Sunday, 18th August
Sunday at the Free Fringe and the first charming man of the day at the Canons Gait at 14.25. Now Wil Hodgson might not be your typical dreamboat – ex-wrestler, skinhead, beer belly, tattoos (lots of them, proper ones, mind – care bears and the like), slightly monotone west country accent. But after ten or so minutes in his company you will be smitten as he moves effortlessly and eloquently between his favourite obsessions which manage to be both brilliantly bizarre and achingly nostalgic at the same time. In anybody else’s hands the main topics of comic books and porn would be tawdry and obvious. But Mr Hodgson has such a head-swimmingly comprehensive knowledge and deep, deep love of his subject matter you’re hanging on his every word (he goes quite fast so you have to concentrate!) Porn? Yes, I know, girls – but imagine if you will ‘genteel porn’ with W I type women indulging in some lesbian action, the film of which being handed around in a raunchy version of Dad’s Army (just one of the gloriously surreal scenarios that is conjured up). What I love about Mr H though is his unashamed love of women – real women – big women – tough women. An hour in his company is better than any course on empowerment with his rejection of size zeros and tales of overcoming the bullies. Oh and you’ll learn a whole lot about the history of comic books and lots more besides!
Next up George Telfer in his one man show about Richard Burton. Set in the tiny Mata Hari space of Espionage the action is up close and personal. The predominately female audience no doubt attracted by the glitz and glamour of the whole Burton/Taylor legend. This Burton however is post Liz and more a burnt out case as the great man prepares for his stage comeback in Equus. Whilst Mr Telfer doesn’t deliver an impersonation of Rob Bryden proportions there is a Welsh lilt and pieces are genuinely moving such as when memories of the death of his beloved brother are evoked. The consummate professional Mr Telfer effortlessly incorporates late-comers and noises off from the bar into the show. Making a nice change from stand-up this is a classy treat for fans of the golden area of Hollywood.
Onto the third charming man of the day – Mr Meredith with his staggeringly entertaining singalong show – Knees Up Around The Organ. What? Singalong? Yes, yes, yes! Honestly Mr Meredith and his organ should be available on the NHS such is the pure, unadulterated, joy that they provide. Now if the thought of dreary singing classes at school or mouthing hymns (does that sound rude?) fills you with dread get yourself along to The Voodoo Rooms before Saturday and put yourself in Mr M’s capable hands. Starting with some delightfully camp (‘I’m an old fashioned homosexual – I crook my pinky when I…’ well you can guess!) banter, there’s a warming up of the vocal chords with a quick tongue twister before diving in with real oldies like ‘Roll Out The Barrel’ and the like. There’s time later for requests – and this gives you some idea of what a star Mr M is – he sang a song in Mandarin to whoops of delight – and tears of laughter – from a Chinese contingent in the audience! Finishing up with more ‘modern’ crowd pleasers like ‘Daydream Believer’ and ‘500 Miles’. The hour just flew by leaving a roomful of very obviously delighted people. It might not seem trendy, it might not seem cool but when you’re having so much fun, who cares? Mr Meredith – what a charmer.
Now on to the ‘devil’. What can I say? Lewis Schaffer comes well recommended and there is no denying he is good at what he does. Which is out-there, unhinged, confrontational comedy. Lulled into a sense of false security with Mr S looking dapper and shaking audience members’ hands before the show. Five minutes in though and a borderline racist, tourettes-like outburst directed towards a late arriving Canadian/Chinese party set us pretty much on course for the rest of the show. I, being a woman, was described as Satan – and I probably got off quite lightly compared to others in the audience. Revmulvey was a ‘nazi’ , a Scots-Muslim came in for a verbal attack (you can guess…) and other people accused of being ‘gay’, ‘ugly’, ‘stupid’. Men in the audience seemed to be enjoying it more than the women – no surprise. A bit like being on a scary fairground ride that you got on by accident. Probably made worse by the whole mingin’ atmosphere of the Heroes @ The Hive venue with its superglue floor and pervading smell of vomit – glad to get out. If that’s your kind of thing though – go see – and at least you’ll be able to say you went… and survived!