Day 3 – Edinburgh Fringe
I keep forgetting that by doing this blog, I'm putting myself out there and people actually read it and watch the videos. For most of the time, I'm in this little world of my own, where I just keep churning them out, and don't really think about whether anyone is watching them or listening.
It's only when someone comes up to me, recognises me and says you're from That Stagey Blog, that I'm caught of guard and a little flattered to be noticed.
I did once have someone message me through the gay dating app Grindr saying,
“Hey!!!” “My god you are the guy from that stagey blog” “Have such a massive crush on you”
I genuinely didn't know how to respond, although the cynic in me did suspect that it was just somebody I knew taking the piss.
On Wednesday after watching West End Producer, a lady named Tara came over to me and introduced me to her teenage daughter Leah and handed me a flyer for the show that she is in. “You must come, they're not getting much press” Tara insisted.
Now I have to hand it to Tara, and I love a pushy stagey mum. I kinda wish my parents had been more pushy when I was a kid and insisted on being the centre of attention and declared that I wanted to be an actor. Back in Middlesbrough with two scientists for parents, I wasn't really exposed to the arts, which I forever wonder had I started out earlier, how differently my career might have been.
Anyway I commend Tara and completely appreciated the invite to watch her daughters show, which was only on until 16th.
I looked at my schedule and I was supposed to be seeing my friend Dan in his play Unicorns Almost, but I realised that I could easily see this later in the week, and so I changed my plans so that I could see Leah in her show I Don't Want To Talk About It.
It was presented by the students of the Pauline Quirke Academy Swindon, a group of 14 to 17 year olds. As I lined up to collect my ticket. I was recognised again. This time, not for my blog, or my bright yellow hair, or for the fact I am wearing a red hoodie with That Stagey Blog branded across it. The stranger came up to me and asked me, “Where you filming Blue Bayou last week?”.
Blue Bayou, isn't the name of the film, but the code name they use to keep the film's discretion because of it's high profile.
It turned out he was also on the film, and is now here in Edinburgh with his own play. He asked me what I was doing here, and I explained about the blog. “You must come and see my play then” he insisted, he then asked what I was about to watch, and decided to join me.
I Don't Want To Talk About It is a collection of monologues from the perspective of teenagers about their personal struggles and the need to talk about them. The group of young adults tackled some very hard hitting topics which at some points was quite gruelling to watch, the scene where Leah wearing a sling interpreted the effects of bullying, was very powerful and provoking, as were most of the scenes, which also dealt with child abuse, eating disorders, gun crimes and bereavement. I was incredibly impressed and incredible moved, at some points choking back tears. What made this collect of stories so powerful is that they were being told directly from young people who are possibly going through these experiences themselves. It made it so much more real and relatable.
It would be so easy to just get the kids to do a bunch of Shakespeare monologues and ask us to believe they are thanes and kings. But then, as much as you can suspend your disbelief, we all know really that these aren't their stories being told.
It was a bold move to have these young people tackle these subjects, and I did hope that the Academy is providing enough support and guidance to ensure their well being and safety.
For these students, the opportunity to come to Edinburgh and present these stories to a real, paying audience is incredible, and I only wish I had that experience when I was growing up. It was incredible to watch these young actors form, realising that one day, I'd probably see some of them in a play in London.
After this, I was still struggling with phone service, so went to Starbucks to use their Wifi and have lunch. I was then meant to meet up with an old friend from drama school, James, but lack of phone signal meant that we missed each other.
I didn't actually have anything else booked in for the rest of the day, so went down to The Space, to take a lucky dip and watch a play that I knew nothing about.
I ended up watching a play called Trips and Falls.
Now this is where knowing nothing about a production has it's downfalls. The play had six actors and was about two teenagers, 13 and 17, who decide to steal their grandmothers ashes, they are then perused by their parents and a police sergeant and her nephew.
What I didn't get was why the six actors were all relatively the same age, yet playing characters vastly out of their castings. I discovered afterwards that the group are from Glasgow University and are part of their Student Theatre At Glasgow. So essentially this was another student performance.
