Review: The Edinburgh Fringe // #edfringe

‘Fringe Notes’

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Leg one into my two leg holiday and, flying somewhere over the North Sea, I figured I’d write up the short notes I made during my first ever trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in Scotland.

In total, my good friend Robbie and I managed to cram in eighteen shows in just under three and a half days. If you’re off to the Fringe yourself this month (it’s on until the end of August) then the following reviews and recommendations might be of use to you. If you’re not off to the Fringe this month, why not read them anyway? They might be interesting and I’m sure the performers behind them will be hitting the road again real soon.

Lets do this.

Day One – August 4th, 2013

1. HOLES

Waiting for Holes #edfringe #flowfringe

Blurb: Three conference organisers and a teenage girl are the sole survivors of a fatal plane crash on a remote tropical island.

Original Notes

  • Oh look, it’s the bloke from the BT ad
  • Started well / funny
  • Central conceit of plane crash fairly believable
  • Twists and turns throughout? Not so much
  • Why did that character do that?!

Review
HOLES was the first thing we saw at the fringe and was probably the weakest of everything we saw. The actors were generally quite good, however the script (and to an extent the directing) let it down considerably. Part of the set up was that the play was being held at a ‘secret location’ which, as much as Robbie and I discussed it over the coming days, really added absolutely nothing to the overall concept. — ‘Hey, they crash land on a beach so let’s do the play… Near a beach!’ (note: near, not on). Bah. Anyway, I don’t like being highly critical of stuff. I just thought / hoped it’d be better.

Verdict
Skip.

2. Vikki Stone: Definitely

@vikkistone Boom

Blurb: After her smash hit, sell-out run in 2012, Vikki Stone returns with a whole new hour of songs, stand-up and depending on whether or not her dog can learn to dance…

Original Notes

  • Laugh my face off hilarious
  • Amazing songs
  • Dogs
  • TV
  • Simon Cowell
  • She was just… Great!

Review
I first met Vikki Stone about five years ago (ish) through some mutual friends and even back then I thought she was pretty awesome. Up until the Fringe however I’d not actually seen her perform any of her stuff on an actual stage in real life. So, along with only a couple of others, Vikki was on my must-see list and, to be perfectly honest, she should be on yours too. Musically gifted, comedically talented, and imaginatively filthy, Vikki’s musical numbers and deft storytelling set up one of the best pay offs I saw at the Fringe. By the end of the show, both me and Robbie were crying with laughter.

Great work, Vikki. And good luck with the rest of the fringe, x

Verdict
Vikki is awesome. DEFINITELY (see what I did there?) book your tickets right now.

3. Adam Buxton: Kernel Panic
Blurb: Cult buffoon, award-winning radio host and tech-lemming Adam Buxton looks within the soul of his laptop and considers how we present ourselves in the net age (he shows stuff he’s made and reads out web comments). Just four nights.

Original Notes

  • I thought he was OK
  • I think he’s been funnier
  • I’m not sure how I feel about ‘PowerPoint comedy’

Review
I’m not really sure to say about this. Adam Buxton is Adam Buxton. I guess I went in expecting to laugh a lot more than I actually did. PowerPoint comedy is okaaaaay, if done properly. But when you work with slides and give/see presentations week in, week out there isn’t much that you can do with a slide that you haven’t seen before. I know that sounds incredibly pompous – but it’s true. That aside, some of it was genuinely funny (and Adam is obviously incredibly talented when it comes to mixing technology with giggles), I just thought it could’ve been stronger is all. I mean, there’s only so many times you can read a YouTube comment in a funny voice, right?

Verdict
If you’re a fan, go see. If not, maybe consider passing.

4. The Room (film)
Blurb: Bring your plastic spoons and enjoy a Sunday night screening of the cult phenomenon that is The Room.

Original Notes

  • O.M.G. AMAZING.
  • ‘What candles? What music? What sexy dress?!’
  • Spooooons!

Review
OK, so while those original notes might well be the most random set so far (and perhaps throughout this entire thing), however The Room deserves them oh so much. A bit of background is required. Basically, the room is WITHOUT DOUBT one of the worst films ever made. Shot in 2003 by a chap named Tommy Wiseau, The Room has developed such a cult following that, whenever it’s shown, people get together and heckle and yell and shout at the screen whenever parts of the plot/script/etc stop making sense (which is basically ALL OF THE TIME). If you’ve not seen it before, make sure you see it at an organised screening. Watching it at home will be fun, I’m sure, but seeing it with others (who know the heckles) is just brilliant.

One of the best cinema experiences I’ve ever bad.

Verdict
If you can’t see it at the Fringe, go see it somewhere else (I hear there’s regular screenings in London).

Day Two  – August 5th, 2013

5. Avenue Q
Blurb: A coming of age story like no other, join us in Avenue Q with a cast of fluffy, filthy and unforgettable characters who’ve found themselves living on the wrong side of Sesame Street… Featuring an enlightening repertoire of Tony Award winning songs such as It Sucks to Be Me and What do you do with a BA in English? Don’t miss out on this celebration of a decade of mischief, bad behaviour and political incorrectness.

Original Notes

  • Least favourite so far.
  • Not up to the standard I was expecting.
  • 2-3 good characters/ actors in it overall, the rest fell a little flat.

