andrewcferguson

writer, performer, musician, wine drinker

Monthly Archives: August 2015

Andrew C Ferguson’s Virtual Fringe: Leaving the Party Early

I had my bout of post-Fringe tristesse early this year, on Tuesday night. As has often been the case, it was exiting a show in the Jura Unbound series at the Book Festival, in the late evening, and walking along a deserted Melville Street to where I’d left the car, preparing for the 50 minute or so drive home.

It wasn’t that the performance – Illicit Ink’s show, featuring the excellent Halsted Bernard – had brought me down any. Nor was it the fact that, instead of being part of the performance (as I have been at Unbound before, both with the self-same Illicit Ink and Writers’ Bloc) I was an audience member. In fact, quite the opposite: it has been a pleasure this year to sit back and watch my friends perform the hell out of stuff, when all I had to do was sit and watch.

It was the sense I had of leaving the party early: it was a school night; I was driving back over for non Fringe-related matters the next night; those were the main two excuses. But to be honest, I’ve had the same emotion after performing at the Spiegelbar too. Part of it, I think, is just how lonely that west side of the New Town is at that time, even during the Festival: you go in less than five minutes from the creatively spinning carousel that is the Book Festival at night to a place of solitude and parked cars, gearing up for the long drive back to central Fife.

I think it’s the feeling that, no matter how long you stayed up and how many shows you went to – or were a part of – you would always still be leaving the party early. There have been exceptions, of course. Like the year I was staying at Gavin Inglis’s flat, your man being something of a night owl at the best of times. I never knew a breakfast of Eggs Benedict could actually literally bring you back from the dead, but I found that out the next morning. Or it could’ve been the triple strength Americano. But my money’s on the Hollandaise sauce.

Anyways, mustn’t grumble. This year, as regular readers will know, your blog has been doing up a flat in Blackford, and two shows at Summerhall have been followed by a pleasant stroll down the hill to bed, instead of picking up speed past the Cramond Brig (or Miller and Carter Steakhouse, as it now is) feeling like I’m going in the wrong direction.

Plus I have musical plans for the rest of the year, lots of them. First up is the Venus Carmichael gig on 19th September, which I’ll start promoting next week when all this Fringe hoo-ha dies down. I had come hotfoot from a rehearsal with Kelly for that, via South Queensferry (see below). But there’s more, much more, so stay tuned!

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Andrew C Ferguson’s Virtual Free Fringe: ExNihilo

Bram Gieben is a recovering nihilist. In fact, at best, he’s a heroic pessimist. I know this from his show, ExNihilo, which I saw on Sunday, and from the book of the show (how cool is that? CDs too – but no t-shirt. I would’ve definitely bought a t-shirt with ExNihilo on it).

Backed by a sparse soundtrack of growling, prowling synths, Bram’s show tracks his progress from a disengaged believer in nothing having meaning to an engaged, activist(ish) teetering-on-the-edge-of-positive dude, by way of that referendum back last year (goodness! A year ago, nearly, already?) Any one-man show which is even part-autobiographical runs the risk of being seen as self-indulgent, but in reality the set pieces are the star turns: poems like ‘Keep Going,’ and ‘Burn’ (the latter of which caused a fist fight at a Glasgow open mic night, apparently) are utterly engaging.

Likewise, whilst I might have heard Bram’s central thesis before – that we are at the end of days, surfing on the death spasms of capitalism as it impales itself on the three-tined pitchfork of population explosion, climate change, and the military-industrial complex’s blinkered ideologies – I’ve never heard it so lyrically expressed.

I know Bram Gieben through our mutual membership of Writers’ Bloc, as a skilful writer of fiction and perspicacious critic of others’ work. I’ve been a fan of his performance poetry at a distance via YouTube (see below) but I’ve never experienced his solo work this close up, this intense, and this full on.

