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Archive for August, 2013

Privilege. Check.

One of the common weapons used by the liberal commentariat to disparage their opponents is the rubbishing of new terms or ‘difficult language’. A particular bete noir of theirs is checking their privilege. But it’s not a difficult concept as a thought I had yesterday illustrates.

We have a regular borrower at the library who is severely sight impaired and so takes out a lot of ‘talking books’ on CD. The first time I served her she asked if I could walk round the shelves with her and read the synopses on various back covers to see if it was something she’d like to borrow. Her response to several choices was “No, I’ve read that one”. My initial response to this was to think, well, no, you’ve listened to it. Then I gave my privilege a slap and understood that for her listening is reading. As I have eyes that work reasonably well, only slightly short sighted, I assumed that my way was the ‘normal’ way, ignoring the privilege that my on the whole healthy eyes allow me.

It’s as simple as that. Checking your privilege does not mean that you are being accused of holding high position or are ‘luckier’ than others, it means take the time to examine yourself as you may examine others before defining or dismissing/condemning them. Certain commentators, when confronted with this, go on the defensive and spraff on about being brought up in council houses etc., completely missing the point – ‘privilege’ in this context does not refer solely to wealth, position and status, but also to personal and societal circumstances. My eyesight allows me more privilege than someone whose eyesight is impaired; the fact that I’m male allows me more privilege than if I was female; that I’m classified as ‘White British’ allows more privilege than if I was not. This leads into intersectionality, but the commentariat *really* don’t like that one…

Half term Fringe report

Now this is a novelty, a post not about politics or illness. Instead I shall tell of the first half of my week in the Athens of the North and the adventures I have had.

The sun was bright and the day warm as the locomotive steamed out from Kings Cross last Thursday. I like trains, they’re great, but an announcement informed that the aircon was broken in coach E. Guess where my reserved seat was? So with a strong heart and sweaty brow I set off in search of comfort and found it in an empty seat in coach H. The exciting thing about this was that I was sat across the isle from ace comedian Phil Kay who seemed to be working on a book (writing, not reading). When he wandered off for a cheese toastie I was sorely tempted to reach over and have a peek but I’m not a monster.

On arrival at Waverley I was pleased to find that escalators had been installed on the mountainous trek from the station to Princes Street. Thus refreshed, I caught a bus and went to my holiday flat. And it’s a lovely flat, a Georgian tenement in Stockbridge with high ceilings and all I need including free wifi, hence my typing this on my lappy. I am probably more excited than I should be about this but I’ve never brought my lappy on holiday with me before.

And so, onto the first show which was David O’Doherty at the Pleasance. Familiar as I am with his work I have only seen him as part of bigger shows and not his own full length performances. No need to worry as he kept up the high standard over the hour, telling us how he intended to fix everything. O’Doherty’s ‘schtick’, such as it is, is his use of a child’s Yamaha organ upon which he composes very funny songs. And I HATE comedy songs. Other than that he delivers a high quality set of musings on the world’s wrongs and what he will do to fix them. O’Doherty is part of that group of comedians who eschew the trappings of ‘professionalism’ – no shiny suits, an apparently haphazard structure – but who have razor sharp wits and are observational in a way that goes beyond asking people if they remember things and then repeating those things for the next 5 minutes (garlic bread?). O’Doherty may seem whimsical but he makes telling points about humanity such as his admiration for his nonagenarian neighbour who lives life with a quiet dignity. An hour of music and laughs with some seriousness and serious silliness mixed in. 8/10

Then, a minor hiccup. I had a ticket to see the Horne Section in the purple cow, due to start at 10:30pm. However, these early shows are previews where last minute niggles are meant to be sorted out. It seems that Abandonman had many niggles as they overran by more than half an hour thus delaying the Horne Section. As I waited in the queue and the minutes ticked by, my anxiety issues decided to present a few niggles of their own. Finally, at 11:10pm I decided that it would be in my best interests to call it a day after all the travel etc., and toddled off home.

