be an attitude that stretched across the site. I’m sure it isn’t, but had there been more evidence of care, I wouldn’t have had to push quite so hard to get them to pay attention.’
It’s understood that after the original contact from Mobius the sentences ‘Taking his lead from vintage comedy telly’ to ‘Adam’s your man.’ were added, and references to the critic’s urge to go home and ‘listen to his Tricky CD’, and spend more time in his leopard print pyjamas with a large mug of tea were removed.
Speaking to Chortle, Bullen added: ‘Do you know what annoyed me the most – it was his brash, aggressive condescending attitude that wanted to sink my ship when a lot of people – performers, reviewers, back stage staff – have benefited from it.’
Mumble Comedy – a free WordPress blog that uses unlicensed clip art to illustrate the number of stars – was set up for last year’s Fringe and only publishes for the festival. It currently has 140 ‘likes’ on Facebook.
And they haven’t got around to writing their ‘About Us’ page, which says: ‘This is an example of a page. Unlike posts, which are displayed on your blog’s front page in the order they’re published, pages are better suited for more timeless content that you want to be easily accessible, like your About or Contact information. Click the Edit link to make changes to this page or add another page.’
Critical condition: how comedy coverage at the Edinburgh fringe is changing
As the mainstream press withdraws from Edinburgh, there’s been a rise in alternative voices. Some new reviewers will be learning on the job – just like novice standups
My colleague Lyn Gardner wrote last week about “a critical exodus from the fringe by the mainstream press”, and I share her concerns. The issue is discussed in comedy circles too: I’ve spoken to several PRs who say they haven’t had much to do at this year’s fringe, because coverage in the mainstream press is so diminished. Of course, the flourishing of alternative critical voices online is an exciting development, but perhaps not yet an adequate replacement – as one confrontation last week made clear.
The contretemps – as reported at Chortle.com – was between the arts PR agency Mobius and the website Mumble Comedy, and it concerned the latter’s review of the former’s client, the comedian Adam Riches. Mobius contacted the website to express displeasure at – and request amendments to – a three-star review that lacked “the respect, care and attention [Riches] deserved”. That was met with what Mobius call an “uncooperative” response, which led to the PR threatening to withdraw free tickets from the website. The blog’s editor, Damo Bullen, posted an angry response, insisting “we cannot be bullied out of our integrity”.
The review that caused the fuss can no longer be read in its original form. Mobius’s complaint seems to be, not that it was critical of Riches’ show, but that it was half-arsed (it misspelled Riches’ name, for example). Even the revised version is a little slapdash and impressionistic. But does that justify Mobius’s threatened withdrawal of privileges? And what does the fuss tell us about the state of fringe criticism?
On the former point, I don’t think any publication – not the Guardian, not Mumble Comedy – has a divine right to free tickets. With rights come responsibilities: publications have to demonstrate a degree of professionalism, commitment and (pace Mobius’s complaint) respect. (They probably also need a readership – or the likelihood of acquiring one.) On the latter point, well, there’s clearly a frustration in some quarters that – as the mainstream press withdraws from Edinburgh – acts are ever more dependent on the opinion of often inexperienced and unauthoritative reviewers.
That’s not meant to denigrate amateur criticism, or professional online criticism, which supplies much of the best writing around the fringe. (It’s also worth noting that critics of all stripes have been unpopular with artists since the year dot.) But we should be more explicit about the fact that – as BAC artistic director David Jubb discussed on Twitter last week – “Edinburgh is [the developing] critic’s equivalent of scratch” – ie a place to learn in public, and seek feedback in order to improve.
The them-and-us, /de haut en bas/ relationship between critics and artists (or their representatives) is never helpful, but least of all when many critics have yet to earn trust or demonstrate commitment to the artform they’re writing about.
In that context, dialogue is good. The world of Fringe reviewing is changing, and it’s in everyone’s interest that the new model – which will include a far wider range of reviewers and publications than the old – foregrounds lively and intelligent discussion of the artform. That’ll only happen if all parties speak to one another about what they want criticism to be.
It’s a shame the conversation got antagonistic, but Mobius did the right thing by contacting Mumble Comedy with their concerns. We probably all intuit that some writing – the careful, attentive, “respectful” kind, perhaps? – constitutes valid criticism, and some writing doesn’t. We’ll only know where that line should be drawn if we talk about it.
Next to chip in were Fringepig, an anti-fringe website whose Billy Coconuts offered ‘respect to The Mumple for oupigging us,’ while dissing the site a bit at the same time. Its all rather nteresting, & it sounds like I’m some kind of harbinger in some kind of revolution in comedy reviewing! So anyway, to conclude the wee saga, Harry Venning of the Guardian does that wicked lampoon that began this blog. All-in-all, a successful re-launch of the Mumble – in the next post I’ll show how much the name was used by acts all acrosss Edinburgh.
