Thursday, November 06, 2008

Congratulations On Purchasing Your New Obama!

I like to keep in touch with what’s going in the world by checking my friend’s status updates on Facebook and I’ve been overwhelmed the last couple of days by the news that some Obama chap has been elected President of the United States. After doing some research I also discovered he’s black!

Now the one thing that everyone involved in campaigning, covering and coveting the whole mess seems keen to stress is that Barack Obama being elected President of the United States is in no way to do with him being black. Except it is, but it isn’t, least not in an important way. But it kind of is. What it all seemed to boil down to was that History (whatever omniscient God that is we pray to) will look back and say, ‘Marjorie! They first elected a black president in November 2008!’ and this is ‘important’ however, as any rational thinking human established way back when families first waved goodbye to each other from the African shores, the colour of a human’s skin makes no difference to whether they fuck up or not on all the things they promised. This deliverance of promises/endorsements is what is ‘important’ right now.

Still, his acceptance speech was good enough to make me feel guilty about my automatic position of casual cynicism so I hope the rest of the world joins with me in giving Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt.

It is an impressive feat given the recent background of civil rights in America. After all, this is the office of the President of the United States of America I’m talking about. Many (Americans) consider this, the position of absolute leadership, the chance to lead the Free World (their term, not mine), the pure unholy power, to be the highest attainable position in the Universe (after Jesus and God of course, and a view of rulers apparently shared by the majority of civilisations). ‘One day, son, you could be President!’, that seems to be the thought that most immediately springs to mind when I think of an American father encouraging his son, but that might be because I watch too much Simpsons.

But after this Election the sex and the race of the parties involved no longer matter. Whilst Hilary Clinton didn’t exactly smash head first through a glass ceiling this time, she did at least admirably bump into it, like an albatross might a ship’s bayside window. And it’s an amazing thing. The importance of a woman and a black man running for President of the United States cannot be underestimated more than it is overstated. The 106 year-old Anne Nixon Cooper that Obama mentioned in his speech has gone from times of not being able to vote because of her sex and the colour of her skin, to... voting for someone she wanted to be elected as her representative leader a century on. Yes sir! these are evolved times.

Sadly, as wonderful as these things are in a weird way, my ears were pricked by a list of people that Obama mentioned at the beginning of his acceptance speech that don’t have the same chance of reaching this illustrious position simply because of accident of birth or their beliefs. He said that anyone who doubts whether America is a land where all things are possible has been answered ‘now’ (presumably meaning January 11th when things can actually happen), by the people who’s voices answered them, ‘the young and old… rich and poor… Democrat and Republican… black and white… Hispanic, Asian, Native American… Gay, straight… disabled and not disabled’ and I immediately began to ponder, in this new age of tolerance, how many of these people could conceivably be elected President of the US of A?

Obviously some of these conceivability conundrums are easier to answer than others, so let’s take them in reverse alphabetical order. By the way, any notion of likelihood I make up for a person being elected in no way corresponds to its moral significance. I don’t care whether the potential inconceivability of a poor, gay, disabled Native American atheist being elected President of the United States makes it more or less important than any other minority. So, from the rear we have:

1.) Young and old.
Bzzzzt! wrong if you’re younger than 35. Your opinion between 18 and 35 is important, but not important enough for you to actually make decisions based on your opinions. Same for anyone diving headfirst out of threescore and ten. And fair play as well. Anyone younger than 35 is clearly a liability, as are ye oldes. You can’t depend on your dependents. Inconceivable!

2.) Rich and poor.
Getting into the White House does not appear to be cheap. A soapbox bum with a sound fiscal policy and superb welfare reform plans won’t be heard if he can’t afford a million-strong team of propaganda merchants. That said, a child born into poverty who works their way to riches has just as much chance of getting to the White House as anyone else. Half-conceivable!

3.) Hispanic, Asian, Native American.
Three groups that all have something in common in that they’re all minorities who have been fucked around to varying degrees by the American government. This means they are generally discriminated against by white middle-America who finds the idea of ‘one of them’ ruling the world somehow wrong. This group four years ago would also have included African-Americans and been labelled Inconceivable! Of course Obama’s changed all that for the better, so who knows? (So long as they’re born in America). Personally I reckons Steven Seagal should run, that’s one Native American who would get my non-existent vote. Conceivable Due To Recent Events!

4.) Gay, straight.
For starters I’d like to add ‘single’ to this group. True, James Buchanan was a bachelor through his presidency and Grover Cleveland married during his first term, but nowadays expecting the voter to treat a grinning individual with no family home as anything but sinister seems to be going a bit far. Meanwhile gay activists continue to fight the good fight and it’s not Inconceivable! that in a few years the gay stereotype will have vanished enough for it not to be an issue. This does perhaps re-raise the question of a family life though. That’s a lot of prejudices you gotta cut through… And straights are the ones causing the problems, so fuck them. Perhaps Conceivable!

5.) Democrat and Republican
Well duh. It’s not like the Independents have got any hope. Conceivable!

6.) Disabled and not disabled.
The question here really is what counts as disabled and not disabled. Does a top Harvard graduate with brilliant intelligence and a beautiful singing voice make me somehow disabled in comparison, as I am unable to do the things he does? If so then disabled and not disabled are two vast categories that reside either side of what society determines ‘average’ and given the last President it would seem (insert your own George W. Bush joke here, I can’t be arsed). But if Obama means severely disabled people, such as paralysed folk, those with severe mental retardation, or a terminal illness then it’s Inconceivable! It’s a sad fact that deep down no one would let a cripple lead them. Would Jed Bartlet have been elected if he’d declared his MS while running? Inconceivable!

7.) Atheists and Muslims
Two notable absences from the list of people that answered the world and surely the most Inconceivable! to be President at this time in America. Obama’s speech admirably contained next to no reference to religion. Whereas McCain in his concession speech said that Obama’s grandmother was with God watching him, Obama simply said she was watching him. Slightly creepy but acceptable. But it scares me senseless that the majority of voting Americans just would not trust a presidential candidate who believes in rational thinking and questioning the religious dogma of the past. Maybe it’s that whole ‘connection to God’ thing that our Emperors have to have, if your leader doesn’t have a God, how can he be trusted to have morals? This reasoning is of course mindvomit but the type I’m irritably used to hearing.
Of course if you do have a God it’s got to be the right one. Enough fuss was kicked up about Obama’s name and whether he went to a Muslim school as a child (he did, but funnily enough not all Muslim schools are indoctrinating terrorist factories), that an actual full-blown Muslim running for office may lead to another civil war as inbreds scream in terror and shoot that which they don’t understand. Inconceivable!

It’s easy to take the pessimistic approach and say that there’s a deep-rooted part of America that would never vote for anything less than a God-fearing Caucasian male but if this election has taught us anything, it’s that idiots can be sold any idea, even if they think they don’t agree with it, and this can be used for the power of wholesome good. Allow me to demonstrate and end with this tale of a canvasser knocking on a family’s door in Washington, Pennsylvania. A woman answers and the canvasser asks her how she will be voting in the upcoming Presidential election. ‘
‘Hal!’, the woman screams. Hal is apparently in another room watching television.
‘What?!’ Hal screams back.
‘Who are we voting for this year?’
‘We’ve voting for the nigger!’
The woman turns back to the canvasser, smiles and says, ‘We’re voting for Obama.’
With that in mind I do feel like America is genuinely capable of anything. Even if it goes about it in the most roundabout, contradictory, cackhanded way, at least it does it or dies trying.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Tell-Tale Heart

Malthouse Melbourne
The maddeningly slow fade out of the houselights and the darkness that follows sets a suitably uncomfortable tone for Poe’s short story. Martin Niedermair gives an entrancing performance as the murderer, his dementia captured by the stuttering, twitchy delivery and his scrambling up and down an endless staircase. Director Barrie Kosky accompanies on piano, the chilling soundtrack and Niedermair’s haunting singing voice combining to raise the tension of the piece. However, while the staging and performance are wonderfully unsettling, the main problem comes from the source material. For what is meant to be an insight into the mind of a murderer this play lacks the real psychological intrigue that’s expected. Inexplicable insanity is disturbing to watch, but not particularly satisfying.
Royal Lyceum Theatre, 9 – 11 Aug, Times Vary, From £10, eifp 10.

The Magical Jello Returns, Again!

Calum Fleming
It’s a surreal experience watching a children’s magician plying his trade and realising that nothing has changed in 17 years. The props, the tricks and the crappy puns are exactly the same now as they ever were. There’s certainly a case for the ‘if it ain’t broke’ argument and given the uncontrollable hyperactive hysteria radiating off the young children the old routines are still as popular with their target audience as they ever were. Despite this Calum Fleming appeared nervous in his performance, he could stand to relax a whole lot more. Also this is the kind of show you’d expect at a children’s birthday, there are a lot more imaginative ways to keep children entertained at the Fringe.
Diverse Attractions, 11 – 16 Aug, 11.15 am (12.05pm), £4.00, fpp 16.

Christmas Is Miles Away

High Aces Theatre Company
You can’t help but wonder at the thought process that goes into the decision to bring a play like Christmas Is Miles Away to the Fringe. It’s not exactly a cheap and stress-free time of year, so your play needs to have something distinctive or unique about it to separate it from the myriad of other shows.
To say Christmas Is Miles Away is bland in every sense may sound harsh but there really is so little of it that offers some sort of original entertainment. The concept of two teenage boys, Christie and Luke, who are best buds before their friendship breaks down via female catalyst Julie is played out as predictably as possible. Meanwhile brief moments of sincere meshing of script, character and actor are not enough to distract from the nagging lack of imagination that’s gone into the production. When Christie expresses his near-constant angst-riddled frustration for the 53rd time by sticking his hands in his pockets, sighing and turning to the audience the shortage of ideas becomes almost comical.
It may be that a script that murmurs the death of Christie’s father a couple of times as an unimportant detail and cuts out just as scenes are clawing towards development made it hard for the director and actors to find something to latch on to.
However it happened, the end result is an average piece of theatre. There’s nothing shockingly bad, but why watch it when you can see everything it does done better?
The Space @ Jury's Inn, 11 - 16 Aug , 5.05pm (6.25pm), £7.50 (£7.00), fpp 191.

