One-Liners: Edinburgh Fringe Festival Reviews

I’ve written more detailed reviews for The Norwich Radical on shows by the Kitten Killers, Luke Stephens, Kate Smurthwaite, Pole and Hannah Chutzpah. Here I’ve included some smaller reviews to give you a flavour of some of my other many highlights.

Megan Ford: Feminasty

Satirical, character sketches and comedic speeches on gender, Ford switches between characters to connect comedy to more serious issues. We get a cool, informative zine on the way out, and a badge.

Shazia Mirza: A Word In Progress

There were moments I wasn’t sure about: the mention of ‘political correctness’, jokes about fat people, and Jewish people, and the upset at the mention of the girls who left Bethnal Green Academy. I work at the school down the road, and it’s something that directly impacts on the students I teach, but perhaps the point was to create discomfort. The theory that they went “for dick” seemed sadly poignant once the laughter died down and we were told that “epilator, knickers and body lotion” were on the top of their packing list. This is a slightly longer review, because I’m interested to see where the show will go, because, although funny, the ending – a commentary on Islam and so-called “ISIS” was momentous and powerful.

Bridget Christie: A Book For Her

There were at least three acts who mentioned the tax on sanitary products, but Christie suggested the ingenious idea of sending bloody knickers with “END VAT’ on them to George Osborne. In this show, she gave an ironic definition of what being a Feminist means and turned to politics in the UK and USA, with an intersectional focus on race issues.

Katherine Ferns: Conscious Incompetent

I disagreed with points made about “manspreading”, which is simply indicative of patriarchy, and as much a part of it as anything else, I didn’t like jibes at Beyoncé, and I didn’t like the use of the word “retarded”. However, she also made the obligatory tampon tax joke, and her ability to touch on taboo subjects such as incest, rape and pedophilia was both clever and somehow funny (and not in an offensive way). She spoke frankly of what difficulties in her life, from depression to drugs, and weighed up whether decisions she’d made were brave or stupid. Well, I’d say the brave outweighs the stupid.

Jack Rooke: Good Grief

He probably won’t want his youth commenting on, but I left Rooke’s show in awe of what he is doing. Not only has he created this wonderful show, which has the perfect balance of comedy and more sombre moments, but he is symbolic of how the personal is political. What goes on with the government directly impacts on our lives, and through The Good Grief Project, he is challenging current changes to the Widowed Parent’s Allowance.

Harry Baker: The Sunshine Kid

You couldn’t help but smile throughout this show, as Baker took us through his life prior to university to now through his poetry, which can be found in the book of the same title by Burning Eye Books.

David Lee Morgan: Building God

An intense show about revolution and communism, Morgan’s voice kept audiences captivated through his ways with words and the beat of the music he played as a backdrop.

Stephanie Laing: Nincompoop

A show about shame that started with not letting an old lady sit down, and inevitably went on to talk about drunken behaviour, bad dreams and sexual antics. With songs and a flute, Chesney Hawks, and a serious note about shame and self-harm, what’s not to love?

Bryony Kimmings and Tim Grayburn: Fake It ‘Til You Make It

I gave this show a standing ovation. I’ve never been made to cry from watching dancing before this. I bought the play text, but I wish I could relive the experience as I read. Bryony Kimmings and her real-life partner Tim Grayburn use comedy, dance, and spoken word to speak about mental health more honestly than I’ve ever seen before. It was incredibly touching and I wanted to cry a lot more than I actually did.

Sophia Walker: Can’t Care, Won’t Care

An insight into the care industry through a legal battle between the state and the carer. This shows as in with such jobs, there is minimal pay and agency for those who truly care about the individuals they work for, the service users. It was honest and passionate, and so heartbreaking.

The Kagools

No words and a whole lot of audience participation. I was thankful to do no more than eat a Hula Hoop. The best part was their use of pre-recorded material on the screen, and that whilst it felt like each part was a random act, it tied neatly together by the end.

Elf Lyons: Being Barbarella

I loved the Feminist angle of wanting to be this confident person, and wanting to be empowered sexually and otherwise. Lyon’s mis-matching accents was especially funny, as well as her use of costume.

Ben Norris: The Hitchhikers Guide to the Family

Ben Norris explores his relationship with his father through a hitchhike through all the places his dad had lived, proving an interesting story that explored masculinity as a whole and was sure to connect with many men in the audience.

