Cor, August doesn’t half go on, doesn’t it? Shame my wallet doesn’t, so I’ve seen less Fringe things in favour of the civilised delights of the Book Festival. Just for you, my adoring/hating readers, More Things Wot I Have Seen And Done.
Shaun Keaveny: Live and Languorous
6Music’s breakfast champion returns for his Fringe podcast. I rocked up early, MagPi deadline looming, and was working right up till doors opened or I’d have honoured Mr Keaveny’s request for a coffee and not, erm, drunk it myself. What a crap fan I am. Anyway, I had a front row seat as he bounded in, dressed in a Mexican wrestling mask, and launched into some fine stand-up. The guests on Friday were Fred MacAulay and Simon Brodkin. Fred, a much missed Radio Scotland Fringe staple, had some choice words about his former paymasters, as well as his views on politics, parenthood and being a Fringe veteran. Simon, better known as Lee Nelson, was fairly subdued for most of his section- and the reason became clear when a question was answered with ‘I can’t say much about that as criminal investigations are ongoing’. Yes, most of the chat centred round his publicity stunts, from invading the X Factor stage to throwing money at Sepp Blatter. I’m not his biggest fan when he’s in character as Lee, but I was amused at the behind the scenes story of the Kanye West Glastonbury invasion. Turns out all you need to say to a bouncer to get on stage is ‘Mate, I’m on up there in a minute‘ and they wave you through.
The show will be available as an iTunes podcast soon with the legally tricky bits removed, so go grab it.
Incognito: The Art of Disguise
I found this exhibition by chance on the way back from the podcast show. It’s housed in The Nomads Tent, a wee shop just off the Pleasance. It’s crammed full of weird and wonderful masks, and while you’re in there you can browse the colourful carpets and shiny trinkets. Sadly, only browsing for me as they’re a bit steep. The exhibition’s free, though.
7-31 Aug, The Nomads Tent
The Sheep Heid
Okay, I had good intentions. I was heading to Duddingston to see a Chekhov play in the garden of the Kirk. But when I turned up the box office tent was empty, so after some mooching round taking pictures of Craigmillar across the loch and being reminded I should be writing about my own fictional resident, I fled to the Sheep Heid for lunch. You guys, it has a skittle alley in the back that you can book. And the food is worth paying for. I had a reasonable fixed price two-course lunch for under £12, which I mostly justified by remembering I’d worked for a whole two precious freelance hours, and I’d probably walk it off. Ahem. I never liked the look of Chekhov anyway. I was glad I was in the class that did Austen instead.
Val McDermid and Niamh Nic Daéid
The slightly less political of the two Val-based Book Festival events, this was a fascinating inside look at forensics as part of plugging a MOOC which I might just sign up to. There were some cracking anecdotes, like the story of the wealthy heiress who made painstakingly accurate tiny dioramas of crime scenes, and of course the mandatory ‘it really isn’t like it is on CSI’ grumbles. I was somewhat astonished to learn just how differently forensics works in Scotland- I had no idea the extent of privatisation in England and Wales, where whatever service is cheapest wins out. Possibly my favourite moment, though, came when a questioner mentioned seeing cases involving ‘accidental anal intercourse’, at which point the enthusiastic old dear next to me turned to me and said ‘What’s that?’ in a tone that implied I know. Not guilty, m’lud.
Viv Albertine in conversation with Ian Rankin
Oh, this was just a treat. Ian scurried in laden with a bag of vinyl records because that’s how he rolls, and he didn’t get through half his notes, but Viv was looking fantastic and spoke with such warmth and honesty it didn’t matter. We learned how Sid Vicious secretly played the saxophone, that you’re a threat if you’re 19 or 51 when you’re a woman picking up a guitar, and how Viv survived the sad double-whammy of gruelling IVF and cervical cancer. I was particularly struck with her comments on how Thatcherism not only turned the music industry into a slick, non-fun thing, but the ethos of working up a career ladder and buying things didn’t sit with a working-class lady who was taught to ‘play with life’ and had no clue what she was doing after art school. I can’t wait to read my copy of her autobiography now.
Jura Unbound: The Skinny
Bit spur of the moment, this- the signing queue for Viv was long, so I ended up in the Spiegeltent for The Skinny‘s 10th birthday. It was theremin-themed, featuring readings from Us Conductors by Sean Michaels, a fictionalised account of Mr Theremin himself. But the real treat was a performance from world-class player Lydia Kavina, who treated us to some Saint-Saens, Alyabyev’s piece Соловей (featuring bird noises!), and a dense, almost prog tune with hand bells and synths. The audience were suitably slack-jawed. The sheer skill required to place your hands in the right place, let alone making it sing the way she did, was just mind-boggling. A surprise hit for me, and it cost me precisely nothing. If you get to these Jura shows early enough, you get free whisky too!
Today was meant to be my day off, but those things don’t happen in August. So I nipped in with friends to see this, even though my Avengers knowledge is feeble. I needn’t have worried. This was a fun romp featuring everyone from Lady Macbeth to a show-stealing Northern Brutus, with a supremely silly plotline about Oberon planning to rewrite the Bard’s works. Most of the jokes raised hearty laughter, though some of the indyref ones felt a bit dated now, and my two minor quibbles would be that sometimes Puck was hard to hear due to dialect and talking away from the audience, and the ladies dropped a lot of F-bombs (which doesn’t offend me, but families might want to be aware it’s fairly blue). Other than that, a good way to spend an hour in the shadow of Calton Hill.
Greenside @ Royal Terrace, 25-29 Aug, 17:20