Whose drawer is it, anyway?
Edinburgh Fringe Review:
David Mills Is Smart Casual
David Mills was the first of two US born, London based stand ups that I saw at the fringe’s opening few days. Secluded down a small flight of stairs at the back of The Hive, this intimate space was well suited to his engaging stage presence, sat ready to pounce (vocally) on a stool creating some confident swaying circles as he ran through his spiky and inclusively exclusive material. Jumping on each target like it was there in the room with him.
Having a noticeably young front few rows really helped to contribute to David’s character as a not-yet weary worldly raconteur, tossing out some references to jazz musicians and soul singers that helped create a comic distance; before expertly being able to draw his audience further in before they have a chance to let it go over their head. The laid back lounge atmosphere was only slightly ruined by the next room’s musical number bleeding in (I suspect this may have been the child laborers i saw on The Royal Mile, flyering for hours in chanting chipmunk formation before retiring to knock out Bugsy Malone before bed, but maybe not). This only proved to fuel the comedian’s ire, leading him to a strong closer mixing the acerbic bitchiness that defined his early set with some strong one liners at a rapid pace. With a defined style and sure-footedness around pop culture, David Mills is set to be a future fringe late-night talk show favourite. Catch him while he’s still free. Show contains the best joke i have heard at the fringe thus far.
Edinburgh Fringe Review:
Billy The Mime
My only preparation tonight for Billy The Mime was his performance of the central dirty joke in the documentary “The Aristocrats” (2006) where he mimes a sequence involving pedophilia, coprophagia, bestiality etc. But as that film’s co-director Penn Jillette has said, it is perhaps best to go in blind, to not know too much because a simple expectation of Billy to be a “mime artist with transgressive content” is not to do him the justice he deserves.
Opening each section by wandering out to the front of the stage with a white card that reads either “The Michael Jackson Story” or “Whitney Houston’s Last Bath” or “A Gay Bar, 1979” or “The Priest and The Altar-Boy” Billy moves through multiple narratives with a quickness that does not convey haste but simply a complete mastery of his craft. The fact that the pieces involve content we could term “dark” or whatever doesn’t mean that the stories are not simple and fully realised. Any bargain basement comedian will have a routine that involves some offensive outburst, but Billy crafts his material into the sort of pure storytelling common in the passed-on tales we tell to children. His Whitney Houston ends with her, in death, finally performing the perfect gig she was no longer able to perform in life. He does not deal in disposable offence; his best material turns media events that are increasingly distorted by the many perspectives they are offered to us from (going from as far back as WWII and to current events with “The Navy Seal and Osama Bin Laden”) and turning them into purer statements that reflect something often lost in the multiple forms of media that we would digest them in. His Navy Seal stops to snap photos of Osama’s carcass, the catholic church play a game of ‘pass on the silence’ right up to the Pope etc. Taking in his reflections on history, pop culture, war, race and sexual politics; we are viewing gigantic events through an older and less convoluted cultural lens. That is what allows Billy’s elegant brushstrokes of movement to turn so quickly into bloody stabs.
Billy is able to tread a transcendental ground between the shock comic and the cultural observer. Rather than being a transient commentator, he re-works these hyper-real scenarios and takes his humour from the emotional core of the story. An intimacy that often feels dangerous.
It is an experience to say the least, book-ended by some simple sock puppetry (minus the socks) and a piece of audience participation so audacious that i shall not spoil it here. One of the few shows i will be lining up to see twice.
Just The Tonic At The Caves, 6.15pm
Edinburgh Fringe Review
Lewis Schaffer: No, You Shut Up!
This is my second year seeing Lewis Schaffer, stalwart of the free fringe, and he opens up with an admission that the previous evening’s show has gone terribly and he hopes for this one to lift up his spirits slightly; but anyone who has seen Lewis before (and there are a few in who have) will know that his primary comic trade is veneer of derailment and slap-dashery (sic.)
I can see how it would be an easy conclusion for the person, that I overheard coming out of the bathroom after the show, who thought ”The audience were very kind.” but i definitely did not agree with the sentiment. Material about being divorced and stranded in London (Nunhead!) for the past few years leading to divisive comments about women’s abilities in many areas of life, his waiting time in summoning an erection being similar to Amazon’s standard delivery times etc all flowing back around and into an ironic tonne of bricks that seeks to pummel the comic’s image into a messy neurotic never-was.