Aisling Bea: Plan Bea

I loved this and was laughing constantly. She had good accents and I liked the reclaiming of ‘girl’ as a word of complexities, and there were slight political points, but worked in a subtle way. Again, this was about confidence and owning your own “shame” (her being in this heavy metal pirate video)

Mark Watson: Flaws

A show about flaws, obviously, and lacking self-esteem, mental health issues and turning to alcohol. Watson is such a warm character that you can’t help but warm to him (unless you were one of the three women who left after fifteen minutes).

Paula Varjack: How I Became Myself (By Becoming Someone Else)

A really interesting piece, as well as in terms of subject matter – the idea of changing your identity – but also in terms of how this was done visually – mixing front performance, through the camera and on screen. 

So It Goes

Another show with no words spoken aloud, but written on white boards, using props and dance to illustrate the story of Hannah’s dad, dealing with his death, and her friend David helping her to tell this story. There was laughter, and many, many tears.

Sara Hirsch: How Was It For You?

‘I can’t rhyme you,’ Hirsch proclaims, asserting why she can’t write a poem for her then-boyfriend, in the middle of what is almost a long love poem to the ex in question. But it was also a love poem to herself, and for everyone out there searching for love and the meaning of life.

Jemima Foxtrot: Melody

Beautifully intricate language, so poetic and mixed in, as the title would suggest, with a’cappella song. Foxtrot plays with humour and the unexpected in this wonderfully crafted piece.

Kirsten MacGregor: Hello Cruel World

I couldn’t believe this comedian was just 18 years old. It wasn’t only her grumpy persona that made her seem mature, but her confidence and comic timing.

Michael Burdett: Strange Face – Adventures with a Lost Nick Drake Recording

Really interesting true story of… well, it does what it says on the tin. There’s a book with lots of people, including well-known people, photographed whilst listening to the a rare recording of ‘Cello Song’ with their stories.

Mark Stephenson: Amsterdam

A hilarious story about an absent father, a beautiful marriage and selective mutism. Or it is? Very much recommend.

Izzy Tennyson: Brute

I find it difficult to create characters that exist beyond binaries of good and bad, yet Izzy Tennyson managed to do this in the creation of ‘Brute’. In the classic conversational style of Tennyson, she embodies a teenage girl to tell a story that is familiar in the sense of going to a single-sex state school, but looking into why girls can be bullies, exploring the complexities of a psyche so often dismissed.

Dan Simpson: Nerdsmith

Reading poems from his Burning Eye Book, Applied Mathematics, Simpson attempts and admittedly fails to get to the heart of an emotional provocation. But at the end, it’s okay, as the audience enjoy his playing with language, from puns to extended metaphors. I bought his book in hope of some poetic inspiration!

Tim Renkow: Kim Jong-Un, Mohammed, Jesus and Other Power-Hungry Maniacs

Renkow was knowingly provocative in his comedy from the onset, warning the audience that his record number of walk-outs is nine people. However, I was most offended by the implication that, in telling an anecdote to illustrate negative attitudes to disability, his erection was due to the woman’s “fear”. There were certainly other moments where I questioned where he was going, but you didn’t have to wait for long to see that he was mocking injustices he sees in society.

So, it was pretty much all amazing…

There were some I enjoyed more than others, but the only show I was completely disappointed by was Tony Law. I’d seen him before, but a majority of this improvised show I didn’t find funny, and on top of that I was worried about him, especially when he started to drink a pint after telling the audience he’s quit drinking. I hope he’s okay…

Tell A Story: #1 Desert Island at Bestival 2014

I’ll write a proper update soon. Things are busy. I got ill for four weeks… that didn’t help. I feel like I have to sit down and write a big long post, like, settle down, let me tell you a story with a cup of tea.

Anyway, speaking of stories, while you wait for another long post (because our attention spans are so great, and you love me so much), have a listen to this podcast on Tell a Story. It features myself alongside two other members of the old (old!) Roundhouse Collective, Joel Auterson and Sophie Fenella – and we’re now called ‘Kid Glove’! I hope you like it, because it was a long process.

It also features Kate Tempest, Tim Clare and Scroobius Pip. I wasn’t very good at it; I’m an INFJ (which I just got a book on) and maybe that has something to do with it. I need to be briefed and have time to prepare… hence I’m not on it much! Oh my god, that was literally the only vaguely good thing I came out with.

Not quitting the day job just yet folks. At least I’m educating a few young people on the way.

Ben Howard: How not to do a gig.