But unlike I Don't Want To Talk About It. Which I commended for finding source material which matched and was suitable for the performers. This group of students were unconvincingly playing characters way out of their age brackets.
It didn't help that the characters weren't written very well either, as I suspended my disbelief and accepted that the couple playing parents to children who are the same age as then, I could not get passed the glaring discrepancies and holes in this plot.
As the parents first notice that their children had gone missing with their car and their grandmother's urn, nobody thought or attempted to simply 'try phoning them', further more when the pursuit does inevitable ensue, and they all stop to buy maps, the glaring fact they could just use the app on their phones is lost.
It generally felt like I was watching one of those badly written late afternoon TV movies.
After this I stayed to watch Bull.
Bull is a play by Mike Bartlett who has written a lot of great theatre and TV, most notably BBC's Doctor Foster.
I saw Bull when it was produced at the Young Vic. It's a neat one hour play with four actors, and is brilliantly written.
Bizarrely Bull is being produced twice at the Fringe this year, by two different companies, but both at The Space. This really intrigues me.
I often wonder what it would be like to watch the exact same play, produced by two different companies, with different actors and a different director but with the same budget.
I know have the opportunity to see this play in that exact situation. I intend to watch both and compare,
This production by Arbery Productions was very good, so the bench mark for the other one has definitely been set. I look forward to seeing that one and then discussing both.
This version is on until 24th. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/bull-1
After this, I went to watch Basil Brush – Unleashed.
I was born in 1982, so I completely missed Basil Brush. I am too young to have known him when he was dominated children's TV between 1963 and 1984. and I am too old to have known his comeback in 2002. But I do know of him through popular culture. My era was more about Gordan the Gopher and Ed the Duck.
This is mind, I had no real draw to come and see his show other than intrigue.
Basil is appearing twice at the Fringe, with an early morning slot aimed at children, and this evening show billed as a more grown up version.
They are obviously relying on Basil's popularity and nostalgic appeal, and to be fair if Gordan the Gopher were to do a show, I would probably want to see that. It's nice to be reminded of thing's you associate with your childhood.
Basil presents his show from behind a desk, where his handler and puppeteer is neatly obscured from view. We all know he's a puppet, Basil even alludes frequently to this fact during the show. I assume in his kid's version he doesn't shatter that illusion, but here amongst friends and adults he is openly acknowledges that he has a man's arm up his arse.
Basil is supported on stage by side kick Martin Cabble-Reid. The pair are hardly Ant and Dec but do an admirable job of entertaining the audience of 400 in the show that has sold out consecutively for fifteen days.
The gags are are bit corny, and the whole show isn't really that entertaining, even when Basil brings out his special guest, a different comedian each day, who is here to plug their own show, it doesn't elevate the show much either. They then play a recorded interview with Hugh Bonneville from Downton Abbey, who makes little attempt to disguise the fact he is there to plug their new movie.
Even this I questioned, why Hugh Bonneville, if you're going to use a pre recorded segment, which means that you can literally get anyone you want to do this, why him? Again he added little of entertainment value to an already rapidly descending and underwhelming show.
I felt compelled to help. During the predictable audience participation segment, where they were looking for three volunteers from the audience, my hand went straight up. Along with two ladies we took to the stage, where as well as getting a peek behind the desk and seeing exactly who's hand was up Basil's arse, we then took part in a tired custard pie skit, where I got to pie Martin in the face with shaving cream.
I'm sure it was as riveting to watch as it was to take part in. After the show, a man who had been watching came up to me, and said he thought the show was terrible. I had to agree. But I did get to peek behind the curtain and I now know exactly who to blame, and I did come away with a signed programme.
Basil Brush: Unleashed is on until 25th https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/basil-brush-unleashed
After this I was desperate to get one of the stone baked pizzas that I keep seeing everyone walking around with. Unfortunately the waiting time for one was thirty minutes, and I didn't have time as I was next about to see Cruel Intentions the 90's Musical.
I am a huge fan of the original film that starred Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair and Joshua Jackson. It was the ultimate teen flick with the most popular TV and movie teen stars at the time, and I was obsessed. Especially with the scene where Ryan drops his towel to reveal his pert bum.
