Thursday, 31 July 2008

Girl and Dean ****

I saw a snippet of this show yesterday and they were OK so I thought (when I was given a free ticket) that I'd give the full show a try.

I'm glad I did. The two girl are very likeable and they have enough good jokes to keep things flowing nicely for the full hour.

The sketches are well rehearsed enough that they work well, without being too rigid and stifling the girls natural ability to look relaxed on stage.

They hinted that they were after a slot on Radio 4. I reckon their sketches would work better on TV. A polished up version of what I saw, with real actors instead of puppets and more props in a TV studio would be no worse than what's on BBC 3 at the moment.

I've been put off sketch shows after seeing a few terrible ones last year and a not so good one yesterday. But Girl and Dean have gone some way to restoring my faith in them.

3.30 in the Pleasance Cellar if you fancy something funny and chirpy.


On The Island Of Aars **

A farcical musical play about a woman who lives alone on an island off the West of Scotland with only two crazy Evangelical ministers for company, until a Dutch health and safety inspector comes along to stir things up.

The show sounded promising and was funny in parts, but too high a percentage of the jokes didn't work.

The ending does make you smile and there is a great enthusiasm from the cast who revel in being silly. The girl who played "Morag" had an excellent voice, but the too many of the jokes were just childish in an unfunny way.

2.10pm at the Pleasance Above if you fancy a bit of silliness.


All Dressed Up To Go Dreaming *

If you were stereotyping the Edinburgh Fringe, or writing a comedy about a Fringe show, you would probably come up with a one man show in a basement, with four people watching, as a self indulgent weirdo dressed in a top hat and tails waffed a bunch of self indulgent nonsense for half an hour that nobody really got.

All Dressed Up To Go Dreaming was exactly that. To a tee. Out of the four people in the audience, three of them were in some way involved in the show. The other was me.

The charachter is a drunken socialite who goes on about how much he hates opera and quotes James Joyce to a dummy in an armchair. At the end he pulls the dummies hands and feet off.

I sat there for 25 minutes wondering if I was just a common man and really sophisticated intelligent people would get this show.... But I doubt it. It was just utter tosh.

I saw six other shows today so I won't waste any more time reviewing it.

If you have a someone that you really hate. Buy them a ticket.

It's on twice a day at 12pm and 1pm at C soco

The Best Place to Stay

It's not just about the shows! I also aim to give newcomers lots of general information about my city and welcome questions at any time.....

If you are looking for accommodation then you could do a lot worse than the Garfield Guest House.

I don't have much use for hotels and guest houses in Edinburgh, given that I have a flat here but I can recommend the Garfield Guest House. It's run by my good friend Martin and they even have their own blog where previous guests have left comments about the excellent service!

Main Site:

Although I haven't stayed the night, I have sampled breakfast on a number of occasions and the sausages are to die for! They also have great views of the castle and there are plenty of buses that will get you to the town centre in 5 minutes.

Call Martin on 552 2369 if you are looking to stay somwhere nice during the Fringe or beyond.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Day One in Review

I saw four shows today (two freebies). It could have been a lot more if I didn't have a dental appointment right in the middle of the day.

I was planning on going to see "On The Island Of Aars" but my first show ran over a bit and I didn't have time to get back to the Pleasance for it starting. I'll try and catch that tomorrow.

I've also pre-booked a ticket for Tim Minchin which I'm very much looking forward to. I'm just hoping that I haven't spoilt the show by watching all his songs on youtube and that he'll have enough new material to keep me happy.

Other general observations:

I had a walk down the Royal Mile and had a look into C venue, walked past the Udderbelly and also spent a bit of time in the Guilded Balloon.

My general impression is that the Pleasance is undoubtedly the best place to be during the first couple of days of the previews.

They are fully up and running whereas the other venues are still putting together flat pack picnic tables from B&Q and looking like they haven't officially started. The other venues don't seem to have many people giving out comps, but at the Pleasance they practically shower you with them. They've got the best choice of food/drink - which are no more of a rip off than at any of the other venues.

On the Royal Mile I saw people flyering from trampoleens and two guys dressed as a bus giving out flyers. Good effort!!!

Roll on tomorrow!