The Park Keeper

Belt Up
This grotesque macabre piece has no seating arrangements, the audience being scattered around the Red Room, a dark and decaying boudoir of a space specifically created for the show, by actors painted up with black and white faces who take coats and bags, chatting away in their bizarre characters. It’s a perturbing introduction and sets the tone nicely for the show.
What follows is a curious hour of theatre. The actors throw themselves around, distorting and contorting their bodies in spasmodic movements, with effortless ease of physicality. Audience members are danced with, brought into scenes and generally forced into this disturbing gothic freakshow of a world that the cast have created. It’s a well-executed piece of immersion theatre and shows great imagination on the company’s behalf.
However, despite the voyeuristic joy of watching these weird figures there’s something missing in the writing. It is apparent what writer and director Nikolaus Morris is going for in his exposure of decadence, control and the animalistic urges of humans, but there is a lack of clarity in the communication. By the end any chances of grasping at exactly the meaning is has been lost in a script that could do with more tightness and precision in its wording.
The Park Keeper is one of a series of five plays by Belt Up and this company’s ambitions and obvious talent mark them out as a group that can only get better as they

Damian Callinan In ‘Mmm… They’re Small’

Damian Callinan
Damian Callinan’s personal story of dealing with impotency is probably as close to feelgood male empowerment comedy as it gets. Whatever that is. His introduction as a nurse handing out semen sample cups doesn’t bode well but his skill lies in attacking the subject of male impotency with honesty, exposing the hilarity behind the situation with anecdotes that, while knob-related, aren’t too cheap.
The delivery is at times unintentionally awkward, there are various cardboard characters and jokes are either missed by the audience or, in the case of using a plunger to offer a sample to the front row, too terrifying for some to enjoy. If comedy is a wank, this is a guilty trip to your mum’s underwear drawer.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 30 Jul – 24 Aug (not 12), 6.15pm (7.15pm), £9.50 (£8.50), ffp 43.


Avalon Promotions
There’s something about Zimbani that doesn’t quite click. This 70s spy adventure pastiche is great fun for its ridiculous male posturing, bad ‘taches and absurdly dramatic dialogue, but it’s a narrow genre that’s been done before. If a joke misses it’s normally because the audience have already seen where it’s going. The script ripples with nice ideas and wit, there’s a good consistency of jokes, but the narrative never leads anywhere, in the end barely saving itself from an attempted abortion in order to draw to a conclusion. Despite its flaws there is obvious talent in the performances and if the words Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace mean nothing to you then you’re in for a treat of an hour.
Pleasance Courtyard, 30 Jul – 25 Aug (not 20), 2.45pm (3.45pm), £9.50 (£8.50), ffp 111.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Titus Andronicus

Renowned as Shakespeare’s gorefest, Titus Andronicus has little to recommend it over other tragedies beyond its uber-violence and the unsettling effect it can have on its audience. It’s such a shame then that this production shows no imagination in its staging. The violence is more bland than disturbing, the plethora of opportunities to draw an unwillingly complicit audience into a visceral world of bloodlust involve either a desensitised and unconnected stabbing motion, or, even more criminally, the distant and utterly pointless inclusion of video footage. Only Bob Hamilton as Titus shows any taste for the manic, the final image of him dressed as a bloody chef giving the briefest of glimpses at what could have been a grotesque macabre piece.
Sweet ECA, 2 – 9 Aug, 2.35pm (4.05pm), £8.00 (£7.00), fpp 237.

Nola Rae – Exit Napolean Pursued By Rabbits

Nola Rae
The beauty of this show is in its simplicity. Utilising nothing more than a battered Napoleonic soldier’s equipment and flimsy tent Nola Rae’s carefully choreographed clowning pokes wonderful fun at military figures. Her ability to turn a woolly pair of socks into a rabbit, a leather satchel and coat into the vivid image of a soldier, show an expert imagination and comic eye for transforming basic items into instantly recognisable characters or props. At times the narrative path lacks clarity and the gaps between certain set-ups and payoffs are too prolonged, but her ability to work with an audience and keep them entertained and engrossed for the majority of an hour without uttering a word is remarkable. I salute her!
Footsbarn’s Big Top at Calton Hill, 2 – 15 Aug, 5.00pm (6.20pm), £10.00 (£8.00), fpp 219.

Infanta: User's Guide

Erika Blaxland-de Lange
Due to a recent habit I have developed I shall be reviewing this show in the form of a haiku. If you think this makes me a self-indulgent and talentless git who is wasting your time and saying less than nothing then you have an exact appreciation of what this show is like. So-called Magherita for the briefest of moments gave a knowing reference to the theatrical pain she was inflicting on the audience but what these performers need to realise is that communicating deeply personal emotions through random phrases and cries requires some inherent semblance of thought and talent. Anyway, here’s the haiku:
Jumbled and pointless
Half the crowd left and were right
This is just painful.
Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, 31 Jul – 10 Aug, 7.05pm (7.55pm), Free, fpp 206.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Another Side Of The Mirror

Lynn Ruth Miller
Lynn Ruth Miller is playing with loaded dice here. You’d have to posses a heart of purest black cynicism to slag off this 75 year-old Fringe veteran as she relates stories of her life and the lessons she has learned.
She tells her tales as you would imagine a loving grandmother would to her grandchildren, recalling the first glimpses of sexuality, the trials of overcoming illness and the general warmth, love and beauty that can be found in the most mundane and unexpected of places. She is a cosy shroud that blocks out the negativity of a cruel world and makes you realise that even if you are a clearly batshit-crazy eccentric old lady there’s a place for you in this life.
It’s not gut-wrenching drama, there is no grand climax here or hidden subtlety, but it is honest and true, at least if the affirmative nods and knowing laughs from the more middle-aged members of the audience were anything to go by. To call it sweet would be patronising, heart-warming trite, but it captures something of what the Free Fringe should be about, a relaxing 50 minutes spent in the company of one who has experienced life and asks nothing but that you listen and hopefully take away a message of love and happiness.
The illusion’s disappeared now and the cynicism has returned to my heart but still I can’t shake that feeling that I should appreciate individuals for all their beauty. Curse you Lynn Ruth Miller!
Laughing Horse@The Argyle, 31 Jul – 25 Aug, 3.55pm (4.45pm), Free, fpp 183

Scaramouche Jones

Guy Masterson – TTI In Association With Passion Pit Theatre UK
Not so much the biography of a 100 year old clown, more an alternative telling of the more disturbing sides of the 20th Century, this production of Scaramouche Jones is practically flawless. Justin Butcher’s performance is as in-depth and considered as you would hope from the man who wrote the play, his physicality in his clowning and embodiment of different characters as he dives around the stage being both energetic and precise, knowing and touching. As Scaramouche slowly strips out of his clown costume the audience learns through a beautifully worded and layered script of the tragedy, the hardships and suffering that go into not just the clown figure but every human, and the masks worn to cover the scars.
Assembly @ George Street, 31 Jul – 25 Aug (not 11), 12.20pm (1.35pm), £13.00 (£12.00), fpp 228.

The Reduced Edinburgh Fringe Imro Show

The beauty of improvised comedy is that when it snaps it can be some of the quickest, wittiest comedy around. But instead of snapping the Scratch improv troupe spend the majority of the show making a damp sort of ‘plib’ noise. All the performers have the confidence and basic know-how to keep a scene running and a few laughs coming but technical niggles such as repeated glaring contradictions in the attempted long form musical and a reliance on the same improv games as everyone else puts them at a distance from the masters of the genre. John Mawer and keyboardist Phil Lunn show talent and no doubt some nights the show works. But the snap/plib ratio is slightly out.
Pleasance Courtyard, 30 Jul – 24 Aug, 6.40pm (7.40pm), £8.50 (££7.00), fpp 90.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

New Electric Ballroom

In a self-contained colourless box three sisters are condemned to the re-telling of the destruction of early notions of romance at the New Electric Ballroom. Flashes of luminous colour in 50s dresses and cakes recall happy memories of youthful sexuality, everything else serves as a contrast. Enda Walsh’s script hurtles out lyrical images of the two sisters who have withdrawn themselves back into a womb of supposed comfort and forced their younger sister into a routine so binding that she denies the inevitable love interest of the only fishmonger who visits their cliff-side metal shack. What the audience are left with is a lasting image of the vulnerability of love and fancy and the dangers of repression.
Traverse Theatre, 2 – 24 Aug (not 11 & 18), Times vary, £18.00 (£16.00), fpp 218

80s Luke - Live At The Living Room Palladium

80s Luke
I debated for a long time about whether or not to write this review because when you’re the only person in the audience it’s fair to assume you’re not seeing the comedian at their best. But I’m sorry 80s Luke, your material was toss of the highest calibre, most of which I heard down the pub four years ago. As for your mate Tony… well… any comedian that still makes jokes using the hee-lare-ee-us prop of an arrow that fits around the top of his head deserves to be pinned up on the walls of the Royal Mile as a warning to any other comedians who want to waste the public’s time with generic horseshit. It’s free for a reason.
Laughing Horse@Espionage, 31 Jul – 9 Aug, 3.25pm (4.25pm), Free, fpp 48

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Breathing Corpses

Giving Breathing Corpses the benefit of the doubt, this is a brave piece on what happens when your actors and director use the title of the play as the direct inspiration for their interpretation. Not doing so would require a review full of easy puns involving words like ‘death’, ‘of’ and ‘theatre’.
It’s not entirely the actors fault, they lack the maturity and confidence for a proper understanding of the characters; so where is the direction? The outside hand that draws performances out from more than a murmur, awkward monotone delivery and clumsy climaxes? The play moves at such a deadening pace that you can smell the audience festering as they are forced into a coma by this mouldy work.
Sweet Grassmarket, 4 – 24 Aug, 9.10pm (10.20pm), £7.00 (£6.00), fpp 188

Off Out By Gill Adams

Crumpet Theatre Company
It’s probably a guilty mark of a cynical mind that a play about the seedy underworld of prostitution and its affect on a mother and son, a pimp and a junkie can be so predictable but still there’s nothing in the script of Off Out that you wouldn’t expect. Each character and event fills its own niche, ticking the social commentary boxes in a script that could easily shed 1/3rd of excess weight.
Thankfully a uniformly adept cast keep the audience’s attention, each actor drawing out the important aspects of their roles. Pamela Evans gives an especially acute and bleak performance as rag-doll no-hope junkie May. If anything Off Out shows how a dedicated cast can make a play work.
The Space@Jury’s Inn (V260), 1 – 9 Aug, 10.45am (11.55am), £7.00 (£6.00), fpp 220

Monday, August 04, 2008

Coming Up For Air

Coming Up For Air
There’s no doubting Orwell’s taste for despair. The looming inevitability of WW2 provides the backdrop for Coming Up For Air which sees George Bowling locked into his suburban existence, desperate to escape back to his childhood village. Inevitably though his old haunts have changed, the world has moved on and turned his favourite place into a rubbish dump.
The bitterness caused by the raping of this personal cherished past is vividly portrayed by Dominic Cavendish’s adaptation of Orwell’s book and Cruttenden’s performance brings across the anger, resentment and ultimately fear of what’s to come. Orwell’s pessimism of machine guns poking from English windows may have been proved wrong, but 70 years on his work still rings with a chilling resonance.
(The listing in the Fringe Programme is completely wrong, but it's on at the Assembly Rooms at 11.00am).