So, I’m thinking of creating some tips for artists after seeing Ben Howard at the Roundhouse, where I was on the guest list after being part of the Poetry Collective there. Sadly I had this idea from a ‘what not to do’ perspective as I was utterly disappointed in Howard’s performance, as were many other audience members. Our only solace was a good old British moan afterwards.

A British lad, one might expect that typical dose of modesty. Actually, it looked more like this Venn diagram:

At times he was overly self-critical, saying ‘you know when you wake up and sometimes you’re not funny and sometimes you are, well today I’m not funny.’ Ensue sparse polite laughter (what this meant to be irony?) Yet, as he whisked through songs from his new album, he told fans ‘Is this how it works? You get free tickets, you get what you’re given.’ This felt deeply insulting to the audience; was our time worth nothing? I would have happily had a night at home instead of this gig, and goodness knows I needed one.

There would surely be people who travelled further than my hour-ish journey to see him. I had been waiting to see him for years and never been able to, and I had been listening to his old album in excitement. Yet, there was a woman in front of me who knew all the words to the only song he’s released from the new album, suggesting there were bigger fans than me out there. How do you think they felt?

Howard also spent a lot of the set sitting down whilst most of the audience were standing, unable to see. Some would have come straight from work, some spending money, no Ben, not on tickets, but on food and drink, and whatever else, to go to the gig. And he’s sitting down. I’m sorry, genuinely, do you have ME? Do you have an actual reason why you needed to sit down? The audience, whoever they are, came to see you. YOU! And you owe them respect if it really was such a privilege to be performing at the Roundhouse after being at The Enterprise a few years ago.

IMG_2396

My friend, Hannah, and I bought lovely beef chilli burritos and sweet potato fries for dinner from The Enterprise – that was the best part of the night. This sentimental comment from Howard just seemed contradictory and his point was made clear as he left the stage without an encore and no old album tracks. Do you think we want to buy the album now? Do you think we’re dying to see him live again? I’m afraid not. It may be fun for the artist to play all new material, but it’s about the relationship between the audience too, and whilst we would have been happy to listen to some new material, it would have been best to also play songs we know and love. Instead, the performance was alienating and underwhelming.

So, some lessons to learn from Ben Howard:
1. Give a mixture of what you would like to do and what you know the audience wants.
2. Put your all into it no matter how big or small.
3. Don’t be a dick: appreciate and respect your audience.

Bestival

bestival2014

“Are you doing burlesque?” – “No, I’m doing poetry”

On Sunday 4th March I finally made my first appearance at Finger in the Pie Cabaret at Madame JoJo’s. I did a sound check which was a bit odd as I’ve never really done one before. I then had a long time to wait in the dressing room. My nerves were building in this time, and made all the more intense as the room was bursting with other performers; mostly burlesque dancers. The atmosphere was more intense than other poetry gigs, because there was more of a sense of unity and collectivism – we were putting on a show together, rather than just individually putting on each act. It was a very supportive and friendly environment. Everyone was lovely, but burlesque dancers Shady Lane and Velvet Lune spoke to me the most. Marga, another burly girl, from Italy, made a great effort to speak to everyone. Although not in the show, Annaliza Jennings was also really lovely – she does the marketing side of The Cheek of It!

The butterflies in my stomach, and sudden mind-blanks regarding my act, reminded me of my days at Gemini Dancers shows (Royal Albert Hall baby!) and UEA Dance Squad and Pole Dancing competitions. Before taking to the stage, the hosts (Moonfish Rhumba, reminded me a bit of Flight of the Conchords) assumed I would be doing burlesque when checking my act, and I told them I was actually doing poetry. They were going to mention I had books to sale (Carmina’s Poetry Tease) but sadly didn’t which is a shame because I would have mentioned it myself at the end and maybe would have sold some. It’s not really something you can just mention every time someone compliments you!

I wish someone had filmed the performance as it pretty much went perfectly. I was thrown a bit at one point when I thought someone had been laughing inappropriately, but I remembered all my poems – yay! I felt I performed well and gave a performance worthy of the £10/12 entry (although, as we discussed, none of us were getting paid). I think most of the material I chose suited the environment and I got a few laughs. And although I felt a little less glamorous than all the burly girls, without the glitter, I thought that my outfit gave a nod to the cabaret surroundings, wearing my pink fascinator (which I love). As I stepped out of the backstage area and into the audience, I was surprised by the people sitting directly behind the door. A guy gave me a thumbs up (which I will assume was in approval of my performance) and a few other people congratulated me on my efforts and said they enjoyed it. One girl put it on the same level as Glastonbury performances (organisers, take note for 2013!) Overall, it was a great show and I was really happy to be a part of it.

