Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Long weekend in Dubai

Just got back from a few days in Dubai. I doubled up on gigs - performing at a street theatre and comedy festival during the afternoons, and then zipping off to a sparkly cabaret venue at night. Dubai is a complicated, and, if I'm honest with myself, problematic place, which brings up too many conversations to be neatly discussed in a stupid little blog like this one. The audiences, though, were uniformly lovely, and that's as good a litmus test as any I've found.

Over the next week or so I've put aside some time to work on some new material for a little later in the year, which is always an enjoyable process, and involves buying/making some new props, which still doesn't seem like real work.

The best camera is the one you have with you, they, say, and I had my phone with me in Dubai, so..

The brilliant Akira Endo killing it


Dubai's version of Elephant & Castle, clearly

This predictably opulent shopping mall provided the venue for a couple of the shows

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Best Adelaide Plans

So sorry about that title. Best I could do.

So - after five weeks, 72 shows, hundreds of audience members and countless iced coffees - we're done.

The Adelaide Fringe this year was a long adventure of hard work, gorgeous crowds and friends old & new. Had a great time, but ready to go home now. My beautiful grey city beckons.

Achievements unlocked: Was happy with my work, didn't go mental, and spent time with some lovely folks. Level up.

Here's to all my beautiful carny friends - you know who you are, and you know how sane you keep me. Special thanks, of course, to Tapeface and The Dutchess, and the Gag Reflex family. Fucking splendid people.

One last story to close this up with.

During the first week of shows, I happened to hand a flyer to a couple of people who mentioned that they were from Yorkshire. I told them that my parents live in Yorkshire, and we chatted for a while and then they moved on. Well, on the very last night, they came to the show. A middle-aged couple, and an older woman - I'm guessing one of their mothers. Sat in the front row and loved it.

After the show they made a point of finding me to tell me how much they enjoyed the show, and the older woman asked if I was a tap dancer. I said yes, a little. She used to be a tap dancer, she said. She told me she could tell I danced, by the way I moved in the hat and cane routine. You'll understand how happy that makes me. Then she asked if I knew the Bradford Alhambra. I do. It's one of the great Northern vaudeville theatres. "I used to be a sunbeam", she said, "An Alhambra Sunbeam".

So - on the last night of my show, I had, sitting in my front row a genuine, bona-fide music hall dancing girl. Not sure I could have asked for a more perfect and fitting end to a run. Thanks, sunbeam.

And just so you know - here's what the Sunbeams used to look like:

And here are some more images I shot with my phone of some of the people that helped make my time here so enjoyable...





Also got to play some nice stages...

And here are few more things that caught my eye..

Adrienne Truscott was here...

Thanks for the bench, Ted & Joyce.

DO NOT steal Kiran's chalk.

Cabaret pancake club!

Pretty cool roof for a shopping mall


On my way back to London now, next stops are the beautiful Leeds City Varieties on 21st and 22nd, and then the DubFest in Dubai on the 28th to the 30th. Wheeeeeee...

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Unearthly delights

My home this month

So, yes, after a fairly smooth, albeit absurdly long, flight - marred only by the big fat man in the seat next to me taking off his shoes, exposing his stinky feet and then stealing my vegetarian meal when I wasn't looking - I am in Adelaide. I am here to perform my one man show "Showman", pretty much every night for nearly five weeks. Most days I'll also be doing extra cabaret spots in comedy and variety shows, and for a week I'll also be part of the street performers festival programme, so it's going to be hard work, especially if I'm dumb enough to be wearing a three piece suit in one of the hottest cities in the world, which, of course, I am.

On the day I arrived, this place was, indeed, the hottest city on earth, then the following two days it rained torrentially and constantly, which flooded everything, but now the weather is back to what the locals un-ironically refer to as "normal". Which means that walking outside often feels like being a dog locked in a hot car. The air so hot and dry you can somehow feel it warm your lungs when you breathe. I am not complaining though. No whinging pom, I. Blue sky and a big gold sun is always welcome.