Eco-Friendly Jihad

Eco-Friendly Jihad
Abie Philbin Bowman
Abie Bowman claims that the title of the show is not meant to be controversial, which is a lie and also the major problem with what is otherwise a good comedy show. His tentative but honest approach to both the environmental and global issues he addresses makes sure that he is endeared to the majority of the crowd, and indeed it is difficult not to agree, laugh along and feel guilty about personal inaction. But he should hold back less and plunge the knife in further. Not only does Bowman get better laughs when he’s being more controversial, he also makes you think more. As it is the dips between laughs are too long and the acid too diluted.
Underbelly, 31 – 24 Aug (not 4 – 5, 11 – 12, 18 – 19), 3.55pm (4.55pm), £9.50 (£8.50), fpp 47

Craig Campbell

Craig Campbell
Underbelly Productions By Arrangement With Avalon Productions
Unbelievable. For the majority of the show a chainsaw and shovel sit on stage yet at no point does Craig Campbell do the honourable thing and put either of us out of our misery. This one man play about a crazy violent prisoner telling his story of how he ended up in jail after working at a Funfair isn’t big and certainly isn’t clever. There’s little development, intrigue or depth. It would be fine if it was funny and there are a few brief moments of comedy, mostly when Campbell slips into more of a stand-up routine, his usual medium of choice, but the bulk of the show is boring and awkward. Still, gotta love his taste in music.
Underbelly, 31 Jul – 24 Aug (not 12), 9.50pm (10.50pm), £11.50 (£10.50), fpp 42

Rob Deering Boobs 2008

Rob Deering Boobs 2008
Avalon Promotions
The publicity image is as disturbing as it is intriguing, with Rob Deering leering out, breasts heaving at the seams of a skimpy bikini. Thankfully the comedian has not had drastic surgery, but he has supposedly themed his new show on the nature of being both a feminist and a tits man. Apparently. In actual fact there’s nothing quite as challenging as that, and a good thing too. Deering is so disarmingly charming, with his big grin and (relatively) clean material that there’s never any question of sexual conventions being re-written. Instead the show is a witty evening with hilarious musical numbers involving deft footwork mixing, re-written classics and a gregarious atmosphere that would make a grumpy tortoise smile.
Underbelly’s Baby Belly, 31 – 24 Aug (not 20), 8.20pm (9.20pm), £10.50 (£9.50), fpp 92.

Reasonable Doubt

Reasonable Doubt
Guy Masterson – TTI In Association With Tamarama Rock Surfers AUS
In a glitzy hotel room ex-jurors Mitchell and Susan re-unite two years after a murder trial to confront each other about their illicit affair and the paths their lives have taken since. Reasonable Doubt is meant to be a play about unveiling the truth, finding out what is really going on beneath the surface. And so for an hour the audience is subjected to the repeated distorted lies of two entirely unsympathetic characters. Their constant changing of events and sledgehammer revelations are so uninteresting and tedious because there’s nothing but antipathy for Mitchell and Susan. The performances range from competent to shaky, the real doubt in the play arising over whether the actors have a grip on the piece.
Assembly @ George Street, 1 – 25 Aug (not 11), 10.45am (12.00pm), £12.00 (£11.00), fpp 225.

Neil Delamere: Creme Delamere

Neil Delamere: Crème Delamere
Lisa Richards In Association With Edcom8

Irish comedian Neil Delamere has good home support at this Fringe. The inevitable ‘Who here is from Ireland?’ question at the start of the show was met with a telling cheer from 90% of the audience, while the 2% English contingent remained resolutely tentative.

Delamere’s popularity with the Irish is due to his role as a presenter for The Panel, a weekly chat show that broadcasts on Ireland’s RTE Two which has also featured fellow comedians Ed Byrne, Dara O’Briain and Andrew Maxwell.

The vague concept of Crème Delamere is a holiday Delamere spent in Stockholm getting kicked out of galleries, near misses with trams and awkward sex with a 6’2” Swedish stunner involving the Bible and a phone book. These instances provide Delamere with excuses to go off on comedic tangents that are charmingly humourous and thankfully devoid of clichés but which are too disparate, sounding like a list of unrelated events, to create any sense of a cohesive whole.

There are obvious signs of talent, the charm he works on the audience and an off-the-cuff joke involving a recently engaged couple, an old antique dealer, a policeman and a philosophy student sitting in the audience highlight a quick wit and none of the jokes fall flat, but at no point does Delamere raise the show beyond the safe, comfortable and cosy level which it needs.

The fact that Byrne and O’Briain have become household names this side of the sea while Delamere remains a relative unknown stand-up speaks volumes about Café Delamere.

The Secret Fantasies Of Alice Pobbs, Aged 35 1/4

The Secret Fantasies Of Alice Pobbs, Aged 35 ¼
Lippy Lyrics
Alice Pobbs is a middling receptionist who takes time out to imagine what her life would be like as an assortment of female characters from office tart to WI Tory lady.
The show isn’t bad, more shockingly offensive. The overriding message is that women should expect nothing more from life than being content with their shitty lot. Anna Pelly’s singing voice is adequate but tellingly the more challenging songs are pre-recorded and the disgustingly clichéd characters are handled with all the deftness and subtlety of a mastectomy. If she had chosen any other social group other than white women to satirise in such a humourless and derivative fashion Anna Pelly would have been taken out onto the Grassmarket and lynched.
Sweet Grassmarket, 1 – 10 Aug, 1.00pm, £8.00 (£7.00), fpp 94.

Foreskin's Lament

Foreskin’s Lament
Trailer Trash Theatre
Setting a play in the midst of a local New Zealand rugby team is not as daft an idea as non-rugby fans might imagine (admittedly the play’s title doesn’t help). The sense of loyalty and camaraderie that goes into a rugby team, the trust that players place in each other and the chance of things going drastically wrong means there’s great potential for conflict and almost Shakespearian tragedy, especially amongst the Kiwis who are passionate to a fault over rugby.
Unfortunately Foreskin’s Lament comes close to good drama but never quite hits the mark. The characters are too stock and lacking in depth for the audience to ever really understand them. Clean (all the players have these vaguely explained nicknames) scowls and acts the tough villain, but we’re never offered an understanding of why he’s such a bastard, he just is. Foreskin has a noticeably different attitude to the others with his ‘Univarsity’ education but the eloquence of his lines is clunky at best and descends into the downright ridiculous by the end. Moira acts simply as a voice of explanation for the play and opposition to the traditional coach Tupper while the other characters slowly fade into the background.
There’s tantalising glimpses of the differences of class, masculinity and violence in the game of rugby here, which is why Foreskin’s Lament is so frustrating in its lack of ability to plunge into its material and draw out the really interesting social commentary in a coherent and intelligent manner.
Pleasance Courtyard, 3 – 25 Aug (not 17), 12.50pm (2.00pm), £10.00 (£8.00), fpp 200

Bite The Dust

Bite The Dust
Teatr Provisorium and Kompania Teatr
“Fucking shit!” the four Polish soldiers shout repeatedly as they topple back and forth, crashing the giant wooden poles on their backs into the stage. These are the first words they utter and ominously describe the situation they find themselves in: alone in the woods, fighting desperately against invisible enemies and searching for some semblance of meaning in the inanities of conflict.

With Bite The Dust Polish theatre company Teatr Provisorium and Kompania Teatr have aimed to present a universal vision of the senselessness and cruelty that soldiers suffer during resistance conflict and the results are as powerful as they are bleak. The shit and grime of fighting covers their bodies, gradually eroding at their humanity. What begin as disciplined, marching figures shrouded in shadows are gradually stripped down as the absurdity of their situation is laid bare, until the CO is reduced to a hysterical chicken, breaking into fits of tears.

The staging here is perfect. A an old wooden cart provides transport and shelter, the distance and incompetence of the commander’s orders are relayed through an old gramophone, while the wooden posts strapped to the soldier’s backs represent both the forest and stakes the soldiers are bound to, waiting for their inevitable execution.

At times chunks of the script are lost in the thick Polish accents and the overall message of endurance and absurdity is one that has been heard before, but the raw imagery, blackest of humour and the poignant ending make Bite The Dust an important show to see.
Freemason’s Hall, 1 – 25 Aug (not 13), 5.00pm (6.30pm), £14.00 (£11.00), fpp 186

Monday, July 07, 2008

Resuming Transmission in 5,4,3...

This place has been more dead than a McCann recently for which I blame summer and after my last ridiculous diatribe I have decided not to try squeezing out some turd ablogtion for the sake of myself and the 13 people who read this (statcounter fact) so I'm taking a break until something obvious comes along and enjoying the summer rain.

However! in little over three weeks the wonderful Edinburgh Festival and all that sail in her sets forth and I'm going to be writing reviews for various rags which may or may not deem my opinions fit for publication so will be putting a lot of stuff up here. I'm aiming at trying to burn out entirely by the end so hopefully there'll be up to five reviews a day covering music, computer games, theatre and too... much... fucking... comedy.

And given that my blog doesn't have a mammoth team of sub-editors this will be the first place to come to if you wanna find out about some good and god-awful shows I've seen. And I may even find time to drunkenly rant about the Festival, so there'll be some stuff on here that a sensible editor won't touch with a lead glove. Tell your friends. The internet's gonna break my thumbs if I don't have a good month.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Kunst Macht Frei

Two hundred thousand shit fans shitting out fans at a fanning high rate. You shit. Argh. I’m. going. Insane. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Hep. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Lhep help help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help. Help.

I want to be able to type whithout thinking about what I’m dtyping because tha touwld be nice to fdo when if hfghn even thinking about it n it just come out free and if I let my mind just float away to another place ahjdf realy need to have yuou now one by one thet fall it always breaks me down one by one they fall windows aout side pigeons I can’t keep doing this one by one they fall it always breaks me down ahobgoblin whne mnartimite on toast and signs with wine bottles and towels coming out my head with th chatir sitting on top wth a washing machine bfater than I ca type cant thin about what is tishtat im saying

My tots are jelly tots.

Drooooooooooooooone on and on and on and on without stoping lots of ights coming out of my head in funy fashions smashing with te latest passion for artistic stuff that never comes out out out damn you out of my spouting braaaaaaaains.

Flush it all away in one big exhalation of nothingness that will never see the light of anything important or subsatantial but cleasning at the same time excrememnt that comes form nowhere and blocks everything else that I’m trying to eek out with little withs and btus and whys to no avail but something with more ts and less hs ight present itself at the appropriate time possibly.

Shower. Shower. Shower. Shower.

Now finally is it worthy to be happy of when I present it can I justify what ive already rambled on at without thinking but starting to now and give it some kind of thought and movement but not because this will never see anything worth but more aware of eyes and eyes and no mouths. Never any mouths. No construction building heights scaling to the sky because of achievement and worth apparently.

i apologise

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Planet Telex


Today was a bad day. It began with all four of my bedposts simultaneously deciding to explode into pieces and drop me a distance that felt, in my rapidly-moving ascent from deep sleep to cardiac arrest, like fifty, maybe a hundred miles on to my bedroom floor. The impact of mattress with solid wood caused my body to softly bounce off my bed at an awkward angle, slowly twisting me in mid-air, so that I became fully conscious just as I realised I was heading face first into my bedroom floor.

The crack of my skull against hard wood panelling would probably have sent me straight back to sleep again had it not been for the fact that the blow was softened by 8cm of water that hadn’t been there before.

I was confused. I was wet. I was blind. I looked for my glasses and found them dead under me. The force of my impact had crushed everything right of the nosepiece. My brain found some hope to latch on to and reminded me that I’d always wanted a monocle, so I removed the left lens and squinted through it to get a one-eyed view of the room.

The entire expanse of my bedroom floor was covered by an 8cm deep sea, populated by drifting cigarette packets, island masses of stray clothes and a struggling mobile phone that screamed before finally dying with a sickening silence. The sea stretched on and out around the rest of the flat too, all the way back to its source; the washing machine. Water was spilling out of the drum and on to the floor in a trickling waterfall.

It was ka-fucked, that much was certain, but before I could think of calling a plumber I needed substance in the form of black coffee and bacon. Unfortunately my attempts to fill the kettle up from the tap ended when the tap spun off in my fingers and I got a face full of hot water. The area surrounding my right eye was scalded quite severely but my left eye was protected by the monocle goggle so I could still blearily make out what was going on.

A fluttering orange reflection in the far right of my perception reminded me of the frying pan and oil I’d left on the gas stove to gently warm. I whipped round to find the handle of the frying pan had broken and the pan was tipped on its side with the oil burning away.

If only I’d been awake enough. If only I’d been able to get my morning dose of caffeine. If only I wasn’t partially blinded, scalded and panicking. I would have recalled my mother’s tales of never pouring water on a cooking oil fire. Sadly there was water in abundance and the fire was utterly terrifying.

The resulting volcano took much of the surrounding cabinets and skin up with it in a ball of fire and as flames licked ceiling I decided that it was probably a good time to retire to the hallway and call for some emergency assistance into the matter.

Alas! to no avail. The phone emitted a brutal hissing noise into my ear that I hoped was Morse code for ‘Keep calm, help is on the way’ but nothing else.

And so I decided to abandon my rapidly sinking flat and seek help elsewhere.


Despite yanking, slamming and swearing my front door stood stone solid against every attempt to open it. I sloshed my way back to my bedroom, grabbed the front door keys and slammed them into the lock, twisting them every which way, frantically trying to make the lock click. The sharp sound of metal that for an instant was so elating was just the noise of the key snapping in the lock. I slammed my head against the door in exhausted desperation and the lock itself came sliding out. Then the hinges buckled and the whole door came crashing in on top of me followed by a thunderous noise of clashing stone and metal.

After I crawled out from under the door and the dust had settled I peered over the edge of what had been the stairwell landing. It was a broken a mess of rubble and stairs. Three-fifths of a bike lay smashed and twisted. In the middle of the detritus was a body. Its arms and legs were spread out like someone making a snow-angel and the whole body was rhythmically pulsing and twitching. The whole body lay down and danced in front of me apart from the head, which was a smothered mess of blood, mortar and clay.

I stumbled back into the flat, wondering if vomit was good for putting out a fire. I could feel and hear everything cracking and breaking around me. As I staggered into the front room and ran for the window out on to the street, I slipped in the water and my monocle came flying out. I heard it smash against something.

I got to the window and looked out. The long line of buildings opposite was riddled with cracks and was slowly sinking away. Cars were smashed or on fire. There were blurred images of people opposite and I touched the window with the tips of my fingers. The shapes opposite did the same and then every window on the street instantly shattered into a fine mist of glass that was caught and borne away by a stream of wind.

And above it all was the sound of everything breaking. Every device, invention, tool, mark of creation, had been built to break and was shutting down earlier than expected. The sky was intermittently lit with blinding flashes of light from thousands of miles away.

That’s when the floor split beneath me and I fell and as I fell the Earth fell with me. I flew into the centre of the Earth, through a ravine of solid rock that split in front of me like fog. I flew and flew downwards until finally my heart broke.


My body carried on falling, as did everything else. The planets, the stars, the galaxies, all at one moment blinked and collapsed in on itself. Something to do with the Universe believing in built-in-obsolescence and a word count.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

...And The Circus Leaves Town

Being the unemployed bum that I am, at 3pm I was still in my bed staring at my laptop feeling my brain rot, devoid of ideas and willing for anything to distract me; so I decided to make the bold move out of my flat and on to the Meadows for a good solid walk and constitutional. The niceties of having a relatively large expanse of green for walking about on and melting from the world become more apparent as the days get longer and the Sun grimaces its little face and squeezes some heat out of its rays, not least because there’s no more satisfying place to have a smoke than blinking into the evening Sun with the wind rustling your hair like grass and the crisp quick air cleaning out your lungs.

And as I sat on the grass at 7.14pm, smoking my rollie and trying to give the general impression to any passers-by that I was a pretentious arseburger by writing nonsense in my Moleskine, I noticed that the Carnival had come to town.

There, on the Meadows, hemmed in by a circle of large white vans and with its back turned to me in every direction, was a Fun Fair. From where I sat I could just make out the odd distinctive detail; flashing lights, the high-pitched scream of an age-old ride suddenly cut short, bits of fluffy toys hung up around stalls and groups of large men huddled around talking.

I haven’t been to a Fun Fair since I was about 8. One of the reasons for this being that I’ve never been able to shake that sense of evil that pervades all my mental images of Carnivals. As a child I remember gazing up at lurid colours and characters that would crane over me with their painted faces, who would invite me and tease me, laughing in their own way that was alien to me in every sense as I tripped out on an overdose of candyfloss. I’ve always been slightly terrified of them and the mystery, romanticism and other-worldliness of the Carnie lifestyle.

At first I was reticent to peek inside but then I reminded myself that I’m a big boy now and no clown or fortune teller will emotionally destroy me over a 14 year period ever again. Steeling myself against all the bizarre and freakish things that awaited me in that encampment I crossed the threshold into the Fun Fair world.

It seems childhood lies or the world has changed. Before me all I saw were cheap stalls filled with cheaper cuddly toys and games that the cynic in me wouldn’t touch for knowledge of them being rigged. All the stall owners were in matching branded polo-shirts, security wandered from stall to stall. The rides were covered in safety warnings, metal barriers protecting everyone from themselves. Groups of teenagers in shiny clothes stood around or blankly pushed money into arcades. Fathers with young children tried to impress. Young lovers strolled along in a completely different world altogether. Blandness and straight lines everywhere I looked.

And out back were parked the vehicles of the Carnie folk. Twenty or so cars, some BMWs, a couple of Mercedes and not one of them older than five years. It seems a good time to join the Carnival.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Before we get started let’s just get this out of the way first: this article will contain spoilers about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. If you have any interest in seeing this film (I can’t be arsed to re-type the title and from now on will refer to it as IJATKOTCS or ICOK for short) then for Spaghetti’s sake stop reading this now and go see it. The only thing more annoying than hearing a spoiler is mentioning an inconsequential detail such as, say, the crystal skull belonging to an alien race who were some sort of archaeologists of early human civilisations worshipped by the Mayans, and then having some cretin whine at you as a result.

Although even knowing that much about ICOK won’t ruin it for you. Sure in the first paragraph I may have given away the main thrust of the plot but since when has that been a problem for the Indiana Jones franchise? Indiana Jones films have always placed administering shots of pure ecstasy to the parts of the brain that deal with memorable movie moments over anything as loathsome as plot, which is no doubt why so many Indy fanboys still physically cream themselves at the merest mention of a man stuck in a lonely dark tomb with a whip, leather jacket and hat to match.

