Jo Caulfield’s Fringe Diary: August 16th 2013
EDINBURGH-based comedian Jo Caulfield shares her experiences of the Fringe Festival along with her pick of shows and events.
We’re just heading for week three and the excitement and vibrancy of the Fringe has a magic hold over Edinburgh. Well, most of Edinburgh…
I went down to Morningside on Monday to meet a friend for lunch at Loopy Lorna’s (that’s a sentence I never thought I’d be typing!) It was a very enjoyable lunch, and I’m glad to report since she’s been on the anti-depressants Lorna is a lot less loopy. But Lorna’s mental health problems aside, I couldn’t believe Morningside! Not one single Fringe poster on display, no one handing out flyers – it’s as if the Festival doesn’t exist.
They really are a different breed down there, aren’t they? Its like a gentrified version of The Land That Time Forgot.
In the evening I compered the Barnardo’s Benefit at the Assembly Rooms, and I’m very happy to say we raised over £5,000. Tim Vine was on particularly good form so I’d definitely recommend you go see his show at the Pleasance Courtyard.
On Tuesday afternoon I caught “The Lost Letters of Cathy G” at Finnegan’s Wake, on Victoria Street. This is a very funny and genuinely enchanting show. Paul Harry Allen found a collection of 1960s love letters in a junk shop, tracked down the love struck authors and reads out excerpts. I really can’t praise this show enough. And it’s part of the wonderful Free Fringe.
I’m a massive supporter of the Free Fringe because, as we all know, no admission price means more money to spend on taxis and martinis. What? You’re meant to stick something in the performers bucket? Oh.
On Tuesday evening I worked behind the bar in Lord Bodo’s on Dublin Street to help raise money for The Yard. Again, people dug deep and we collected over £700 for another well deserving cause.
Ian Rankin dropped in and made a very generous donation on his way to watch Patti Smith and Philip Glass performing the works of Allen Ginsberg at the Playhouse. I’m a big fan of Ginsberg and that was a show I’d planned on seeing, but I suppose if I really want to see “the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the streets at dawn looking for an angry fix” I can always visit the Port of Leith pub.
The Port Of Leith on Constitution Street is an essential visit for any Fringe tourists, by the way. It reminds me of the crazy bar-room scene in the first Star Wars movie.
On Wednesday I took a walk through town. The Underbelly at Bristo Square is packed, the Pleasance Courtyard is overflowing and Greggs the Baker on Rose Street has queues halfway round the block (mind you, it’s like that every day of the year).
Walking past the EICC I overheard two French girls coming out of Ed Byrne’s show. They were obviously trying to decide which show to go and see next. The first girl pointed at local comic Vladimir McTavish’s poster. “Oh no”, said her companion, “If you did not understand zee Irishman you will NEVER understand zee Scottish man”.
Should you want to take a breather from all the wonderful comedy and theatre and dance why not indulge in a bit of people watching? I’d recommend Hunter Square.
Tourists, students, buskers, pickpockets, plain-clothed policemen. It’s like a live version of Crimewatch UK. Why not kick back for a couple of hours – and where else can you watch professional fire-eaters, engage a visiting Australian tourist in a discussion about world politics AND delicately sip from a can of Special Brew lager?
Later in the evening, after my husband stopped crying about Rickie Lambert’s goal, we wandered over to the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile. They have a fantastic burlesque cabaret show every night. And again it’s part of the Free Fringe! I’d never been inside the Tron Kirk before but I will certainly be going back. Do yourself a favour and catch the 10pm show.
Thursday morning was frantic. My house guests went back to London. I’ve had a rotation of family members, friends and comedians sleeping on my couch. My front room has been like Piccadilly Circus. Which is like Hunter Square – but with lower cholesterol.
After lunch I went back to the Assembly Rooms to see Hindsight. Written by Edinburgh-based comic Keir McAllister, this is a great little play. Starring Scottish comedians James Kirk, Raymond Mearns and Paul Sneddon, and directed by “Only An Excuse?” creator Phil Differ, this was easily one of the most enjoyable 60 minutes I’ve sat through this Fringe.
After that it was a quick dash down to the train station. I’m doing three nights at the Newcastle branch of the Stand Comedy Club, but I’m already looking forward to getting home and catching more Fringe shows next week.
I’ll definitely be visiting the Book Festival. I’ve heard it described as “a lot of people drinking alcohol while surrounded by books”, which makes it sound less like an internationally-acclaimed literary event and more like a visit to the MacDonald Road library.
Oh! I’ve got to mention I really enjoyed Peter Michael Marino in “Desperately Seeking The Exit” at the Counting House. A gay man talking about Blondie and Madonna? What’s not to like?
And a quick word about the trams. The visitors are asking about them, the comedians are doing jokes about them, everyone is talking about them. I still can’t get my head around the whole fiasco. Why were they needed in the first place? As someone who spends a lot of time flying back and forth to London I can tell you the airport bus from outside Waverley Station does the job perfectly.
But let’s not criticise the Edinburgh City Council too harshly. They have a lot of other good ideas, with their thoughts firmly on the future. Along with the trams they’re talking about bringing back horse-drawn carriages, putting small children up chimney stacks and reintroducing whooping cough. Yes, in their safe hands, Edinburgh will be the futuristic intergalactic space-age city we’ve all been dreaming of.
Seriously, am I the only person who thinks that for £700 million they could have just built a big crane, lifted up the airport and moved it closer to the city centre?
Anyway enough about people who couldn’t organize a Belhaven-tasting event in the Belhaven brewery, on to much more important things. Me. Someone emailed me that they liked my food/restaurant recommendations in my last diary piece. So on that note…
There’s a fish and chip shop on the Grassmarket that’ll deep-fry anything. Mars Bars, hamburgers, salads, heart disease tablets. You name it – they’ll stick it the deep fat fryer and try to kill you.
And Giuliano’s at the top of Leith Walk is a great late-night Italian restaurant. I really like Italian food but I’ve never understood their preoccupation with the Pepper Mill. In any other restaurant in the world the salt and pepper are on the table – but not in Italian restaurants. The waiter will bring a big Pepper Mill to the table and sprinkle it onto your food.
Why can’t I do that? You trust me with a fork AND knife – why don’t you trust me with the Pepper Mill? Perhaps they think I’ll run amok seasoning the food of nearby diners.
There’s also a bar/restaurant on Rose Street that will go nameless. The last time I was in there we were shown to our table and it was only after sitting down I realized I was sat directly opposite the door to the gents toilets. Every couple of minutes another man would enter or exit giving me a clear view into the gents toilets. Not a pretty sight when you’re trying to eat. It put me straight off my plate of chipolatas.
Next week I’ll be dispelling the rumour that Aberdeen’s Comedy Festival was cancelled because someone lost the balloon.
Jo Caulfield’s Speakeasy – 7.15pm, Sunday 18th August, Radio 4 (featuring Owen O’Neill, local comic Gareth Waugh, Richard Melvin and Lucy Porter)