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Day 10 - Edinburgh Fringe

I got up today and went to Starbucks for breakfast and to use their internet. Except their internet was rubbish so I ended up going over to the Apple store to use theirs.

I didn’t have much time as I was booked in to finally watch Friendsical.

I had been in no rush to see this, as I had heard terrible things about it and read the 1 star review that The Stage has given it.

Tim Bano said in his review “it claims to be a ‘a parody musical about Friends’ but actually it’s just 90 minutes of wigged lookalikes saying stuff that happened in the sitcom.” He then went on to say “Four of the cast do good impressions of their counterparts, but two of the cast sort of don’t bother.” Which left me wondering, which two?

I also tried all week to pin Jordan Fox, (who plays Joey) down for an interview, but he didn’t get back to me in time to organise one, in the end I was relieved I didn’t have to chat to him about this show. After seeing it, I honestly wouldn’t know what I would have asked him, other than “Why did you take this job?!”.

Oh. My. God. Friendsical. Is quite possibly the worst thing that I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot.

I am a huge Friends fan. I was 12 when the series started and followed it religiously for its whole ten year run, and unlike Mark Shenton who famously refused to watch him in Kinky Boots, I am a huge Jordan Fox fan. Who in answer to my earlier conundrum, which of the cast didn’t bother, it’s unfortunate to say him.

Written by Miranda Larson, Ross Geller has brought together his five Friends in a musical spectacular to re-enact highlights of Ross and Rachel’s relationship. Which means in this complicatedly ambitious plot, the cast are playing the Friends playing actors playing themselves or something.

As Tim Bano writes “That’s about four layers too many for a show that otherwise has no substance.”

The 90 minute musical with original, yet forgettable songs written by Barrie Bignold is basically a mash up of quotes, plots and set pieces lifted from the ten years of episodes and spliced together in no particular order.

Friendsical is being staged in the Assembly’s 650 seat Music Hall where Wannabe perform, and Choir of Manwere last year. There’s quite a large audience who have clearly been drawn in by the show’s title.

Starring along side Jordan Fox are Sarah Goggin, Jamie Lee-Morgan, Thomas Mitchells, Ally Retberg, Charlotte Elisabeth Yorke, with Duncan Burt and Rebecca Withers playing other parts.

Apart from the wigs, which truly are terrible the impressions of Pheobi, Ross and Monica aren’t bad. After that they descend to abysmal.

To add insult to injury the choreography is without question some of the worst I have ever seen for a show of this proportion.

I do have to commend the set design and costume who have done a brilliant job of replicating iconic and recognisable designs from the series.

As I glanced around the audience it was a mixture of stunned silence and disbelief as people began to walk out.

So for at the Fringe, I have not seen anyone walk out of a show.

Jordan Fox does try to inject some flare into the terrible choreography he and the rest of the cast are being made to push through and occasionally offers a nice riff, but knowing Jordan, he is a much better dancer and singer than this appalling show is allowing him to demonstrate, and I felt sorry for him and the rest of the cast, but also wondered why he hasn’t walked out of the rehearsal room in the same way that half the audience were now doing. It’s testament to his integrity as a performer.

I stayed, only to see how many more Friends referencesand direct quotesthey could shoe horn in to ninety minutes, realising that if I had some vodka and took a sip every time they threw one in, I would be completely wasted and probably enjoying this experience a whole lot more.

I next went to watch Christopher Bliss: The Man Who Turns Wives Into Widows at the Monkey Barrel Comedy store.

Created and performed by Rob Carter, this is the follow up to his show last year Christopher Bliss: I Spy With My Little Eye Something Beginning With Why Have You Been Sleeping With My Wife

Christopher Bliss is a character comedy show where Rob plays the anorak wearing geeky book worm. Within the show Christopher Bliss has written a movie script which he shares with the audience with hilarious comic delivery.

Rob’s show and popularity has clearly grown since last year, his venue has almost doubled in size and he continues to sell out.

It’s a bonkers madcap show brilliantly executed.

It was nice to catch up with Rob/Chris briefly after the show.

I next went over the Summerhall where Paul Vale has invited me to a drinks reception for some of the recipients of The Stage Awards, now in their 24th year. The Stage give out these awards to any outstanding performances the team critics find.

This year they gave out around 12 awards including one to Alice Vilanculo for her performance in E8. Alice came along with her cast mates including my friend Tina, to collect the award and have a drink.

Earlier that day the show had also received an Edinburgh Fringe First Award, which the entire team were delighted about.

After the drinks reception I went to watch the sold out production of, Sex Education. Starring Harry Clayton-Wright.

