28 August 2006

2006 Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Over the weekend, I went through to Edinburgh to see some of the goings on at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe (aka The Fringe). Now in its 60th year, The Fringe has now become more popular than the actual Edinburgh International Festival itself with hundreds of shows on over the 3-week period that it runs, and a couple of dozen shows all going on at the same time at venues all over Edinburgh. It is, to put it mildly, amazing!

Saturday
I had booked a ticket to go and see
Dwight Slade talk about his best friend, and former comedy partner, Bill Hicks on the Saturday tea-time, so when I arrived in Edinburgh, I made the Pleasance Dome my first port of call. Slade was also doing his regular Stand Up show that evening – he had been performing throughout The Fringe – so, when I was picking up my tickets, I decided to get a ticket for that too. The only problem with it was that I was only left with 20 minutes to get from the Pleasance Dome to Edinburgh's Waverly Station to get the 10pm train back to Glasgow, but I'll get to that in a bit. I got the impression that the Pleasance Dome is a Student Union for one of the Edinburgh Universities as there was a shop selling everything from sweets to juice to stationary to groceries to loo roll! There were also a number of bars located around the building - all with a very student vide about them - I liked it!

After I got my tickets, I wanted to find somewhere to eat and situated to my right of the Box Office was a "Soul Food Shack". They were still doing breakfast at that time and with them serving American-style food, pancakes it was! They were excellent and I would recommend it to anyone. Brunch (too American?) over, it was time to go walkabout round Edinburgh - mostly The Royal Mile (aka The Mile or the High Street) where countless street performers were working hard at entertaining the massive crowds and trying to make a few quid while doing so. No sooner had I arrived than I found my good friend Karl Berseus of Sweden presenting his well-honed magic act. It was great to watch people's faces as the little balls repeatedly jumped from his hand to the 3 large cups sitting on the table. If you ever see him performing, take 15 minutes out from your life and enjoy what he does.

By pure luck - and without the aid of the mobile phones - I managed to find Mhairi Nardini, who's husband, Paul, was performing his 50-minute magic show at the Cafe Royal for the final week of the Fringe. For a couple of hours, I turned from being a visitor to being one of the masses who hand out flyers and try to get you to come to see their show over anyone else's. Never an easy task, but it is great fun nevertheless. After a wee while, Paul and Mhairi had to leave to go to the gig while I finished off handing out the leaflets that I had and then meeting up with another friend - Georgina MacMillan (who's Brother runs International Magic in London) - before heading back to the Pleasance Dome for the first of my 2 shows.

"Dwight Slade - My Life With Bill" promised to be a 45-minute "seminar" about Bill Hicks by his best friend and former comedy partner. What it promised was delivered and then some with Dwight sharing stories, home movies, photographs and private video footage of Hicks. He also answered a whole bunch of questions from the audience who had turned up to listen and watch. Also, the session did not last 45 minutes, it lasted 70! An hour and 10 minutes about my favourite Stand Up Comedian by one of the people that knew him as well as anyone around. Amazing stuff! I was now really looking forward to the second show that day - Dwight doing his regular stand up routine.

After more food from the Soul Food Cafe - not as good as breakfast, it must be said - it was time for the second show. This time, Dwight Slade presenting his own stand up show. This was FUNNY with a capital FUNNY!!! If you get the chance to see this guy live in a town near you - take it! From apologising for America - and he's really sorry! - to ridding the world of people that annoy him with his trusty pool cue - and there was a lot that annoyed him, from loud annoying people on airplanes to people who verbally punctuate their sentences - to making sure he listens to his "Dark Monkey", this was the fastest hour I have experienced in a long time. His delivery was brilliant and his set fantastic.

Sadly, I had to rush off before I could buy his CDs as I had to try to catch the 10pm train from Edinburgh Waverly to Glasgow Queen Street (I just ordered them from his website earlier on today - www.dwightslade.com). Not an easy thing to do, but when I got outside the venue, I saw a taxi arriving. Forgetting - for a moment - where I was, what time of night it was and what time of year it was, I hailed the taxi ("hail, taxi!") and asked the driver to take me to the station. His immediate response was "good luck, mate!" As we drove off - or tried to! - he told me that the second of 3 Edinburgh Miliatry Tattoo shows was just coming out and that the streets were crazy. Well, we made it - and with 4 minutes to spare before the 10pm departure time. As it was, the train left some 10 minutes late, but I couldn't take the risk. The train journey with the Nardinis was fun and we had a lot of fun talking to the tourists in the part of the carridge we were in.

Sunday
Time to go back through for the second day in a row. This time no trains were necessary as Chris and Christina Blair were going to drive us to and from Edinburgh. The schedule was to go and see Paul Nardini's show at the Cafe Royal then go to The Pleasance and see about getting tickets to join Paul, Mhairi, Chris and Christina in going to see Scottish Comedian Frankie Boyle's show.

We arrived in Edinburgh and made our way straight to The Mile to do more leafleting - well, after a wee visit to Starbucks, that is!!! Things were a lot quieter today than yesterday but I still managed to get rid of pretty much every leaflet I had on me! One trick that I used to great effect was to wait on Karl finishing a show and as people walked up to put money in his hat, I'd hand them a leaflet about Paul's show. The easy way of getting rid of tons of them very quickly!

Before too long, it was time to head to the Cafe Royal for Paul's show. Now, this could be thought of as a biased opinion, but Paul did a great show - all the magic got excellent reactions from the "real people" and the audience seemed more than happy with what they had seen. Great fun. My personal highlight from the show was the audience's reaction to Paul's own "Looking Glass" effect. The gasp was very, very clear.

After Paul and Mhairi had cleared up and spent some time talking with family and friends that were at the show, we made our way down North Bridge Street towards the Pleasance for the evening show. Paul was now officially "off duty" and was now able to relax, have a couple of beers and enjoy himself. We stopped off in a little Italian restaurant called "Ciao Roma" which turned out to be really good - although Nardini (being hyper-critical of food, especially Italian) found a few faults, but nothing too major. After dinner, we completed our walk to The Pleasance where I bought my ticket and the others collected their tickets to go and see Frankie Boyle.

This guy was funny. He came out dressed in a pink suit with trainers and spent the first few minutes having some fun with (OK, making fun of) the people in the front row. Some really funny jokes - everything from biting satire to some decent knob jokes - and some seriously sick ones that had the audience gasping in amazement that he had come out with such stuff. Sadly, I had Dwight Slade to compare him with from the night before and, while Boyle was very funny, I have to admit that I enjoyed Slade more.

The great thing about The Pleasance complex is the courtyard where spectators and performers mix and mingle while drinking and partying the night away. We even managed to bump into Frankie Boyle in the Courtyard and told him how much we had enjoyed the show. He was very courteous and thanked us for taking the time to go and see his show - always the sign of a good guy when they do that. At the end of the night, we made our way home. Most of the folk in the car fell asleep - I know I didn't and I can only hope that Chris (who was driving) didn't! Considering we made it home in one piece, it is safe to say he didn't.

I must remember, however, that going to bed at 1am when I've got work the following day is not a good move! By it was well worth it!

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)

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