I did decide to take out one the poems I was going to read as it may have been misconstrued, as there is a line that says ‘I will not wear nipple tassels and knickers and call myself burlesque.’ I had the feeling that this may be seen as a negative statement and I didn’t want to have to explain myself. What I mean by that line is more complicated than a statement about burlesque dancing. It is more about the idea that not everyone can be a burlesque dancer, and is more a reference to girls that go out clubbing in such attire (I have witnessed a picture of one girl where she only had one of the nipple tassels on) and a comic poking at myself for times I may have gone out with too-revealing clothes, where the goal is to attract male attention. It is a statement to say I will not act like that, with an implication that maybe you have in the past but need to embrace the past and what you have learnt.

It is also about the discussions that took place at Madame JoJo’s. The burly girls told me that the clientele of the Proud Cabaret at Fenchurch Street wasn’t nice. I got the impression it had a seedy vibe, and attracted leery men that just want to see naked women, which is not what burlesque is about. If I were ‘Proud’ I’d take on board the feelings of the performers and get stricter with the audience. The point is, there is so much more to burlesque than simply taking your clothes off and I realised that more than ever being in the company of such lovely ladies; witnessing the nerves, the glitter, the hairspray and the huge amount of preparation it takes to get an act polished to perfection.

Here’s the full poem:

Tick the Box

I will buy a Yorkie bar, let it melt in my mouth and drink milk,
ignore the calories and not stick my fingers down my throat to be sick.
I will dream I have a dick
at night in my bed alone, wrapped in Cath Kidson flowers

I will be unattainable, no I’m not available
for you to screw, do what you do, and leave in the gutter
like butter wouldn’t melt.
And any tears I cry are simply for the time I’ve wasted in my life
over those that didn’t deserve more than the stir
of the spoon in my cup of tea,
because life is short and some people you just don’t need.

I will drink a cocktail or a can of lager,
and don’t want to know you if you judge me on the choice.
I will be shy as I am but you will never take my voice.

I will not wear nipple tassels and knickers and call myself Burlesque.
I will not fuck drunk, load each hole with spunk and call myself a feminist.
I will not be a nought
or throw myself over the balcony
or drown myself in the river
or have my tongue cut out by some Tereus
I will not be trapped in the attic
or be called over-dramatic,
or be told to rest, suffocated by yellow wallpaper
until my death.

I will not let you put me in a box of what you think female should be,
all I know is who I am, and I can only be me.

It has been a bit of a Feminist weekend. On the Saturday I had taken the day off work to go to the Million Women Rise march. Sadly, none of my friends came along so I had to go on my own. It was a rainy morning but by the time I arrived at Bond Street, the sun was shining. I got a bit of free cake from the Hare Krishna stand and chatted to a couple of people. We marched through the streets with tourists snapping cameras and filming like we were celebrities.

It was great doing the different chants and making a statement in such a way, that seemed to have more impact than Reclaim the Night due to its central pathway. My favourite was ‘power to the women, women have the power, sisters can you hear me, getting strong by the hour. Power! Power!’ This was because, it felt (needless to say really) very empowering. The rally in Trafalgar Square was interesting, informative and very moving.

Taking advantage of my time off work, I also went with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages to the Hayward Gallery. David Shrigley’s Brain Activity and Jeremy Deller’s Joy in People was showing. I’d only seen Shrigley in books and in collective exhibitions.

It was great to see the variety of work he has done and his 3D work, which is pretty much like walking into a pop-up book of his illustration work. He is known for being very comic, but it was interesting to see the more macabre side.

I was not really that aware of Deller,
however, I really enjoyed what he brought to the show, and found it interesting how
a thread of the concept of obsession in his work. The mining stories reminded me of my Grandad as he is from Barnsley, which was the setting at the point I started viewing from. It was also intriguing to watch the piece about Depeche Mode fans.

It also documented a lot
of the 80s and 90s which gave it a real sense of that era. I especially liked the quirkiness of the cafe installation, and the recreation of his bedroom exhibition. I also liked Pensées, which included extracts from his artist’s book, compiled from toilet graffiti – and in this case, surrounding an actual toilet. When a queue formed, this amused me quite a bit.

I found both artists inspiring in terms of my own work. Deller’s bedroom piece had elements of my own idea for my MA showcase. Shrigley inspired me in the more general sense, about how text and imagery work together, as well as this mixture of comedy and tragedy.

