Fringe Friends

In case you’re wondering where the pun is in this title, please see a previous project that Cammy and I made many years ago.  There’s a movie coming out now called Sausage Party that looks VERY similar, albeit more professional, big budget and funny.  I may sue.

Talking of all things professional, big budget and funny, the Fringe Festival (cue second part of said pun) is on and I’ve tried my hardest to avoid anything that can be attributed to those three notions.   So far I’ve sat through five acts, which is roughly 0.04% of the total shows on offer this year (there are 15,000) but I’ve been privy to the full spectrum of quality, from 1 star head-shakers to 5 star spine-tinglers.  So, like an Olympic camera man at the beach volley ball, I’ll start at the bottom and work my way up.

Suzanne Lea Shephard – Rapscallion   (FREE)

She’s from New York, she’s in a tiny room that seats 18 people and she basically sweats for 45 minutes.  I didn’t not like her, so to speak, she seemed quite affable and all, but her routine was more of a facebook profile scroll.  She just went through her average American life, complete with average American anecdotes, in chronological order.  Stuff got stuck in trees, she has pimples on her bum, she was an extra once – I felt like a bored psychologist, clock-watching as a patient who doesn’t need me wastes both our times on drivel.  And sweat.  Lots of sweat.  She actually stopped one story to say how much she was sweating.  Not for comedic purposes mind you, just to let us know.   1 STAR

Peter Dobbing – Armchair Futurologist Part 3  (FREE)

He loomed on to the Sneaky Pete’s stage with a lot of laid back bravado and big words.  He began by defining what a futurologist is and then culled momentum by spending ten minutes asking if anyone wanted their phones charging.  What seemed like a vaguely funny gimmick soon became pretty awkward and a pretty obvious attempt at winding down the clock so the hour slot could be filled.  In amongst the memory lapses and missing props there were some genuinely interesting thoughts on passwords (we’re doing it wrong), education (that’s wrong too) and less interesting stuff on free-diving.  He’s clearly very clever but appeared a bit jaded or hungover and no-one really laughed.  I had a lovely pint of Innes and Gunn though.  2 STARS

Ellis and Rose – Obsolete  (FREE)

A double act playing on the idea that Stewart Lee told them double acts were obsolete (hence the title), I laughed quite heartily at them, especially when they got surreal or tightly choreographed.  One of them dressed up as a superhero, they both did awful Christopher Walken as Laurel and Hardy impressions and they were clearly having more fun than the majority of the audience, which was pretty infectious, even if my laughter wasn’t.  They were on the verge of something properly funny, just a bit too indulgent and a bit too loose in too many places.  By this point I was feeling like a comedy expert.   3 STARS

Sleeping Trees – Sci Fi?  (£9 I think)

OK, I’m not an expert, these guys are.  It was just three blokes in trekkie outfits with a drummer and a keyboard player behind them.  By changing lighting, music and accents they managed to take us on a 60 minute voyage through every Sci Fi cliché imaginable, complete with robot karaoke, pig impressions and Ronan Keaton references.  It started so sharply it was bound to blunt a bit by the end but it was hugely impressive, and the most quintessential ‘Fringey’ show you could imagine.  Two pints for £11 though.  4 STARS.

Manual Cinema – Ava:Ada (£11.50)

The real deal.  Properly, instantly mind-blowing.  Its only problem is that it defies decent description.  It’s a shadow puppet show with accompanying live music.  That sounds shit doesn’t it?  It’s a surreal horror movie constructed live in front of the audience with shadows, props and music.  Sounds a little better.  Probably the best thing I will see all year.  Yeah, that will do.  Complex, weird, beautiful and wait until you hear the singer!   5 STARS!