Friday dawned and first up was Tony Law’s lunchtime slot at the Stand. Law’s profile has increased slightly through appearances on panel shows and the like, and that’s a good thing. Another ‘unconventional’ comedian, Law is full of absurdity, surrealism and fun. A seemingly unstructured hour flies by as he buffets your senses with idea after idea and the room fills with laughter. 7/10

Now, this is where the skies darken. I had tickets to see Susan Calman, Richard Herring and Glenn Wool but a VERY BAD THING happened. No details, but it had me booking a return journey to London for Saturday afternoon. I was knocked for six. And then I spoke with an excellent friend, and me mum, and they talked me down. I was staying. Fifty quid wasted on a train ticket but, as my friend pointed out, I had spent much more than that on tickets for shows I had yet to see, so, y’know…

Saturday! First show was the excellent Michael Legge at the Stand. Legge has made his reputation as an angry, but funny man. Legge’s anger isn’t pointless, though, despite the title of the shows he performed with Robin Ince a couple of years ago. His ‘anger’ is born of frustration at the seemingly meaningless, trivial actions of people that impact on others. Read his blog and you’ll get an idea of that. See his show if only for the best joke about Twitter and Caitlin Moran you’ll hear this year. 8/10

And speaking of Twitter, we move on to another comedian who has embraced that platform, Janey Godley who’s on at the Gilded Balloon. Janey came to comedy later than most but has built a reputation as one of the funniest performers around. She’s not shy and will give it to you warts and all, with a warmth and genuine delight that is a huge part of her appeal. Her daughter, Ashley Storrie, ‘supports’, and the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. An enjoyable way to spend an hour. 7/10

The previous Saturday I was lucky enough to see the master Daniel Kitson at work at the Battersea Arts Centre. Lucky as he’s not doing the Fringe this year and tickets for his London shows are usually like bloody gold dust. This Saturday I saw another master at work, this time Adam Buxton at the Assembly Hall. While queuing a couple of American tourists stopped and asked who we were seeing, and so half an hour of fun began. Several of us attempted to explain Buxton’s work with my description of him as a ‘cult’ worrying the Americans as they thought he might be some kind of David Koresh figure. This was after they asked if anyone spoke English as they couldn’t understand the Scottish bloke next to me. They ended up interviewing him to show the folks back home. ANYway, on to the show. Those familiar with Buxton’s ‘BUG’ nights will have an idea of what we were treated to. From such seemingly thin material as comments on youtube videos Buxton carves out unalloyed joy. Buxton’s manipulation of media is legendary with his cut ups, mash ups, and homespun ditties hitting the mark almost every time. On the whole there doesn’t seem to be much to it but the mixture of cleverness, satire and puerility made for possibly the most laugh out loud show I’ll see this year. Sadly, his is a very short run that ends tomorrow. 9/10

In between Godley and Buxton I popped into a Free Fringe show. A standard set up, three acts with an MC, but in a former lettings agent’s office overlooking a cemetery. This wasn’t polished but it was fun and the Free Fringe is a great thing to support, even if the MC said he was surprised that libraries now employed enforcers when I told him where I work. So, yeah, see some Free Fringe stuff and drop some coins in the buckets.

Sunday. A problem here as I double booked an edition of Richard Herring’s podcast at the Stand with the first performance of Tom Basden’s new play, Holes. The podcast I can listen to another time, whereas ‘Holes’ sounded too special to miss. Performing as part of Invisible Dot’s top notch raft of shows, ‘Holes’ ostensibly comes under the Assembly Rooms’ roster. But it’s not as simple as that. The ticket instructs you to meet outside the George Square Theatre from whence you will be whisked off to a ‘secret seaside location’ Several coaches arrived and we piled on in great anticipation. Meanwhile, someone had tweeted me asking to confirm whether or not Daniel Rigby was performing in light of the rumours that he might be the new Doctor. All most exciting! We ended up in Portobello and went for a walk by the beach. Sadly, the play was not to be performed there but when we entered the venue the reason for its proximity to the beach became apparent as the set requires sand. Lots of sand. Basden’s ‘Party’ from 2009 was a childishly satirical joy with the foibles of its characters writ large. ‘Holes’ follows along the same lines but contains a more (somewhat ironically) grounded character in the four that end up on an island in the middle of nowhere following a plane crash. It also meanders off down darker paths in our psyches with more than an echo of ‘Lord of the Flies’. It perhaps needs some tightening up in terms of structure but the script and performances are high quality, with 16 year old Bebe Cave more than standing up to her experienced co-stars. Daniel Rigby is not the new Doctor. 8/10

Dropped off back in the city I wandered to the BBC space to watch the announcement of the new Doctor on their big screen. Bumped into noted Whophile Michael Legge and had a good chat with him about his show and comedy and stuff. He confirmed that the Twitter joke mentioned above had been off the cuff but he was so delighted with it he’s kept it in. For an angry man he’s very nice.

To be continued…

(Probably)