Ed Fringe 2014

Stage – Ed 2014

The street cleaners have cancelled their holidays, bekilted beardymen are defragging their bagpipes (I don’t know – how do you clean a bagpipe?), retired dames in Morningside are sharpening their pencils and the Lothian police are taking on new recruits – yes, the Edinburgh festival Fringe is back in town and it is time for my annual comedy recommendations.

 

To begin with – a comic who is consistently inventive. Go see Simon Munnery sings Soren Kierkegaard. Munnery is the uncrowned king of original comedy, although if we did crown him he would make an excellent show out of his abdication. Kierkegaard is better known as a philosopher than a songwriter or comic, but who can forget his lyrics?

 

To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.

 

Or, from his second album, (On the Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates):

 

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

 

Next it’s ‘Old toads corner’ – interesting new shows from ancient fringe recidivists, all of whom now owe me a cranberry juice.

 

Kevin Day – Standy Uppy. I have seen a preview of this and witnessed an hour of deluxe stand up that is true, funny and affecting.

 

Ronnie Golden – New Age Pensioner. I missed his preview but his poster is brilliant, showing Ronnie as both a lithe guitarist and at ease in a Chelsea pensioners red coat. One person who has seen the show is Ronnie himself who tells me : “Golden, humour’s musclebound Adonis, utilised every arrow in his comedic quiver to great effect and left his audience……..”

 

Charmian Hughes, meanwhile, advertises, “Drug-crazed moon worship and ,human banana sacrifice” in Raj Rage, where she describes her adventures on a trip round India.

 

The Barry Experience features the ineffable Barry Ferns who, in pursuit of laughs, once changed his name to Lionel Ritchie, a fact which still disconcerts the people at passport control

 

2 Brilliant new acts I have noted:

 

Half Baked, aka Nina Smith and Libby Northedge, won one of the Funny Women Awards in 2013 and are presenting a sketch show called Twisted Loaf on the free fringe. They are, I am reliably informed (by their handout), “a supremely fearless double act,”

 

He nearly won the BBC new comedy award last year and left me gasping with laughter but Mark Silcox is not what his name suggests. Seek him out on a bus.

 

And, finally, 2 musical comedy shows:

Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho, in which the iron lady lets her hair down and

 

Mighty Voice, featuring Jess Robinson – one of the UK’s top impressionists and singers – with the unbeatably fabulous Kirsty Newton on keyboards.

 

O yes, and Kirsty is in another show I have heard great things about - Arthur Smith sings Leonard Cohen (volume 2).

 

Hey, Arthur’s seat, put the kettle on man, I’m comin…….

 

ARTHUR SMITH SINGS LEONARD COHEN (VOLUME TOO) AT EDINBURGH FRINGE PLEASANCE

ARTHUR SMITH SINGS LEONARD COHEN (VOLUME TOO) AT EDINBURGH FRINGE
PLEASANCE

 

 

 

 

 

Oh Hazel

Originally Published here:

http://www.dementiablog.org/oh-hazel/

Oh Hazel

By  on 24 February 2014
http://www.dementiablog.org/oh-hazel/

http://www.dementiablog.org/oh-hazel/

 About 20 minutes into Arthur Smith sings Leonard Cohen (Volume 2) I speak a poem I have written that drastically shifts the mood of the show.

Tonbridge, Kent

Pulling up late
after the party,
they see her,
their neighbour,
standing in the street.

She is looking, she says,
for a lift to London.
She needs to get home.
‘Hazel,’ they tell her,
‘This is your home -
‘you live here, in this house.
London is 30 miles away.’

The door is open.
They take her in
and see she has packed a bag
(if a jumper and a packet of biscuits count as packing).

Oh Hazel,
It is 35 years since you left London
to live, as you liked to say, ‘in the shires’.

But there she still is
that grammar school girl
from Camberwell Green
kissing sailors and dancing
In Trafalgar Square.
It is VE day
and the rest of the century
Is yours.

Hazel Smith is my mother and the incident above was described to me by her neighbours, Paul and Lucy. When I started writing this Leonard Cohen show I had not intended to talk about her but I came to realise that one of my themes was loss and that my ma was struggling with her own losses.

Hazel bravely entered widowhood 10 years ago and did her best to embrace living alone for the first time in her life (she resisted moving in with us), but I knew how much she missed my father. Over several years she began to lose some of the things that had sustained and defined her – she stopped doing the garden, reading novels, making cakes, sending cards and letters. She began to repeat herself and mislay things and she began to drink alcohol in alarming quantities.

arthur-smith© Steve Ullathorne

I was uncertain at first about discussing her decline into dementia publicly – was it disrespectful? Too personal or too sad for what was essentially a comic enterprise? My brothers encouraged me and I did a try out in front of a small audience. I found that the sections in the show about Hazel affected the audience; afterwards several of them shared stories of their own parents and grandparents.

I won’t tell you any more about Hazel – you will have to come to the show for that – but, suffice it to say, she is now in a care home and her situation is miles better than it was last year; in some ways she is happier than she has been for years even though her short term memory is no more. My brothers and I visit her often and are always impressed by how diligent and understanding the carers are.

People say ‘live in the moment’ and I see that you can do this very easily if you can’t remember the last moment and have no idea what the next will be. On a recent visit Hazel and I watched the news headlines on TV together – famine and flooding. I remarked, “What a terrible world we live in”

“Yes,” said my mother, “I would hate it.” We laughed long and loud together.

