The ‘I have no time for the Fringe but did it anyway’ post

As you know, my August calendar is barren and devoid of fun, so naturally I decided to fill this week with all the mirth and joy of the Edinburgh Fringe. We used to only spend a week there, but now we’ve moved my bank account should in theory resemble the Sahara desert. Good job I spent money on conventions instead, huh?

Anyway, reviews, I have them. So far I’ve seen Knightmare Live: Level 2, Lorraine and Alan, and Torsten the Bareback Saint.

Knightmare Live

Ahh, this show was always going to be good. I saw their first show last year after a successful Kickstarter campaign, which was nicely timed around Challenge TV showing re-runs of the early series. I took people who were too young to remember it, and they loved it even if some in-jokes didn’t fly. And to this day, this is my most-liked Facebook photo:


You just wish you were as cool as me.

You just wish you were as cool as me.

So, when Treguard, Lord Fear and Binki the goblin rolled into town again, we answered the call. The set was pleasingly familiar, with old favourites like the wallscrotum Granitas the wall monster, the astonishingly effective forest backdrop and new surprises like a snarky dragon and the return of a ‘beloved’ character from the show. As before, the character interaction was spot-on off-script quips were brilliant. Oh, and I won’t spoiler too much, but if you’re a fan of Art Attack, there may well be something in the show for you too. Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the Knightmare show, though it does lessen confusion when people are cheering a knapsack or something saying ‘you’re in a room’…

Lorraine and Alan

Lorraine and Alan caught my eye when I spotted the flyer mentioned selkies. You might say I have a vested interest in them as a novelist. It’s a retelling of the Goodman o’ Wastness story but set in, er, exotic Norfolk. Alan’s a young man living with his parents and running boat tours for sealwatchers. One day he spots a naked woman on the rocks and brings her home, but all is not as it seems. This could have very easily turned into a bit of a rom-com, but instead it bubbled along with a goodly balance of wit and humour. Poor Alan is perplexed at Lorraine’s penchant for salt and 4-hour baths, while Lorraine is frustrated by her desire to see the sea and being moved further from it. The plastic bottles of water crowding the actors provided a constant reminder of the sea, and I liked the use of them to represent the characters. Kudos, too, for the most groan-worthy prop-based pun in any play I’ve seen (not spoilering!). Woven into the teenage angst and suburban monotony is a live soundtrack, with some impressive nightclub beatboxing and plot points conveyed in a plaintive Scottish folk song style.

Careful; that's your dad, Alan!

Careful; that’s your dad, Alan!

The only thing I could fault was that the background music was a little loud in places and the actors had to really shout to be heard. But my inner myth nerd was very happy with this play. It was funny, sweet, poignant and you should definitely go see it. But maybe hide your salted peanuts.

Torsten the Bareback Saint

Come with me, if you will, back in time. The year is 1997, I’m 14 and I’ve travelled to the sprawling metropolis of Glasgow with my cousin to see my first gig- Erasure at the SECC. When Andy Bell walked onstage in a bottomless blue rhinestone cowboy outfit, Vince Clarke shuffling on behind dressed as a cactus, it’s fair to say I was shaped as a person somewhat. When I saw them again at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, my love for them could only really be expressed by startling the (older than me) crowd by shouting ‘PLAY A LITTLE RESPECT‘ and crying a lot.

Both Andy and Vince have had solo projects, but this is a little different. Penned with Andy in mind, Torsten is an ambitious song cycle about an ‘age-defying polysexual’, who bursts into the world in 1906 announcing he’s gay with the uncompromising first song ‘Freshly Buggered’, and travelling through the decades to the present day. When we saw it, I had the great fortune to get a free ticket, and nearly leapt up and kissed the Pleasance flyerer because if there was one show I had my heart set on, it was this one. The audience was small and mostly free ticket-holders, some of whom had no idea what they’d let themselves in for and either hooted with laughter or slipped out a few songs in.

I didn’t care though, because here I was, barely four metres from Andy Bell, in all his musclebound socialist realist physique, dressed in black stilettoes, sparkly hotpants and a feather headdress, singing to me about bingo halls, drunken motorbike rides and fumbling romances in seaside hotels. I could only have been happier if he’d leaned forward and said “I would be happy to read the full balance of your manuscript on an exclusive basis”.

One day, I wish to have arms like his.

One day, I wish to have his arms as well as a book deal.

The lyrics have a depth of imagery which I can’t honestly do justice to here, and they’re shot through with anguish, hope, love, despair and the odd sordid act on Hampstead Heath. Andy’s voice is as strong as ever, raw and emotional and perfect for the subject matter. If I seem half in love and half in hate, I’m in a no man’s land between gay and straight, he sings in a brilliant moment of bi-visibility. I got flashbacks to The Circus and Hideaway which so succinctly summed up the painful process of a gay man coming out. Oh, it was really just amazing and you should do yourselves a favour and see it.

I’ll be back at the Fringe early next week to fritter more money so I can write more Pseud’s Corner epics. In the meantime, I’m dusting off my vinyl copy of Wild! for a bit of a boogie.

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