Paul had managed to get me a ticket, although Harry himself then emailed me kindly offering me a ticket too, which was very generous of him. I was excited to see this play, as it had come highly recommended to me by Paul.

As the show began and videos were projected on to the back of wall. My jaw dropped. Was that? Did I just see... wait... what?

Being protected on to the wall were home videos of graphic anal sex.

Nobody warned me about this.

Harry Clayton-Wright then appeared from the back of the audience wearing a brides dress.

What began, was an hour of brilliance with moments of pure genius as Harry literally bared all.

Harry began to talk monologue about his own sexual experiences as gay man in his thirties.

By showing us his sex tapes, Harry has desensitising us to what we were about to hear and watch.

Although, even for me it felt shocking and uncomfortable to be sat within an audience watching the sex tapes, it perfectly served to highlight and reinforce this question, why does sex still carry stigma and shame and embarrassment, when it is something we all actively participate in.

He began to play an interview that he had recorded with his mother discussing her regard for his work and speaking candidly with her about his sexuality.

It was an incredible insight into their relationship and highlighted the common experience that most of us share with our parents that prevents us from talking openly to them about sex.

Harry began to share with the audience his own experiences of sexual abuse and acknowledging his own issues and insecurities, most of which I was completely able to recognise and relate to.

Harry asked the audience whether anyone could hold their hand up and acknowledge whether they feel they had a sufficient sex education.

Only one person did. An American girl who declared herself as asexual, meaning she is without sexual feelings. So to be honest, she doesn’t really count.

It was astounding though that nobody else in the audience could say they were satisfied with the sex education they had received.

As a gay man, it’s fair to say and understand that we don’t have adequate sex education, but I was completely surprised to discover that almost unanimously hereto and homosexual people shared these inadequacies when reflecting on how we were taught about sex.

Harry then made the bold and brilliant statement which truly put everything in to perspective. “LGBTQ+ education is suicide prevention”.

It’s something I had never really thought about in that way, but mate so much sense.

Harry then completed his show in a way that I can only class as genius. Without spoiling of giving it away for anyone who I hope gets to see this show, if it transfers. It was simply brilliant.

I completely applaud Harry for his bravery and selflessness as a performer, some might see his work as too radical, and self indulgent, but I considered it generous and simply educational.

It certainly gave me a lot to think about and process.

After this, I went to join Paul and other members of the Stage team at their apartment where Paul was hosting drinks and nibbles for his birthday.

It was lovely to share the evening with Paul and to meet and chat to critics and editors from the Stage who were all very lovely.

I then went to watch Late Night Lip Service with Gingzilla at the Gilded Balloon.

Typical of me, I initially went to the wrong venue and had to race across to the other side of the city to make it in time. Luckily for me, for once the show hadn’t started on time.

Gingzilla is a brilliant Australian drag queen, who I initially met when she performed regularly at the Phoenix arts club. One Sunday Gingzilla ruined a first date for me, by pulling the pair of us on to the stage to serenade us, the guy I was with, was mortified and never called me again. His loss.

Gingzilla then went on to take part in The X Factor and America’s Got Talent, and has a brilliant show last year at the Fringe.

Late Night Lip Service with Gingzilla is a brilliant variety show where Gingzilla enlists performers selected from shows across the Fringe.

We started with Yuck Circus and then the brilliant Keith Ramsay performed. After this Christina Bianco. They are both two of my favourite cabaret performers, so for me it was an absolute treat to see them perform here.

I couldn’t resist getting in on the act when Gingzilla asked for two volunteers to join him on stage. I then ended up doing a lip sync with an Australian tap dancer to Britney Spears’ song Toxic.

I had clearly had too many of Paul’s cocktails earlier at his party as I proceeded to take off my vest and almost took my pants off, deciding instead to pull them down and expose my arse to the audience.

The audience cheered for their favourite, and I was crowned the winner, receiving a packet of Tim Tam biscuits.

It was great fun and a pleasure to share the stage the Gingzilla.

After the interval the incredible Jesus L’Oréal and Garry Starr both performed and both took off even more clothes than I did. Garry is one of the performers from the brilliant Atomic Saloon Show and was hilarious.

After the show, I caught up with Keith and Christina and we all posed for a brilliant picture with Gingzilla.

It remains my favourite photo and favourite moment from this year’s fringe.

I went home to my hostel feeling incredible after such a brilliant day of great theatre and cabaret. This is why I come to the Fringe, to see world class performers and the best in theatre, and I am beyond grateful to have the opportunity to meet such amazing and talented people.

The accompanying video for this week’s journal can be found on my YouTube channel here:

And the audio version can be found as a podcast here:

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