  • Arthur Smith sings Leonard Cohen (Volume 2) at the Soho Theatre, London, from Sunday 16 February to Sunday 2 March. For more information and to book tickets, visitwww.sohotheatre.com

Strange Gigs

 

 

 

 

Picture from: http://bit.ly/NjTfat

Picture from:
http://bit.ly/NjTfat

With Boycott & Aggers

No doubt we all consider other lives we might have led. What if I had accepted that offer to train as a teacher when I was 24 and appeared to have few other prospects? Maybe I would now be a head teacher in, say, South Yorkshire with a wife who is a nurse and a regular part in the village panto?

Whatever other job I might have done I doubt it would be as varied and faintly ridiculous as the one that is being a comedian. As evidence of this let me list 5 of the gigs I did in the January that has recently floated off down the swollen river.

January 19.   Arthur Smith’s walking tour of Soho. I meet my audience in Soho gardens and take them off round the thronging streets where they pass a man in a tree, a couple snogging vigorously at every street corner they pass, a chorus line singing ‘Happy days’, a man dressed as a banana and, er, Paul Merton. I had planned the first 2 of these but the others have arisen by chance. Back in the gardens I signify the end of the walk by dancing dervishly in my new silver onesie.

Jan 22nd.       I have agreed to do a ten minute spot at the Comedy Cafe in London for an audience of French people. Thus I must deliver my set en francais. As it turns out  je me debrouille.

 Jan 23rd.      A late booking this, but one that intrigues. I journey to Birmingham Symphony Hall to join Sir Geoffrey Boycott and Jonathan ‘Aggers’ Agnew to talk about cricket and the disastrous Ashes tour that is just dwindling to a dismal halt. I try out a few shots in front of Sir Geoffrey who is suitably unimpressed…..

Jan 24th        MC-ing a comedy night in my local school (Ravenstone Primary School) for the parents, many of whom I have passed in Balham as they hurry to collect their kids. Tonight, however, they are all pissed and extremely aimiable. They make a great crowd and me and the other 2 comics (Ivo Graham and Jo Caulfield) all have a brilliant gig. It is nice to have a 2-minute walk home after too.

Jan 26th      Compering the NATYs – the New Act of the Year Awards in the Bloomsbury Theatre in London. This is the oldest and most respected of the New Act competitions and the list of its finalists contains many names of comics who have since become famous. There is a superbly wide selection of styles but most of the audience agree with the judges’ choice for the coveted title, ‘Top of the Bill’ (the word ‘winner’ seems to have banned), Alasdair Beckett-King, a suave stand up with some killer lines.

Jan 28th    Lunchtime finds me in the downstairs bar at the Prince of Wales theatre where I do a turn to kick off the Critic’s Circle Theatre Awards. There are some distinguished actors and all the number one critics who nod sagely when I say that being a theatre critic these days is like having Kim Jong-Un as your nephew.

 

So that was January. In February my itinerary is more predictable – I am doing Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Volume Two) at the Soho theatre from Feb 16th for 2 weeks and, although that Yorkshire panto would no doubt have been fun, I am pleased to be a stand up comic with all its ludicrous adventures. Not too long to the bluebells now….

 

Adventures en route to Leonard (1)

 

ARTHUR SMITH SINGS LEONARD COHEN (VOLUME TOO) AT EDINBURGH FRINGE PLEASANCE CABARET BAR : 3-18 AUGUST 2013

ARTHUR SMITH SINGS LEONARD COHEN (VOLUME TOO)

 

In February 2014 Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Volume 2) is playing at the Soho theatre (see link below). This is episode 1 of my account of the show’s birth….

What is it about? What songs will I sing? How will I sing them? What will I say? How will I say it? What the fuck is it about?

It is January 2013 and for 5 days John and I have been locked away with these questions and each other in a Travelodge in Eastbourne…..

Before Christmas I had told my loyal producer Rupert that, yes, there would be a follow-up to the Leonard Cohen show I performed 14 years ago and it would be ready for the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

I co-wrote that first show with John Dowie (who also directed) and was accompanied onstage by guitarist/comedian/superstar Ronnie Golden. Having now resolved a return to Len’s oeuvre, I asked them both to help me; Ronnie declined but John, after some nagging, agreed and suggested we start with a long, intense, creative session somewhere with no distractions.

Which is why we are in the Travelodge. For nearly a week we have been here making notes and discussing what the thing might be. What is it about? What songs will I sing? How will I sing them? What will I say? How will I say it? What the fuck is it about?

We have tried very hard, as a dozen pages of thoughts and ideas testify, but in truth we are nowhere near finding a path through it all. It is the coldest Eastbourne has been for years. In a pause between debates I stand by the window in John’s room and watch the sea fighting with the snow on the beach.

There are no two people in the world who could endure this intimate incarceration without clashing and, by now, John and I are predictably sick of each other. We take a break and I decide to go for a walk along the frozen cliffs outside town.

Other questions are now presenting themselves: Is this show a good idea? Why do it at all? What else can I do instead? What’s happened to me? Have I lost it? I am beginning to feel (correctly as it turns out) that John is losing patience and will soon pull out of the project. The snow turns to rain; I stop and look out to sea. This is grim. Then I realize that I am on Beachy Head. I laugh into the bitterness….

From Last Year’s Man by Leonard Cohen…..

 

The rain falls down on last year’s man,

An hour has gone by

And he has not moved his hand.

But everything will happen if he only gives the word;

The lovers will rise up

And the mountains touch the ground.

But the skylight is like skin for a drum I’ll never mend

And all the rain falls down amen

On the works of last year’s man.

 

(to be continued)

 

Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Volume Too)  Soho Theatre, London – 16th Feb to 2nd March 2014 - http://bit.ly/1auy20X