Thanks to Cockbongo [above and below] and to Sarah [bottom, with bag] from Nottingham for these Secret Dancing pics, taken over the last couple of days. I can see little red lights blinking throughout the show, so I know pictures are being taken. I don’t mind, as long as you’re not flashing. It’s quite instructive to see how it all looks. (Pretty minimal as you can see from the pre-show shot above – just imagine it with great dance tunes of the 80s and 90s playing through the PA.) William Turrell very kindly sent me an audio recording he’d made a couple of days ago – I’m halfway through it, and it’s a useful tool for improving what I’m doing. I have now performed Secret Dancing ten times at Bannermans. Five to go. I expect no medals for this. Indeed, I take my hat off to those who do the entire run. It’s no wonder performers endure a “dip.” Without a day off, even for 15 days, it’s a pretty relentless way to live your life – in some ways, it’s more intense doing the show so early in the day, as you are literally thinking about it the moment you wake up. Ironically, I usually write this blog in the morning, in a coffee shop or eaterie, before going to my gig at just before midday. It helps to take my mind off the task ahead.
I had a good show yesterday, except for the prior embarrassment of my friend Mark Goodier coming along and not being admitted due to his son being under 18. Bannermans operate a strict 18+ policy on their door, which is the only downside to the venue. I’m not saying I wouldn’t have chosen it, as it’s a superb venue in every other respect – and the staff couldn’t be nicer and more helpful – but had we known of the age restriction we could have listed our shows more accurately. Unfortunately, during the day, people expect shows to be family-friendly, which of course mine is, but you must respect a venue’s door policy. (The irony is that Mark grew up in Edinburgh and spent his teenage years drinking in Bannermans!) Anyway, I’ve no idea why the show was so much better yesterday – not in terms of laughter decibels, but in terms of me enunciating confidently and clearly when the wording of a line is important. It’s not a scripted show per se, but I have to hit certain words and lines accurately, in order to earn the reactions. Another really hot one, but that goes without saying now.
A restful afternoon back at the flat, counting the loose change from my bucket and offering to help Richard with his AIOTM script but being rebutted at every turn. Towel juggler Andre Vincent went back to London and TV’s Emma Kennedy arrived. Although I think of the bathroom down mine and Tom’s end of the flat as “our” bathroom, she immediately had her eye on it, even though the spare room is down the other end of the flat. She obviously knows a clean, Herring-free bathroom when she sees and smells it.
Tonight, well … here’s why you shouldn’t stick to what you know at the Fringe. Mat Ricardo’s wife is up for a couple of days, and, after a pleasant Italian at Gennaro’s on Grassmarket, the pair of them took me along to see something I wouldn’t ordinarily pick: Tricity Vogue’s Ukulele Cabaret at the Three Sisters (there’s still chance to see it – it’s on next Monday). Mat and Lesley have strong links with the street performance and cabaret circuits, and seem to know almost everybody who appeared on the affable and confident, ukulele-hatted compere Tricity’s bill. Ukes were the linking device, with something like 16 acts doing a song on said tiny guitar, in order to compete for the Uke Of Edinburgh award – and Mat, who didn’t play one, but did juggle with three of them!
This is another free night of entertainment with an honesty bucket at the end, but you would have to be a complete misery not to drop in a note, as it lasts for two and a half hours, with interval, as Tricity and her glamorous assistant corral audience members to play the three X-Factor-style judges, while the scoremistress role is taken by comic songwriter Helen Arney, another acolyte from the Michael Legge/James Hingley entourage, but surely way too naturally talented to waste her time with them – her show is here, and the Countdown tune she played suggests it will be very good indeed.
A cabaret atmosphere was almost instantaneous, the bonhomie between the acts infectious, in a spacious, well-upholstered room spoiled only by the lack of a curtain to separate it from the main Three Sisters fighting bar, which actually had a football match playing on a big telly feet away from the mixing desk. Speaking of which, the tech did an admirable but patchy job of keeping up with the ever-changing carousel of ukulele-playing turns, some of whom plugged in, some of whom required a mic in front of their instrument, one of whom sat on the lip of the stage, and two of whom eschewed amplification altogether in order to gently work the crowd with their delicate folk whimsy, despite the noise overspill from the fighting bar: yes, it was Foster and Gilvan aka Foz and The Baron, usually to be seen under clown makeup at Karaoke Circus. (I freely admit, I didn’t recognise either of them until they said a warm hello. Their frilly shirts were my only clue.)
I was fascinated by a fright-haired, poker-faced American in a stripey suit (imagine a tubby Steven Wright) called Skip something who created truly stunning instrumental music using an effects box, a uke, a harmonica, a loudhailer and many other weird and wonderful items. He’s not appearing at the Fringe this year apparently, but he should be. I’d welcome his full name if anybody knows it? Revelation of the night – and the very reason you should go and see mixed bills at the Fringe, especially something like this – was Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer! Simplicity itself, but executed with surgical precision, he appears as a kind of moustachioed posh bloke from the past, but who plays and sings modern rave tunes on his banjo, and raps with utter, BBC-accented conviction. It’s captivating, and you could see older members of the audience enjoying the fun but simply not getting his very narrow musical references – early Prodigy, Orbital and so on. It was sublimely funny. He doesn’t have a solo show, but is appearing in a three-act cabaret called Me! Me! Me!, which I hope I can fit in as my Edinburgh clock ticks away.
Such a terrific evening, and only two pear ciders, so intoxicating only in terms of singalong energy. As I passed through the main bar, at around 11.30, a man dropped and smashed a full pint glass in an altercation with a security man, and I was happy to escape into the night, even though Edinburgh was having one of its downpours. As I walked down Cowgate I saw a noisily drunk man wandering down the middle of the road, singing and shouting, and a car had to skid, in the wet, in order to avoid running him down, despite sounding its horn and flashing its lights at him. The man then shouted abuse at the car. It’s the spirit of the Fringe.
When I got in at around 11.45, Richard Herring was still up, looking down the barrel of a long night’s scriptwriting. I made him a hot drink and washed up his cereal bowl. It was the least I could do. And then I left him alone. I’m not yet sure what my role in AIOTM will be, but there are still some extortionately priced tickets left. I can’t wait.