As he scribbles improvised jokes (aided by audience members’ heckles) it’s clear to me that Schaffer’s main talent comes from his lack of care about self image. In a world where Andrew Dice Clay and his posturing sexist shit used to wander on stage looking like a cunted hybrid of Cobra Stallone and Black Rain Douglas, Schaffer may toss out a similar line or two but it is only used to denigrate himself and himself alone, if he says he’s the victim then he most definitely is, and he pursues that with a hilarious comic will. A wonderful bit on his young man’s desire to use the “N word” as being motivated purely by desire for inclusion in another culture is something worthy of Louis CK, leads me to think that a man who is likely to toss out a piece as tenderly thought as this as well as denigrating himself so much in a whirlwind of different neurosis in the rest of his act is a specially explosive experience.
There is no clear “hook” that will draw you to see Lewis; certainly not one that can be squeezed in the short second a flyerer has when a patron passes them by, but see him you should. If you have any kind of expectations, prepare to have these ugly things smeared in your face. I’m just glad this time i was not again the victim of, “What a terrible thing to look Jewish and not be Jewish.”
Laughing Horse At The Free Sisters, 8.15pm (Cowgate)
Alternative Fringe At The Hive, 4.45pm (Near Niddry street/Royal mile)
Edinburgh Fringe Review:
Poe’s Last Night
The final fugue of the life of Poe is imagined here as a paranoid, disjointed run through his greatest loves, successes, failures and tragedies. Performed with an impeccable gravitas by David Crawford (George A Romero’s Dawn of The Dead); recitations of Poe’s works “The Cask Of Amontillado” “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee” are not simply shoehorned in but have clearly been selected for their autobiographical implications; setting up a scale of emotional unbalance that perfectly reflects back on their writer (and erstwhile performer). Perhaps more suited to those with a passing familiarity with Poe’s work, although that did not seem to bother the young men in front of us, it seems The Simpsons must not be in the business of airing Homer’s Raven these days, and in asking Mr Crawford what the final poem was they were able to draw out of him perhaps his impetus for this production; a dissatisfaction with dramatic readings available of Poe’s masterworks. A both brutal and melancholic burst through the final moments of a deeply troubled and flawed man; perhaps to include “The Telltale Heart” would have been moot, as this performance packs a very similar punch! 4.5/5
August 3-26, 2012
1.15pm, Espionage, Victoria Street (Cowgate, beside Underbelly)
DersuUzalaYojimboRashomon! The beast must live!
“Play ‘Whip It!’”
“No. Play the other one.”
“Boom… the shock of each moment… of still being alive.”
The Pit of Ultimate Darkness (Simon and Hecubus)(Kevin MacDonald and Dave Foley)(Kids In The Hall)(Canada)
Current desktop background makes me easy going for the day ahead and warmly embraced when i return from it. “No, how was YOUR day, Art?”
(Not actually asking him that, the still is from Bad Timing so his day would have been dire)
Rip Torn listens to THE VISITOR by Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie) in The Man Who Fell To Earth.
When he was sat in a café with his dad, it was the same usual shite with the siblings. Usually, they’d all go together so the reminisces of Dad are always tied up with the petty arguments with the brother and the sister that continue to this very day.
He’d have ordered…Blank…Draws a blank… Why? … It never changed for so long… like, between ages nine and fifteen he ate pretty much what you could consider to be a fundamentally wide yet actually quite narrow pallet, if you follow, for a boy at that period. Why could he not remember? The only image pressing itself into the circle of revellers, like a unwelcome sweaty troll in a Kappa trackie, was that austere white plate with a dollop of dry mashed tottie and four strips of skinless chicken. Death Valley on a plate, as dry as Kirkentilloch in the year of our father, their literal father. That’s what the sister would have had. They try to make him eat that, he’d fake a vomit as best he could.
Ach, they all bleed into one. We’ll go with a false memory, he knows it’s false because he knows exactly where it came from, Renfrew in 1997, cheese burger with his Gran in a café that had to be pleaded into making one, if you know what ah mean, roll on top was so crispy it was toast.. Anyway, slot that in. That’s what he was tucking into.
“Rap it, you!” his dad would no doubt be yellin at the sister who, from behind her curly drapes, would be mewling and banging a crisped potato finger against a bowl, splattering grease in all the teas (the Teas and the ‘teas’ if you understand the difference; both afflicted here) “Ah don’t like em, their too… ah… ah…” before she could weep, and weep she would, the father changed tone, genuine care is always the LAST resort. “Look… these are REAL chips, none o’ that shite you huv at home or doon the chippy. REAL chips.” “Well, a don’t fuckin like em” Belted. The term was outdated. But that is the best description of what was done to her.