Review
There’s not much I can add to the above if I’m honest. It was a bit painful in places. If you’ve seen it in the West End, then don’t worry about seeing it again. Needed stronger directing, better pace, and generally tightening up all over.

Verdict
If you’ve not seen it in the West End, go and see it when it returns. That’s all I got.

6. Ten Out of Ten


Blurb: Ten Out of Ten is a comic peek into our absurd world of triumphs and disasters. Three experts put our successes and failures under the microscope using electric guitars, the raising of hands and chalking on walls. It’s all here: brownie badges and driving tests; failing Grade One Flute and that first date; climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Join the team for an evening of achieving that will feed your eyes, ears and sense of ambition.

Original notes

  • Moving
  • Funny
  • Poignant
  • A story about love, achievement, and validation. I cried, twice.

Review
Looking back over the past few days, I think Ten out of Ten (TooT) really is my most favourite thing that I saw at the Fringe. It’s a big statement. TooT was funny, sad, moving, and such a genuine surprise (apparently Robbie stuck a pin in the programme!) we just got completely swept away. Yep, I cried. Twice. And I don’t mind admitting it. An emotional roller coaster of immersive theatre which tugs at the right heart strings and challenges what qualifies as achievement (and what we perceive as validation), TooT really was just ace. It spoke to me on a number of levels and I left valuing life, and all that is in it, just that little bit more than I already do.

Verdict
One of the best things I saw at the Fringe this year. See it.

7. Festival of the Spoken Nerd

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Blurb: Sci-curious comedy for the fearlessly inquisitive. Stand-up mathematician Matt Parker (Things You Need To Know, BBC2), geeky songstress Helen Arney (Infinite Monkey Cage, BBC Radio 4 ) and experiments maestro Steve Mould (Britain’s Brightest Street Scientist, BBC1) bring you Full Frontal Nerdity with live experiments and unashamed geekiness. Joyous, anarchic and exponentially entertaining – Nerd is the word! It’s time to get your geek on.

Original Notes

  • Brilliant! Maths! Science!
  • Songs!
  • Conditional formatting!
  • “That’s great”
  • Magenta – NOT REAL

Review
Three nerds (one physicist, one mathematician, and one scientist) get together and, through comedy and song, share insights about the world around us AND make jokes about the geekiest things EVER.

First Fringe magic moment: when Matt Parker demonstrated the rather intricate conditional formatting on one of his spreadsheets (stay with me on this one, it was funny) I said, in somewhat involuntarily awe (and quite loudly) – ‘That’s great!’

Of course I was right near the front and of course he heard me, he made a joke about it and moved on. A couple of days later I ran into him and explained that I really was genuinely impressed with aforementioned excel excellence and we had a hug, and hen laughed – a lot. Amazing.

Sidenote: one of my favourite things about the Fringe is that the performers try and see as much, if not more than, the actual attendees. Which means the chances of running into one of your favourite acts in the street or in the back of a theatre room are actually quite high. So yeah, that’s awesome.

Verdict
If maths or science (or even spreadsheets that do awesome things) tickle your inner geek: go see. Even if they don’t, the three nerds are all super likeable and you’ll leave having learnt something new anyway.

8. Pajama Men
Blurb: Beulah would eat a spider to fit in with the cool kids. Nadine’s arm is missing and she wants it back. Franz’ biggest problem is life is too easy. A procrastinating king has only 700 years to get his s*** together, if he doesn’t it’s certain death for everyone. ‘The Pajama Men create a cartoon of the mind, a shape-shifting world in which anything seems not just possible, but imminent

Original Notes

  • Just. Wow.
  • Mime
  • Improv
  • Great narrative
  • This reminds me of college (in the best of ways)
  • Intertwined storytelling, energetic, fast, smart, clever, innovative, and hilarious

Review
Two guys, in pajamas. What else do you need? What at first starts off as a bunch of skits featuring all kinds of characters from all walks of life, slowly culminates into one epic tale that spans hundreds of years. Already I feel like I’ve said too much. Robbie had seen these guys before and apparently they’re quite famous for who they are and what they do. This is the first I had heard of them and I enjoyed every single minute. The characters were hilarious, the confidence in both the material and between the two gents on stage was immense, and overall the thing had gasping in awe and wonder at how well the whole thing had been crafted together (and yet still with enough room to ad lib here and there as needed).

Oh, and if you don’t walk away with the words ‘TOO EASY!’ stuck in your head as your new favourite catchphrase, you’re doing it wrong.

Verdict
Go and enjoy the madness.

9. The Horne Section
Blurb: Rolling into Edinburgh with a brand new barnstorming show, The Horne Section will yet again provide the festival’s best musical mayhem. Top comedians plus amazing performers combine to make this an unmissable show. Fresh from their second BBC Radio 4 series, the first band to ever host Never Mind the Buzzcocks are this year rocking an enormous cow. Be there.

Original Notes

  • Funny songs, hurrah!
  • Alex Horne is GREAT
  • Plus Guests!
  • Le Gateau Chocolat is hilarious
  • Robin Ince was shouty rubbish
  • David O’Doherty – read the euology to his still alive father whole the latter was not only in the room but also playing jazz piano with the band. Effing. Amazing. Magical.

