So. It’s over. I’m back home after the second killer train journey, eating fish and being eyed pleadingly by the dog. So I guess now is the perfect time to sum up my final few days of the Fringe. Continue reading
The moment I saw that he was playing in Exeter I was on the phone to my friend.
“Daaaaaaaaaan? You know how much you love me?”
“….What do you want?”
Despite such a reaction, he did agree to book the tickets right away – with Daniel Kitson you cannot wait even a second, otherwise everything will be sold out. This was no different: when we arrived in the Phoenix’s auditorium – a perfectly sized room of around 200 seats – it quickly filled to the gunnels and rang with an excited hum of anticipation which fizzed all the way up my body from my toes.
On Sunday morning, after trying frantically for two days to get in touch with my friend at Magdalen College, he finally got in touch.
“So when do you want to meet up?”
“Well, I’m free til about 5.30,” I replied.
“Okay, how about now?”
So down I went to meet him. Awww, it’s so nice to see people you haven’t had a proper chat with in ages! I’ve missed Pete so much since I left college. Admittedly, I’ve missed all my friends from college: I met some seriously nice people there that I hardly ever see now and it makes me sad on quite a regular basis. But that makes it all the nicer when you do see people and this was certainly no exception, especially when he was just as excited as I was and incredibly eager to show me round. So he took me for a look around his college, almost every part of which was spectacular. My particular favourite bit was when we stopped at this tiny door that I wouldn’t otherwise have noticed, and Pete opened it and led me up this little spiral staircase which just went on and on. I was certain we were going to end up on battlements or in a bellfry or something, but when we got to the top and Pete opened another tiny door it turned out we were just going to the computer room.
So began our day of running around Oxford like mad things, having fun. My only reservation about the whole thing really was that I felt really overdressed. I had decided to make a tiny bit of an effort and dress nicely for the day, going for a denim dress with a belt, my bright purple tights, and some conversers. Now, in Falmouth, this would be considered seriously dressing down (and anyone who has been in Flamouth during term time will agree with me on that). However, what I hadn’t realised is that people in central Oxford, and people at Oxford University especially, comply to a simple uniform: dark jeans/trousers, a shirt, a coat (generally black) and a scarf of some description (usually of some understated colour). Owen had not informed me that such a uniform existed and as a result I stuck out like a sore thumb, and even had one extremely posh-sounding girl come up to me on Magdalen Bridge to tell me that she liked my tights and applauded my bravery for wearing them because “I’d never have the courage to go out in something like that!” This was indeed not the only faux pas of the day: I also got a dirty look off the woman in a cafe for saying the word “fuck”. Apparently I’m a rebel now – hurrah! I even helped out in Pete’s English for Foreign Workers’ Class. It was really fun, actually, though there was a lot of mime involved.
And then, back to Owen’s parents’ for dinner and then to the Oxford Playhouse to see Daniel Kitson! I was buzzing with excitement by that point, like when you put your hand on a computer and you can feel it humming. Owen’s friend Nick came along too, still gloating over winning the go-karting the day before.
Kitson was performing his show ‘The Interminable Suicide of Gregory Church’. It’s billed as a story show, and not stand-up – though I think most of the people there were there expecting a stand-up show from the conversations I overheard. Regardless of what people were expecting he was brilliant enough for no one to care whether it met their expectations, as – certainly for us – it was nothing like anything we’d ever really seen before. It was funny, it was smart, it was beautiful; in fact, the one disappointment was that it only lasted an hour and a half – I for one could have heard him go on all night.
I think one of my favourite things was the way he started his story: he said that most of it was made up, “but this bit is true,” he added. And then he began the story and didn’t stop. This caused a delightful blur between truth and fiction that no one really noticed until the end at which point there was a collective “hold on…” moment. The other thing I loved about it was how he managed to get everyone hanging on his every word so incredibly quickly. I know that may sound mental as that is, after making the audience laugh, a stand-up comedian’s job but the crucial thing with Kitson – and this is a biggie – is that when you’re listening to him you don’t care whether he’s being funny or not. I cannot overstate how rare and important that is. If Frankie Boyle or Michael MacIntyre suddenly stopped being funny you would think it was a lead up to a joke, and once they’d not been funny long enough think they’d broken, much as Eddie Izzard seems to have done in recent years. But with Kitson it’s different: he’s there, he’s talking, it’s not funny, you know it’s not leading up to a joke and you honestly don’t care. It’s incredible and he’s one of the only comedians I know who can do it.
