A city forms the folk conceived there
& we see the Edinburghers pass
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, I’ve 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, but there’s 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.
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-raising 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.
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!
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
THURSDAY AUGUST 11TH
10PM – 3AM
With Support from
GINGER & THE TRAMP
DR BLUE MCKEON
AN EPIC SONNET SEQUENCE SET IN EDINBURGH