The fringe festival is on again, and I love it.
I’ve inadvertently ventured into comedy territory this year, and although I was quite wary beforehand, I’m now a convert. In previous years, I’ve tended to seek out immersive theatre, and any quirky shows I could get my hands on. I stayed away from comedy as it’s not been something that interests me. I always assumed comedy would tend towards people making fun of people (kicking down). Anyway, a new friend invited me to a couple of comedy shows one Saturday night and I agreed because I didn’t know this person very well and wanted to get to know her better.
So the first thing we went along to was an improv thing by a comedy group from the U.K, and my god, it was fucking terrible. The comedians seemed like really, really, really intelligent guys, and I could see that coming through some of the skits, but the absurdity of improv just doesn’t do it for me. I liked the meta aspects of it; they’d break out of character and the logic of the story, and comment on it, which helped me understand the way a show was meant to be constructed. For instance, when they said “we haven’t forwarded the narrative at all” it made me realise there was meant to be a narrative (ha ha). Anyway, I think it’s completely subjective because I was with 3 other people who loved it and laughed really hard, whilst I was “WTFing?”
The next thing we saw was a taster session of 4 different stand-up comedians, and it was FANTASTIC. One of the guys from the improv troupe we’d just seen performed, and he was incredible, so I think I just hate improv. Anyway, not one of the comedians kicked down, they all kicked up and I loved it. The only person who ‘kicked down’ was the MC, who was agonising. He made jokes about red-haired people, people with lisps and fat people etc. I was wondering if he could see the difference between his comedy and theirs?
I’m kind of serious though, and I like the things I consume to have some kind of meaning, so I was laughing hard at Mickey D detailing a job he’d once held at KFC, and I was laughing because not only does he tell the story in a funny way, but you also recognise the absurdity of everyday life; the familiarity of working menial jobs and having to take nonsensical, meaningless tasks seriously, and the absurdity of the people you are working with (who often do take the nonsensical, meaningless tasks seriously), and it makes you recognise (again) the absurdity, really, of capitalism.
I saw Ghost Machine by Laura Davis. It was in the DeLuxe theatre, which, contrary to its name, is a tiny little theatre in a corner of The Pleasure Garden, which I’d guess holds a max of about 30-40 people. So the theatre, and the nature of the performance, produced this very intimate show which the audience became a part of. Laura engaged with the audience, asking questions which allowed her to segue into her pre-prepared jokes, which flowed completely naturally out of our conversations. I really enjoyed her; the stories were funny and exposing, and her vulnerabilities felt very personal and totally relatable. Again, I really liked some of her pieces about shitty jobs and their inherent absurdity.
I saw some other terrible improv, I won’t talk about.
I saw some performance poetry? Not sure of the correct terminology. Set over the course of 24 hours, one performer told the stories of 8 different characters in one city. The only props he used were a bundle of milk-crates rearranged between each change of scene/character’s story. Video footage of an alarm clock ticking off the 24 hours was projected on the wall behind him during the character/scene changes and various cityscapes and footage played out during his performance.