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Thursday, 29 August 2013

Best. Fringe. Ever.

Hello! Long time no see. Sorry. I was in Scotland, doing a thing. And it all got a bit busy and hectic. In a nice way, though. Regular readers will remember that I didn't have a very happy time at last years Edinburgh Fringe. I felt let down by those who should have been supporting me, and never really felt the show reached it's potential. This year though, boy, was it a different story.

I started writing and rehearsing "Showman" the day after I returned from last years fringe. I knew exactly what kind of show I wanted it to be, and knew that some of the pieces in it would need many months of practice, so as soon as I got back to London, I ordered the props and started work. It helped that I had an inkling that all the other elements - venue, production team, pr - might be a good deal better this year, so I felt motivated to get as good as I could.

Twelve months later, and here I am, back from the fringe again, with a smile on my face and a couple of stories to tell.

My venue this year was in the Pleasance Dome, and was just about perfect. Gorgeous raked seating, ceiling height just good enough, which is just how I like it, and enough space on stage for all my toys. It felt comfortable the moment I first stepped onto its stage. I had a lovely team of tech and front of house monkeys, who were the perfect balance of supportive, friendly and witheringly sarcastic.

My first show was - I'm reliably informed - fine. I don't really remember much because of..circumstances. The day of the first show, I was feeling what I assumed was nerves. That's to be expected, it's a high-pressure environment, and anyone that tells you they don't get nervous for the opening night of a new show is either a liar or a hack, or both. But my guts were churning more than is usual for me. It was odd. And then, over the course of the day, it was slowly..shall we say..revealed to me, that I did, in fact, have food poisoning. I wasn't sure until I listed, out loud, all the food I had eaten the previous day. When I said the phrase "Eastcoast Trains breakfast burrito", I actually heard my stomach reply with the word "Blurgkle". Case closed.

So, I was a little sweatier than usual on the first night, but it was plain sailing after that. And, what calm seas they were. It was all just easy and pleasant. I received lovely reviews, gorgeous big audiences..I even got a glowing feature in The Scotsman and a full page photo in The Herald. As I said at the time, the cobbles that cover almost every inch of Edinburgh are far easier to navigate when you have a spring in your step.

But of course there was more to my fringe than the one man show, every night I was also a core cast member of Lili La Scala's "Another Fucking Variety Show" along with the wonderful Boy With Tape On His Face, and just as it was last year, the show was a beautiful sparkly behemoth of top class variety and cabaret. It's a good sign when the acts on a show want to watch it, and the fact that there was a crowd of performers struggling to see from the back of the room every night says all that needs to be said. Highlights? Lili's mic failing, and her singing a beautiful French song acoustically, bringing goosebumps to every single audience member. Gamajobat hyping the crowd like only they can. Jason Manford showing what an amazing singing voice he's got. The mighty Jive Aces singing the theme tune of my heroes, "Bring Me Sunshine", assisted on vocals by Toni Elizabeth Prima - Louis Prima's daughter. Hi Top Drop setting fire to the place on the last night.. I could go on..

Lili is simply one of the best cabaret comperes in the business. Fucking class. "Sophie! Smoke!"

So, what else did I get up to..

As has become a tradition, I appeared/competed in Tricity Vogues Ukelele Cabaret, despite the fact that I am unable to play the ukelele. I did my bowling ball routine, and managed to find a creative way of proving that the bowling balls were real...

That was a £25 gag that was totally worth the spend. Especially since I won the audience vote that night. Ha.

I also ended up interviewing The Boy With Tape On His Face for the BBC, which is something that, a couple of years ago, would have terrified me, but thanks to my experience interviewing people on the London Varieties, ended up being a really fun, relaxed hour. More stuff like this, please.

Another highlight was my appearance on "Jordan, Jesse, Go!". I've been a fan of this Los Angeles based comedy podcast for at least five years, and it's been in my ipod during trips all over the world, on beaches, on cruise ships, to and from London club gigs, and has always entertained, so it was a real honour to be asked to be a guest on their only Edinburgh Fringe show. I think it went ok, although I'm not sure of the wisdom of putting a juggler on a podcast.. Glad they did though, and it was great having a drink with them afterwards and talking suits with Jesse, and which James Bond I fancy, with Jordan.

This time last year I posted a list of pros and cons of the fringe. You'll notice that this year, I've only talked about the good things, and that's because that's how it felt. It's never entirely fun being away from home, wife and cat, but this was by far the nicest it's been. Happy boy.

Oh, and one more thing..

What are you doing on Tuesday the 3rd of September?

That's right - you're coming to this:

We're having a little fundraising gig for a Cabaret Festival that we're's going to be fun..



8.30 sharp
Bethnal Green Working Mens Club

Be there and show your support for the London Cabaret Scene!

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