That Stagey Blog
Day 11 Edinburgh Fringe
Updated: Aug 30, 2019
It was another cloudy but dry day in Edinburg. The weather has generally been really good, and I haven’t even had chance to wear my ‘That Stagey Blog‘ jacket disappointingly. I got up and did some work before making my way to watch Honest Amy at the Pleasance.
Amy Booth-Steel was a finalist on the BBC talent search I’ll Do Anything and continued to build a career in musical theatre until she was diagnosed with stage three cancer which triggered an assortment of mental illnesses.
In January this year, Amy posted a brilliantly upbeat and honest song she had written about her experiences.
The video received over 356k views.
Savvy producer Paul Taylor-Mills saw this and encouraged Amy to write a whole show, and promised that he would produce it.
The rest, as they say, is history. Amy tentatively began to write the show with huge encouragement from her family and friends.
Comedy legend Kathy Burke was enlisted to direct Amy and the venue at Edinburgh was booked, with strong ticket sales behind them.
The show had already sold out by the time I got to see it, but thanks to my press pass I was able to get in to get in, and I am so pleased I did.
Mainly accompanying herself with her eukalaly and a few percussion instruments Amy’s one women show chronicles her battle with cancer and her mental illness.
It’s an incredible heart felt, light hearted and honest story of her triumph and is beautifully constructed.
What impressed me, was that even coming to the end of her run, Amy showed now sign of fatigue and delivered a natural and accomplished performance that made you feel like you were talking to an old friend.
Her timing and pace and comedic abilities are superb as is her singing voice, which she occasionally released at moments throughout the show where she showed off some impressive riffs.
The entire show was delivered with an optimistic and inspiring tone, assuring us that, you know what, was doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
Amy is an incredible role model and deserves her platform. I really hope that she will return next year with a follow up show.
After this I went to watch Dream of A King at The Space.
Written and performed by Christopher Tajah and directed by Bernie C. Byrnes it has been Produced by Resistance Theatre Company.
In it, Christopher Tajah convincingly plays Dr Martin Luther King Jr with conviction.
Set up as an interview made in the hotel on the night of MLK’s assassination, at some points it’s unclear who Christopher is addressing when he talks to three sides of the audience rather than assigning an ‘interviewer’ to direct his lines to.
None the less, the material is well written and delivered.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen any recordings of MLK in conversation, so I had no frame of reference to ensure whether to was an accurate impersonation but Christopher tackles with confidence the iconic “I had a dream” speech to which we are all familiar with.
At times Christopher excumes the energy and velocity of this speech, which feel is a bit out of keeping in a play with is supposed to be an interview in a hotel room.
I enjoyed the piece and although I knew some of MLK incredible story and legacy, I’m ashamed to say I don’t fully know it.
It is so important to keep telling these stories and Christopher does an admirable job.
I next went to watch Myra Dubois: Dead Funny at the Underbelly.
I had wanted to catch Myra again ever since I had seen her as part of Bernie Dieter’s Little Death Club.
Myra is an old school drag queen who reminds me of Paul O’Grady’s retired act Lily Savage.
Myra has razor sharp wit and delivery, and is formidably brilliant.
Her shows had all sold out, but luckily for me she had added some extra shows, and the incredible people in the press office at the Underbelly were able to help me out and get me a ticket.
I have to say the press offices throughout the Fringe have all been incredibly helpful, supportive and welcoming, with it being my first year here. They have all been tremendously useful.
While I was coming out of the Underbelly’s press office, a handsome young man wearing a cut off t shirt that exposed his impressive obliques stopped me with a flyer.
He had an incredible smile which caught my attention as I barely noticed what he was saying. “Do you want to be my boyfriend?” He asked. Ok. You’ve got my attention now.
He continued to explain, “Come to my show Meatball Seance where the audience play my boyfriend”, I couldn’t tell if he was American or a European who had learnt English by watching American TV shows. I took the flyer and said that I would see what I could do.
Meanwhile it was time for Myra Dubois: Dead Funny.
True to form, Myra was brilliant. I sat on the front row with two other gay guys and an American girl who took most of the jibes that Myra aimed with hilarious precision.
After this, I took a punt and decided to go and watch John Michael’s Meatball Seance, whether it was his pitch or the flash of his torso, or his smile, I think in all honesty it was the prospect of food, and the promise of meat balls. I love any show that comes with food.
Meatball Seance was part of PBH’s Free Fringe within Bar Bados. (And no I’m not making that name up).
As I ascending the stair well to the floor where John Michael was performing, I ran straight in to him as I was recording my video entry.
“You came!” He said, “Phil is it?”. Scoring bonus points for remembering my name.
I took my seat amongst a very good turn out, as John Michael emerged wearing just his underwear and apron.
