Monday, August 27, 2007

Wow for Wales

I lead a sheltered life, so I was pleased to spend some of Saturday at Barmouth in mid-Wales. This follows on from the trip to Edinburgh just over a week ago which mean I have visited both Scotland and Wales for the first time in the last fortnight (I guess I had to get it in before the Kingdom fell apart after the SNP's victory in the Scottish Parliamentary elections earlier this year).

I was very impressed with my first trip to a British beach. I think Wales is one of Europe's best kept secrets; I never thought it would be so good. The drive through Wales had some breathtaking scenery, and when we arrived at the beach, apart from some trouble finding adequate parking, we found a pretty empty beach with golden sand and the sun shining. One of my friend who has been to other beaches in the UK claimed this was the best he had been to, and planned to come again with his girlfriend. The other friend who accompanied us said mid-Wales was generally the best Britain had to offer in terms of beaches.

I guess the only bad point is there is no direct motorway so it is difficult to get to, but I guess that is also the reason it was empty. I would certainly recommend Barmouth to those who have never been. In the contest between Wales and Scotland, I think Wales comes out the winner so far, but I'm sure there will be plenty of future trips to both countries to make further comparisons.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Day 4

The Prisoner by the Aireborne Theatre Company@ Underbelly's Smirnoff BabyBelly

We started of out final day with a play about a musician imprisoned in an autocratic regime. Nothing that has not been done before but it was well done.

Ismo Leikole - Rogue State Finland @ Laughing Horse at Edinburgh City Football Club
Next some more free comedy this time by Ismo the Eskimo (well he is Finnish really), who was apparently in the crowd at Asian Invasion last night. Told some very good jokes about Finland, but his best was "I hear George Bush has declared war on drugs. Now I've done some stupid things on drug in my time, but...". Given that English probably is not his first language, this is genius

Joanne Neary's Little Moments @ Pleasance Courtyard
Possibly saved the best until last. Described as "One-woman fast show" and "the funniest thing in Edinburgh", the series of sketches went down very well with the audience. Included extract from her diary as a teenager ("I wouldn't waste my best stickers on a prop"), dances she made as a child, and several characters, surely it is a matter of time before this one hits the small screen given some of the tat that passes for comedy nowadays.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Day 3

Howard & Mimi @ Gilded Balloon Teviot

After failing to pick any spectacular shows on the previous two days we almost chose todays at Random. After visiting Edinburgh Castle in the morning we decided to take advantage of the 2-for-1's at the Gilded Balloon. The first was a charming two person play about a cat and a dog whose owners move in together and have to learn to get along. A Paul Kerensa/ Churchill-esqe "Oh yes, yes, yes... oh no, no, no" helped continue our links to previous shows.

Jarleth Regan - Nobody Knows Jarleth Regan @ Gilded Balloon Teviot
...I'm not sure if anyone will on this performance. The show started with a video of him making the trip from Ireland to Edinburgh, coinciding with him walking through the door at the right moment. Unfortunately this delayed the start due to a power-cut. He advertised his "alternative cards" (in much the same way Stephen Grant advertised his patented modern "inventions"), and handed out Jarleth Regan fans (because he did not have any in Edinburgh at the moment).

Women Fully Clothed @ Gilded Balloon Teviot
Five Canadian women do sketches on what it is like being a woman in Canada. You can tell I did not relate to it much but I suspect this would be great for the (dare I say more mature) women who find themselves at the fringe. Like Lucy Porter at one point they sing a song with more practical words (I forget which one it was).

Shelley Cooper: Reality Cheque @ Laughing Horse at the Counting House
Shelley says she used to do the big venues at the Edinburgh Festival but decided to do free shows because "paying £10 to see someone you have never heard of is not the Fringe". A free show therefore, she played quite well to the small gathering, and seemed to take a liking for me (she was joking I think, playing on the fact she is transgendered). She was pretty sharp however.

Asian Invasion @ Laughing Horse at Jekyll & Hyde
They managed to bring 4 people up from Birmingham, and despite the title of the show only one and a half were asian (a number our foursome managed to beat). Annette Fagan, of Afro Carribean origin (Asians are a bit thick you see, she said she was West Indian) kicked-off with an outfit bought for £10 for Primark, except for the shoes (she tiefed them). Then a half-Irish/ half-Indian comic came on who should have been funnier. As an Catholic of Indian origin who grew up among the Irish community, I'm sure he should have had funnier jokes, but I can't think of any at the moment. Next came Johnny Showaddy-waddy Soho. They don't make comedy like this anymore (there might be a reason). Don't talk to him about the number 63 - good old fashioned Brummie humour. Finally Darminder Singh, another comedian on the bill at the British Oak headlined the line-up with some goodness gracious me style humour. All-in-all, a great show if you are Brummie, but could have been funnier if you weren't.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Day 2

The Early Edition @ E4 UdderBELLY's Pasture

An aptly named early morning panel show hosted by Andre Vincent (possibly also known as Phil Jupitus, although this can be disproved by visiting the show they are in together) and Marcus Brigstocke, who buy the morning papers and discuss them over free pastries and coffee. A bit like Have I Got News For You.

Genesis by Paul Kerensa @ Just the Tonic at c soco Urban Garden

I have seen Paul Keresa @ British Oak Comedy Club before and he was quite good; this time he was poor. He took a humorous look at the old Testament, but forgot to bring the jokes. Aided by a couple of fellow comedians including another headline at the British Oak, Andy Kind, which only succeeded in breaking-up the rhythm of the act rather than improving it.

