Fringe D to the End!

September 2, 2016

Time to keep this up to date just seems to evaporate this year…

Since the previous post, it’s all come to an abrupt end as the Bank Holiday Weekend finishes; the tents and marquees are dismantled, the temporary bars closed up, and all the venues revert to whatever they do the rest of the year!
But before that happened we saw some more shows!

A fairly physical version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame called Le Bossu on at Bedlam called  (the Great Bells were excellent!). Totally different from Stack, which used the same room and which we saw near the beginning of the Fringe.
Cats and Dogs Give the Best Advice was silly, zany fun at the Royal Society building as the Narrator of a chldren’s TV show underwent a midlife crisis and made her innocent cast perform against character and eventually rebel…
Holmes & Watson: The Farewell Tour on at the Space on the Mile (i.e. the Radisson Hotel) was a fairly manic spoof of the famous detective and his sidekick, each complaining about the production of the play as it went on, and berating missing stagehands, etc! Quirkily fun.

Terry Pratchett‘s Mort at Augustine, where we saw Eric last year – Mort suffered in comparison by needing far too many little scenes to get the ‘best bits’ in for the fans so it never really seemed to get going before it cut back to a completely different set of characters for a scene, then back again, repeatedly. Quite fun despite this though.

We went to see the other two Jules Verne plays on consecutive Sunday afternoons and they were both as good as 20,000 Leagues. Journey to the Centre of the Earth was fun, with more comic touches than I thought were in the book! The raft scenes were particularly neatly envisaged.
And The Lighthouse at the End of the World was somewhat unknown (I saw the not very accurate film adaptation once years ago) but seemed very authentic with maybe more nautical lingo than some of the audience appreciated. It all made sense, though, as the tale of a lighthouse, shipwrecks and pirates played out… Not sure the shop got much of a return from it’s sponsorship of the Company, but the plays were good fun so I’m glad I helped them along a bit!
In among all this, we managed to squeeze in a trip to the Cameo cinema to see The Wave, a Norwegian disaster film about a mountainside collapsing into a fjord and the resulting wave racing towards the little town at the head of the fjord! And apparently the mountain depicted really does have loads of sensors, etc. deployed as it actually is expected to collapse sometime! No great surprises, but well done. With a great sunset outside afterwards!

Not much art this year; my viewing of any of it was restricted to the final Sunday, when we saw some of the Art Festival Trail, at the Burns Monument (and our friend Carmen’s new illustrated signpost nearby) and a sound installation in the old Royal High School in the main debating chamber (fully kitted out years ago for the Scottish Grand Committee to use and widely assumed to be the seat of any new Scottish Parliament until it was decided to build a completely new custom Parliament nearby at Holyrood). The whole complex of buildings has languished almost unused since, and going to hear some Eastern tinged songs commemorating British Empire soldiers from India serving on the Western Front in WW1, with responses from their wives, was both interesting and moving.
After that, it was back home for a bit of a rest and then out again to the 3rd and final big concert at the Playhouse. This time it was Mogwai, playing a live soundtrack for a new anti-nuclear polemic by Mark Cousins. The music was generally fine, if all a bit similar, but the film was really a bit of a mess with all sorts of imagery and clips mashed up with little sense of cohesion. Mogwai may well be worth seeing live, but this wasn’t that gig! And although there was very little music connected with any of the clips Cousins used, they still managed to play on top of it, instead of giving it the space to be heard.

On the Bank Holiday Monday, as a final show, we went to zazU: Raisins to Stay Alive, a fast-moving farcical play on at Teviot about the end of the world – well, not this one, a different world, as it was due to flip over and thus kill all it’s human inhabitants, although the mermaids would be safe! Silly and quite manic, although the ending was a bit sad once the consequences sank in!
And after that, our final street food, finally getting some excellent Malayan Rendang from a stall that had always seemed to busy for us to bother queuing for…

And so it’s all finished for another year, although pretty soon we get to go and see Magma, the French prog band, which Madeleine has wanted to see for years! And probably Walter Trout a bit after that…






Festival C

August 22, 2016

Another week gone by already!
We’re having a fairly quiet Fringe & Festival so far but we have been seeing some stuff!
Some very good stuff!

On Tuesday it was back to the Playhouse again for the 2nd of two nights by Sigur Ros, an Icelandic trio in somewhat the same vein as Godspeed You! but they also sing!
They opened with 3 songs they performed as shadowy figures behind a light screen, reminiscent of the Residents fabled Mole Show performances back in the 80s, but towards the end of the 3rd song, they moved to their main equipment set up in front of the screen, which was used for light projections throughout the performance, and really set to!
As a novice, I had difficulty distinguishing between the songs, but the crowd loved it! And I did too.IMG_6864

Thanks, in Icelandic, I believe. Shown after the end of the gig. No encore, just back on stage for a bow and then off again. Standard for the group I assume, as the audience didn’t seem to be annoyed at all.

And then it was Thursday and a quick exit form the shop for a bravura one man performance of Albatross at Paradise in Agustines, about the background to the famous poem.
You know the one!

Only a few stage props but a great performance, as the ancient mariner  dissected the Rime and ranted about all things pertaining to the poem and it’s genesis.
On Friday I had my own personal mini-Fringe show as the cast of Randy Writes a Novel (i.e. a big purple puppet and it’s handler) came to Transreal Fiction to do a short promo piece for their show at the Underbelly. Great fun, as Randy toured the shop commenting on the books and merchandise, chatting to (and scaring off!) the customers and generally being as OTT as you’d expect! It was being filmed by WOW247(Edinburgh)




Festival B

August 20, 2016

After a really busy couple of days in the shop, it was Saturday evening at last!
But we had no Plan! What to do!?
So, after checking out the Book Festival, we ended up going to Sounds of Taiwan at Zoo Southside. Three musicians; one sitar, one cello and one erhu (Japanese 2-string violin). Excellent original music, much of it composed by the sitar player) although sometimes the inadvertent percussion provided by dancers in the hall above was a bit of a distraction! At the end, we were interviewed by  one of the Taiwan Season staff and chatted with the nusicians a bit. Also bought a couple of cds, although the trio didn’t have anything with all three of them playing, only previous releases by them individually.

On Sunday our morning was already spoken for, but after coffee at the 1505 coffeeshop, at half one we saw Alice Unhinged at the Pleasance. Loud, bizarre version using events and characters from both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, with a large cast of 23 looking a bit like they were out of Zenescope’s Wonderland comics! Lots of attitude, corsets and very stripy stockings! Also a pair of very well designed, wheeled, towers which served all sorts of purposes on stage.


Great, almost psychedelic, fun. After that we had some quite substantial and tricky to handle street food and then it was over to Victoria Street and C Nova to see a production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Not Cricket Productions, the theatre company Transreal Fiction is sponsoring this Fringe! They’re also doing Voyage to the Centre of the Earth and The Lighthouse at the End of the World, both of which we hope to see on the following two Sundays.  Good, relatively faithful version, although the sex of a couple of characters had been changed.  The fairly blank setting in the room will probably be the same for all three plays…

A stop at the new (ex-opticians) Walls coffee shop on Forrest Road (probably a future favourite) and then a drink and a meal across at Filmhouse, which was relatively quiet compared to the main Fringe area, and then down to the Book Festival for the Ken MacLeod event. Interesting, as ever, as he read from, and talked about, his current Dissidence trilogy.
And then back home, via the Cask for a late night pint.


Festival A

August 13, 2016

Too much going on!
But I’ll make time for some Festival events, etc. anyway…

After the rather inpressive Official Festival opening light show, our first Fringe event was at Summerhall on Tuesday and felt more disorganised. It was for a Danish production about the expeditions of Scottish explorer Mungo Park and ‘technical problems’ of some sort kept the entire audience waiting in a queue on the stairs for an extra 25 minutes after the advertised start time. This might not have been so bad if the front of house staff hadn’t kept their heads down and tried to avoid explaining anything unless directly confronted. Not a good way to keep a queue mellow and on your side.
The production itself – Mungo Park: Travels in the Interior of Africa – was relatively accurate historically and made good use of the limited props – especially the crocodile! Some items were more complex and included some aerial work and a revolving platform occupying much of the stage. If problems with either of these were the cause of the delays, I wish we had been told as they were obviously things that had to work without fault. Another annoyance was the extremely bright rack of spots shone directly in the audience’s eyes at times to convey the heat of the burning sun… A little went a long way, possibly too far!
Much running about and shouting at times, as the small cast replicated his adventures and hardships in West Africa around the turn of the 18th/19th centuries. I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if I hadn’t been so irritated going in to it…

The following night was another Festival show – Godspeed You! Black Emperor at the Playhouse Theatre. I have one of their early cds (slow riot for new zero kanada), and Madeleine owns a much more recent one, which they played some music from.
They’re an 8-piece post-rock group and said not a word while on stage – no intros, no lyrics, just complex sonic structures, building and mutating for 15 or 20 minutes at a time before a brief pause and the start of the next piece.
Engrossing but not a particularly visual spectacle, despite the stage-wide screen with projections behind them IMG_6838a

At one point, one of the 2 drummers was offstage, and 4 of the others were kneeling on the stage doing stuff, and 2 others were sitting on chairs playing their guitars. Probably.
There were lots of f/x pedals and triggers, I’m sure!
Excellent show, and a group Madeleine had been very keen to see, so I’m glad she bought us tickets!

On Thursday evening we dived in to shows we knew little about and enjoyed them both.
The first was An Evening with C. S. Lewis at Greenside at Nicolson Square – i.e. the Methodist church halls – and was excellent. It was a one man show set in 1963 after his wife’s death, of ‘C. S.Lewis’ sitting in his armchair apparently talking to some visiting Americans… Lots of detail of his life, if a little light on mentions of his writing. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe gets a brief mention, as do The Screwtape Letters but nothing else. Tolkien and his books get at least as many mentions. The actor captured Lewis’s look pretty well, and apparently tours this show in the US regularly, so it was very slickly done.
After that, a quick coffee at the newly re-purposed old T. D. Walls opticians premises on Forrest Road (they’ve kept a lot of the fine old dark wood panelling but made it light and airy at the same time and I’m sure we’ll be back when there’s more time) and then it was off to bedlam 50 yards away and more heroic adventure! Not the real-life Mungo Park though – this was a show called Stack, about a present day celebrity explorer – Stackard Banks –  off to find a previously undiscovered Amazonian tribe! Almost a one man show, there was a native princess latterly and a brief appearance from his arch nemesis at the end, together with various pre-recorded audio parts from behind the audience. Songs, silliness, high adventure, complete egotistical stupidity! Great fun! I’m sure Sting would have approved! (Maybe).
The lead role reminded me a bit of Lord Flashheart from Blackadder, for some idea of his performance! Non-stop and riotous!


As for books, I’m currently re-reading my Norman Spinrad paperback of Songs From the Stars, from 1981. It’s set hundreds of years after ‘the Smash’ and Clear Blue Lou and Sunshine Sue are trying to reconcile the small-scale ‘green’ culture he’s part of and the presumed ‘evil’ scientists and sorcerers beyond the mountains who drip-feed hi-tech equipment to them for their own purposes…  Interesting; and I’m glad I’ve kept it all these years!
And also reading the new Michael Swanwick collection Not so Much, Said the Cat.  Top class, although I’m only on the 2nd story!





Here it Comes Again!

August 2, 2016

Oh, poor Semaphore, languishing unattended for months at a time… All sorts of things have happened that it’s too late to report on now, although my Flickr stream will show the bare bones…

But now that August is here, maybe a few more posts will appear!

Monday evening started with a quick trip to the Festival Hub to collect out tickets for a free event on Sunday evening to officially open The International Festival. Not entirely sure what it will be but it promises to be spectacular. After that we wandered down to George Square and had our first festival food – Chicken Pad Thai sitting outside on a bench in the early evening sun on artificial grass laid over the real grass (coz real grass gets too muddy & slippy) and then it was off to an event!
Not an official Fringe event, but last night was the 10th Event Horizon evening, now held the first Monday on the Month at the Blind Poet pub.
Ray Bradbury’s birthday is later in the month, so his work provided a loose theme for the evening, which started with a couple of songs from Painted Ocean, who also played at the end, before the raffle was drawn. Quite neat, especially when the electronics come more into the mix. After that a couple of students from a creative writing course the main guests had been teaching read some of their work. And on to Ken MacLeod reading a section of his not yet published Corporation Wars volume 3!
Then a break, and after that the award-winning cellist Atzi Muramatsu improvised along to projected illustrations of Ray Bradbury stories! Very good. Up next was Jane Yolen, who read part of a long-published story and then 7 or 8 short poems, both published and unpublished (although several were slated to appear in Asimov’s SF magazine)
All good stuff, and, with the entire writing class in there, probably their best attended event so fat! And I won a nice sketch of The Fog Horn in the raffle! (That’s the one with a sea monster/relict dinosaur attracted by a lighthouse foghorn)




Resident in London

February 15, 2016

As a Christmas present, Madeleine gave me (us!) tickets to see the Residents gig at Hackney Empire last Friday. The only other time either of us had seen them was way back in 1983 at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh when they performed their Mole Show live. We didn’t know each other back then but we both loved the show! As far as I know the only othr concert we have in common like that was a Mother Gong gig at the same venue, although I forget the date.

