Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Edinburgh Fringe - Day One

Well, seeing as I promised some thoughts on my MA course – here’s a quick review of my lightning trip to the Edinburgh Fringe. Having been saying to each other for about 15 years that we really should be going, Wifey and I finally extracted our digits and organised it this year, with a couple of friends.

We got there on Friday and eased ourselves into the weekend with Nicholas Parsons’ Happy Hour – probably the only time over the whole weekend where I was younger than the audience average. While he’s as smooth and professional as you’d expect, his wit is a lot more barbed that you might imagine, though just being in his regal presence left this grizzled veteran humming the theme from Sale of the Century for the rest of the weekend. Ah… what is that celestial music that Peter Fenn is about to play…? The show followed a chat-show format; his guests were Aussie stand-up Adam Hill, with whom he had a good yak about prostate treatment, and musical comedy duo Adams and Rea, one of whom became my girlfriend later in the weekend… (How about that for a teaser?)

After our audience with His Nickness, it was Justin Moorhouse in Ever Decreasing Social Circles. Having a fairly ambivalent attitude towards social networking sites (didn’t they used to be called ‘pubs’?), I found the premise of his show irresistible. Working from his Nan’s advice that you’re blessed if you can count your true friends on the fingers of one hand, he decided to trawl through his 600+ Facebook and MySpace ‘friends’ and whittle them down to five, using a fairly arbitrary survey process to gauge their compatibility. He also used the questions – asking his respondents for their attitude towards topics ranging from motor sport to Morrissey – to veer off into more traditional stand-up territory. The show ended with audience participation, as he applied to same criteria to find a ‘friend’ in the audience. Wifey and I got down to the last few before I was dismissed for having a knob and she was binned for having her arms folded. Don’t care. Got enough friends anyway.

The final show of the night was Daniel Kitson (another Phoenix Nights veteran) in 66A Church Road. I didn’t know much about it in advance except that it was a meditation on a flat in which he lived for a number of years, and that his shows are more like theatrical monologues than stand-up routines. As he began to speak, it became apparent that he Church Road he was talking about was in Crystal Palace – a regular haunt just up the road from Murphy Grange. Even stranger, one of the people we’d gone to the show with has inhabited the same road for years, but had no idea Daniel Kitson lived in the area.

Maybe it helped that we knew the places he was talking about, but the show was mesmerising – thought-provoking, funny, profound and moving. Kitson’s slightly shambling and socially awkward persona (plus his characterisation of his soulless landlord) draw you in and make you laugh, while his observations on memory and the significance of ‘home’ make you want to go back and look at your own domestic situation from a brand new perspective. His relationship with the flat - which he loved despite, or because of, all its faults - also provided a surprisingly apt metaphor for all our personal relationships.

After that, it was back to the guest house. I thought for a while about losing the key in the street, but decided that it would be altogether more interesting to do that another night…

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