Saturday, 10th August
Started my Free Fringe day with the marvellous Joan Shepard in Confessions of an Old Lady #2 at Fingers Piano Bar. Not the greatest of venues with entrance directly off Frederick Street and noises off from the bar including a ringing phone. Needn’t have worried – Joan is every inch the pro and held the audience in the palm of her hand with her tales of over seventy years in showbiz. And what tales! A child star given her big Broadway break by Laurence Olivier, sharing scenes with Tallulah Bankhead and Ethel Waters, turning down Elvis Presley (and a career in film along with it), starring in a ground-breaking revue with Lenny Bruce… But this is no mere name-dropping exercise and it’s testament to this astonishing woman that what shines through is a life-long devotion to the two great loves in her life- her husband and the theatre. Joan’s voice is still strong and commanding, only using a microphone when she does her musical numbers but I think this is more for visual effect as sound-wise she sure doesn’t need it. Warm, funny – ‘I never got real famous, well none of you has heard of me, right?’ Joan is the kind of person you wish you had as a friend so you could have regular access to her brilliant anecdotes. If you love theatre, classic showbiz tales or just want a life-affirming hour during the Festival madness do yourself a favour and get yourself along to Frederick Street at 2pm any day before the end of the Fringe.
Didn’t have a plan for the next show – whole George/Princes Street area quite mental what with Saturday shopping and confused stag/hen parties getting added to the Festival mix – decided to get respite (of a sort) on the Royal Mile, ended up doing a Nigel Farage and got stuck in the Canons’ Gait pub. Show there is The News at Kate presented by Kate Smurthwaite. Unlike Nigel though I was lucky and didn’t get barricaded in and was allowed to leave when I’d had enough (about 30 mins). Don’t get me wrong Kate’s really funny and is an engaging host but the whole set-up that followed (and seems quite popular at the mo): inviting mates/acquaintances to do ten minutes and then have a natter with them, is fraught with quality control issues. Get the right guests and this could be great, if not you’d be better off listening in on a random bus journey conversation or making up your own entertainment.
Quick sprint down to Calton Road and along to The Fiddlers Arms on Picardy Place in time for The Anti Social Network – a short piece (30 mins) regarding the dislocation of personal relationships in the age of social networking. Basically a one woman show (with assistant ‘sound-man’ working the laptop) written and performed by Paula Varjack. Sensitively written and with fine, understated acting this is an effective and affecting piece. Well worth a look.
A two minute bus journey down Leith Walk gave some much needed refuge from the city. Dinner at Origano and coffee/drinks in Tourmalet. Both excellent as usual. Could have stayed longer but there was more Fringe festing to be done! Stopped off at The Street to see An Evening with Samantha. Now Samantha Mann is technically a drag act but owes more to the Hinge and Bracket (look it up, kids…) school rather than Divine or Madame Jojo’s. Now this could lead to a degree of misunderstanding on the part of the audience which pretty much happened last night – we were constantly reminded that it was ‘spoken word’ rather than ‘comedy’ – I really don’t think we had to be told! The persona is that of a wittering, dithering, rambling woman past the first flush (think perhaps Mavis from Coronation Street) but stand-up it most definitely is not. Maybe there is some deeper meaning or intention going on here but I’m afraid I didn’t get it. Sorry, Samantha.
Stopped off to see what the Voodoo Rooms had to offer but as this seemed to be a fat guy in a Nazi uniform (offensive) and a local councillor who likes to get his face in the local paper (even fatter and even more offensive) decided to make a quick exit before I was tempted to give one of them a leather-glove-double-slap!
Evening ended on a high though with Anil Desai’s Another Night at the Movies at the City Cafe. Effortlessly entertaining, with excellent quick-fire impressions (de Niro, Pacino, Homer Simpson). Great routine with Anil charming the audience from the very start as he placed bowls of popcorn around the room. This guy is a mega talent – another one to see before he hits the big-time.
Wandered around a bit after that but Old Town was getting a definite ‘End of Days’ feel so hopped on the bus back home.