To be honest, this show could be terrible and it wouldn’t even matter as I was already thoroughly enjoying myself. John reminded me of a guy I went to high school with who I was infatuated with.
In Meatball Seance John Michael enlists audience members to participate by playing his boyfriend as he cooks his mom’s meatball recipe with them live on stage. Or at least he would, if fire regulations permitted him to.
Instead he humorously goes through the motions with the raw ingredients.
It’s a zany but engaging comic piece which John Michael confidently delivers with balls of energy and fun.
He also has great taste in music as he plays excerpts of Fleetwood Mac during his performance.
The audience all entered in to the spirit of the show, particularly the ones selected to participate, and John did brilliant work involving and improvising with them.
Being a Free Fringe show, John Michael stood with a bucket after the show to collect donations. I unfortunately didn’t have any cash on me.
John Michael gave me a huge sweaty hug as I explained and offered to buy him a drink instead. “Thanks but I don’t drink” he said, “But have a good day!” He added in a very American way.
I licked my wounds and went and bought myself a drink. The bar served my favourite, frozen Stawberry daiquiris, which I could not resist.
I snapped a photo of myself drinking alone with my daiquiri and then visited the toilet afterwards where, typically, John Michael himself then walked in and pee’d next to me.
He was still only wearing his underwear, as I tried not to look down. John began to tell me where he was from, although I was barely listening whilst trying to retain eye contact not knowing where to look.
I told John that I ran a blog as he couldn’t believe that he had managed to flyer a member of the press again, apparently he had wrangled another journalist to see his show in the same way.
I gave John my card with my number in the hope that I’d perhaps see him again as he gave me another hug and left.
I’ll admit I thought he was incredibly cute, as I then began to google everything I could find about him.
I popped into Starbucks to use their WiFi before the Fringe Festival souvenir shop to buy some presents for my brother’s girlfriend’s children who I will be seeing the next day.
I then went to watch Trainspotting Live. At the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.
I had seen this show three times when it was at the Kings Head theatre and then the Vaults, and think it is brilliant.
This immersive adaptation from the book by Irvine Welsh that became an acclaimed film staring Ewan Mcgreggor has become a firm favourite show returning each year to the Fringe and selling out every time.
Tonight’s show was no exception, as I waved my press pass to get a ticket.
The production has extensively toured too but Edinburgh is appropriately it’s home and here at the EICC they have transformed a stunning unused tunnel under the centre into a narrow space with audiences along two rows at each side of the tunnel.
Directed by Adam Spreadbury-Maher with Greg Esplin. The show now stars Andrew Barrett. Lauren Downie. Dean Gribble. Michael Lockerbie. Oliver Sublet. With Siobhan Bevan and James Thackeray as understudies.
I know James from his work at the Union theatre and at Above The Stag so I would have loved to have seen him take on one of the roles. Instead I did manage to catch his eye as we arrived and he was playing a raver.
The immersive quality of this piece takes no prisoners as no body is safe from being sat on, moved up or covered in blood, sweat and dirty water. It all adds to the experience of the evening. As the cast delight in involving and shocking the audience.
The cast do an incredible job of recreating this master piece whilst engaging the audience and responding to what ever they come back with.
There are some harrowing and poignant moments especially from Lauren Downie and Michael Lockerbie who tackle the most emotionally charged scenes. Michael in particular was captivating to watch and truly remarkable.
I must also commend the incredible stage management and front of house teams. The show generally attracts a rowdy audience due to its nature and by intention the cast are designed to rile them up.
The incredible team behind the production, including an onstage medic and all the ushers do an exemplary job of keeping the audience safe and comfortable, pulling out anyone who looks distressed or in some cases too drunk or or the verge of causing trouble.
I thoroughly enjoyed this production and it would not be the same to come to the Fringe and not see it.
I then went back to my hostel to change into my Black ‘That Stagey Blog’ t-shirt before meeting my friends Peter and Murray in a bar called CC Blooms, where I spent a lot of time last year with my friend Aaron.
I walked past the two large metal giraffe sculptures on the way, that last year Aaron climbed after several drinks. There were two police officers stood next to it just as I was passing it, perhaps protecting it from me trying to do the same. Although at this point I wasn’t that drunk. Yet.
Peter is an agent for Global, and represents Charlotte Anne Steen who is in I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical. Murray is a former performer who set up and runs the MGA Academy of Performing Arts.
It was nice to catch up with them and let my hair down as we drank and danced and talked about boys. A bride and groom then turned up at the club which caught us all by surprise.
The boys left shortly after and I wasn’t far behind them. Making my way back to the hostel with a drink that I took from the bar in hand, sending drunk messages as I walked up the hill.
I then got in, had a shower and went straight to bed.
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: