Monday, August 20, 2007

Edinburgh Fringe - Day One

Day One
A Poof, Two Comics and a Bad Throat.

I like this city, I love this festival.
This is how it works.

You get the programme in the post, all 287 pages of it with details of the 1500 or so shows that are on during the three weeks, make your choices, book tickets online if its a popular show - like the Ricky Gervais single performance this year at £37.50 a ticket - I wouldn't pay 37p and go to the end of our street to watch the over-rated non-comedian, but his single show sold out nevertheless so what do I know.

Alternatively you do what I did today, you don't book anything but turn up at the fringe booking tent on Princes Street and if you are also a Yorkshireman you will instantly spot the booth labelled "half price shows" and browse the list of what is cheap today.

Most of the comedy shows are around £8 full price, the musical acts anything from £8 to £12 - so you can see just how much Ricky Gervais over-rates himself - and this year there are press reports that whilst crowds are steady there are just far too many shows for their own good, all of which is great for the punter as the slowest selling ones - which aren't necessarily the worst, just the least known - get flogged off at half price every day.

Arrived at the hotel at 2pm, checked in, set up the wireless network thingy, then caught the bus outside the hotel into Edinburgh - a bus every ten minutes, brand new and clean and all for £1, thats what I call public transport.

Spotted the half price booth immediately and almost as quick spotted my first show, headed down to the Underbelly building on Cowgate, a multi roomed venue in what seems to have been a warren of a warehouse and just time for a pint of expensive (£3.25) Kronenburg before ...

Poof Loose - Fresh from Jonothan Ross's "Four Poofs and a Piano", Stephen De Martin presents his own song and dance act armed only with his own poof on a piano and interspersing the songs from the shows and his own compositions with humourous stories. He was good, had some good lines, he's Australian and so had some very good stories of how and why he left Aus and his gay family (his brother and sister and brother in law are all gay and he's not so sure about his parents either, apparently), he can certainly belt out a show tune and the fifty minute show inside what appeared to be a railway arch passed quickly, a sure sign of a good act.

Just time for another quick pint of expensive Kronenburg and a visit to the box office to buy a ticket for Stewart Lee tomorrow and was tempted by the next performance in the same railway arch by...

Toulson & Harvey - A pair of comedians in the traditional double act sketch show stylee. They started very well with a sketch about a pair of singing Spanish brothers, a very funny start for the first ten minutes of their fifty minute set, but then it went downhill. The remaining forty minutes had its moments, I'm not saying they weren't funny, they were, but they weren't constant belly laughs like the opening sketch was, they've been nominated for a Perrier Best Newcomer award and for their first sketch I'd say they were well worth it but can't help but think that out there in the fringe there is bound to be someone better, still I left the building smiling.

Time for a stroll around the Royal Mile where dozens upon dozens of street performers hold court, every ten yards or so there is another act previewing their show and you soon collect a whole heap of leaflets and flyers, its a good way of assessing the acts and I picked out two in particular who I will be seeking out.

A big black coffee and panini and ticket purchased to see one of the acts that I had picked out of the programme at home last month...

Hayley Clare - "Songbird - a Tribute to Eva Cassidy" promised to be an outstanding show, its reviews have been faultless and she has been viewed and approved by Eva Cassidy's parents, this is no ordinary tribute act, this is as close to the real thing as you can get since the death of Ms Cassidy ten years ago.

It all started so well, a small theatre venue, an acoustic setup with four piece band, a darkened stage and then the unforgetable opening bars of "Fields of Gold" sung beautifully although from my second row seat there was just a hint of a wobble on some of the final notes. The second song, an Irish folk tune accompanied only by a violinist was faultless and then came the Eva Cassidy jazz classic "Walk on the Water" which was halted in the second verse with an apology and a dash from the stage by Hayley Clare.

She did not return and the show was abandoned "due to ilness" - I've got a replacement ticket for Wednesday night so second time lucky, if she is still "ill" then I'll buy her CD, I've heard enough already to know she is a class act.

I've bought a ticket for a 17.30 performance tomorrow by Stewart Lee, a well respected tv comedian and have now got several other performances red-ringed including one by Rich Hall and a free lunchtime review of various comedy acts at one of the venues tomorrow, but the plan is to get to the half price ticket booth early and find three shows to lead up to Stewart Lee and then one afterwards.

What a bloody good idea this festival is, I'm loving this.


Dan said...

I would love to see Stewart Lee. Richard Herring is on too, I read his blog which is generally very good although sometimes he goes on a bit.

I love Rich Hall too.

I might have to seriously consider going to the fringe next year.

Gary said...

I'll check out Richard Herring at the half price booth today !

I'd really recommend this - its superbly organised and great fun, I think three days is minimum though.