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Home > Media

TFT Goes To Edinburgh... Week Three

13 August 2004

One thing the Edinburgh fringe has seen a proliferation of (other than human statues) is shows pretending to be lectures and using a projector.

I blame 'The League Against Tedium', oh so trendy and advanced a few years ago, for this. Now that pretty much anybody can afford a projector, and the technology is sufficiently advanced that they don't break down every night, it's not just the elite of cutting edge comedy that uses them. It's everybody.

Perhaps the 'lecture' format is the best way for comedy acts to justify this technology, when once upon a time mere words were enough - hence shows like 'Love-Life' (which I talked about last week) and 'Andrew McClelland's Somewhat Accurate History of Pirates', happily parodying lecturing techniques as if Joyce Grenfall had never been born, and projecting away not so much because they need to but because they CAN.

Not that either of those shows are anything but extremely enjoyable. The Pirate show does exactly what it says on the tin, McClelland giving a virtuosic display of obsessive enthusiasm for his subject and taking the whole audience with him. There was a point at which I realised I had not bought a ticket for a comedy spoof lecture at all, but a real lecture with jokes. And a projector. But hell, it was fun, and I got a diploma in piratology out of it.

However, it takes a different level of inventiveness to ensure that the use of a projector is more than just a gimmick. Alex Horne probably comes under this category, his new show 'Every Body Talks' very cleverly building the projector into the structure of the show whilst remaining spontaneous throughout.

Horne and his co-star Tim Key are very funny people and always entertaining to watch - the show itself lacks some of the charm of his Perrier-nominated 'Talking to Fish', but it's worth a look for the Chris Packham photograph alone. Or if not that, the Justin Timberlake beat-box.

I should mention a group called H-BAM, who hail from Trinity College, Dublin, and are doing a revue called 'Stop Fistfighting, You're Pregnant' (a disastrous title, because on first reading it always seems to say 'Stop Fisting, You're Pregnant'). I haven't actually seen the show, and I have no intention of going, purely because they have the most irritating publicity campaign on the entire Royal Mile. It takes the form of a little song, which goes like this:

'We're standing (standing standing)
Handing out some flyers (handing out some flyers)
Handing out some flyers (handing out some flyers)
For just a few hours or so (oh oh)'

The joke - the ONE joke - is that this is repeated again and again for the remaining 'few hours' referred to in the song. Ad nauseum. As you can imagine, it is a joke that begins to wear a bit thin when you are exposed to it on a daily basis.

They used the same song last year as well. Having heard it every single day for an entire month, the fucking thing has been stuck in my head ever since.

If there is one show to boycott, this is it.

Of course, it's all very well for me to criticise other people's publicity - how about ours? That's a very funny question actually, because - hilarity of hilarities - the flyers that we ordered to publicise our show with - get this - got lost in the post!

That's right! We've been trying to sell our show without the necessary publicity materials! Imagine how we've laughed. And yet - our audiences have been consistently large. Occasionally almost full to capacity. What's going on? The fringe is all about playing to audiences of four people, isn't it? Even Alan Rickman says so in the Scotsman.

Not that I'm complaining. And the shows have been going well; the Scotsman said we were 'utterly ridiculous and rather sweet' and Three Weeks described us as 'fine tea-time fun'. Both reviews, however - and I knew this would happen - expressed doubt about quite how spontaneous our show is. That's in spite of the Scotsman visiting us twice, surely noticing that NOTHING is the same from one show to the next.

In the past week I have played a badger in a biscuit tin, an insomniac missionary, Aslan, an Italian circus owner and vampire slayer, the wife of Lord Caernarvon, a blind whaler, Ramases and Elvis. And for what? So some Scottish rag can insinuate that I've been doing it all from a pre-prepared script.

Our last show saw an underwater mermaid accountant invest in a deep sea hotel which was threatened by erosion caused by her crab husband's football hooligan society aided by the god Poseidon.

What sane person would SCRIPT that kind of thing?

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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