Anyway, playing hooky and closing the shop on Friday we headed off to the station for the 10.00 train to London, only for it to be delayed for half an hour before leaving, and then even more as the journey progressed towards Berwick. It turned out someone had been killed by an earlier train, causing hold ups all up and down the line. Anyway, it seems that trains can’t make up much time these days and we finally got to King’s Cross around two hours late, tired and a bit annoyed at losing most of the afternoon.
Check into our nearby hotel, and set off after a short rest to top up our Oyster Cards and head for the Hackney Empire Theatre…

The show was great, although I had expected four Residents, not just three!  Less elaborate than the Mole Show, it was essentially a singer, an electronic keyboard/computer guy and a guitarist on stage, with some taped sections of several people relating some specific personal events. IMG_5283.JPG
Great theatre, with good sight lines and sound, although afterwards the merchandise concession was very awkwardly set up between two ascending staircases so people had to lean over the banisters to see or buy stuff! Very confused and I gave up trying to see just what they had to sell that wasn’t immediately obvious. So, no new Residents t-shirt, and my Mole Show one doesn’t really fit any more!!

The following day we were up early and off to South Kensington to see the Cosmonauts exhibition in the Science Museum. This was an excellent event, showcasing the Soviet soace exploration from the very early days through the glory days of the late 1950s and early 1960s to the last days of the USSR and their last cosmonaut finally de-orbiting to land in the newly-formed Russian Federation! Wonderful early sketches, models, etc. leading to newsreal footage, full scale models of various spacecraft and originals of some, all about Laika and the other space dogs, Yuri Gagarin, Valentina Tereshkova and more.
A Soviet moon buggy – after they cancelled their manned moon mission following the American success, they still went ahead and used what they had already tested to explore the moon’s surface – examples of all sorts of suits, capsules, etc. with various posters and other art depicting their space program.IMG_5292

After that, it was a quick coffee and back to KX to meet a couple of internet friends – local Ortiga, and Nadine, who had flown in from Geneva for a couple of days. None of us had actually met before but Ortiga suggested a tapas restaurant nearby and we all met there for a late lunch that stretched out for hours! That’s tapas for you! Other people took photos but I didn’t, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for them.
Eventually we left there and headed for Waterloo and the nearby Vaults Festival, where there was a play on that M was very keen to see. The venue was a bit difficult to find, being in vaults underneath Waterloo Station itself!IMG_5311
So all four of us ended up going to see it and we all (I hope!) appreciated the festival, venue and also the play itself, a maths-heavy comedy called X + Y. Even the less mathematical among us enjoyed it.  Farewell to Ortega afterwards, but an arrangement to see Nadine the next day.

Sunday was another early start; with breakfast with Nadine, who was flying out after lunch, and then we were off to the Tate Modern and the Alexander Calder (no relation!) exhibition.
11 rooms of his art, from his early wire sculptures and Cirque Calder figures to his Mercury Fountain (photos only) and his big, later mobiles. Great stuff, although the gift shop afterwards was really quite pricey. Lunch with Scott, one of M’s friends from the days of Maths Year 2000, in their restaurant and then a stroll along the Thames to Hungerford Bridge, where Scott deserted us, and the tube back to KX and our train home!
It ran almost to schedule and were home drinking hot chocolate by eleven!



End of the Year!

December 31, 2015

So obviously I never did get around to picking my favourite Fringe shows of 2015. (yet!)
But it’s in to 2016 in a few hours and I’m sure I’ll have much more time for posting here. (well, probably not!)

Anyway, best book of the year?
Very difficult this year, maybe Arcadia by Iain Pears. But there were other very good reads, too, both new and old.

Best film?
I’ve not kept very good notes this year so I don’t recall offhand which films I did see, but Hard to be a God was perhaps the most memorable, if not the most enjoyable!  Best was possibly The Martian. It’ll be up there as one of the best SF films there is in years to come.

Best gig?
The back-to-back King Crimson gigs we went to at the Usher Hall (one in the balcony, one in the stalls). Three drummers! The Sun Ra Arkestra and the Ex both deserve a mention as well.

And best Fringe 2015 show?
Year of the Hare at the Pleasance Dome.
There! Answered!

See you next year, possibly a little more frequently! (but don’t count on it)