Well, it’s a longer post than usual, so if you’ve made it to here, congratulations. One last note; you can now find my work on Zukuri UnLtd – I have one piece up and running, with the next to follow shortly.

On here, look out for the Artist of the Month for March. As you can see, I’ve been busy, but it’ll be posted soon. Meanwhile, see if you can guess who it might be?! Also, I will be attending Lady Ha Ha  at Norwich Playhouse, to celebrate International Women’s Day. Let me know what you’re doing for it!

xxx

Lady Fest Ten

Last night I went to the Lady Fest poetry open mic event ‘So She Said’ at The Victoria in Mile End.  I went after work and grabbed a burger and wedges from Cafe 1001 (and a sneaky Carlsberg).  The features of the night were Chrissy Williams, Dzifa Benson and Liz Bentley.  Chrissy Williams I thought was okay but perhaps more of a “page” poet, given by her numerous publications of which I can only dream of being in currently.  If I remember correctly a lot of the poems involved dialogue, which I thought maybe was in order to fit in with the event title, which would have been a cool thing to do, if it was intentional.

My favourite feature was probably Dzifa Benson.  I usually find it more difficult to concentrate on the poet prior to going up myself, but I really liked her set, especially one she read about skin.  I was pleased with how my set went and the girl who went up after me (can’t remember her name, but she was good!) said she enjoyed my set.  She also told me she’d only started doing poetry readings a week or so ago!  Where have all these amazing poets come from that need like nooo practice to perform amazingly?  (Like Vanessa Kisuule, whose name I wanted to mention in my last Farrago post but am not sure if I did). I also was compared to Brigitte Aphrodite by, Nikki Shaill, one of the event organisers who approached me about contributing to the Lady Fest Zine.  I was really surprised by the comparison, but I don’t know maybe it’s the inflection in the voice when performing, expression of emotion or something.  I don’t have music in my act (yet!) but if I were to sum up Brigitte’s act, I would describe it as of the cockney music hall variety.  Maybe it was ’cause I was with my cockney-East-end-born&bred friend, Elliot Snook (soon to be happy-hardcore music producer, so he tells me).  I told my mum this and she said I sound “more cockney” when I read my poetry.  My own mother!  I was not impressed, I shall have to “get my posh on” in future, all these comparisons unnerve me; flattering as they are, as my friends are saying a lot these days ‘I love it, but it kinda makes me sick’.  I guess it’s because I like these people, but see myself as very different to them in so many ways… I guess I’ve always felt I can’t be put in a box (although I LOVE quizzes, you know the ones that try to put you in boxes).

OMG!  Two embarrassing things happened to me related to this night as well:

1.   I was on the tube and decided to watch the recording of my performance with my Ipod in, to see how long I was on for (which I found out after you can see without doing that).  My camera’s at the repair shop, so I was borrowing my mum’s, so I also didn’t know that you could hear SOUND when you play it back (mine doesn’t do that).  I even took my earphones out to check but didn’t seem to hear anything, but my mum told me you could after. So yeah, embarrassing!  Especially as there was someone who performed there on the tube near me probably thinking what a weirdo loser I was!

2.  My parents had their couple friends round for food and drinks, and I went to bed, leaving the camera with my mum as she wanted to take pictures.  She told me the next day how great their friends thought my performance was (and compared me to Kate Nash, grrr – see above).  I was soooo embarrassed!  Mainly the content of my poems.  I’ve performed in front of my parents before but carefully picked my poems!  Poems about body hair and ex-boyfriends would not be top of the list!  Argh! and I haven’t heard it myself yet, hopefully will be able to upload it tonight though!

Anyway, back to the event!  Liz Bentley was the last feature and I was enjoying her performance and laughed at her reference to Rachel Pantechnicon, feeling a bit pleased with myself that I got it.  So I enjoyed it, despite my personal aversion to people with her first name, UNTIL she did a poem about hating her sister and asked people in the audience to answer whether they hated their siblings.  Elliot said he loved his, and he exclaimed “she’s only two!”  Liz then engaged in banter, trying to amuse the audience by making out he was “weird” for loving his sister.  I felt a wave of embarrassment come over me, like that feeling when you forget lines and everyone is looking at you.  Aware it wasn’t me that should feel awkward, I told Elliot ‘I want the world to swallow you up’.  I just thought it was an underhand thing to say, as he wasn’t heckling and I found it inappropriate and basically rude.  *Sigh* Disappointing.

The next So She Said event is 7th September and I’ll hopefully be going along again.

xxx