My show is in a lovely little tent called the Campanile, which is situated slap-bang in the middle of the very aptly named "Garden of Unearthly Delights". This place is great. A big, beautiful garden full of circus big tops, speigeltents, little sideshow tents, food trucks and fairground rides - every tree strung with fairly lights, a candy floss machine around every corner. It's the centre of the fringe, and I couldn't be happier to be there.

Happy happy happy happy

Apparently, my target demographic is women who want a wee

When I balance something on my nose during my show, this is what I see

What makes it even more delightful is that dozens of my friends are here too. After I finish my show every night, I can walk outside and see a bunch of old pals from my street performing days spruiking their arses off - clowns, escapologists and strong ladies who always bring a smile to my face, and whom I love very much. And then, a little further afield, in some of the tents, there are fellow conscripts from the British cabaret army - filthy singers who love pancakes, improvising rappers, intoxicating sirens and mighty tapefaces. And when you're away from home for five weeks, being able to talk rubbish with a familiar face is a valuable commodity indeed.

The ticket lady in the fake fur coat. She'll put a smile on your dial.

Not that I haven't been making friends with new people, specifically, the new people that have been buying tickets to come and see me every night. I wasn't prepared for the loveliness of the audiences. Here's the thing, as those of you who have seen me work in England will know, there's a strong self-effacing tinge to most of my stuff - I get an indecent amount of comedy mileage out of kinda, sorta apologising for what I do. That's something that grew out of years of British audiences screwing their faces up in annoyed confusion when you tell them you're a juggler. I think I've done pretty well getting past that, but still, it's a genuine and palpable first reaction to what I do, when I do it in my home country. But here, not so much. It blindsided me a little. At home, I'll open with a faux-apologetic "I'm a juggler, I know, I don't like it any more than you do.." kind of gag, but here in Adelaide by the time I've told them I'm a juggler, they're already grinning, whooping and ready for the first trick. It's.. really nice.

I walk past this every day. Makes me happy every time.
The shows have been going really well, I'm very happy with my work here, and I've been getting some very nice reviews. My favourite quote about the show so far, though, would have to be a tweet from a certain Lizardman, who, after watching my show, let this one fly:

So it's been a generally pleasant time here, marred only slightly but the little internet shitstorm stirred up by comedian Nadia Kamil's arrogantly dunderheaded bit of stand up about burlesque. It's making the rounds on youtube, and I'm not going to link to it here - you can find it if you want to. I'll just say this - to attack and dismiss an entire diverse artform - in which venues run mainly by women, book mainly female performers to work to mainly female audiences, wearing costumes and using props created by mainly female craftspeople - under the guise of feminism, is lazy stupidity. To use opinions, virtually all of which are simply and provably incorrect, while showing that you have absolutely no knowledge of the history, performers or purpose of that artform is ignorant and rude. But to then give away the punchline of a performers act, to steal her laugh for yourself, while getting a cheap giggle out of telling an audience how you and your friends talked about her behind her back? That's cheap playground nastiness, and it can fuck right off.

Nadia told me on twitter that the act wasn't about burlesque, but rather about her reaction to burlesque. That seemed to me like saying that Bernard Manning's racist jokes weren't about black and asian people, but rather about his reaction to them. So that's all right then. Meaningless cop-out which doesn't excuse her from having done something hurtful to a fellow performer.

And by the way, here's the act she was talking about, it's great. Lili La Scala wrote a very nice piece about it, here.

But that predicable rubbish aside, spirits are high in the garden. I may have been eating slightly too many ice cream sandwiches and burritos, if that is possible, and my addiction to diet coke has seamlessly transferred to a reliance on iced coffee, but things are ok.

Oh, and if you happen to be around this part of Australia, or know someone who is, come and see my show! It's my third one man show, and the one that I'm most proud of. You can read more details about it here. Oh, and click on "TalkFringe Reviews" on that page, to read what other audience members have said about the show.