ICOK, as seems to be the vogue in a Hollywood desolate of fresh ideas or innovation (beyond scavenging whatever material it can from comic books and computer games), is a film 19 years in the remaking. In which time we’ve discovered the internet, the middle-east and, who would’ve thunk it?, whole brand new ways to shoot action movies. There’s been a lot of pre-game talk about how ICOK wasn’t going to be one of these CGI heavy films. They promised us classic stunts. Harrison Ford, we were assured, would be fighting fit and throwing himself about with no other visual aids but the fire in his soul.


Fair enough, an army of 23 gazillion demon hellspawn never appears on screen, no main characters are CGI mutations and there aren’t any spaceships (wait…) but there’s still all kinds of computer hocus-pocus that goes into making any action movie visually more impressive than they were 19 years ago.

Before I plunge into an in-depth analysis of ICOK (and I promise that despite this inordinately long pre-amble said plunging shall occur) I ask you to cast your mind back on the first three Indiana Jones films. I imagine even cultural Neanderthals who have never seen an Indy film will have those iconic images of rolling boulders, melting faces, machete hacked rope bridges and red lines across a map spring to mind. These are the memorable parts of a series of action films that had to titillate in the days before you could ask a computer to make a 65 year old man defy every natural law. And titillate they did, still do, and manage to do a damn good job of doing during the meanwhile.

But, as everyone knows, those numbers that follow the title of the series signify not the growing age and maturity of the piece but rather the multiples of special effects and all round gusto that are expected by whatever cigar chomping executives are financing the film because as we are all meant to know visual feats of awesomeness=quality. And so, where a simple high-speed powerboat chase down the canals of Venice may have sufficed before, ICOK has to drop an atomic bomb on proceedings before the film’s even got going. Just to warm things up. Literally.

I went into ICOK expecting a phenomenal opening scene because, let’s be honest, in order to enjoy Indy films all you really need to do is watch the opening and closing scenes and let your imagination paint in all the intervening boring stuff. What I didn’t expect was an intro akin to the Family Guy Chicken Fight. For starters Indy goes from being held hostage in a warehouse of ancient artefacts by a small army and fighting his way loose. He then hops, skips and jumps into a mad chase involving jeeps before fistfighting his way through various walls.

So far so Indy.

He then somehow lands fists flaying onto a rocket-on-rails which he uses to set fire to a group of pinko commie soldiers before riding it like a cocaine cowyboy into the middle of the desert. Slightly extravagant but all’s fair in an opening scene. Things take a turn for the hilarious however when Indy stumbles into what looks like a 50’s town but is actually a nuclear testing zone filled with plastic dummies. And then a nuclear bomb explodes.

8m X 8m rolling boulder. Single most destructive creation on the planet. That’s not raising the stakes, that’s going all-in blind on top of betting your mother, soul and dignity.

I mean, once your protagonist has begun the film by surviving a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge you pretty quickly get the message that he’s sodding indestructible and that every action set-piece is going to involve a series of increasingly ridiculous scenarios that make past action Indy action scenes look like sedate episodes of Last of the Summer Wine.

It is slightly confusing how, after this immensely over-blown opening scene, ICOK for a moment becomes something of a social commentary. The lamenting over Indy’s new-found sense of befuddlement as he enters old age, a topic which Spielberg no doubt could have spun into an interesting Indy film by itself if he wanted the world to laugh at him, are mentioned and then strapped to a shuttle and jettisoned into the galaxy of Inconsequentialism as Indy appears to get more fit the more he smashes his body around. McCarthyism is also briefly plopped in as a token gesture to any Russians pissed off that the generic psycho-Nazi (sorry, Communist) villains may have been their grandparents.

And so, inevitably, Henry Jones Jr. (Indy’s real name, as ICOK seems intent on reminding you) gets back to adventuring and fighting at the first opportunity. The opportunity in this case coming in the form of crazy-rebel-youngbuck Mutt Williams who has scraps of paper containing a riddle about a crystal skull sent to him by blah-blah-blah-who-cares-the-important-thing-is-that-shit-happens.

I don’t know if there’s meant to be any suspense about the fact that Mutt is Indy’s son or not. My favourite line from Last Crusade is, ‘We named the dog Indy’, so the name Mutt acted as a decent enough signpost, and more importantly than that it’s FUCKING OBVIOUS from the start because Spielberg loves his schmaltz. Whatever, young Shia LaBeouf gives an entertaining and energetic performance, but that’s hardly surprising given that he’s the only character in the film who looks like he can’t ride the bus for free.

Ray Winstone spends the majority of the film wheezing away like he’s about to suffer a heart explosion, John Hurt acutely portrays a nursing home resident who regularly throws excrement at the nurses and Karen Allen has been barren for many a full moon now. Two of the most loved characters, Marcus Brody and Henry Jones Sr., have packed it in all together. In real life in the case of Denholm Elliott and career wise for Connery; although seeing Indy mourn over the death of his father did make me feel like I was being mentally prepared for the shocking and terrible day when Sean Connery actually kicks the bucket.

Still, huff, puff and wage their battle against the evil Irina Spalko they do, along a narrative path borne by action scenes like a non-stop rollercoaster so that by the end everyone, crew and audience alike, feels a faint sense of daze and confusion about how they got there and what just happened. The start of every action scene is a spawning point for an incredulously long chain of events that leaves one wondering how Spielberg plans his holidays.

A simple drive through the jungle with your wife and kid to the temple of your choice not enough? How about breaking out of a hostage situation and taking control of the truck, firing a rocket launcher at a big sawing machine thing, smashing into other trucks, inter-jeep-juggling of priceless artefacts, sword fighting, jeep leaping, cliff-edge driving, monkey swinging and bonnet bumping your way to your desired location.

But as the jeeps finally come crashing to a halt don’t think you can rest yet! Did we mention millions upon quadrillions of ginormous flesh-eating ants, who love nothing more than to consume humans in a gruesome fashion who swarm our plucky heroes as they pull their broken bodies from the wreckage and herd them towards a sheer drop to a wild river? And another fight. And insane stunts involving boatcars being used for strategic tree-catapult purposes.

It was immediately following this, as the boat full of OAPs casually hurtled over a sodding great big waterfall not once, not twice, but thrice that I began to think Spielberg was being a bit of a cunt. As the final temple revealed its secrets by lifting up its shafts into a giant phallic obelisk I could practically smell Spielberg’s dick cheese on the celluloid.

And the cheese did smell good. There’s no doubting Spielberg’s talent for the entertaining. The exponential explosions of action scenes had me laughing out loud with sheer joy. At one point I found my hands inadvertently clapped together which was slightly perturbing. There was a visceral sense of entertainment that made me feel like an 8 year-old child again watching my first Indy film. Given how many action films have been getting this so wrong the last few years it’s nice to see that someone can still do it, even if it does take the piss.

But ICOK isn’t an Indiana Jones film. Not in the same way that the first three were. It’s got the characters and the history, the jokes, references and everything else you’d expect to make you feel at home and comfortable but the possibilities for action films nowadays makes it incomparable to the early trilogy. For some people that will be too much and they’ll run away screaming about Spielberg being a monster who has vomited on everything that was good and holy about the world, while others for whom I wish a life not filled with tears, gasoline and fire will enjoy it or not for what it is.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Lucky 7s

The longest any of your cells live for is seven years. That’s what I’ve been told since I was 7. But I’ve been burnt by facts like this before. The kind that are Gospel truths passed down by Sacred Word of Mouth which then turn out to be complete fabrications, and solely exist as means for those with superior intellects to laugh at us morons and the truths we hold dear*.

Well fukkit. The whole premise of this article rests on the fact that the longest a cell lives for is seven years. If this turns out to be false, I don’t care. I’ve lost too many childhood truths, I’m not going to lose this one. I do have faith in some things. Besides, what follows is more full of cod than an illegal Spanish Fishing Armada so it matters little. I’m too weary of ‘actual’ facts nowadays…

Moving on. The longest any of your cells lives for is seven years. This means that nothing about you is physically the same as it was seven years ago. Everything about you has grown, reproduced and died in seven years. Which could cause one to wonder what it actually is about ‘you’ that’s so fucking special, but the self is not my concern here as I fear it may get in the way of my point…

Like that.

This whole Lucky 7s theory does have some weight to it. If you’re the kind who’s convinced by Chapter and Verse Citations then Shakespeare talks about the Seven Ages of Man in a play*. The number seven can be found everywhere in society. Things like Seven Samurai remake, The Magnificent Seven, serve as poignant portraits of the changes that occur when cells are replicated and …altered… slightly. And that’s just one example out of many*.

Seven is a reasonably consistent yearly period between significant moments in life too. Oh yes. Let the facts do the talking:

1st Regeneration – 7 Earth Years
By age seven, the death of the last first born cell, most people have a pretty good idea how to eat, shit and sleep by themselves and so are deemed ready to be shipped off to have whatever passes for an education in these parts so that the next two sets of regenerated cells are suitably saturated with information.

2nd Regeneration – 14 Earth Years
The 2nd Regeneration brings with it a whole new load of cellular energy, activating hormones, rebuilding structures, readying the whole pink blob cell mass thing for genetic replication with another collection of suitable cells.

Socially it is a significant age where humans move out of childhood and start getting the ‘orn. Obviously.

3rd Regeneration – 21 Earth Years
Physical growth, sexual maturity and any other odds and sods are usually in place by now. Satisfied with a job well done each cell starts a self-destruct sequence.

A time associated with the death of immaturity and taking on complete self-reliance along with the world. And lots of fancy parties.

4th Regeneration – 28 Earth Years
A lot of particularly prodigious cell-types often self-destruct on the cusp of the 5th Regeneration. SIGNIFICANT*.

5th Regeneration – 35 Earth Years
Probably a hugely significant social event associated with this age in some non-Western culture. Saturation levels dangerously low.

6th Regeneration – 42 Earth Years
Nothing obvious but I still think there might be something to this.

7th Regeneration – 49 Earth Years
Ar ha! See, that’s kind of close to 50! Which is half a century! Ha!