Marcus Birdman: Sympathy for the Devil ****

With a show title that alludes to the Rolling Stones and with a flyer that told me that Marcus Birdman was a commited atheist who was brought up by a vicar, this show looked very promising.... I am a massive Stones fan and a rampant atheist/humanist/secularist who can be very easily amused by blasphemy so this seemed to tick all the boxes.

I was given another freebie (Praise the Lord!!!) so I headed over to the Pleasance Dome - (the performance rooms are named after playing cards, this one being in what's know as the "10Dome").

Marcus was a very cheerful comedian. He tells some funny stories, gives us a critical examination of the bible and shares his philosophical outlook on life and wraps up the show reasonably well.

I thought he hit the nail on the head with all his observations - but in my case he was preaching to the converted. He was very competent and worth the money, but I didn't hear anything inspiring or original enough to really impress me.

If like me you have seeked out a lot of atheist comedians in the past, and watched/listened to the likes of Marcus Bridgestock or Pat Condell (other comedians with atheist/secular agendas that can be easily found on youtube and come highly recommended) then you won't find too much new within Marcus Birdman's show.

If you haven't before, and the topic of god being made up is something that may interest you, I would definately go and see it.

I tend to be rather generous when giving out stars - I've gone for four but it was probably more like three and a half, mainly because his ideas and jokes weren't all that new to me....

But he's a very competent comedian. You should definately go and see him.

Marcus Birdman: Sympathy for the Devil is on at 8.20pm at the Pleasance Dome.


Chris Cox: Control Freak ***

This show was introduced to me by a bloke with flyers who said "Have you heard of Chris Cox. He does all the stuff that Derren Brown does, but without being a W****r". (Chris Cox also alluded to Derren Brown in the show - so I don't apologise for my many references and comparisons with Mr Brown contained within this review).

This opening pitch caught my attention, but also put me off at the same time. I quite like Derren Brown. I read his book and found it very informative and enjoyable.

Never the less a free ticket was forthcoming, (which was rather refreshing because I ended up paying for the first two shows that I saw), so I went along to see what it would be like.

The show wasn't bad. Most of the tricks worked, some nearly worked and one was completely given away by one of the volunteers. Not that anyone actually volunteered - he must use at least 15 audience members over the show (including me twice for small bits although I didn't have to get on stage thankfully). But overall he did rather well and his finale was quite impressive.

There were however two major downsides to the show for me.

Firstly, as someone who has watched all of Derren Brown's shows, I don't think he offered anything new. He's just doing the same tricks about three years later.

Secondly, as I mentioned previously, I have read Derren Brown's book so I pretty much know how he did every trick. There was nothing on show that I couldn't have explained to you.

He apparently sold out last year and I can see why as he is reasonably good at what he does. I've also never seen Derren Brown live; without the benefit of TV editing, so it could be argued that the above two criticisms are not entirely fair as it's not a level playing field.

If I'd never seen Derren Brown I would have been very impressed. Unfortunately I have, and so has most of the population of the UK, which is a very big problem for Chris Cox to get around. He either needs to do something new or do it better than him which is a very hard task indeed.

This show is on daily in the Pleasance Above at 6.20pm


Lucy and Des Show Off **

I paid for this one thinking that £6 was great value for two comedians of the quality of Lucy Porter and Des Clarke.

The show was a mixture of them dicking around on stage, a few sketches and a couple of guests slots for other sketch shows to promote their own show.

The two comedians worked very well at the beginning, it was a very informal and the banter between them and the audience, and between the two of them, was pretty funny and relaxing.

Them they started doing sketches, which were at best pretty average. Sometimes when sketches are under-rehearsed it makes them even funnier, but that didn't happen in this case. They just looked under rehearsed.

The two guests; a double act called "Girl and Dean" and a group of four called "Tea and Coffee" were both competent but they were only given a slot of around five minutes so they didn't really get the chance to build up any momentum. I don't think it would be fair to judge them on such a short slot and I've certainly nothing bad to say about them.

I suppose this is just Des and Lucy's "let's try it and see what happens" show. Their side project if you will. They've both got individual shows, which will be brilliant if their respective reputations are anything to go by. But I get the feeling that they have really put their heart and soul into their main shows, which are their bread and butter and concentrated less on this one.

The show has all the ingredients to be absolutely cracking and may well go on to get better as it develops over the next three weeks, but more work is required to get it right.

So unfortunately, on day one it didn't exactly set the heather on fire. I hope they get things sorted out early and hit form when the real reviewers start going along because they are both very likeable comedians.

This show is on Daily at 5pm in the Pleasance Above.


The Patriot Act ****

My first show of 2008....

The play is about a liberal playwriter who has caught the attention of the administration by writing plays condemning government foreign policy.

The government charge him under the patriot act but offer him a way out and send a representative to convince him: write a pro government play about the war on terror.

I thouroughly enjoyed it.

It was a very well balanced play, with a few funny moments, flashbacks and a lot of engaging and gripping drama. The relationships between the charachters were all very poigniant.

There were a couple of stutters as the actors got to grips with performing the show for real for the first time at the Fringe, but that's why I only paid a fiver (preview price) and I'm sure that as they relax into the roles there won't be any problems.

Well worth going to see.

The show is on at the Guilded Balloon (that's the Teviot for all you locals) at 12.45pm daily.

More Free Shows....

I was going to wait until after the previews before mentioning this, but seeing as some acts have already started advertising in my comments section (good initiative guys) I'll do it now.

Laughing Horse are a comedy company commited to putting on free Fringe shows throughout the whole month.

They take over venues every year and put a show on every hour, free of charge. Here are this year's venues:

The Argyle
Counting House
Edinburgh City FC
Jekyll & Hyde
Meadow Bar
Pear Tree

They leave a bucket at the door so you can put money in as you leave - that goes to the comedians. The venue makes money through serving drinks. It's seems to be a successful formula that's growing year on year - no surprise when the average Fringe ticket is approaching the £10 mark...

For a list of shows check out:

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Attention Seekers.....

They've even managed to fool the Fringe Office:

(This story relates to my earlier advice for performers to "get noticed by the press" using any means neccesary)..... Scroll down to my third blog.......

Things to do in Edinburgh when you're dead on your feet!

Whether you're organising a show or just here to soak up the atmosphere, you're going to be pretty tired during the Fringe. But if you've got the stamina, Edinburgh has so much more to offer. Here are my top 10 things to do:

1. Spit on the Heart of Midlothian.

The Heart of Midlothian marks the spot that used to be the entrance to the Old Tollbooth prison. which was demolished over a century ago. The locals at the time used to spit at the entrance to the prison to show their distain for the local authorities. The tradition has continued desite the building no longer being there - perhaps because the council are still pretty unpopular. Make sure you get a photo to show all your friends!

2. Climb Arthur's Seat.

It's not that difficult, and it has great views across the whole city.

3. Visit the Castle.

To my eternal shame, something that I've never done myself in 19 years of living here. I'll do it one day.

4. Go to the Zoo.

I love the zoo. They've got a great new chimp enclosure and the Rainbow Lorikeets (sp?) will come and land on your hand if you purchase a pot of nectar to feed them.

5. Have a pint of IPA in the Oxford Bar.

The "local" of Edinburgh's best known fictional crime-buster Inspector Rebus.

6. Have a dram!

Thee's a great whisy shop on the Royal Mile, just opposite the Heart of Midlothian. Take home a single malt to impress your Father in Law

7. Take in a football match.

Edinburgh has two teams, Hearts and Hibs. I follow Hearts, the bigger of the two teams so I would strongly encourage you to see them over Hibs. Both grounds have a good atmosphere, especially once the competetive stuff starts after the 9th August. A ticket will cost you around £25.

8. Climb the Scott Monument

Great views of the Castle and North to the Forth. Last time I did it, it only cost a few pounds to go up.

9. Visit Fettes College.

Tomy Blair's old school and one of the most important pieces of architecture in the whole of Scoland. They are running a Jazz festival form 22nd-24th August. Last year they lit up the whole building with floodlights. The perfect time to go and see the building. The music's pretty good too if Jazz is your bag!

10. (For the boys) Play football on the Meadows.

If the weather is nice, there will be loads of games going on, and peope will be happy to let you join in. Not for the faint hearted.

10. (For the girls) Visit Harvey Nicks.

Just off St. Andrew's Square towards the East end of the new town. Lots of designer stores are sprining up next to it as well. Make sure you're got plenty of money on your credit card!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Flyers Flyers Flyers.....

This one goes out to all the stars of the shows....

When I'm not taking time off to swan about Edinburgh taking advantage of desperate Fringe performers, I work in sales and marketing (and also have a marketing degree), so it's quite interesting for me to observe the various tactics used by performers in order to attract as much attention to their shows as possible. (I say performers because with the exception of Jimmy Carr no-one can afford to employ PR companies to hand our flyers so you'll generally find it's the actors, writers and producers who are handing out flyers and harassing people on the Royal Mile).

So here are my tips to help make your show a success:

1. Take advantage of new technology. What do you mean your Fringe show doesn't have a facebook page? Please try and keep up. Bebo, Myspace.... they're all free. If you haven't done it already, you're already miles behind. Keep reading.....

2. Don't just hand out flyers. You have to engage with people.

If you wait until I have almost walked past you then you thrust a flyer right out in front of me, blocking my path, you'll get my "F*** Off I live here" stare, and I won't be coming to your show.

If you hold your flyer out just a little bit and give me a look that says "I hope you don't mind but I want to give you this flyer, but I really don't want to impose on you, I dooooo hope you'll come over to me and take one..." If you do that I'll avoid eye contact and keep walking. I don't want to be the one doing the approaching.

If you make eye contact early, smile, compliment me on my choice of T-Shirt and say. "We're doing this show, it's brilliant and I'm in it, so you'll want to come. Are you free at 3 o'clock?" You might just get me to stop and take a flyer (especially if you're a hot chick - I'll admit it - I'm a pushover if you're a confident hot little drama queen).

Say hello and aim to make a friend with every approach you make.

3. Be different. here are some of the things I've seen that have made people stand out on the Royal Mile:

People standing on pillars/on each others shoulders/lying on the ground/pretending to be dead whilst giving out flyers.

A double act where one guys gives out flyers and the other one tries to stop him shouting "Don't take one of them, their poisonous, I saw them last year, they were s***, don't trust him madam he's after your handbag" and grabbing him and wrestling him to the ground.

People wearing nothing but flyers (don't give out too many as you are liable to get arrested).

People giving out sweets with flyers - "Want a cola bottle? Well you can have one as soon as you take a flyer for our show at the C venue starting at 3.40 in theatre number two. I'm it it, it's great!"

One group sang "We're handing out flyers, we're handing out flyers" occasionally changing the lyrics to mention the venue, time and that the show was unsuitable for children, before going back to the chorus ad nauseum. Annoying but effective - like a daytime TV ad for cheaper car insurance!

You're actors. Improvise. The bolder the better.

4. Get noticed by the press.

One double act almost had to cancel their act when they were involved in a serious car accident on the way to Edinburgh, but they managed to get the show on and it was a complete sell out because the papers picked up on it.

I'm not suggesting you drive your car off the Forth Road Bridge, but you get my point.

I remember reading about a show in an inflatable swimming pool last year that was almost cancelled because the swimming pool got a puncture. Again, an unfortunate but ultimately happy co-incidence that helped them boost sales once they got it fixed because the press liked the story and ran with it (and before you ask, no, I didn't see the show so I can;t give any more details).

The above examples were genuine as far as I know, but things can be engineered. There's nothing wrong with a wee hoax to get your name in the paper - as long as you don't pretend the director is dying of cancer you should get away with it, and you might even get double exposure when the hoax is revealed. The wittier the better. As long as your confident the people being fooled see the funny side.

Also, try and pose for photographs when you;re out and about. If you can get your picture in The Scotsman, it'll help raise awareness of you and your show.

5. Hard work.

I've never put on a theatre show. Other than looking after the props for our school performance of Bugsy Malone 15 years ago, I have had no involvement at all. I realise it must be tiring, and you're probably sitting cross legged with excitement just thinking about the night life in Edinburgh during the Festival... but how hard you work will determine your success.

There will a direct correlation between your ticket sales and the amount of time you spend on the street promoting your show (unless you get really lucky and you get a five start review in The Scotsman in week one). If you are hungover and can't be bothered, then your show will not be a success and you are going to be no nearer to achieving your goals (i.e. getting a decent gig on Channel 4) than you were at the start of the summer. You'd have been as well spending your August working at Butlins.

