Wednesday 31 December 2008

Review of the year 2008

Review of the year 2008

It says a lot about the unpredictability of this year that I'm writing this from the dressing room I'm sharing with 4 drag queens, a juggler, a magician and two breakdancers, behind the Spiegeltent in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens where I've been performing with my Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets almost every night since the end of November (we'll have played 30 shows by Jan 4th). I'm pretty sure I didn't predict that a year ago.

Indeed early in the year it looked like this would be the year The Sitcom Trials really took off. In February the Trials won a Fringe Report Award, as a result of the 2007 series produced by Declan (Hill) and Simon (Wright), and was picked up on my Martin Witts at the Arts Theatre who offered the Trials a regular slot. He was also keen to promote and nurture the show, using his showbiz contacts to maybe take it to the next stage, TV and greater success wise. So Dec & Si spent months reading and selecting scripts ready for an Autumn season, only to have their plans put on hold when the Arts Theatre got sold. The new venue is the Leicester Square Theatre, and all going well The Sitcom Trials' revival will resume in Feb 2009.

Another part of my plans for 2008 took a knock when The Beano, for whom I'd been writing and drawing an increasing amount since 2004 changed the look of the comic and abruptly stopped using my serialised Bash St Kids Adventures. A great disappointment, as I have produced some of my favourite work in the last few years, not the least being Spring 2008's Bash Street Zombies and Attack Of The Beano-Snatcher's, and the 2009 annual's Reservoir Dodge. But writers and artists have moved on from DC Thomson through no choice of their own after a much longer run than mine, and I am happy with the time I've had there. And it's an ill wind that blows no good. It's meant more work for Bob Nixon whose strips are appearing a lot more these days, he's in the current Christmas Beano for example, despite the fact he's been dead for five years.

The two strings to my bow that saw the greatest amount of plucking in 2008 were the Comic Art Masterclasses and the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre. The classes were, of necessity, promoted more heavily following the loss of the Beano work, though they had always paid about twice as much per day as writing and drawing for DC Thomson, still I'd have preferred to be doing both. It would be both indulgent and boring to list all the schools, libraries, colleges and art centres who've had me in to present my unique class (at the end of which the pupils have produced a comic that they take home, along with a caricature by me, and have learnt the comic strip artform inside out), but I can at least count them all. Excuse me one second... okay, so I have spent a total of 92 days teaching comics, from Inverness to Ilfracombe (both repeat visits, I've done 8 days in both I think), Leicester to Lincolnshire, Cheshire to Kent and most points inbetween. Ninety bloody two days. That's a quarter of the year teaching. Not bad going, though maybe in 2009 I really ought to think about moving it up a notch. Comic Art Masterclass on TV maybe?

Oh yeah, forgot. The Comic Art Masterclass featured on TV this year. Interviewed by Gyles Brandreth on the One Show in July. Yes, I think that counts as an achievement.

The other TV of note was, of course, with The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre. In January we were interviewed by Scott Mills on Unplugged on BBC 3, which was fun. Then we made an appearance on the Culture Show during our Edinburgh Fringe run, which was brilliant. The rest of our apperances, on Current TV and MTV, we didn't even see but they did exist, somewhere. And then there was YouTube, lots of YouTube. Some very big viewing figures, and increasing respect. Maybe we can turn that into money in 2009.

The Socks in fact made more money in 2008 than every before, with an Edinburgh run that earned twice what the previous year's had done, and which led to the 2009 tour which is already bigger than the 2008 tour which was 4 times bigger than any tour I've ever done before (with either The Sitcom Trials or solo, neither of which managed more than 8 dates at a time. Now we are doing nearly 30 dates). And it can't hurt to list the Socks 08 towns:
Tunbridge Wells, Milton Keynes, Halifax, Hull, Bury, Brighton, Redditch, Glasgow, The Hague, Oxford, Great Torrington, Bridgwater, Bordon, London, Cardiff, Guernsey, Darlington, Peebles, Manchester, Exeter, Swindon, and Beford.