I think there was only one thing I didn’t like about the gig and it had nothing to do with Mr Kitson himself. It was that the bloke next to me was laughing at Kitson’s stammer and it made me want to punch him as hard as possible wherever it would hurt most. I assume that he just thought it was part of the act because once Kitson had explained (“I do have a stutter by the way, you’re not just watching a machine breaking down or something…”) he looked a bit awkward and the laughter was restricted to the appropriate places alone.
I left the gig with the hugest smile on my face. Owen maintains that Stewart Lee was better but I disagree and say it was the best gig ever ever ever.
Back now and feeling a little anticlimactic…. but still a bit fuzzy and happy. 🙂
Haappiness and Light,
A popular soundbite often attributed to Cornwall is the description of it as a “cultural wasteland”. I have seen this written a fair few times in the last couple of years, and backed up by the assertions of both my Cornish and Non-Cornish friends that “there’s not a lot of talent in Cornwall now”.
Tonight, in a tiny brownie hall in the middle of Penryn, I saw the conclusive proof that these people are talking bollocks.
Dog With a Windy Face is a radio sketch show that has aired on The Source FM (Falmouth’s community radio station) over the last year, written and performed by the stunningly talented Barny Savage, Nicky Pasterfield, Nick Owen and Ross Kessell. But faced with an invite to perform at the Port Eliot festival this weekend, what were they going to do? The answer: Dog With a Windy Face – Live. Though tonight was only a dress rehearsal, it did serve as a pretty good indicator of what the Port Eliot show will be like. What a lucky audience they’ll be.
Comedy is, as it is, a tough thing to master. Transferring radio comedy into a visual format makes the job even tougher, and many shows have lost out on something…. something…. upon transferring from radio to, say, television. The two examples that I quote incessently are The Mighty Boosh – at least for a bit of the first series – and The Mitchell and Webb Look (formerly Sound), but as people really do tend to disagree with me on that I shall point out that Just a Minute and I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue have had long distinguished radio careers but never successfully made it to television, because they lose something important when the transfer occurs. DWAWF Live (yes, but typing it so many times would get to me otherwise) manages this transfer as if it was nothing, and, aside from anything else the show achieves, that is in itself intensly impressive.
But the show does achieve so much more! The sketches are absolutely superb: tightly written and coming across, as all good sketches should, as if no work went into the writing of them whatsoever. Ranging from scathing social parodies to complete absurdity, they have acheived a wonderfully broad base of humour that will have lots of people laughing at different jokes to the person sitting next to them. Though the spreading of humour to appeal to lots of different groups is sometimes frowned upon in today’s “everything must have a demographic” world, and though it gives the show a slightly mismatched feel in places, I believe that, overall, it strengthens DWAWF as a show and its prospects when performed.
Though it is obvious to say, good writing can fall flat on its face if not properly performed. And this is where DWAWF really has an advantage, because not only are the team fantastic writers, but they more than match that skill when performing. Whether it’s Savage and Kessell’s more extreme characters (though Kessell’s Alan Bennett impersination certainly shows that he is not immune to the more subtle school of comedy) or Owen and Pasterfield’s realistic and finely tuned roles, you truly feel that they are not letting their scripts down. The most fantastic moments, of course, happen when both the styles combine to create a contrast that’s truly a joy to watch. Of course, though, some credit must go to Kate Lamerton-Wilde, who has been directing the group tirelessly for the Port Eliot performances and whose efforts have certainly not gone to waste. From argumentative couples to the dangers of forcing Death into early retirement, all have been rendered in a waythat not only suspends your disbelief, but makes you actively wish that reality could be as brilliant.
I strongly urge anyone who gets a chance to see or hear any of this group’s amazing work to do so without hesitation, especially if you’re one of those who feels that there’s no talent in Cornwall: you’ll never be so glad you were wrong.
For more information on Dog With a Windy Face, and to listen to the radio shows, go to http://www.dogwithawindyface.co.uk