Review
Where do I begin? I mean, the original notes above kind of carry across how amazing it was. But look, let me try: Alex Horne is a good comedian. He’s also a good musical comedian. He also has an awesome band called the Horne Section. And together they’re just really, really good. Obviously they have a show that they do each night but each section is punctuated with having a special guest or three with whom they just jazzzzz…

We had Le Gateau Chocolat (amazing cross dressing black guy with a velvet voice of win), Robin Ince (not as funny or as good as he thought he was), and then – Fringe magic moment number two, David O’Doherty delivering, along with his dad, one of the most moving, and hilarious speeches I’ve ever seen or heard. His dad can jazz. Brilliantly. And the band jazzed with him. Just amazing.

Verdict
While I doubt you’ll get the same magic as we did, you might get something else. Go see.

Day Three  – August 6th, 2013

10. Devil in the deck

And now at the #edfringe? SOME MAGIC!

Blurb: A timeless fairy tale of love, magic and adventure set to alluring live musical accompaniment. Jack Swindle is a smooth-talking grifter cursed by a bad Tarot reading. Jack leads us into the compelling world of stings, scams and the con. Together we travel the world in search of a cure to the curse, cheating at cards to cheat death.

Original Notes

  • Storytelling from the Deep South with a healthy smattering of card tricks.
  • Great card tricks in fact.
  • Close up magic of the best kind.
  • It was a lot of fun, I cheered and whooped.

Review
Robbie and I picked this one at random, from one the huge boards outside one of the venues, after I expressed an interest in seeing some magic. ‘Devil in the deck, that sounds like its got magic in it, lets go to that’ – and we did. And it was awesome.

Small space, intimate setting, just two guys (one magician, one musician) and a beautiful story told from a man’s heart. Every now and then he’d stop and share a trick with us, and every now and then you’d gasp as the story twisted and turned a different way. I really enjoyed this and it was quite refreshing and quite different.

Verdict
Need some card tricks in your life? Delivered by a magical and story-telling pro? Go see.

11. BBC Radio 4 recording of ‘Its not what you know…’
Blurb: Miles Jupp takes the chair of It’s Not What You Know, the panel show which sets out to see how well panellists know those closest to them. For in this show it’s not what, but who you know that matters – and more importantly how well you know them.

Original notes

  • Kevin Bridges
  • Funny
  • Good wit/banter
  • Went on a bit (maybe I was just tired!)

Review
Robbie managed to bag some free tickets to this recording and, given the knackered state we were in, it was probably just what we needed [to sit down and listen to some Radio 4 be recorded]. It was great having Kevin Bridges on the panel  and the banter between him and Miles was hilarious. Looking at the scheduling I don’t think it’s actually been broadcast yet… Maybe worth a listen when it goes out.

Verdict
Fun, but probably other/better stuff you can find at the Fringe.

12. Worst of Scottee
Blurb: Scottee encounters past flames, ex-friends and people who no longer like this ‘edgy innovator’ (Independent) in his debut solo show. Find out what people really think of him, why he pretended to have AIDS and what prompted him to steal money from his Nan. This show will give you reasons not to like him: it is Scottee at his very worst.

Original Notes

  • Painful
  • Funny
  • Honest / True
  • Heart-wrenching
  • Bonus tickets!

Review
Another random find for us: my friend Benny alerted me to the fact that he’d seen Scottee put on Facebook that he’d hidden two tickets to his show in a photobooth in Boots on the North Bridge. So of COURSE we had to go find them!

And I’m really glad we did – #worstofscottee is gut-aching review of the worst things that Scottee has ever done (and the reasons why). It is at times hilarious and yet, by the end, so heartfelt and so bare – it’s almost painful to watch. I wished, when it ended, that Scottee didn’t leave the stage. That instead we could have all got up and collectively hugged him as we left. The openness is staggering.

Verdict
Want something challenging and different? SEE SCOTTEE.

13. School Night
Blurb: Don’t end up in detention, head to School Night! The comedy circuit’s greatest acts tackle their own specialist subjects.

Original Notes

  • Stand up
  • Robot Wars
  • One. Miserable. Heckler.
  • Musical history
  • Hiding the audience

Review
Again, another ‘Let’s just do this on a whim’ thing – School Night was pretty funny. Obviously it’ll be different every night but one of the highlights for me – and probably Fringe magic moment number three – was when, after one particular audience member put her hand up to ask to go to the toilet, the compere jokingly remarked that we should all hide before she gets back. Well, WE DID.  MWAHAHAHAHAHAAH. Amazing.

Verdict
Worth a punt, definitely.

Day Four  – August 7th, 2013

14. Choose Your Own Documentary
Blurb: A found diary, a film crew and an incredible true story. Inspired by the Choose Your Own Adventure books of the 1980s, you determine Nathan’s fate in a unique interactive experience. Every twist and turn is in your hands. With over 1500 versions and multiple endings, where will the story lead? Who can help you discover the truth behind the diary’s pages? You decide.

Original Notes

  • Gorman-esque delivery
  • Choose Your Own Adventure style – I like!
  • Funny and oddly moving
  • GOOD. WORK.

Review
This really took me by surprise. Nathan Penlington is a self-confessed obsessive nerd and his hobby of choice is the Choose Your Own Adventure books that were huge in the 80s. As a result, the audience themselves get to choose their own adventure and route through the tale that Nathan wants to tell. And what fun it is. I really, really enjoyed this. Nothing makes me happier than listening to eloquent geeks talk passionately about what makes them tick. Good work, sir.

Verdict
Definitely worth a look (more so if you’re a child of the 80s).

