My pal Robin was up here in Edinburgh back in August. He dazzles Scotland with his presence every year and absorbs the absurdities of the festival fringe with gay abandon.
I try to join him in this frivolity as much as is humanly possible.
One of the first things we saw, if not the first was Choon-Hyang: True Love. A youth theatre company brought Korea's most adored traditional love story from Seoul to Edinburgh and joy to my heart. The lovers were sweet, the Mother was the epitome of campery and the teen boys adored drag. Perfect fringe!
In the same venue, a few days later, we saw Kenmac Productions' Company. My favourite piece of the 2007 season. A minimalist stage was all that was required as the actors knew how to fill it with presence, glamour and beautiful voices. Wonderful. My favourite segment? I've never had a song from musical theatre sung to me before, especially not from the stage, but after Joanne demanding not to be stared at, she stared at me as she launched herself into The ladies who lunch - and continued staring at me throughout.
A magical experience and one I long to repeat.
If Company was my favourite, Seriously was my second favourite. I've written about it before, dear reader, so click here if you'd like to know what I had to say.
Eurobeat - almost Eurovision! The talk of the fringe, apparently, and deservedly so. Indeed, it was almost Eurovision. As kitch and addictive as the real thing. How pleased was I to find my home (for the evening) country of Estonia was the winning entry with Together Again that night in the phone vote (for, yes, the audience is invited to text in their favourite entries)? Very pleased! And very pleased with Estonia myself! What a shame I couldn't have voted for them (no-one can vote for their own country). They were hot, had huge packages and their song was pure Eurovision. Bad english, sentimental and strange. Utterly fabulous.
Mel Giedroyc shone. But not as much as the sparkly costumes. And what costumes! A lycra fiesta! All the gays love lycra, especially on hot men. It all so often leaves nothing to the imagination.
Guilds was an original piece cut from the Gilbert and Sullivan tree and brought to us by Edinburgh University Savoy Opera Group. It was Robin's highlight, I think, though can't be sure. For me, it failed on several fronts. The humour was horribly middle class, some of the actors can only do hammy and everyone about me seemed to be a toff - which I find intimidating. It was especially marred for me by one of the actors sporting a vile and bushy beard. Like Father Christmas after buying too much Just For Men. I hate beards. I really, really do. When I'm Prime Minister, I shall ban them.
Jesus Christ superstar was performed by Marlborough school with enthusiasm, though it lacked depth. The vocals were drowned out by the band and the acting was mediocre to poor. There were some hot teens, yes, if that's your thing. One of the female leads was extremely slutty looking and could have done with a hair wash, but she had a brilliant vocal range. I just loved her voice.
I wanted to see Orgasm - the musical, but was afraid. I had come to imagine that the whole audience might be encouraged to masturbate inside the venue. This is all very well and I might have been tempted to take part in my teens, but not now, not now that I'm old, bald and fat.
So I didn't go.
Snowflake (100 words for snow, one for sorrow) was the masterpiece I'd come to expect from Castoffs Youth Theatre Group. I thought it would be impossible to top last year's The it boy, but they did. Bringing a range of issues to the attention of the audience with a wild mix of comedy, tragedy and musical theatre could go horribly wrong, but Castoffs pulled it off. Neither silly nor pointless, the cast brought a tear to my eye with a story about anorexia, self-harm and climate change delivered with humour and original songs. The band rocked, literally - and Aisha Iqbal stole the show as Ekoomak, an Inuit Mother with a sad story to tell. Last year, Aisha stole my heart as the hijra. A crush has turned to love!
Castoffs is a theatre group put together by Rotherham Young People's Services. It's a great way of fixing society's ills in some kind of one pot cooking exercise. However, they need seasoning and this would come in the form of professional assistance from someone in the world of theatre. I hope there's someone out there with a charitable heart and the desire to help these youngsters go from strength to strength.
This year, the American High School Theatre Festival was very much a hit and miss affair for Robin and I. Sadly, far more misses than hits. Of the hits (the only one?), Urinetown came top of the pile. The narrator of the piece is a policeman. He was easily the star of the show; a great actor, a beautiful singing voice and hot to boot. Also, he shared some rather touching moments of romance and homoerotica with a fellow police officer, which, to be frank, made the show what it was for me: splendid. A four and a half star performance. I'd have given it five, but the copper kept his clothes on.
Baby with the bathwater, also part of the American High School Theatre Festival was a mockumentary about parenthood, excess and transgenderism. It failed on all three counts, mainly because the actors didn't take the piece seriously. What could have been interesting and fun came across as simply ridiculous.
Still within the AHSTF, Chicken bones for the teenage soup. A comedy without any laughs. Apart from those eminating inappropriately from the actors who, by the looks on their faeces (is that a Freudian slip?), thought themselves idiots to be appearing in this trite nonsense.
And yes, still a part of the AHSTF - Is this a test? It certaily tested my patience. A piece about daydreaming during a test. Not very entertaining and leaving nothing for an audience member to take away.
Apollo/Dionysus - Part 1: wine/water & part 2: order/chaos was a very strange piece indeed. Of the four cast members, two were nude from the start, one undressed completely halfway through and the fourth member drank wine dribbled from the mouth of one of the original nudes.