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Commission Impossible

Harper Robson HQ

So job hunting is fun.  I had a strange experience today, after an initial interview for a ‘Direct Marketing’ company called Harper Robson, I was immediately called back and informed I was the “stand-out candidate.”  Blushing with pride I accepted the invitation for the second interview, which would take the shape of an ‘Observation Day’ followed by a ‘Test.’  I inquired as to the specifics of this ‘Test’ but the chipper guy on the phone told me it was a secret.  Oh what japes!  Seeing as the initial interview process felt like a Fresher’s Helper audition I imagined I might have to down a Topical VK, or arm pit fart to The Vengaboys.  Seriously, the ‘MD’ who asked me a short series of questions was 20 years old.  He didn’t listen to anything I had to say.  Things like, “What does this job actually entail?”  Or, “Will I be paid?”  He continued regardless and drew three bubbles on a sheet of A4 and wrote in the first one, ‘Entry Level,’ the second one, ‘Management,’ and the final one, ‘Managing Director.’  He told me I could navigate this intricate series of bubbles in six months.  I nodded and left.

And for some reason, I returned for the Observation Day.  Upon arrival, there were a whole bunch of teenagers in suits, which I have since found out were in the middle of a daily morning ‘Atmosphere’ ceremony, whereby they would gee themselves up for the shift ahead.  I was sat in an adjacent room and watched agog as a conveyor belt of ridiculously over-dressed teenagers traipsed by, all three piece suits and sticky hair, like a sinister sequel to Bugsy Malone.  Us newbies were left for an hour to talk among ourselves.  We chatted about wasps and our favourite breed of dogs.  There were badly painted slogans on the walls which said things like, “You don’t have to be great to get started, but to be great, you have to start somewhere.”  Powerful stuff.  I prefer, “Listen to your Bullshit Detector and Bail Accordingly.”

The other Managing Directors milled around, flirting with each other.  Then a bloke introduced himself to me and I was taken to his car.  He informed me that I was heading to Glasgow with him and another associate.  I asked what we were doing.  He avoided this and began to tell me about Thomas Eddison, who made 1300 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb before he got it right.  This was the Law of Averages.  And we were now going to utilise The Law of Averages ourselves!  Uh oh.  “How are we going to do that?”  I asked, foreseeing the answer like the asteroid in Armegeddon.  “Where are people are most relaxed?”  He asked me rhetorically.  “In their homes!”  I looked at him with my best attempt at disdain.  They wanted me to sell stuff door to door all day in Glasgow for free didn’t they?

I asked them to stop the car, I got out and went home.

Harper Robson are basically a pyramid company.  Saps are brought on and told to sell all day, only getting paid on commission.  After a while of this they get to look after a team of saps and get more commission for the sales the team generates.  After six months of this they become a ‘Managing Director’ – which is a little generous for a job title and a bit unfair to actual Managing Directors in actual companies.

Harper Robson used to be called Meraki Rose, based in Glasgow.  Their website no longer exists.  The management team still do, they just took two more generic surnames that sound vaguely legitimate, duct taped them together and spawned a new pyramid in Edinburgh.  I feel like a sap for wasting my time on them and I feel for the saps who were being processed through their doors all day like sausages in blazers.  And of course for the poor citizens of Glasgow who are currently being harangued in their homes to buy nonsense they don’t need.  So if you see a job vacancy for Harper Robson, market yourself elsewhere.

Base Camp Morning Report.

Happy Dependence Day everyone! We are family! I awoke his morning, bleary-eyed from my work leaving do to hear the news that Scots had opted for the ‘Better the devil you know’ side of thinking, which was the correct side in my eyes. I spent the rest of the day continuing my mission to compact the previous three years of stuff into a rucksack, via trips to the dump and to some spare cupboards in my parents’ house. I’ve always owned pretty terrible clothes so it was almost more difficult deciding what NOT to donate to charity. Now, I’m sitting in the living room waiting for Cammy to pick me up for the trip to the airport. A flight to Gatwick, a wedding in Worthing and a dash back to Gatwick later I’ll be winging my way to Anchorage, with erstwhile potato baron Graham Flemming for company! I talked to G this morning and it sounds like he’s taking the ‘travel light’ philosophy rather seriously, bringing a back pack that would be too small for a child’s first day at school. I think he’ll be borrowing a few of my terrible jumpers at this rate. If anything else interesting happens over the next 7 months you can trust that it will find it’s way on to here, so keep your eyes aggressively peeled! Until next time – bon voyage!