15. Casual Violence: House of Nostril
Blurb: Award-winning sketch terrors ‘creative, strange, brilliantly performed stuff’ (Kate Copstick, Scotsman) and double Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality nominees (2011 and 2012) present the rise and fall and fall and fall and fall and fall and rise and fall of the most villainous bloodline in human history. There will be taxidermy.

Original Notes

  • League of Gentlemen-esque
  • Weird
  • Dark
  • Energetic
  • A bit hit and miss

Review
This was our one and only ‘leaflet purchase’. There are a MILLION different things you can see at the Fringe each year and of course, there are a BILLION leaflets to tell you about them all. We took one for this, and decided we’d go. It was, in places, quite darkly funny. In others, it was just a bit… much. Not sure I’d see it again. Definitely thought there was something there, just not.. quite there. If that makes sense?

Verdict
Very dark. Talented performers. But not something I’d see again.

16. Tom Webb’s Wedding
Blurb: I do comedy… My dad got an MBE and now I can get married in St Paul’s Cathedral. It’s like getting a Golden Ticket from Willy Wonka. I just need to arrange the wedding … and find love.

Original Notes

  • I really enjoyed spending an hour with Tom
  • Nice central idea
  • Warm, chatty, funny

Review
Tom is the compere at the monthly film/pub quiz that I attend and, fortunately enough, is actually really quite funny. Given that I’ve only ever spent time with Tom when he’s posing such questions as ‘Can you name me ten films in which a main character loses their virginity?’, I was really quite looking forward to this. And I’m pleased to report it was actually really bloody good. Tom is a likeable and charming host and gets the audience on side pretty damn quickly because of it. Part of the ‘free fringe’ (you don’t pay for a ticket, but are encouraged to throw some cash in a bucket at the end), Tom’s Wedding is definitely worth seeking out if you fancy a comfy giggle with a comedian who includes you for your laughs, not just everyone else’s.

Verdict
Yeah, I’d see him again.

17. Piff the Magic Dragon
Blurb: He’s played Sydney Opera House. Toured with Mumford & Sons. Had over ten million hits on YouTube. And performed to over 200,000 people in a year. But enough about Mr Piffles – The World’s First Conjuring Chihuahua. Piff’s back too. With brand new tricks and a mind-reading fish, Edinburgh’s favourite magical dragon returns.

Original Notes

  • One that we booked in from the off
  • REALLY FUNNY
  • Both Robbie and I got dragged on stage (me for the mind-reading goldfish, amazing)

Review
I first saw Piff perform at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London (for Shakespeare’s birthday) and he was brilliant. He pretty much brought the house down with his now trademark mix of dark humour, sardonic wit and smart magic tricks; all of which both made you laugh and gape in awe. My face hurt I laughed so much. It’s true. When we saw Piff would be at the Fringe too, then he was a dead cert. AND HE WAS AWESOME. Both Robbie and I got pulled up on stage (for two separate tricks), and I just giggled like a stupid school boy throughout.

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It was just hilarious. I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed.

Verdict
Go. See. Piff.

18. Fleabag
Blurb: F*** it. Today I am going to be a new person. No more slutty pizzas. No more porny w***s. Lots more lovely threesomes. Go. The Fleabag bites back.

Original Notes

  • OK, this is a riot
  • Strong
  • Monologue of hilarity
  • Majorly dark, but so spot on

Review
I loved this. I really, really loved it. Writer and performer, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, was simply brilliant. I laughed. I gasped. I got it. This was so good. So so good. This tale of a twisted life, told through a series of semi-successful drunken attempts at living, really does make you laugh hard. Both at the hilarity of the situations our lead finds herself in but also at the stark stupidity of it all and just how easy it is to mess things up when you let go. Go and see this. I really thought she was ace.

Verdict
Definitely one to see.

In closing…

If you made it this far, then good on you.
If you’re headed up to the Fringe, then I hope this helped.
If you’re one of the of performers I wrote about above, then thank you. Whether I enjoyed it or not, it was still amazing to be a part of what you pulled together.

Edinburgh Fringe 2013 is/was amazing.

If you’ve never been before, start looking at hotels for next year now – AND GO.

Update: Robbie’s written up his words too. Also worth a look. 

That time I was in SPAMALOT!

Starring as ‘Sir Not Appearing’

Sir Not Appearing!

[click to embiggen]

This past week, thanks to a rather awesome Christmas present from the girlfriend, I was given the chance to appear in a cameo role in the current West End run of Monty Python’s SPAMALOT!

AND.

IT.

WAS.

AWESOME.

Looking back on it now, a good four days later, I still can’t believe it happened! It’s difficult to communicate (using just the written word) how great the whole thing really was. So it’s a good job I took a load of pictures to help me tell the story!

Part 1. Arriving at the Stage Door
The crew greeted us warmly, and were just super super nice about EVERYTHING. ‘Hey! James is here!’ – ‘Is that the Sir Not Appearing?’ – ‘Yeah!’ – ‘Hey everyone! Our Sir Not Appearing is here!’

