The sights these eyes have seen

It’s August, which means the Edinburgh Fringe. Which means I’m knackered.

de Saw and Finkle have been taking Planet Fringe a little more seriously this year, getting involved with the really wonderful cabaret culture now so prevalent amidst the thousands of options for bewildered, footsore punters in need of a damned good show but unable to decide on which to see. Cabarets are actually the ideal solution for those whose eyes glaze over as soon as they open the Fringe programme. By opting for a cabaret, not only do said punters get a serious dose of variety, they also get a taster menu of acts whose full shows they can track down at a later date.

(Aside: I’m also quite taken with the addition of the Nearby Now button to this year’s Fringe app, which works out where you are in Edinburgh and tells you what shows are starting around your location. How cool is that?)

So, yeah, we’ve been doing the cabarets. And, in this final week of the festivities, you should too. Our favourites are: Gorgeous George Cabaret, which features a handpicked selection of some of the very best performers you’ll see in Edinburgh this year introduced by uniformly excellent guest MCs; and Itsy’s Kabarett, whose early and midnight shows are high octane mixups of sheer quality, curated and presented by the force of nature that is the wonderful Dee Itsy.

Both are excellent shows, both are different every time you go. Talk about variety? We’ve only been through a handful of times but we’ve seen: a card magician who recently helped apprehend thieves by keeping them entertained with tricks until the police arrived; three Japanese men in lycra transforming into Godzilla; comedy pirate songs; street dance sketch comedy; swallowed razor blades; juggling; satire; burlesque, of course, but *great* burlesque (including a lady dressed as one of Star Trek’s The Borg – lots of blinky flashy lights!). Charlie Montgomery was up to his old tricks, as always (I remain mystified as to how Miss Leggy puts up with him, although I’m glad to see the audiences are getting wise to his antics. Actually though there was going to be a fist fight last night).

But for me there has been a singular stand-out moment.  It was the Thursday of the week when rioting broke out in certain English cities. Things had cooled down since the incendiary atmosphere at the start of that week, but the public unrest was still to the fore in the news. It was a warm night, even at midnight. The room was packed and the acts all performed with an extra edge. Enter The Creative Martyrs, fresh from their nightly performance of the wonderful Tales From A Cabaret. Their show, which deals with the insidious stripping of artistic (and indeed personal) freedoms by a controlling government, has a song called Welcome To This Evening, a quiet, sinister and tragic piece introducing the realization that the new regime has taken over completely, and that the characters’ world has become one without freedom. The rapt crowd became  increasingly thoughtful as they took in the poignancy of the very topical lyrics. Of course, being the Martyrs, they immediately cheered everyone up again with a jolly toe-tapper about the end of the world, but what a moment of theatre that was.

Of course, it’s not *all* been happening in Edinburgh the last few weeks. We’ve managed to see and do a few things here in Glasgow too. In addition to the city centre being turned into a movie set, we managed to get out the Note to see Jason Webley turn in a warm, friend-making set of loveliness and to the Garage for the first night of a new city centre variety night, Matsuda Cafe.

And on the writing front, Iain Rowan has published an interview with me on his site. It’s part of a series, so check out the other writers he’s interviewed too.

Two more fringe performances to go, then September: rest, recuperation and (w)riting.


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