Galois de Galle by EUTC and Hi5 Theatre Company @ Bedlam Theatre
I did my MSci Thesis on Galois Theory, and have a soft spot for the French revolutionary republican genius who was shot at the tender age of 21 after producing some of the most imaginative mathematics in history. New even to me was the claim he volunteered to die in order to start a revolution, rather than the more commonplace rumour that he died in a duel over a girl. Porquoi!? Even non-mathematicians would enjoy this (I think).

Taken for Granted by Stephen Grant @ Pleasance Courtyard
The best part of this act was the warm up computer. I also found out people from Hartlepool are known as monkey-hangers, before he continued into a Simon Brodkin-esque attack on people who are not racist, but...

Lucy Porter's Love-in @ Pleasance Courtyard
Our second glimpse of Lucy who also did an interview for the Guardian for Mark Watson's 24 hour jamboree. Lucy got all our hopes up by claiming she was single and was going to have a cynical look at love. By the end of the show she was still together with some guy she had met and everyone loved love again. A special acknowledgement goes to the stage-hand who iced the flapjack with the names of a couple picked-on at the start of the show.

Best in Stand-up 99-Club Royal Mile @ White Horse
Nice to end the night in a traditional pub on the Royal Mile. An Aussie called Yanni kicked it of followed by Ana Vidal, who could not have cared less but she was very funny. The second half did not live up to the warm-ups, with an Elvis Costello look alike and another bloke with glasses. Much funnier than some of the shows we paid to see.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Day 1

A week ago today I found myself in Edinburgh for its famous Fringe Festival. Here is a brief review of what we saw on day 1.

Footballer's Boyfriend @ Theatre Workshop by Brian Wharton

A camp gay rodeo ride was promised in the booklet, and we certainly faced a long trip across town to see a story about a young man who fell in love with a Premiership footballer in the 1980's and had a roller coaster ride of a relationship with him. Apart from the obvious anachronism (the Premiership started in the 90's) and the fact he was clearly scouse but the footballer played for "City", it was a reasonable start to the trip.

Simon Brodkin: One Man Comedy Club @ Pleasance Courtyard

We missed the second show we wanted to see trying to get back across town, but got in to see this later instead. It does exactly what it says on the tin. He plays (in order) a cockney wideboy compere who goes a bit to far forcing people to down pints and going through people's bags, then a boring political American comedian called Ramirez who spoils our fun taking the mick out of Americans, followed by a scouse footballer whose book title intends to prove to us he was straight (the footballer's boyfriend), followed by Brodkin as himself (he would not have created a character that bland), with the hairiest back in comedy. The guy is actually a great actor and quite funny.

Stephen Kay Amos - More of Me @ Pleasance Coutyard

Quite simply the funniest comedian I saw at the fringe this year. Should be on telly, but as he explained he has to wait until Lenny Henry dies (it's equality: one in, one out). Starts of as a long-haired preacher, which could be related to Brodkin's description of him blacking-up and putting a mop on his head to experience racism, if we were trying to link all the shows together in some weird way. Only down point was him taking the mick out of Birmingham, although to be fair that was because my friend had put us in the firing line after cheering when someone else said he was from there. Spent all night taking the mick out of a posh boy in the second row, who got up and moon-walked for us all at the end. Who says comedy doesn't break down barriers?

Mark Watson's 24 Hour Jamboree to Save the Planet beginning @ the Festival Fringe Office

My friend did not believe that this would actually last 24 hours. I spent at least half an hour trying to convince him it would. It seemed to take forever to start, and then took about an hour-and-a-half for some of us to do a conga from the Festival Fringe Office to the Stand. On the way it was decided that the group would try to get a "celebrity" to come along, the favourite being God-hater Richard Dawkins, who trumped Dom from Dick and Dom, Michelle McManus and some Green MSP. We left after 2 hours at the Stand because they did not have room for all of us. They planned to sing songs, be carried in to a book launch at Waterstones (whichever did not kick them out) and many other wholesome activities. They even gave out a mobile phone number so we could text them to ask them where they were and rejoin the fun.
6/10 (but only because we stayed for 1/12 of the show)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Deaf Leopard

Please keep it down.

I got my ears syringed today and everything seems a bit loud. It appears my ears have been blocked for a few years and I can't believe how much noise is actually in the world.

Before I went to the doctor to sort this out, I was slightly concerned that I was losing my hearing at a young age. The last couple of weeks really have made me appreciate my hearing, a sense that I previously along with many others I suspect considered secondary to sight.

I had checked out NHS direct beforehand and noticed that ringing in the ears, a feeling of them being blocked, and pulses and hissing sounds in the ears can actually be a sign of wax blockage. A high powered jet of water later I can suddenly hear everything and life feels a bit different.

Anyway, I have been at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival over the last few days. I am planning to write some reviews about what I saw over the next few days so you can have some ideas on what to go to if you are going later in the month, or you can see what you are missing if you are not.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Middle-Class Inner City Gun Crime

I am thinking about live blogging the Heaven and Earth show on Sunday mornings. In a discussion about gun crime which centred on Manchester (of course), I have just heard some muppet claim that middle-class footballers, or upper-class footballers will not help solve gun crime.

He is quite right; that's because they don't exist.

Middle-class (or upper-class) armchair critics talking nonsense on semi-religious shows won't solve gun crime either.

Then Nina Myskow chips in, claiming she lives in North London and has never seen a Street Pastor.

I should hope not. If Nina Myskow was seeing Street Pastors, they are probably patrolling the wrong streets at the wrong time.

Why exactly do middle-class media-whores believe they live in the 'hood?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Curse of Brown

It really has been a baptism of fire for Gordon Brown (with the attempted car-bomb at Glasgow airport)...

... and water (with the flooding in Sheffield and Gloucester)...

... and just when you think things can't get any worse, foot and mouth disease makes a comeback.

Has anyone seen TB?