I turned up with literally zero knowledge of what I was going to be doing or what my line was (didn’t I mention? It was a speaking part too!) as I was kept in the dark right up until arrival. So this whole ‘Sir Not Appearing’ thing? I had no idea what they meant…

The stage manager met us and explained everything:

There’s a part in the play, around two thirds through the first act, when the narrator, after King Arthur has rounded up his men, reads through the names of the Knights of the Round Table… and the last name he reads is ‘the aptly named ‘Sir-not-appearing-in-this-play’. You come on at that point, you say ‘Sorry!’ and then you leave. Easy! Don’t worry, we’ll be rehearsing at around 730pm, plenty of time!

Any fan of the original Monty Python and the Holy Grail knows that this only a slight variation on the film’s script:

NARRATOR: The wise Sir Bedevere was the first to join King Arthur’s knights, but other illustrious names were soon to follow: Sir Launcelot the Brave; Sir Galahad the Pure; and Sir Robin the Not-quite-so-brave-as-Sir-Launcelot who had nearly fought the Dragon of Agnnor, who had nearly stood up to the vicious Chicken of Bristol and who had personally wet himself at the Battle of Badon Hill; and the aptly named Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Film. Together they formed a band whose names and deeds were to be retold throughout the centuries, the Knights of the Round Table.

Part 2. Costume!

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[Note – for reasons that will become clear very shortly, I had to shave off my beard. I look about 12yrs old! ARRGH!]

3. Meet the star!
For this run (initially scheduled for a limited six week run but now, thanks to its popularity, on an indefinite extension) of SPAMALOT! King Arthur is played by the one and only Stephen Tompkinson.

And what a bloody nice bloke he is too.

Me and Stephen Tompkinson

Part of the evening’s plan (aside from being a special guest star (ahem, yes – that’s me)) was to meet Stephen backstage and chat to him about all things Python. Again, something I didn’t know was happening until the night and again, something equally brilliant for me to do!

Things Stephen told me about Spamalot:

  • His daughter, with whom he has watched Monty Python’s Holy Grail several times a year, every years, since she was six years old, was the one to convince him to take the role! ‘You’d make me so proud, Daddy!’ – she said to him. ‘How could I say no to that’ he said. Awww!
  • His rehearsal process was a mere ten days. TEN. DAYS. Mental. Alright that’s a pretty intense ten days, but still – I can’t imagine. Fortunately for Stephen, he is only one of two new additions to the cast (the other being the quite brilliant AJ Casey, as The Lady of the Lake) so the ensemble already in place not only welcomed him with open arms but also supported him every step of the way.
  • The name of the game [on this production at least] is Fun! That’s what the director told Stephen on his first night – ‘Just forget your troubles, get out on that stage and have a riot. The audience want to have fun with you, so just have a ball!’
  • This new [ish] version of the play is a lot more inclusive and open than it was in the Palace and is updated accordingly to very current affairs – songs as well!

What a lovely chap. And there was still so much more to come!

4. Rehearsals

Rehearsing with the SPAMALOT gang :)

Again, another moment for the cast to be warm and welcoming. I got my part right first time, and they all cheered and whooped.. Ha! Just, brilliant.

5. Waiting!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIOLB3L_12g?rel=0]

6. Final adjustments
Hat, moustache, beard (yes, that’s right – I shaved my beard so I could wear a fake one, brilliant), mic, and a wish of good luck from the girl.

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Before showtime!

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7. The show!
Backstage the atmosphere was, how can I put it? Hilarious. Laughter, jokes, and merriment were spewing forth from everyone – and that was before anyone was on stage! It was such a great group of people to be around; they clearly loved their work very, very much and every single person who walked past whilst I was waiting in the wings stopped to wish me luck, before they themselves stepped out in front of 700+ people.

Just lovely, lovely people.

When my cue – ‘and the aptly-named…‘ – came I strutted out on stage and beamed at the audience – ‘…Sir-not-appearing-in-this-play!’

Sir Not Appearing!

In four beats: the knights looked at me, I looked at them, I looked back at the audience, and then came the line:

‘SORRY!!!’

And the next thing I knew, I was off again – to roars of laughter!

Exit stage right!

The audience’s reaction was great, and I was grinning from ear to ear.

I was [and still am really] utterly dumbfounded that the whole thing took place at all. I can’t believe it. It was just brilliant.

The team backstage told us that the role of ‘Sir Not Appearing’ is usually played by one of the ensemble however they often throw it open to special guest stars such as celebrities and/or comedians who can come on and kill with that role. In other words, for me to get the opportunity to do it was very special indeed.

Just. Wow.

And while I can’t guarantee that I’m going to be in it next time, I can 100% guarantee that seeing this play will make you laugh. A LOT. I laughed like a madman, both backstage during act one and then again when I joined the audience for act two.

Two last things to say before I finish this epic blog post –

First: Go and see Spamalot. Please. It’s AWESOME. Hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny, and… and the cast just has so much fun. It would be unfair of me to mention the epic corpsing that took place during the Knights that say Ne segment, so I won’t. But I nearly died laughing.

Second: I have to say thank you to my amazing girlfriend, Jen, for managing to swing what is quite easily the Best. Christmas present. Ever. You rock x

 

 

Adventures in Soho Part 1: Me & Mrs JoJos

Soho isn’t my usual haunt. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

But – for some strange reason – since returning home from San Francisco – I have found myself in London’s Centre of Seediness three times in as many weeks!

“But why? WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY?!”

I hear you cry.

Well for the first jaunt to the ho of so you may have two clues….