6. Use your initiative.

The edfringe website is neutral (unless you pay to advertise) but it also lets people post reviews about shows they have seen. If you have a friend who has seen your show, get them to rate it, or write a review. Let's face it, everyone else is going to be doing it.

A few years ago a friend of mine was running a show. I gave it a stunning review after night one (which was empty) and by night three it had almost sold out because it was the top rated show in the "Dance and Physical Theatre" section on the website. It one five start rating (mine) and a cracking written review, compared with all the other shows' no ratings and no reviews....

7. Bribery

The Scotsman published a list of things that they had been sent by performers to try and entice them to come and review their show. The list included cake, alcohol, novelty toys, etc etc.... I wouldn't recommend cash bribes.

So, good luck promoting your show. I hope it's a success.

See you on the Royal Mile!!!

The Early Bird......

Year on year I have become more enthusiastic about the Fringe.

I went from stopping to see a few jugglers in the street on my way to work.... to seeing the odd comedy show... to taking a week off work to go and see shows.... to writing a blog about it......

One thing I noticed as I became more keen, was that the earlier you started the more shows you could see for your money.

I don't want to perpetuate the stereotype of the tight Scotsman, but.....come to the previews. It's as cheap as the budgie!!!

It only costs a fiver for most shows Wed - Sat, and that's only if you're not lucky enough to get given free tickets by a stressed out producers who don't want to open with three people in the audience (including their parents who have flown all the way to Edinburgh for their big debut).

You'll get some shaky performances and you'll see at least one absolutely terrible show, but that's the risk you run when coming to the festival. You're not a true fringe goer until you've sat through a show, too embarassed to leave because you don't want to half the audience numbers by making a premature exit.

In order to maximise my chances of getting in for nothing, I've found that sitting in the Pleasance Courtyard eating ice cream, reading the Guardian (with a free fringe guide) and drinking a cold beer tends to do the trick.

It isn't that busy (especially during the day) and there will be lots of eager performers, looking for audience members to see the show and spread the word about it to all their friends. That's why, if they don''t sell many tickets in advance, they print off a big pile of freebies and hand them out to boost numbers.

It's mostly just other performers that are about, so if you adopt a similar position to me you'll stick out like a sore thumb because you'll be relaxed and not stressing out, and the flyer vultures will circle you and try to sell you tickets to the show.

Some shows may have already taken your fancy and some you may not have heard of, but your reaction should always be the same. Find out as much as you can about the show, ask if the person giving you the flyer is involved in it, if not have they seen it? Then, thank them for their time, take a flyer, show a bit of interest and tell them that if you're free when the show is due to start, you might buy a ticket.

If they have free tickets to give away, they'll come back to you. If not you could always buy a ticket, see it another day or just give it a miss entirely. In any case, there'll be another one along in a minute.

If you are patient, it works (you're guaranteed to be approached every 5 minutes, but the offer of a free ticket might only come along every half hour or so). I have done this for the past 3-4 years and on average I'll see up to 6-7 shows a day and pay for maybe 2 a day (that works out at around £10 not including beer and ice cream).

Then after the previews finish, find yourself a partner and take advantage of the 2 for 1 deals on Sunday and Monday, and fingers crossed you'll still have plenty of cash for the rest of the Fringe!


Welcome to Edinburgh and welcome to my blog.

At the time of writing, the Fringe is just over a day away. (That is to say, the show previews start on Wednesday 30th). Fringe usually gets going in stages, with previews and 2 for 1's etc before they have the audacity to charge full price for tickets, but for the purposes of your average Fringe-goer like me Wednesday is the day when the talking stops and showtime starts.

Over the next day or two, I'll start by posting a basic guide to the Fringe. This should cover all your FAQ's, tips on how to pick shows and get value for money (especially if you are a local or if you are coming to Edinburgh early). There will also be some advice for people who are putting on shows - how to attract the average punter like me, and I'll give you some general information about Edinburgh, the things to do and places to visit if you want to take a break from watch comedians or students prancing around performing hip hop versions of Shakespeare.

Then once the festival starts, I'll post information about the shows I've seen. Reviews if you like.

I always take a week or two off work to see shows so you'll find my posts may become less frequent as the weeks go on but I hope the info contained in them will remain relevant until at least the end of the Fringe, if not until next year and beyond.