8th Regeneration – 56 Earth Years
Self-destruct sequences begin to kick in,

And so forth into kerrrffflaaaaaahhhh. The fact that the system spirals out of significance is fine. We only live past our mid-30s cos we’re so gorram smart now at tricking Nature out of her fertilising bounty of corpses. Like most things in life we aren’t meant to go beyond a 5th season*.

Anyway, here I am just on the other side of my 3rd regeneration. The parties are sadly thinning out and the realisation is dawning that my 4th regeneration seems worryingly close and I should really be worrying about where I’m going to be at that point. I worry about whether my future cells will be financially secure. I worry if my unhealthy habits will cause them to be born slightly crippled. I worry if the memories passed on to my 4th Regeneration will be ones of happiness; of seizing the real world, the one outside this faux-world bubble of education that has shielded me for two Life Cycles, by its literal horns and steering it straight and true to the abattoir.

But I shouldn’t worry cos technically ‘me’ as I am right now will be dead by then.

And there are so many options open to us! So many frickin’ options! Everyday we’re bombarded with exactly how every 1 in 6 billion chance in the world has gone. Mainly if it’s gone badly. We all have these images presented to us everyday, of how the whole world is living*.

The threat of all those 1 in 6 billion chances, the billions of ways a life can go at any moment, the constant streams of information we have about what other people are doing, what they should be doing, how everyone thinks everyone else should be doing means it can be daunting for a species that until Google had been used to just about processing the empathic information of the Nation as some homogenous country blob and acting hostile to anyone who ain’t from round these parts. Now the different truths of opinions, ideas and beliefs of 6 billion people can be shared and accessed, everything can be argued against and questioned by someone.

It’s an amazing time for anyone who isn’t threatened by questioning their own beliefs every time a cell dies. And also capable of living in a relativist coma without their brain exploding. So no one. Soon we’ll just be flattened into apathetic pink jellyblobs.

So I’m going to use my 3rd Regeneration to find the 7 people in 6 billion who believe all this bullshit about 7 being a significant number*, form a cult and be re-born aged 28. Who knows into what world I shall emerge… I’m holding out hope for flying cars and robozombie armies but I fear seven years is just too short a time for one individual to make a difference.

Oh yeah, and there are seven days in a week. That's gotta be significant, right?

1. I’m looking at you, Fry.
2. Homework is to find out which play it is.
3. I can give you other examples. Probably.
4. Caps lock sincerity is binding.
5. Or album.
6. [Insert paranoid delusions of some evil media God in your contemplations here if so desired].
7. I’ll start with Dan Brown fans.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Doctor Who Raped My Eye Sockets With A Sandpaper Condom

I’ll tell you who’s a menace to society. Doctor Who. That’s who. That’s what I’ve induced after watching however many episodes of this fancy new regenerated version of the show as it’s possible to cram into a few short hours.

Yes I’ve only just got round to watching this apparent saviour to British TV. This could be seen as having something to do with the slight weariness I felt towards a show which I remember from childhood as being a Philadelphia Light slice of schlock BBC science fiction entertainment mainly involving men in rubber suits for it’s emotional connection and a complete lack of fancy computer graphics to make things shiny, but then again I was three at the time so maybe this new one deserved a chance.

Or maybe it was the fact that the few new episodes I had chanced were seamless continuations along this theme, the only differences being half the rubber, double, maybe even triple, the CGI budget and bungled attempts to hack at the heartstrings.

Doctor Who afficionados assure me this is because of some timey-wimy slip up which meant I only sat down in front of the idiot lantern when a particularly piss poor episode was on, like a diver who keeps missing the pool and landing in a bloody and smashed heap on the pool edge time after time.

I reckon it was probably because I always had a nagging suspicion it wouldn’t live up to Whedon.

Whatever the reason, I’m like a moth to an atom bomb when it comes to revision distractions and I’d watched that episode set in Pompeii a few weeks back and it caused a reaction inside me. It felt like… happiness? Through the television the Doctor reached me and changed my robot brain and circuitry into real flesh, filling me with these things you humans call… emotions.

You might suspect that this is a lie, or exaggeration of the truth if you’re feeling morally dubious, and you’d be right. But if I were in a Doctor Who episode that’s the kind of thing that would happen. And the Doctor would heal another rift in the time/space insertrandompieceofbadsciencejargonhere, while simultaneously decapitating bad guys with laid back witticisms and getting off on the sexual frustration of young girls. Then next thing you know he’s only bloomin’ well teleported halfway round the sodding multi-layered, multi-dimensional, persistent jelly that is Time to do the exact same thing again.

What seems to be pretty constant with this Doctor fella is that shit follows him around like a fly follows shit. Or vice versa. Personally I reckons it’s the versa. This is a Time Lord who can travel anywhere in time and space, bending and changing whatever he deems fit. And what does he spend the majority of time doing? Pursuing his favourite pastime of sticking his feet up and watching millions of humans die at a time until stepping in at the last minute when he could quite easily have prevented the whole thing in 30 seconds.

Honestly, all he has to do is nip in the TARDIS, hop back to a point where whichever nemesis threatening reality itself is a gamete, or whatever these alien types use to reproduce, give ol’ Poppa Nutballs a swift kick in the groin/sensitive reproductive nano-plunger and relax after a job well done on a sunny beach with the intergalactic equivalent of a rum and coke.

But no. There are Rules. Rules that must be obeyed if it means doing anything apart from letting things get to their very worst before stepping in like some Hero of the Hour prick and solving everything, preferably while hefting a bloody big sledge hammer into the porcelain display case of Time. Just to show that if you really want to you can stick two fingers up to the fabric of reality if it makes your life more exciting. Git.

Oh sure, when the shit really hits the fan he tries to justify it all by healing everything up and making it like it was before, but whenever he knows that he can adopt an Etch-a-Sketch Time Policy, where everything reverts to how it was before, the body count always seems to be suspiciously higher than when he can’t. Almost as if he values the deaths of these people less, feels like he can watch these people die if he can make it all like it never happened… he likes to draw it out to feature lengths if he can, just so he can watch humankind come close to obliteration time and time again.

At least that’s what I used to think. Then I realised that the Doctor’s actually quite sincere in his repeated attempts to stop us crazy apes from letting ourselves get wiped out yet again. He’s just a patsy. For the very most evilest (and I don’t use hyperbole lightly) mind in the entire Multiverse, that sonofawhore TARDIS. The Doctor’s not a bad pilot, the TARDIS just loves dumping him wherever he knows the Doctor’s gonna be drowning in Shit Creek, especially if it means he has to choose to wipe out a people.

Right, right… the TARDIS just happened to travel to the end of the Universe, find the dormant Master, help re-awaken him and bring him back to wipe out half of humankind? It just happened to fall into a parallel world where it knew Rose would be compelled to get involved and risk everyone’s lives. The TARDIS just happened, by sheer coincidence, to butcher every last creature in the galaxy, using the time vortex to create eternal torture for every living thing, spending an eternity laughing at Creation’s destruction by its hand. (I must admit that last storyline is taken from a bit of personal fanfiction).

This would be fine, happy coincidence, if it weren’t for the fact that the TARDIS is alive. Yet it never thinks to travel to a time where solving the problem would be simple. Never does anything to prevent itself getting nicked, breaking down at just the wrong point, or being generally impotent whenever it would be a really useful ‘Get Out of Certain Death Free’ card.

The TARDIS is either fixated with watching the Doctor die, or suicidal. Maybe it misses all the other TARDISsssss in the world, I don’t know. I’m not a TARDIS. What I do know is that this thing’s a damn menace and the sooner the Doctor can realise this the sooner the TARDIS and the Doctor can duke it out in a Fantabulous Christmas Special Extravaganza.

One final note. I realise that I have probably made a million mistakes, contradictions and outright lies that would see me hung in a Doctor Who court. Thankfully we don’t have one of these because the fans are yet to take over the world, but if you do want to bring out a few Doctor facts to cripple my well-researched, thought-out and planned babble, as it seems some fans are desperate to do, then feel free. Just so I know who to… as a Doctor Who villain would say with the irony still dripping … ‘thank’ later.

Meaning I’m going to process your body and turn you into a mindless slave. Probably with metal bits attached. It’ll definitely be an evil plan anyway.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Brief Word On What Follows

The stuff down below that's all been added at once is the reason that I haven't posted on here for a while. A couple of weeks ago I was at the National Student Drama Festival where students come together and put on shows for the general delectation of the public. Thankfully there's a publication called Noises Off! which is published daily where cantankerous people like myself can voice their opinions on what they've seen.

I spent the whole week writing stuff and staying up til 5am publishing the damn thing which is why I've been reluctant to leap back into writing. There's stuff up there but the brain just seems hesitant in getting it down. I wasn't going to publish the articles on here cos I thought they would be irrelevant and misleading but I've got to put something up, so here it is.

They're in no particular order so view as your will takes you.

When You Cry In Space A Fairy Shits Herself

The stuttering child’s voice and five on stage characters dressed like members of a Scout cult group with the number 8 pinned over their hearts may at first disturb the audience. But When You Cry In Space Your Tears Go Everywhere (a mouthful of a title if ever there was one) unfolds as a joyous half hour full of a childish sense of exploration and adventure, of discovery and struggling for dreams.

The play comes alive through an imaginative and innovative use of its props that are mainly paper, cut out and constructed during the play like a child’s card set, each piece, from the rotating story wheel to the space rocket and mountaineer’s gear are beautiful in their simplicity and deftly incorporated. Indeed the high production values of the play overshadow the actors who are mostly the props of the various effects, having little other role to play.

The sense of perseverance and resilience needed in scaling life’s mountains are embodied by the ever-climbing mountaineer in the background who never stops marching towards her destination. Meanwhile the others rocket into space and gasp at wonder at everything they see from there, before the mundane nature of reaching their proverbial stars is revealed in the scientific dissection of moon dust and one of the most finely crafted jokes of the Festival that plays on the monotony of routine present in even the most other-worldly kind of environments.

There’s a whole load of horseshit spouted about discovering the inner child, but for thirty minutes I was struck by how well the Tinned Fingers crew encapsulated that sense of childish wonder and translated that to a broader view of life’s journey. If there was any bad side to the show it was that I now have Kiss – I Was Made For Loving You stuck in my head. Yes, I’d have to agree, this would be the worst song to be singing to oneself at the moment of death. This thought will occupy my nightmares for a good while yet.