Clue 1 – The picture above

Clue 2 – If you remember way back when I was telling you about the best conversation I ever had

There was a sentence that went a little something like this:

“Yeah man, I know. Then I’ve got my show on the Sunday at Madam Jo Jos!”

Well ‘my show’ was in fact not my show at all. More like Lisa Devaney’s Show. Actually. To be completely correct it was:

“Lisa Devaney’s Hee-Haw Whore House!”

How did I get involved? Funny story. AGES ago (and I mean AGES – like August last year) I got Blogtagged by my dear friend Helen Keegan. Which basically meant I had to write up eight random things about me.

Did that. Job done. Sorted.

Well, in March this year I get a call from one of a mutual friend, (Lisa), saying:

“James! I remember what you said in your blog post! Ya wanna be in my show!?”

“Err… Yeah! OK!”

At this point I remembered – item number five: “I studied at Drama School” – Bugger. All makes sense now!
Note – when writing blog posts, remember that ANYONE CAN READ THEM! 😉

“Oh and by the way James, I need a Burlesque Dancer too… You don’t know any do you?”

“Err… Funny you should say that, my girlfriend is a burlesque dancer – I’m sure she’d love to get involved…”

“FANTASTIC! I’ll in be touch!”

Anywhoo, not soon after committing to this project, I discover that SpinVox need me in Las Vegas.
CTIA to be precise. I’ve been over this.

But what I haven’t been over is that when I landed back in Blighty on the Saturday afternoon I actually went STRAIGHT to rehearsals (suitcase an’ all!), worked for the afternoon, then went home, slept all night and all day and THEN went to Madam JoJo’s to perform (with some fantastic co-stars) The Hee Haw Whore House!
(and we were on first too dammit)

Hand on heart I didn’t publicise it as well as I could.

For a bunch of reasons really –
First and foremost I hadn’t been on the stage in over a year. Not that I was nervous (LIES) but I was just a bit anxious you see…

The last play I did was a Tacit Theatre Company production of
The Office Party.’

That’s me over there, in character ———>

Playing ‘Gavin Chapman, MD of ‘Chapman & Howard’

Anywhoo – yeah – that was back in February 2007 so I hadn’t done any real performing for AGES.

Plus, given the time constraints that we had, (what with me soddin’ off to Vegas and everything), we barely had time for two decent rehearsals…

TWO I TELL YOU. TWO!

So yeah. Anxious would be understating it.

All of that crap aside – I can’t tell you what a resounding success the night was. In all seriousness I doubt it could’ve been ANY better. We were up first and we gave the crowd such a riot it really helped warm the place up for every act that followed.. When I first trailed this post I said:

“I was in a cabaret show the other day. Must blog it.”

And I had every intention of doing a blog post on the events of the entire evening of performance etc… BUT!
I was beaten to it.

Lisa Devaney not only did a fantastic job of writing the piece, but she also did a fantastic job of reviewing it too!

I strongly recommend you go and have a read… if only to look at the pictures 😉

See you back here real soon for Spending Time in Soho – Part 2.

The Office Party

02:36 -The Office Party
Current mood: bouncy

Hey folks – see below for details about my next production!

:o)

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE come and see it!
It’s really quite good and I know for a fact that a few of the characters in this play are probably working in your office RIGHT NOW.
Hehehe…
This is the same group that I worked with back in November..
..and I can safely say that the standards set then will (hopefully) be exceeded now – would love you to come…

It is quite a good play, with a good cast and fantastic Director and I also know for a fact that most of you have probably worked with the some of the ‘characters’ that appear in this play…
Definitely!

I’m in it – I’m playing Gavin Chapman, MD of Chapman & Howard.
The Office in Question.

Click here to buy tickets for show…

Click here for a map to the Theatre…

Click here for a map to the party on the 9th – NOT the 8th as the poster says below… GRR!

Oh and also – if you can make the party on the 9th that would be even cooler than a snowman’s cool bits!

See below for more details!

Mystery Plays – The Nativity

Ladies & Gentlemen –

I know – my blogging skills have been somewhat lacking of late – but I’ve been acting dah-ling!

On that note…

Short notice I know but…

Next week I am appearing in another play (no more now ’til next year – promise!)

THE NATIVITY,
by Tony Harrison

At:
The cornerHOUSE:
Wed December 6 to Sat December 9.

About the Play:
A company of local actors, singers and musicians are bringing a unique theatrical experience to the cornerHOUSE in Tolworth from December 6.

Collectively known as The Cloud Factory Theatre Company, they will be presenting

The Nativity – the first part of ‘The Mysteries’ trilogy – by poet and
playwright Tony Harrison.
It was first performed in the early 1980s at the
National Theatre, to rave reviews, although its roots go back many hundreds of years.

The script is based on the mediaeval Mystery Plays, which were performed in the streets of many English cities and not only gave ordinary people their first taste of theatre, but also brought the Biblical stories to life as never before.

The Nativity captures the flavour of these open air performances – not only through the rich, poetic language, but also in the fact that it is performed ‘in promenade’. In other words, the audience will be led around the cornerHOUSE, with scenes unfolding all around them.

The production also features a live folk band, who are recreating the
original musical score – a rare event in itself, for it was created by a
band, led by top folk musician John Tams, who played by ear. Nothing was ever written down, and it survives only in recordings.

The Nativity takes you on a journey into the past, from the creation of the world through to the birth of Jesus, blending comedy and tragedy, song and dance, and Christian and ancient English traditions in a way that is totally unique. It promises to be a memorable theatrical experience.