I'd like to tell you what it was all about, but I can't. This leaves me with a two fold problem. I'm either stupid and it went over my head or it was utter jibberish. Which do you suppose, dear reader, is most likely?
If this piece was a philosophical stab in the dark, the knife ended up in the heart, not in the brain. Nudity always draws a crowd on the fringe but in a piece about Greek philosophy, our eyes should have been darting all about the space and not fixed on the actors' cocks. I must add, here, that the masturbation scenes were quite disturbing.
I'm not sure what I was supposed to make of the piece or what greater understanding of life it afforded me, but it is clear that getting drunk every day is a bad thing, but just as bad as being a dull, uninterested and bland old git.
Remember: everything in moderation and shit happens. Analyze that.
The Changeling, here presented by Eyeball Theatre could have been a compelling piece about murder and sex. Ultimately, no-one in the audience seemed to have a clue as to what was going on. The worst part for me was the guy with the beard. not only did he wear a mass of loathesome facial hair but he sweated throughout and profusely. He made me feel physically sick. Be sure, if I were alone, I'd have left before the end. It was poor. It's only redeeming feature, as, sadly, was the case with many pieces, was a hot man. I can't recall, now, the characters he played, but he put me in mind of a young Peter Duncan with the voice of Matt Lucas.
Frank and Dolly, for me, was an hour of campery, fun, intrigue and heartbreak. For Rob, sadly, it was an hour of shouting. Frank and Dolly are dancing partners. They enter the stage with Dolly's ballgown covered in vomit. Frank passes through a doorway. Although the audience sees both characters throughout, Frank and Dolly do not see one another.
Is Frank a drag king? A transgendered person? Or a fake? We soon find out, along with a myriad of other things.
Dillie Keane, as ever, triumphs. I adore her.
Gay slave handbook was, sadly, a piece with promise which went on for far too long and tried to be something it never could be: poignant. Instead, it invited the audience to dive headlong into the depths of depression, sadness and suicide, all thanks to a closeted Mormon and his quest to be normal. For a gay piece, there were surprisingly few mentions of male homosexuality and far too many flashes of the lady's tits. I should have taken Dannii Minogue along. It would have been more her thing than mine.
Into the hoods. If hip-hop and hoodies make you smile, you'd have loved this modern take on Into the woods. For me, Sondheim's masterpiece was ruined by a bunch of chavs who thought they were something special.
Is this about sex? was a very special play about love, romance, cross-dressing and yes, sex. A psychologist's wet dream, for sure, the piece explored sexual identity and sexual politics. I enjoyed it very much and hope Rough Magic return to the fringe next year. Professional and perfectly executed.
Jean Jacques, a piece about M Rousseau was pretentious nonsense. I left before the end, as did two others, leaving an audience of just three. After leaving, I began to wonder, if everyone had left (and they might have after I'd gone), would the piece have continued without an audience?
My filthy hunt was a piece about thrill-seekers. If any thrill-seekers were in the audience, they'd have left disappointed.
The discotivity could have been my favourite piece this year, but I felt utterly cheated as it under-ran by twenty five minutes. A piece that should have lasted an hour ended after just thirty five minutes. Still, Michelle McmAnus was there to entertain, as were the three hot boy dancers with hot bodies and full packets. Oh, what was it about? Yes, the story of the nativity set to old disco hits frm the 1970s and 1980s. It's transferring to the West End (of London) at the end of the year. If I can make it, I'll go and see it again in the hope that the piece I saw was simply an edit of what's to come.
Scarborough. We join the players, quite literally, in a hotel room, cheap and shabby, the sink falling off of the wall along with peeling wallpaper and dodgy Charles and Di memorabilia. He's fifteen. She's his teacher. They've come for a dirty weekend in Scarborough. Everything falls apart before our eyes. Wonderful, moving and ingenious.
Being in the room with the players instead of watching them perform on a stage from a seat in a theatre was a strange experience. Even stranger was having the curtains drawn over my face and James Baxter's crotch pressed up against my mouth and nose. I could actually smell his flesh.
Stonewall. Drag queens riot in 1960s New York. Below the surface, we find the stories behind the tragedies and triumphs. Rikki Beadle Blair never fails to whip his audience up into a state of euphoria. The lip-synching (in honour of the old-time drag acts, I think), the glitter and the hot men made for an hour of unforgettable theatre.
Do I have a thing about hot men?
I adore the works of Joe Orton and I especially loved About Turn's production of What the butler saw. Absolutley hilarious, the audience were in hysterics from start to end. A saucy seaside postcard made flesh by actors who seemed to be RADA trained.
The only negative thing I'd have to say about the piece was that the company were either not used to or didn't know how to handle the rapturous applause and praise given in whooping and cheering come the end. To be frank, this smacked of arrogance. Perhaps they should be shown how to seem more appreciative and gracious.
I saw other things, besides these here mentioned, though, to be frank, I've forgotten them. The reason? There was just so much and in such circumstances, one tends to remember the good and the bad but forget all that falls between, like pennies in between the cusions on the sofa.
I miss Robin endlessly. He is one of the better friends I've had the good luck to have in my life. It's just so sad that he lives hundreds of miles away in London. Still, Ian and I are heading his way in October. We're hoping to see Wicked, Avenue Q and All about my mother while we're there. Exciting! Nice to see actors in the flesh!
I wonder if any of them will be hot men?