A mental shift to music, I have writ
Some lovely songs, & over years have found
A heap of great musicians to help raise
My music to the tapestries of art,
But never a great singer, til the voice
Of mine own god-daughter, Kae-Lei Stowell
My best mate’s daughter only just fourteen
These past few days Ive organised two gigs
For her to play a week or two from now
One down the Cowshed, the other up Tron Kirk,
& so as chessmasters think well ahead
I head down to Wee Al’s, yon Lochend Park
I start to teach the set we soon shall play
After an hour I trip off into town
& Venue 13 off the Royal Mile
A special little theater that gives
Those special little companies a chance
To strut their stuff upon this global stage
& sitting in the theater I wait
For entertainment, & a play called Fleeced!
There is a certain talent in our youth
Ebullient, with voices pure as air
Im whisked into a childish fairytale
Of Golden Fleeces, & the Golden touch
Of Midas, ebony Odysseus
A true highlight, his numibian skin
Assuaged by his delightful debonair
I wander thro the streets to Summerhall
Old college veterinary, the hub
Of proper art, y’know the kind that bites
The senses, as when Eve her serpent met
& with a chomp the wisdom of the world
Formed Zarathustran prophecies long lain
Dormant in the recesses of the mind
Where scowling wolverines scavenge for food
To a cramp’d & musty brickwork cellar…
A stage of innovation, crowd stood round
A table, two actors perform ‘The Flood,’
Right in our faces, two metres away
A sad tale of this centenary year
Of World War One, betwyx soldier & nurse
Through letters & leave, their love murder’d short
“Will it be my last act, to scream your name
As I lie dying, dismember’d, wet trench…”
& so into the sunshine shuffling slow
My sense humbl’d, quality perform’d
To such keen heights, I fall in love once more
With the human ability to find
A certain truth, tho’ feigning to pretend
That there is truth eternal in our ways!
Part of making any endeavour is that each one has its own special problems. It’s the nature of the process.Martin Scorsese
There is a certain roughness in my mind
Waking up down Trinity, to walk
Pretty paths up to Victoria Park
Pass Ferry Road til Pilrig & my home
Where dozing off I feel my spirit roused
The weekend’s reviews inbox unopened
& leap up off the bed prepared to go!
I find myself well beyond the Bridges
Passing New Empire Bingo Hall, enticed
Within by a strange curiosity
To see this brand new venue for myself
The next corner of this land of stages
To give itself over to the Free Fringe
& glad I was to enter its confines
Where ageing dear normally sit sweating
I sit down with a lovely cup of tea
& see the Rebel Rouser’s greying quiff
Pluck music the fifties, full of fun,
He’s more than just a turn, dynamic voice
Invigorates the crowd, a clapping gang
In celebration of the fun of life!
Next port of call the old Forest Cafe
De-hippied, now a shrine to cabaret
The Ruby Dolls, four grasshopper lasses
Chirping through such a musical cortege
Chopping & changing genres as they drive
The mind’s electric chevrolet along
Imagination’s validating vibe
I am starting to feel the change of pace
That turns all this reviewing to a race
As minutes tick, the footsteps quicken beats
Rat-running round Auld Reekies freakin’ streets
With seconds wasted here & there as I
Hit solid man-flesh masses on the Mile
Ducking & diving, dodging flyers wide
Now sat am I inside B’est restaurant
Two hours of Faulty Towers, & a meal
Immersed in the genius of John Cleese
That struck him in the seventies, whose muse
Created perfect mirrorballs of life
That now have sprung to life before my eyes
Tickling me to hysterics, chew-on-chew
I meet wee Al & his pals down Malones
& marvel at a man from Dublin Town
Whose voice of sweetend gravel’s wide ouvre
Dance over his guitar’s fat, funky grooves
Oerlaid by that fine Irishness, as I
Relax a while, a fosters in my hand
The Festival all round, & in me stirr’d
I head down to the Pleasance, where fair Grace
From Lebanon, has just returned reviewed a show
& get to meet her properly, she’s hot
A twenty-nine year old, enstudied here
& thank her with a G&T, as we
Disect her recent Mumbles for a while
Before we part, & I delve into night
Returning to my room, a pleasant sleep
Soon covers me in slumbers, through the night
I dream of spheres where elevated thought
Shall prosper these next weeks, a mind reborn
A heart unworn, a spirit undenied
Connecting with the hedonistic swirl
Of arts to me unseen, tho yet to come…
Shows – 7
Hangovers – 1
We will either find a way or make one Hannibal
A muggy, grey day & the air is cool
Two joggers do dressage thro Pilrig Park
Out of a bed & breakfast three old dears
Drag purple flight bags to the taxi home
For tho exists three weeks of art employ’d
Some touch this festive world for bare one day
But better to have lived & loved, they say
Full thirty years of the Pleasance, today’s
Press launch begins with coffee & cookies
Then taking seats to puppet dinosaurs
Myself & Sarah Lewis, Mumbling new,
View Olympic accapellans, wild song
From Voca People, clad in eerie white
Boom-booming human beatboxers unbound!