Details:
Performances: from Wed December 6 to Sat December 9.
Doors open 7pm. The show begins at 7.30pm.
Tickets cost £7 (£5 concessions).
To book, call 07949 800929 or email cloud-factory@hotmail.co.uk

Please email me back if you don’t know where this place is – or failing that – check here:
http://www.thecornerhouse.org

A bit from me:
This play is unlike anything I’ve ever been in before and will be very different (I’m sure) to anything you’ve seen before – it’s a lot of fun and if manage to make it along I’m sure you’ll have a fun evening… The cast are great and the live band really adds to the whole atmosphere of the piece…
Those of you that came to see me in Mum’s Legs/Alone earlier this year – this production is at the same place…
(so you know where you’re going!)
Those of you who came to see me in Our Country’s Good – this production is NOT at the same place – it’s a bit further on past Kingston, through Surbiton and nearly into Tolworth – a 281 from Twix will sort you out no bother!

Email/Text/Call me if you have any questions etc…
Obviously – this is extremely late notice and it’s my own fault for leaving it so late for posting this blog so if you can’t make it I’ll understand – but if you can – then WHOOPEEEEE!
I’ll see you there!

<Photobucket

Our Country’s Good

Ladies & Gentlemen!

You may wonder why I have disappeared from the MySpace scene somewhat of late…
Well – there’s a bloody good reason – I have been rehearsing..

Rehearsing for a play no less
Which play?

Our Country’s Good
…by Timberlake Wertenbaker

To be performed by The TACIT Theatre Company
(of which I am now a member)

At:
The Arthur Cotterell Theatre
Kingston College
Kingston Hall Road
Kingston Upon Thames
KT1 2AQ

On:
Wednesday 8th to Saturday 11th November at 7:30pm.

Tickets are £9.50 (£7.50 concessions)

These can be purchased online at
www.tactittheatre.co.uk

By post from:

TACIT Theatre,
PO Box 857A,
Kingston
KT1 9FZ

Or in person from:
The Tourist Information Office in Kingston Market Place.

Getting there:

Streetmap: For You

Or failing that – get a train to Kingston Station and walk from there!

A note from me:
I know a few of you came to see me in the One Acts Festival back in April, (before I went to Thailand – go back to the very beginning of my blogs and you’ll find them), and know how well received they were…
Well some members of the above company saw me in those two plays and invited me to audition for their next show.

This is it!

The play is looking really good. I am writing this after having spent all weekend rehearsing and I am shattered. However – I am very excited about this performance and it is something I hope to be quite proud of when it’s over.

I would be really chuffed if you all could come along and support me and the theatre company in what I hope to be a rather excellent production.

A note about the play:
“The theatre is an expression of civilisation… It will remind them that there is more to life than crime, punishment. For a few hours we will no longer be despised prisoners and hated gaolers. We will laugh, we may be moved, we may even think a little…”
Amongst the wilderness a new colony is struggling to survive, populated by a ship full of convicts and a handful of Royal Marines to guard them. These unwilling pioneers find themselves trapped between slow starvation, the brutality of martial law and the terrors of this strange new world.

In effort to raise flagging morale and to create a more humane society in the makeshift colony, the Governor suggests the convicts stage a play. A young lieutenant is chosen to lead the rehearsals, with only two copies of the text, a cast of convicts, and one leading lady who is about to be hanged.

This entertaining and life affirming play tackles the controversial and very contemporary issues of prisoners’ rights, community development and national identity. Our Country’s Good was winner of the Laurence Olivier Play of the Year Award in 1988.

A note about TACIT and what they stand for/believe in:
TACIT Theatre is an exciting new type of company based in Kingston-upon-Thames, dedicated to producing rewarding theatre for today’s audiences.

The company membership comprises professional and amateur actors, directors, designers and technicians who, together with their audience, seek to understand ways in which selected classic and contemporary works can inform our modern lives.

By fusing amateur and professional talent, TACIT Theatre creates both touring and community productions, which allow everyone in the company to realise their own theatrical ambitions.

The company also runs a series of workshops led by theatre professionals, enabling all members to develop new skills and achieve the highest possible artistic and technical standards.

In this distinctive way, TACIT Theatre serves both its members and its audiences; but above all brings high quality, accessible and entertaining theatre back to the local community.


AND FINALLY!

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!!!

COME AND SEE MY PLAY!!!

Cheers.

James.

PS – If you can make – let me know.
That way I’ll know to stick around afterwards so I can buy you a drink… ;o)

Things that have made me laugh recently…

Good evening everyone..
A bit of a cop out I know – but I’ve been SUCH a busy boy lately my blogging skills have suffered..

For this – I am truly sorry.

PhotobucketBut in the meantime – here are something that have made me laugh!
🙂

First up!

Me, in my ridiculously tiny sunglasses —->

I’m actually thinking about taking them back and getting some bigger ones..
They just don’t seem big enough.. y’know?

NEXT:

I have a friend called Vicky. She is lovely.
Beautiful, funny, intelligent, witty.. everso caring and considerate but also a teeny bit bonkers..
(which is probably why I love her like I do)…

Anywhoo – I stayed there a while back and in the morning she had to do her nails (as women do)…
So – I’m minding my own business and Vicky starts talking about her ‘monkey’.

“Your what?”

“I need my monkey to dry my nails…”

“EH?!”

Next thing I know out pops this thing:

Photobucket

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

You put your fingers on the Monkey’s ‘nanas and he blows air over your nails for you!
I don’t know why, but I found this absolutely hilarious.

Vicky just giggled away with me.. but it was just SO random..
Hahaha – I’m still smiling about it now.

Hehehe…

NEXT!

This is my friend Will.
Trying to use his new BBQ.

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I think that’s all I need to say in regards to that one!

PhotobucketIn other news..
Here’s a picture of me and Alex’s Giant Ring —- >

I love Alex’s Ring.
Alex’s Ring loves me.
We were meant to be.
Don’t you think?

Also..
I don’t know why that pic is yellow.
But it is.
Maybe it’s leaking from my hair…
Who knows?

Moving on…

I saw this at my Mum’s house the other weekend.

Photobucket

HAHAHAHAHAH!
Apparently its a Duster… I just laughed so hard when I saw it.

HOW RANDOM?!
Hehehehee…

That very same weekend – while I was visiting friends and family on the Isle of Canvey I nipped round to see my mate Tony..
He asked me if I like his dishwasher…

Photobucket

He then burst into fits of laughter..
As did I.
Who buys a dishwasher TO KEEP FOOD IN?!
WHO?!

Hahaha…

Remember me in my *super-cool* Sunny-G’s?

Well…

– because they are SO super-cool

…whenever I produce them, people just want to try them on!

So here – for your delectation – is a selection of random people wearing my sunglasses…

Photobucket.PhotobucketPhotobucket.PhotobucketPhotobucket.PhotobucketPhotobucket.Photobucket

James, Anthony, Alex, Mark, Jim, Basti, Alio (feat. Jess) and Rich…

…I salute you all!
Every single one of you!

Right then..
A couple more then I really must chip off to bed…

This is my mate Flashy blatantly abusing the law…

Photobucket

Hehe
..and while we’re on the subject of Flashy..

This is my friend Alio.
She’s a good girl.
But sometimes she likes to be silly in the middle of very important meetings

Photobucket

..but, when not posing alongside Flashy’s backside, Ali Bongo likes hiding under blankets, drinking strawberry cider, listening to all sorts of ker-razy music and generally having fun taking amusing photos of herself, and others.
Check out her myspace in fact.. you’ll see what I mean!

..and I *think* ..that’s everything.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Quick update Lifewise:

I’m having a great time still..!

Been out clubbing not as much – but still having fun…

Kind of seeing someone at the moment – that’s all cool.
(and I think she’s probably going to read this so I can’t really go into TOO much detail – wink wink – nudge nudge – you know who you are)

Still working bloody hard.
Still loving my job.

If you’re still not sure about what I do –

“..simply text ‘Mobi Daily’ to 63333 for your FREE download…”

Then you’ll see..

Advert over..
..well – nearly:

Very soon – thanks to the lovely intelligent people at Mobizines – you’ll be able to read my blog ON YOUR MOBILE!


I KNOW!
HOW EXCITING IS THAT?!

Errr… yes – where was I?

Had a great night clubbing at the weekend with one of my new best mates Liv (she’s my hairdresser too – she’s wicked) – her fella runs this night at Isha in Kingston on the last Saturday of every month called Sugafem.
Playing some wicked funky house and some sexy dirty classics..

Lovin’ it…
Ended up going back to some dudes house where he had some decks – mixin’ it up styleeee…
Hehe..

I’m STILL rehearsing too by the way!
Five weeks now until Our Country’s Good goes up.
Looking forward to that – made some real proper progress with my character..
Most of my main scenes are one on one with another bloke, so the rest of the cast hasn’t really seen what I’m doing with it yet.. but I’m looking forward to showing him off as it were – I’m aiming for something a bit edgy.. a bit.. intimidating y’know?
(I’m playing Ketch Freeman if you know the play at all)

But yeah – the Director, Jess – has really kind of encouraged me to explore this (what seemed at first to be a small) role.. and has given me some great direction.
Got a real good working relationship there.. proper director/actor respect y’know?
I’m really happy with it… …all I’ve gotta do now is get off book!
EEEK!

Ahem…

This month also sees the start of rehearsals for The Nativity too.
I think I’ve got my first call this Sunday – so fingers crossed for that one.
I’m really looking forward to working on this – the Director has got quite a good vision it seems and there’s an energy about him that reminds me of a good friend of mine.. so yeah – should be good.

The weekend also gave cause for a celebration too!
One of my closest friends, Natalie, managed to drag herself out of the horrid clutches of all things Essex and moved herself (and her lovely li’l sis, Squiffy) to sunny Surbiton!
Which.. for those of you who DONT know.. is about 30mins on the bus from here!
WHICH.. for those of you who dont know.. is SO much better than 2hrs on the train from here!
So – big HOORAH for Nats!
(I’ll come visit you soon darlin’ – when you’re all settled in like)

*sigh*

I always intend to write such short blogs – but it never happens!
Dammit…

Ok – quick wrap up…

Thanks for reading!
Things to do for next time…

I must email Sarah Bennett.
I must call Victoria Jackson.
I must text Selina Forrest.
I must hug Ali Bongo.

Laters Potatas!

PS – I’m a bit of a cheat – I’ve done two of those things already..
Ah well!

Hehe.. ’til next time true believers..