This musical version has been produced by Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor Mills. The team begind Heathers The Musical. Paul also produced Carrie.
In Cruel Intentions the 90's Musical, Paul has cherry picked stars from both of these hit shows to ensure added appeal to this production. Dominic Andersen and Sophie Isaacs from Heathers are reunited next to Evelyn Hoskins who was Carrie.
They are all perfectly cast here, along side Rebecca Gilhooley, Scott Hunter, Dean John-Wilson, Ashley Samuels and Gemma Salter. Directed by Jonathan O’Boyle who has had a very busy year with The View Upstairs, Hair and Rainman.
I could not resist sitting front row for this show, and as I took my seat, and sweet girl called Sammy leaned in and asked are you from That Stagey Blog, I said yes, although I think having it written across my hoodie might have given it away. “I've seen this show four times” she told me, proving that Paul Taylor Mills knows exactly what he's doing when he picks these shows.
Cruel Intentions the 90's Musical is not going to win any Pulitzer awards for it's book. It is at best a naff juke book musical. But I love juke box musicals, and this show and it's cast know what it is.
On one hand it is very faithful to the film, all the iconic moments are here, and expertly delivered by the incredibly talented cast. For anyone (me) who was hoping to see Dominic recreate that towel drop scene, sadly you won't get to see his peachy rear, as Dom protects his modesty with a towel, however there is still plenty of flesh on display thanks to Evelyn boldly flashing her nickers, Sophie getting her incredible legs out that look like they've been dipped in lacquer, Dean John-Wilson shows off his incredible physique.
It's nice to see Dominic given more to do that just take his shirt off, as Sebastian he commands this leading role and proves he is a great actor and brilliant singer.
The short, sharp scenes are intercepted with rousing 90's pop songs, which are tediously shoe horned in. The links might be as subtle as a sledge hammer, and the songs might struggle to find relevance but who cares? They are banging tunes and this exceptional cast deliver each one brilliantly.
When Dean and Scott burst out N-Sync choreography, you realise that this production is not to be taken seriously. It's about fun. It's a nostalgic burst of the 90's that anyone who loves these songs will appreciate.
Scott Hunter is brilliant camping it up with his new blond hair. (wonder where I got the idea?!)
I giggled to myself while Evelyn directed one of her songs to me, and when Sophie spotted me to, and broke out of character during the curtain call to wave at me.
I love these people, and I can see exactly why Paul continues to hire them, they are as talented as they are beautiful.
I wouldn't be surprised if this show makes a limited appearance in London very soon. But for now Cruel Intentions the 90's Musical runs until 25th. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/cruel-intentions-the-90s-musical
After this I raced over to watch Wannabe- The Spice Girls Show.
This show has been produced and toured by my friend Matt for a few years now. Matt also produced a One Direction tribute act.
It features Natalie Gray. Rhiannon Porter. Melissa Potts. Lucy Claire and Gabrielle Smith. I have known Natalie who plays Ginger for a few years too. And despite this I have never had the chance until now to see their show.
As you might know, I am a huge Spice Girl fan so, I was so ready for this, and wow what a show. The best way I can describe it is if you imagine the Spice Girls now stick on an instagram filter and you have Wannabe.
They are beyond just a tribute act. These girls look better, sound better, and I'll be honest almost are better than the real thing.
The show celebrates the Spice Girls as they sing some of their iconic hits, the set, with its bold flashing letters that spell out S.P.I.C.E. Is eye catching and brilliant. The girls all sound incredible as they perform solo songs from the original Spice Girls too, and do a stripped back reworked version of some of their music.
They are also joined by two beautiful backing dancers who are incredible. I was honestly blown away by how good this show is.
Wannabe- The Spice Girls Show. Is on until 25th. https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/wannabe-the-spice-girls-show
I managed to grab the girls for a photo afterwards, and told them that I will be interviewing them tomorrow, which I cannot wait for.
I treated myself to some fish and chips before going home after another brilliant day.
The accompanying video for this week’s journal can be found on my YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/GbTMdh4OjpA
And the audio version can be found as a podcast here: