Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Edinburgh Fringe - Day Three

Day Three
In which I go all cultured and finish off the gigging with the voice of an angel.

"...I spoke to your waaf las night...yes, your waaf...she say she got may nambar from your telfon beel...I say'd your telfon beeel...she say'd that you haf to leave now...yes she tell you tonight...she say she have enough...she know about you and me...from the telfon have to leave her tonight...and she sack me today..."

Hands up, you'd be interested wouldn't you, you'd be interested if the attractive mid-european girl who was sat behind you on the bus was having that one sided conversation with her married boyfriend who's marriage appears to be up shit creek wouldn't you ?

You'd miss your stop to see how it ended wouldn't you ?
I did.

And so the last day started and as I walked ever so slowly back to the half price ticket booth, walking slowly as my feet were still throbbing and raw stumps of flesh from yesterday, walked so slowly that an old lady wobbled past me on a walking stick, walked so slowly, and I'm not joking now, that a blind man with a white cane pushed his way past me, and when I finally got to the half price ticket booth the queue was halfway around the block.

Bollacks to that thought I, I queue for no man woman or club turn, I'll go to the Assembly Rooms ticket office and have a look at their gigs for today - I had a ticket to see the re-arranged Eva Cassidy tribute for this evening and I wanted to check out the afternoon performance of Alan Bennets Talking Heads production, so I only really needed one more gig to fill in the day, and I found a cracker...

Got talking to a leaflet-er outside the Assembly Rooms and he told me of the noon performance of "Forgotten Voices", it was £12 but was a full length production, as was Talking Heads, I bought the tickets...

Forgotten Voices - in the 1960's the Imperial War Museum in their infinite wisdom started a project recording the stories of those who had been involved in the First World War, they now have a huge archive of recorded voices, most of which are now long dead, telling the true history of what it was like to be involved in The Great War, both at home and in the armed forces, and this play is based on some of those tapes.

The stage is very simple, it takes place in a waiting room at the Imperial War Museum where five elderly individuals, a female munitions worker, an army Private, a Sergeant and a Captain, and then joining them (fittingly) towards the end, an American GI, are all gathered after being interviewed - and they tell their stories to each other.

Its fascinating, even more so when you remind yourself that the stories that they are telling are not fiction but are transcribed from the archive tapes, nearly two hours of high emotion, humour, anger and just downright tragedy played out on stage by five incredibly talented actors, only one of whom I recognised as Mathew Kelly, former frontman of "Game For a Laugh" and former defendant in a child abuse trial for which he was completely exonorated, strangely enough his CV in the programme notes mentioned neither of these facts and I pondered for a while as to which of the two he would be most ashamed of, my guess would be that if pushed he'd probably allow mention of the child abuse trial for which he was completely exonorated as long as no-one mentioned "Game for a Laugh", ever, ever again.

It was so good that I bought the script in the lobby outside afterwards, I've never done that before.

Talking Heads - one of Alan Bennets outstanding TV success's this full length stage version featured two of the stories which for the uninitiated are simply monologues spoken to camera (or in this case audience) set in a single room, each episode being the story of an ordinary person, in an ordinary life, in an ordinary setting, the outstanding dialogue and attention to minute aspects of everyday life being the one thing that Bennet does ever so well and prevents the whole from becoming desperately mundane.

Two stories told by two actors, 40 minutes apiece, each on stage for only their half of the programme, each simply telling their tales. To those who know the TV series the first story was of the middle aged unmarried man who still lives with his elderly mother and as far as he is concerned always will as she needs him for care, support, and his opinions. As the story proceeds we discover that he does not work since he had a breakdown but attends a day centre once a week in order to talk through his "problems" and his reliance on his mother, although of course he insists that she relies on he. One day they are out for a walk when his mother takes a fall and is assisted by a nice old gentleman who befriends her, calling for her in the weeks to come, taking her out for rides in his car, shoving the son to one side, alienating him to the extent where they announce their planned wedding and the son is asked if he'd consider living in a hostel for men with "problems".

You're interested in the story aren't you ?
See how Alan Bennet drags you in ?

The second story was one that I remember from TV, the one that starred Thora Hird as the old lady who is being assessed by social services and threatened with rehoming in a care home if she won't let her home help take care of the housework from now on - "The Ewbank is mine now love, your Ewbank days are over, you're a lady of leisure now Doris..." the home help tells her. But Doris knows the home help doesn't dust her Wilfreds photo properly and when she climbs on a stool to check it she falls and breaks her hip. The rest of the play takes place with her laying on the floor, unable to move for days, simply talking her life story to the audience, finding an old Jacobs Cream Cracker underneath the settee, "I knew she didn't Ewbank this carpet properly..." until one night a passing policeman notices that her light has been left on for a few nights now and calls through the letterbox to see if she is ok, and in typical stubborn old lady stylee she shouts back to him that she's ok, she just fell asleep, he leaves and some time later she dies.

Hayley Clare - Songbird, a Tribute to Eva Cassidy - and finally, to round the night off, the gig that was cancelled on Monday night, and how worth it was it ?


There are no words that can describe how well this woman can sing, there are no words to describe the amazment I feel that she has not yet appeared on our TV screens, that she is not a household name, that everyone in this country has not had the absolute pleasure of listening to her voice, even Gareth fookin Gates got two shots at TV stardom, for christ sake. is all I'll say, click it, bookmark it, check it monthly, and if ever she appears at a gig less than 50 miles from your home then do yourself a huge favour and travel to see it, life is too short to miss talent like this, there I've said it all now.

The only other thing that I'd say is that she needs to drop the Eva Cassidy tag and include some other stuff in her repetoire, a night with Hayley Clare and her four piece jazz combo, in a jazz club, unlimited cold Guinness to hand with painkillers to stop my beer headaches, cheese and onion sandwiches brought to the table on demand - this is my dream night.

And so ends my Edinburgh sojourn, today was filled in with lots of strolling and a couple of hours in a pub sat at a window, lager in hand, people watching, its been red hot today and I've been happier than a pig in deep, deep shit, I'll summarise the whole trip on another occasion, but like an Austrian Californian Governor once said in a film, "I will return".

I think it was him anyway.


Island Girl said...

I am listening to Hayley Clare now on myspace. Fantastic! I only wish I could find the lyrics to read. I will buy her album.

Who is known and who is unknown in music these days just doesn't bear thinking about, across all genres.

Gary said...

Fantastic isn't she ?

Who is known and who is unknown is a complete lottery, nothing to do with talent whatsoever.