John Hastings takes the stage, twelve jagerbombs
Still keeping him alert, as with tourettes
A lass called Jess shouts out, “BISCUITS,” betwyx
The punch-lines of comics like Angie Barnes,
The high octane theatre of ‘He had
Hairy Hands,’ the surreal, sublime stagecraft
Of Eglantine Whitechapel spectral world
After the surprise cake & the speeches
To celebrate the Pleasance love of art
Four men of a certain age take teh stage
Speaking, ‘Forgotten Voices fronm the past
The words of long-lost Tommies, as they read
The woman with Tourettes, every ten secs
Says ‘Cats’ or ‘Biscuits’ doing my head in
Then the finale, on Jess Myers’ stage
This is Brasil, rivers & rain forests
Roll across our soul, as onto the stage
What lithe, young smiling dancers shimmy down
With long, dark hair all waving to the groove
Of such a funky band of bass, guitars,
& drummers energizing in our minds
Walking home, the end of Princes Street
Stern-faced women clad in sombre black,
Protesting at the death of young children
I share my theory Israel’s skirmishes
Are contrivedto use up stockplied missiles
& gain a chilling response, ‘these missiles
Are advertised ‘Field-Tested’ by Israel
I pass the day relaxing at my flat
Ready to rave away into the night
With a lovely lass called Lydia, we met
In the street outside the Laughing Horse launch
& now were sitting in the BBC
Tent, watching cabaret for half-an-hour
Then left early to watch some comedy
We found it in a church where Amused Moose
Gave us their laugh-off, hilarious mix
Comics from all quarters of the globe
Gave us the better samples of their shows
Where half-way thro, I passed Lydia
A little pill, & when the curtains dropped
We headed into night as high as stars
From there the weekend blended into one
Gin & wine & cider downed aplenty “From now, the Mumble doesn’t do Sundays!”
I quipped, when playing pool way-down Leith Walk
& said it once again down Newhaven
When ‘Last orders’ rang round the Old Chain Pier
Not long before I passed out at a pals
Shows : 5
Hangovers : 1
In all your endeavours strive to position yourself in the centre of the whirlpool Kazuo Inamori
I wake up to the words of Mark Divine
He’d done his first reviews all through the night
‘The Holy Grail of festiv’ling,’ he’d said
Was to review, & chuff’d he’d joined my team
Immersed himself in words & theatre
& living life for all thats good in life
& sent me these two stanzas, once composed
The Spiegel Tent
The house of mirrors returns.
To be the home of magic journeys.
Attracting the world artistic collaboration
To share the platform with all that the mirrors draw.
Pleasured by the chameleon changes.
Never questioned just rejoiced.
In The pleasure of stimulating craft.
A universe of genius.
Through the heart of rich explosions.
Aural Delights That “Shift!”
The inhibitions of normality.
To explore the rhythm of fun and love.
In August and Early September.
Mark Calvert. August 1998.
Ive got the keys to Victor Pope’s mad flat
On Dixon Street, while he’s gone into town
To queue up for a busking slot this day
Two hours it takes to upload my reviews
& type up yesterdays poetry carved
From all these wondrous arts, Victor returns
He’s got a slot today at half-pats five!
Now, one home-cooked, pork pasta to the good
Two portions in my freezer in clear tubs,
I bounded up Leith Walk all full of beans
The city not yet bursting at the seams
Tho set for many revels, many moods
When many travelers munch many foods
At this Universal table of life.
How apt, my first show of this first full day
A musical should be, Ive written five,
Today, the ever timeless Odyssey
Reminds me that this year Scheria waits
My visit, for I think it lies off Crete
Where I’ll show how Stesichorus once carved
The song that this array of young hearts sing.
Their story leaps beyond old Homer’s pen
All thro Ionic cycles, as the gang
Moves with expression, & symbiotic
Willows oer the stage like rising smoke
That from the flames of Vulcan’s forge did rise
& as they sing of Troy & the Nostoi
They blend their comic twists with bright panache.
With siren-song still ringing in my ears
Proper pronunciation of Greek names
Its happy bedfellow, these feet reswerve
Back to the streets, & at St Andrew’s Square
It seems the Bookfest is a month early,
Champagne & deckchairs… & wow! funky bars
Fine art & stalls & tented stages cool!
Soon all this city shall a great stage be
Ballet doon Newhaven, while up Oxgangs
Future Pavarottis seen struttin’ their stuff
For year-on-year, encroaching on the lives
Of Edinburghers, FESTIVAL arrives
As if they were the braves of Zululand
Afore Rourke’s Drift, an Empire to withstand