Edinburgh: Secund Week
I've left this week's post until the last minute so that I could stick to my plan of writing about some of the stuff I've been to see but, until last night, I'd still only seen one thing and I felt like I should have more to talk about than that. (if that gets you excited just wait until next week, I'll have 3 things to talk about!) So what shows have I seen and were they any good?
First was Nina Conti is Monkey. I'd seen videos of Conti performing, and on a few panel shows, but I'd never had a chance to see her live before. I feel like the majority of people have a pretty harsh opinion of ventriloquism, and for the most part I'd count myself as one of those people. Not that I don't appreciate the skill involved but I'd be lying if I said I find it as mesmerising as I used to. Like any trick, I guess, once you kind of understand how it's done, the magic disappears. After that, for me, it has to be done really, really well to still feel special. (like, so well you can't see it happening even when you know how) Conti IS that impressive. I mean, it's not like I spent the whole show watching to see if her lips moved, most of the time I was distracted by the comedy antics, but tha's all part of the trick, isn't it? I liked that it didn't feel like a standard ventriloquism show. There was only one short bit at the very end of the show where she performed with her hand inside a puppet, for the rest she initially came on stage in a full body monkey suit, a larger version of the puppet that inspired her to get into ventriloquism in the first place. ("I've grown a bit over the years. I used to just have a woman's hand up my arse but now I have subsumed her. She's inside me right now and she's quite sweaty") The rest of the show consisted of getting members of the audience up on stage and giving them masks that Conti could control and speak for them, mostly dirty minded silliness. (there was a lot of stuff about clipping sheep, "the best way is to come at them from behind", obvs) I found myself thinking, more than I've ever thought before, about how much the ventriloquist has to play a character themselves, as well as the puppets (or in this case people) they're giving a voice to. Their character has to be the host but should never seem to be in charge. They have to act shocked and slightly offended at their own jokes without ever giving away that they're not being themselves. It's a line that Conti walks expertly and its a genuine pleasure to watch.
The show I saw last night was Blackout. Hosted at Summerhall, produced by New Room Theatre and written by Mark Jeary, who also performs in the show. (full disclosure, I've worked with Mark before and he's a mate) The show is a verbatim theatre piece about alcoholism, which I'll accept doesn't sound especially cheery. When the show first started I was worried that visually it was going to be kinda dull (5 people standing on a bare stage talking) but I was wrong. Actually the simplistic staging helps the content of the show. And it's an especially honest take on alcoholism. So much of what we hear about it is either bleak or preachy, and Mark manages to avoid both. There's a lot of humour in there, the kind of drinking stories that are hilarious until THAT moment, when the situation turns and it becomes a horror story. There's acknowledgement that drinking can be really fun, and when you stop, life can feel boring. And the heat breaking reality that some people don't make it through.
That's what I've done. You're not getting any pictures this week, I couldn't bothered taking any. What did you do with your shitty life this week?