The Day Today

As Gary Glitter once sang, ‘It’s good to be back’. Speaking of inappropriate stains, NSDF has begun again. It’s an exciting moment, that point where the first snowflakes in the forms of addled students ready and willing to tear into the nitty gritty of that most elusive enema, theatre, gather on the mountains of expectation.

I began the day with a stroll along the coast. As you may have noticed, we are located slap bang next to the sea. It is both dramatic and attractive. I wholeheartedly suggest a morning walk along the sand as it is both good for the constitution and aids motion. There are a series of algae covered rocks towards the right hand end of the beach that look like tiny hills. Feel like a giant bounding across the Dales if you are looking for some light beach entertainment.

On returning to The Complex I joined the 2 o’clock excitement that is registration (early rising is easy to avoid) and braced myself for the relentless hordes of eager beavers just begging to get their hands on a laminated ID card if only to give them that sense of cliqueness when walking around Scarborough town.

I braced a little more than necessary it turns out. Not a releasing of the sluice gates this year, more the faulty drip of a hose tap. Being the studious investigator that I am I sought out il commendatori Kendrick and asked her about the apparent drop in numbers. It’s true, our numbers are fewer than last year but that’s not anyone’s fault apart from the Christians. If they’d chosen a fixed date for their pagan festival instead of fannying about with lunar cycles then NSDF wouldn’t have to happen earlier and clash with some students finishing dissertations and what not. (That’s my view by the way, not Holly’s who is a good god fearing Christian for anyone who cares).

No doubt this will be a year of quality over quantity and the idea of less crowded workshops and discussions has this foolish optimist excited about the upcoming week.

Topping the euphoria of registration is a difficult task but what the smug git didn’t know was that the Opening Ceremony had an ace slyly placed in its bra. The Decrees were dictated by a humorous musical duo of Tony Blair The Musical fame. If fascists had caught on to the idea of issuing their World Order by the medium of song the motto of this festival wouldn’t be the cheekily suggestive ‘Bring It On’ but rather ‘Theatre Makes One Free’. Some other admin things were said both before and after the song and dance but my mind had drifted to roast beef sandwiches.

It turned out that the Opening Ceremony was a mere façade, a means of securing an audience for the first show of the Festival, Tangle by Unlimited. The overriding theme was that of a peculiar piece of quantum physics which involves two tiny particles that share the same characteristics and react to stimuli simultaneously and in the same way no matter how far apart they are. Mind boggling stuff indeed. Unfortunately if it’s true, as the play suggests, that there’s someone else in the world who shares common feelings with me then I apologise for sending him/her into a catatonic sleep.

Now came the crux of the day, the very reason for ignoring my university career, a NSDF selector approved piece of student theatre that was Lost in the Wind. It was nice. Following it I retired to the Spa bar. Where else can you see the elites of the theatrical world getting drunk and reminiscing on old times? I can recommend nothing more than sitting and listening to the ruminations of these Titans.

Actually that’s not entirely true as the end of the night (or the beginning of work as I’m coming to think of it) brought Holly Jazz Lowe’s voice with it and it is a voice I want to place in a small wooden box and bring out on occasions when I want to smile and nod my head in whatever way is the fashion with the kids these days. I have a powerlessness against this kind of voice and now that the cold dark embrace of layout beckons I shall hold my head up high as I seek out some more caffeine.

Sunrise, sunset

Did you know that NSDF used to travel from place to place back in the day? I don’t know the details but I hope the hosting city was decided based on a Eurovision Song Contest set of rules where the previous year’s winners hosted. How you might ‘win’ at NSDF is something of a mystery though because this is an entertainment medium where there are no winners, only losers, but we’ll see which company gets the most awards at the end of the week and then decide.

Moving on, travel it did until settling in Scarborough’s buxom bosom in 1990, although it took another year for the Festival to slide down the hill towards the coast. Fascinating facts abound dear reader! And who can blame it? There’s a bloody big sea on the other side of the road, which enjoys nothing more than putting on a show of its own with blasting waves and dramatic sunrises. I find the sea a terrifying place because it’s so untouched by human hand. Look behind you and you can see how the earth has been shaped by human hand, but look ahead and there’s an endless abyss that looks just as it did 4 billion years ago.

Which is why the pointless lights that dazzle all over it every night perturb me slightly. Why are they there? If NSDF is worried about saving some mahulah and funding Tibetan orphans in their theatrical endeavours they could start by slashing their power bills in half by turning off the fucking lights. I know that it’s fun for the techies to try and shine some lights into the endless dark just because they can, which is why I asked a VC of an unnamed venue who I’m friends with to tell me about the lights.

Yes, he could confirm, they are bloody big lights. And they drain a whole load of power. It takes as many as four people to move them off turrets (whatever they are, I get lost in technical language) and even he admits they are entirely pointless. ‘Not any more’ was his response to my question of, ‘Are they dangerous?’ which was reassuring. However, he did remind me that the lights above the Vitadome are Park Ammms (spelling?) liable to explode when wet, due to the high voltages pulsing through them and exposed electrical connections, which would cause burning hell fire to rain down on those below. This is why techies scare people.

Mind you, expecting sensible planning from the people who have nicknamed me Richard Dawson, no doubt because of some hilarious in-joke I’m not part of, on my ID card might be a little much. I kid, the organisation has been wonderful so far. And you can’t help but have respect for people who throw caution to the wind and let all those lucky 17 year olds enjoy a few pints in the bar.

Is it just me though or is the Festival really starting to pick up? The first few shows have come and gone and people seem to be settling into the whole swing of the thing. I was just privy to a touching moment where two apparent strangers realised that they’d both graduated from Warwick in 2001 and had both worked in theatre there. Touching stuff, right here at the NSDF.

After much contemplation I’ve decided that the best way to end this is by answering some of the question that you have been asking on the NOFF Ideas and Question Board. First off the bat is Yellow Post-It No.1 who asks,
“I am in a school. We are bored of doing the same plays. What plays should we do?”
On asking my magic number 8 ball (choosing a random play in the index of Raw Talent, a detailed history of NSDF on sale now for the bargain price of £10) it responded with Jacques by Euegene Ionesco. So there you go, a bit of absurdist theatre for you to get your bored teeth into you cheeky scallywag.

Pink Post-It No. 2 asks, “How do we make theatre more like film?” By transferring CGI technology to the medium of live stage productions. Gasp as spaceships hurtle past you at the speed of light, shriek as an alien prowls past you in the aisles, chuckle manically as D-Day soldiers are torn to pieces in front of your very eyes, all in the comfort of a large dark auditorium. Or just go to the fucking cinema. Theatre and film are media that are worlds apart in every way, you might well ask how we make theatre more like comics or computer games. Actually, why haven’t there been any stage adaptations of Watchmen or Resident Evil?

Pink Post-It No.3 wants to know, “Where can I find a pub with a giant pink arse outside?” Wherever the randy Scarborough baboons go to wet their whistle. (Notice how I resisted the urge to offend Christians by answering with “Any pub opposite a church”).

Strict Machine Review

There came a point about two thirds of the way through Strict Machine when I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Are they taking the piss?’. I had tried hard to interpret the physical dancing of the two women on stage as well as possible when suddenly I had an epiphany. During one scene I understood fully that they were competing to impress a man at a bar and when they each pulled out a trumpet it was because they were, literally, blowing their own trumpet. Feeling very proud of myself for solving this particular puzzle I allowed myself a smug sit back in my chair. And then the projector, which until now had cast only obscure images onto the back screen, shone the simple message, ‘Blow your own trumpet’. My smug sense of self-satisfaction was destroyed in one quasi-literal blow.

Thankfully my sense of pride did not get in the way of my enjoying an energetic piece of theatre. The foreboding introductory song that was sung by performers Abbi Greenland and Helen Gaolen set out the theme of the show of women struggling against each other to succeed in business and from there they launched into a series of eclectic dances that conveyed the story.

At times it was difficult to see exactly what message the two were trying to convey (hence my pride at interpreting the bar scene) but the divide in personalities set up between the two women in the introduction and the twitchy, manic physicality with which they threw themselves about the stage was more than enough to keep the audience interested and curious to see how the next dance would fit into the story.

It’s difficult to know how to comment on the feminist theme that ran throughout of the decisions women have to make between adopting a dominant, male strategy in business compared to that of the more feminine approach, because men never have to make that kind of decision, but Strict Machine made clear the kind of conflict that arises between women as a result of such decisions. The moment that one changed from wearing a skirt to trousers, the other was entirely subservient and eventually physically destroyed. It was touching to see the remorse felt and the eventual reconciliation between the two, something that would be noticeably absent from a male interpretation of surviving in business.

The music that accompanied the dancing was for the most part electronic and synth heavy, fitting perfectly with the routine-driven business world the characters inhabited but the transitions between songs could have been smoother. One could almost hear the sound engineer clicking ‘next song’ on the iPod. The use of a projector was also largely superfluous and distracting (and ruined my one moment of clarity) but as a whole it was a pleasurable and interesting forty minutes.

Proof Review

It seems that some people have taken issue with what they perceive to be the negative reviews present in this here publication. There is a lack of balance, they claim, which is caused by these bitter, hate-filled individuals who are clearly in the group who can’t and therefore teach. And so in order to pander to the sentiments of those who blanche at the very idea of an individual having an opinion about a piece of theatre (or at least any opinion that isn’t the same as their saccharine version of events) this review of Proof will be divided into two halves consisting of things that were good about the production and things that were not so good. If you liked Proof then read the first half. If you didn’t, read the second half. Or if you’re feeling really brave, read the whole thing at once.

Good things about Proof:

1. The acting was really really good!
2. The set was wicked!
3. Ohmigosh, there were twists in the plot and everything!
4. It was both funny and touching. What a combo!
5. There was an interesting theme to do with trust and believing in the words of others throughout, which, like, totally tied in with the title of the play. Where do these geniuses get their ideas?!?!?!?

Bad things about Proof:

1. A script that was more film than theatre. Pointless!
2. A live piano soundtrack that told the audience when and where to feel emotional. It worked but in a way that was manipulative rather than moving. Who do these bastards think they are, telling me how to feel, eh?!
3. Blackouts that went on FOREVER. Some of us have got places to be, yeah?!
4. The lack of clear meaning at the end. My not completely getting it = bad, geddit?
5. The actor who was meant to be 28 years old looked about 10 years younger than all the other actors. Where’s your naturalism now, huh?!

There. A balanced review. Are you happy now? If you wish to further discuss the views expressed here with me in person then I’m the tall lanky one with Richard Dawson inexplicably written on his ID card. However, I’ll probably just quote the infamous words of a certain editor which apply to the majority of people at NSDF, including myself: “Are you being paid for your opinions? No? Then fuck off.”

Diversity at NSDF

White middle class guilt is a powerful force. It’s a good thing that the sense of enjoying such luxuries as political stability, clean drinking water and student theatre while some other poor bastard is stuck around the u-bend of life through no fault of their own but the location of their birth and the world’s prejudices causes people to want to make the world a better place.

I don’t know if this was the feeling that Mark Ravenhill was trying to evoke when he opened up discussion on what NSDF should be doing to increase the diversity of shows at the Festival but I imagine that was the initial gut reaction of the largely white middle-class audience. As noble as the sentiment is, using an emotive response to fully answer a question like this should be dismissed from the off.

Thankfully the people I’ve spoken to about the issue have agreed that NSDF should always be about showcasing the very spanking best of student theatre. Positive discrimination of any kind when it comes to selection would be disastrous. If it happened the Festival Director might as well get up on stage with the ‘tick-a-box’ show, pat them all on the head and distribute ‘Didn’t they do well?’ badges. It’s offensive to all involved and benefits no one.

But that doesn’t change the fact that there’s a huge proportion of people who are not represented in student theatre. The point David Betz-Heinemann made about not being able to find a black female student to cast in a play is definitely something that’s true in Bedlam Theatre at Edinburgh University. I think we’ve wanted to put Othello on there for about the last 15 years now.

This is down to a problem with higher education in general though and these theatre companies are the wrong places to look if you want to increase diversity. However, as long as they remain the dominant forces in terms of repeated return years at NSDF it’s difficult to see how this will change.

The areas where attention needs to be focused is the drama companies that are just starting up, the ones that maybe don’t have financial means of others or come from places where putting on theatre is not the norm. These are the places where the quality of theatre may not be up to NSDF standards, caused by a lack of experience as opposed to talent. If these groups are given the support they need to sustain themselves over a period of years then no doubt down the line we’ll see a better slice of British culture at NSDF.

Expecting NSDF to fill this role though is expecting too much. The barriers to entry in theatre are just too high. With football anyone can pick up a ball and show off their skills (although they’d probably be better if they kicked it) at close to no cost. Before you even begin contemplating putting on a piece of theatre you have to pawn off at least one treasured item. And once you’ve done that you have to mortgage your grandmother in order to get to NSDF, because they’ve got spiralling costs and a foetus like reliance on the Arts Council’s financial placenta goodness.

And it’s not for the joy of putting on a show at NSDF either. Of course there’s a huge sense of pride at being selected and a great chance for everyone to learn and experience new things; but the real use of NSDF is as a stepping stone. A chance to be noticed and meet professionals in the field. Those who get the most out of NSDF are those who are looking to pursue their career professionally and these are the opportunities that NSDF should focus on by selecting the most talented. Talk of elitism can ruffle feathers but if the Festival isn’t concentrated on representing the most talented then the opportunities it provides are severely reduced.

The buck can only be passed so far though. I was appalled at how many people had only heard about NSDF by chance. If we want to make sure that the best student theatre in the country is put on then every single potential piece of student theatre should be aware that NSDF exists. If a student group do manage to put on a stunning piece of theatre against the odds and neither they nor NSDF are aware of each other’s existence then there’s a criminal waste of potential, and one that NSDF is more than capable of preventing.

The question is one that’s a nightmare to answer and I can’t see the situation changing drastically anytime soon. There’s no excuse for complacency as it’s arrogant to assume that the largely homogenous student group here in Scarborough represents the very finest theatrical talent in the UK. It’s a problem that stretches beyond the means and purpose of NSDF and will require the kind of joint social effort that’s always harder than it sounds. The problems and possible solutions I’ve outlined here are brief ideas so please take issue with them and write responses as it’s an issue that should be discussed.

NSDF Awards

Repent ye sinners, the end is nigh! That’s right, despite expectations NSDF ’08 is closing its doors for the final time today, so we can all go home and think about what we’ve done. It’s customary to hand out awards at such a time, which is slightly bizarre given that appreciation of the arts is mostly subjective, but I’m a stickler for tradition and so I too would like to make some objective decisions about the shows this week and hand out some awards of my own. (Don’t worry, as is often the case in this political climate, every show will get an award so that the namby-pambies are left satisfied.)

The Trojan Award For Exemplary Manipulation of Rubber goes to Lost In The Wind for their insightful appreciation of balloons and the many shapes and sizes they can take. I have never been so emotionally affected by balloons before, and I’ve been to some fucking good balloon fairs. Well done!

The Dick Van Dyke ‘Cor’ Blimey Guv’nor!’ Award goes to The Dumb Waiter who warmed the cockles of this gaff’s heart by faithfully reproducing the accent of the much maligned cockney gangster with conviction and gusto. Huzzah!

The Happy-Slappy ‘What Was That For?’ Award goes to Fewer Emergencies for the bit of perplex glass barely visible at the back of the stage that apparently contained every object mentioned in the play. Entirely pointless and no doubt a massive drain on the budget but they went ahead and did it anyway, bless ‘em.

The Middle-Aged Mother’s Appreciation Award is customarily given to the show that evokes the biggest ‘Ooh, isn’t that nice?’ reaction from the audience and without a doubt this prestigious award must go to Proof, whose set was ‘just lovely’. A subsidiary Fuck Me! Award goes to the tech crew for getting said set out in under 15 minutes. Gosh!

The Frank Matcham Joke Award goes to that raucous bunch who put on When You Cry In Space A Fairy Shits Herself for constructing by far and away the best laugh of the entire Festival. I’m chuckling away now just thinking about it. (I’m not really, but it was still bloody funny.)

The Ian Shuttleworth ‘It Wouldn’t Have Been Allowed In My Day’ Award goes without question to Beautiful Thing, who dared to break down the kind of boundaries that would have been insurmountable 16 years ago. Challenging? You bet yer ass!

The John Leslie Award goes to Metamorphosis and if you need that one explained to you then you probably don’t want to know.

The Universal Acceptance of General Fluffiness Award goes to Jackajack, a show which evoked a feeling of warmth and love in all but the harshest of souls. I had to strangle a puppy on the way home in order to counter this feeling but still, congrats!

The Khalid Abdalla Póg Mo Thóin Award goes to the cast of Disco Pigs who I’m still convinced are going to leap out at me from a dark alley and proceed to beat nine shades of whatsit out of me, just because they can. I’m sure they’re lovely when you get to know them though.

The Michael Jackson Award For Scaring The Bejeezus Out Of An Audience was hotly contested between Metamorphosis and The Skriker because, quite frankly, both had ensemble casts that used guttural noises that made me want to turn my pants a darker shade of brown, but in the end the award had to go to The Skriker, specifically for that bloke with a stick who seemed to have dropped straight out of The Descent. Freaky!

The Boris Johnson Cigars And Brandy Award goes to those adorable girls from Strict Machine who in their own special way demonstrated why women should stay out of the workplace and in the kitchen. Mother knows best!

And finally The Move Them To The Fuck Of Their Heart Award goes to 4.48 Psychosis who, and I mean this in all sincerity, caused me to break into tears the instant I left the auditorium. The most touching, raw and emotionally draining show I’ve ever seen, quite exceptional in every way.

In conclusion I would like to thank every single person who has been involved in the Festival this year, it’s been a late-night caffeine fuelled blast and so the Thank Fuck You Were Here Too award goes to all of you lovely people, especially the Noffice crew. But not the Arts Council.

A Response to Some Angry Christians

I can understand why some people might have too little faith in their convictions to laugh at themselves or a fundamental belief system that would prevent them from seeing the tongue-in-cheek nature of my previous comments so let me briefly qualify some of the facts I mentioned about Christian and Pagan festivals.

It’s certainly true that Christianity and Paganism have not shared a harmonious existence. This is because the Pagan festivals of winter and spring were in existence way before Mary got knocked up by some super-powered divine semen and were hijacked by Christians in order to make Christianity more appealing to the Pagan masses. The exchanging of Easter Eggs is an excellent example of this. Quite what a mythical bunny that lays chocolate eggs has to do with Jesus getting nailed to a cross and rising again three days later is beyond me. But look at the Pagan beliefs of fertile Mother Nature’s springtime rebirth and it all becomes clear.

As for Christmas, the Winter Solstice festival was not created by Christians. There is nothing in the Bible that would remotely suggest that Jesus was born on the 25th December. Is it coincidence that the remembrance of the birth of hope and light into the world in the form of a baby Jesus coincides with a time when people would celebrate the return of the life-giving Sun to the world? No, because the early Christians weren’t ones to miss a trick. In fact every element of the story of Jesus’ life, from the immaculate conception through to the death and resurrection of a miracle working character can be found in mythology that existed in many different guises since man first asked, ‘What are we even doing here?’

‘What has this got to do with the Festival of student theatre we are currently celebrating?’ I hear you cry. Nothing, which is why I just want to mention the brilliant pyro show I was privy to this evening. Sometimes (in fact all of the time) I think techies have a much better deal than anyone else in theatre. They get to play with awesome lighting, mind-bending sound effects and things that explode in a shower of flames and sparkles. How is that not the coolest job ever? Techies, I salute you and your ability to create literal pillars of fire.

If you're still offended by my words then I refer you to the incomparable Bill Hicks who, when confronted with Christians who took offence at what he said, simply replied, "Forgive me."