Please go and see this guy. Last chance this Sunday, 23rd, at 9.30 at Summerhall. Tear up your ticket to see the next stand up comedian, and go and see him instead. You don’t have to be a nihilist, an ex-nihilist, a Yes voter, or even a card-carrying member of the Green Party to enjoy it. You do probably have to be on the side of the angels, however you view that loaded statement.

Bram Gieben is a recovering nihilist. Bram Gieben is one hell of a performer. Go.

 

 

 

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Andrew C Ferguson’s Virtual Free Fringe: 10 reasons to see performance poetry instead of stand up

  1. Comedians have taken over Edinburgh’s Fringe. They’ve commandeered all the big venues, and use up all the advertising space with posters of their big old faces, gurning away like the glum game show hosts half of them actually are.
  2. Poets have been trying to plumb the depths of life’s mysteries with words for centuries. Ali Maloney’s Hydronomicon, for example, which I saw on Saturday night, explores flood myths, squid-based horror, and a looming watery world-end in an hour of fathoms-deep word play and performance. It’s also funny in bits, in a dark bouffon-ish way. In contrast, you could walk through most stand ups’ profoundest thoughts without getting your ankles wet.
  3. Stand up comedy shows cost a mint, leaving you less money for a decent rioja afterwards. Ali (and his stablemates in Shift/ A Best of Spoken Word) set you back a mere six quid.
  4. Poets have a greater verbal range. Here’s Ali’s pitch, for example: ‘Lovecraftian death burlesques, apocalypse rap; a bouffon mystery.’ Here’s what will likely be the opening line of most stand ups that have been on the telly: ‘Fucking Edinburgh! It’s fucking great to be here for the fucking Fringe. I fucking love it here. It’s fucking full of fucking Scots fuckers. So what about that fucking referendum then, eh?’
  5. At a stand up comedian’s show, you’ll either be sat beside someone who’s more lagered up than you are, and laughs like a baboon on helium every time the comedian says the word ‘fucking,’ or someone who’s less lagered up than you and is, frankly, a bit disappointed that the comedian, who seemed so funny on that panel show, has to say the word ‘fucking’ twice in every sentence.
  6. In case you’ve developed an allergy to poetry after forced overdosing on Philip Larkin at school, this isn’t like that. It isn’t like William McGonagall either, or that woman down the road who insists on reading a twelve page epic about the death of her golden retriever at every open mic night you’ve ever been at. Ali (and stablemates Bram Gieben, Rachel McCrum and Jenny Lindsay) are the absolute cream of Scotland’s performance poetry scene, combining wordplay and performance in a way that actually can sometimes resemble stand up. Except the words are better put together. And the performance is ten times more dramatic. And they don’t rely on tired old gags about how it’s hard to work an iPhone properly.
  7. They’re local. Even if they weren’t local originally, they are now (well, Bram lives in Glasgow, but he is over here a lot). Most comedians aren’t. Doesn’t make them bad people. Just saying.
  8. You can go for a drink with the performer afterwards (okay, so I know Ali personally, so that helps, but even if you didn’t, he’s such a personable guy you totally could anyway). I was in a bar in the Cowgate once and Paul Merton shouldered me out of the way to get served first at the bar. He’s a big fucker, I’ll give him that.
  9. The  comedians have taken over the biggest, most corporate venues to maximise income: so your night will be spent wedged at the back in a too-small bucket seat between the lagered up baboon on helium, and the unlagered one muttering about the excessive use of that word. On the other hand, Ali and the rest are performing in the atmospheric Cairns Lecture Theatre at Summerhall, which is so intimate you could practically reach out and touch the performer. Or, indeed, the performer could reach out and touch you, as Ali did to several audience members on a rampaging, preacher-stylee segment of his show (but only in a totally appropriate – in the circumstances – laying on of hands kind of way). You wouldn’t get Paul Merton touching you, not unless you were standing between him and his next pint of John Smith’s.
  10. The best of the comedy stuff will be on the telly anyway, so you can watch it from the comfort of your own couch, in easy reach of a reasonably priced rioja.