He was at that age (somewhere between nine and fifteen) where he already had a serious disdain for that notion. Everyone’s fucking intense notion of getting at the “real” beneath a world saturated with artifice. He would have found it beautiful if the people expounding it were not simply cogs in the process of his understanding. Instead it drove him to return time and time again to his vomit. It was so fuckin’ futile. There may as well have been a 3D projection (still probably looking like a red and blue ghost, or the second phantom in the case of double vision) of a ringmaster above his dad, yelling constantly “You’ll pay a bit extra for reality, won’t you, sir?” or some other thing. His mind probably wasn’t at the stage when it could create the most succinct visualisation but it was getting there. His disgust was real. That fuelled him. You look at the artificial all day, you know there is a separate reality, a rustic-ness or whatever. You live the artificial every day, but you don’t accept it. Why don’t you accept it, Dad? It seems like, in all parents, to him, they just don’t accept one element and that allows them to live on unburdened by anything other than a workaday attitude and some fundamental love of their children. He loved them. He wanted them around forever. But he still didn’t understand why they just didn’t kill themselves. You have to make a lie to yourself to survive. At that age, he just couldn’t handle that. If it all came bleeding through some how… How could you continue like that?
He just sat there, finished rolling as tight a cigarette as he could manage with what was essentially pipe tobacco, put the menthol filter in and took his first puff after lighting out of the kitchen window on this, a reasonably sunny day. He was wearing a vest and unshaven going on 3 weeks. He took considerate puffs, this was him at his most logical, his most sound of mind; at least he liked to think that was how he looked. His mind was full of notions about the fundamental emptiness of his mind… his mind was empty. He swung round to look at his own son, garishly colouring in on the comic book of whatever kids show was popular 3 years ago in the States. Microwave chips scattered around the breakfast table, some dipped in the ramekin filled with ketchup, others strewn. The boy was no doubt enquiring about how he never bought McCain any more and how they never go out to lunch. But he had nothing to say to him.
(This was written for class but i rejected it, it could be finished someday i guess, maybe a Glaswegian Raymond Carver type thing, but it’s also just about me, NOT my dad. I love my dad. He didn’t do anything like this. Disclaimer)
If ever become a spiritual heir to Tom Wolfe that’s what my first book is getting called.
“I’ll give you some details of one ‘exercise’ that I’ve always found helpful. And let me stop there, and say that I did not intend that to be in anyway at all attached to the language of ’self-help’ and therapy and lots of other mollycoddling type behaviour. And I use that archaic word because… etc and you can see where that course of action will get you, Tristmegistus Shandy. A bit o’ self mythologizing never hurt anyone. I think it’s crucial. To try to tell the story of the past…. that will get you caught up and muddled and I refer to my first sermon. Don’t. Be. A. Gentleman. All. The. Time. One thing that I attribute my successes in life (and that is something I will categorically never be humble about) is one innocuous thing that I think is indispensable. You should always be rehearsing an award speech. It is not a delusional thing to do, or not as delusional as you might think. You’ve all done it. Brushing your teeth. You’ve thought of something you think is witty. Or you’ve pulled a comment into a conversation that you think deserves a bigger audience: “… and now she’s auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent, singing “Love Is All Around.” [Pause] [Audible laugh] “’singing love” is all around.’ [superior chuckle] But it dies there. Your prescient comment on the nature of derivative television that you and the rest of the nation continue to watch has no where to go except into the mirror (and we’ll discount John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness from this conversation before some smart alec makes that very expected comment) or into the polluted ear-canal of some cohort who will most likely purge it within 5 mins to make way for some toxic booty-bass.”
Ennis sat down. It was a confident ‘sit-down.’ One of his best. All the more satisfying given he had not in fact been standing before it occurred. Such was the aggressively diagonal positioning of his seated body, still touching the Ikea furnishing by a technicality, a minimal percentage, comparable to that with which, in terms of lineage, a footballer can be considered for the Scottish national team, he was able to give the illusion of natural uprightness in the artificially relaxed setting of this job interview. In a situation that usually contains a dynamic hidden behind curtains emblazoned “No Real Dynamic” (subtitled “Level-Pegging”) he was a voracious personality erection intermittently coming sweet, confident employability; the result being the usually resolute Mr Foulkes’ face was now stained with grins, smirks and the matted (what remains of a) fringe-spread-out-on-sizable-forehead ‘look’ that comes from nodding too damn much.