The tour and the Fringe led to the current Edinburgh Winter Wonderland tour which is paying the equivalent of twice what we made from the Fringe, so hoorah us. We also acquired a BBC TV producer who is interested in seeing us on TV, as are we. So in 2009 he and we shall talk more. Meanwhile he has the script for the Socks sitcom on his desk, I wonder if he's read it.

Apart from the Socks success, the art classes, the last of the Beano, some caricaturing and a few rare stand up appearances, I also ventured into self publishing with The Socks comic selling well in the run up to Christmas, and Hot Rod Cow and Sinnerhound both ready to go to print in the new year, if I feel there'll be an audience for them.

My biggest crime of the year must be my carbon hoofprint. How many flights? You really want to know? Flitting variously between Edinburgh, Inverness, Guernsey, Holland and home, I have run up a collossal 26 flights (inc my return from Edinburgh next week). And those are mostly easyjet, so I must have spent nearly a hundred quid on them by now.

Have I missed anything? Still happily married to Heather, Captain the cat's still with us - okay, this has now turned into a round robin. Plans for 2009? Let me think....

Tuesday 30 December 2008

Happy Hogmanay From The Socks

A very Happy New Year when it comes, from the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, live from the streets of Edinburgh.

Sunday 28 December 2008

Long time no etc

Is it really a week since we uploaded a Socks video? Why, I must have been enjoying myself and having a Christmas holiday. In truth, Heather came up to join me in Edinburgh, so we've spent the days visiting art galleries and shopping, rather than me indulging myself in writing, recording, shooting and editing videos. Which, though the end results might suggest otherwise, takes a long time. Heather has now returned to England, so maybe some more Socks material will appear. Though, that said, I have two days coming up working in Edinburgh libraries delivering my Comic Art Masterclass, and the it's Hogmanay, so nobody should get their hopes up waiting for a new epic.

Added to that, the free Wifi I've been relying on (in the Standing Order, a Wetherspoons pub in the middle of Edinburgh) has disappeared (I'm told someone has "punched a hole" in the machine, so that won't be fixed till next year), meaning I'm finding new temporary places to perch while I do my frantic emailing (God I miss having my own broadband, and the flat I'm staying in is totally cable free). Right now I'm in one pub, the Newsroom, and tried to use their free wi-fi, but the signal appears to have come from some place called The Waterloo, which is, I think, the venue next door. So that probably can't last. I'd be amazed if I get to the end of the idle bit of nooding before I get cut-

Monday 22 December 2008

Hallelujah by the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

If everyone else can sing a version, why can't we? Jeff Buckley? Alexandra Burke? Leonard Nimoy? Jon Bum Bogi? Forget it, this is the version you want.

Friday 19 December 2008

Advent Calendar Catch-Up

We've not managed to make a video every single day, so here's an attempt at catching up for all those days we've missed.

Good King Wenceslas - Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

A slightly wet addition to our Edinburgh Advent Calendar. Don't forget to watch the other videos, some of them are worth the effort. Not to damn this one with faint praise, but...

See the Socks every night till Jan 4th at Winter Wonderland

Thursday 18 December 2008

Little Drummer Boy - Scottish Falsetto Socks Advent Calendar

Today's window of the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre's Advent Calendar reveals their unique rendition of a Christmas favourite. Eat your heart out Terry Wogan and Aled Jones. Turn in your graves Bing Crosby and David Bowie, even though David Bowie isn't dead obviously. Enjoy...

Saturday 13 December 2008

Ding Dong Merrily On HIgh - Socks Advent Calendar

Today in the Socks Advent Calendar window they find a familiar carol...

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre's Comic Book - buy it now for Christmas

Our new comic book is available now, and if you order instantly you should get it in time for Christmas. It's 64 pages of comic strip fun between paperback covers, by Kev F out of The Beano. Send £3.99 / $6 inc postage to - you know you want to. Here, let's explain that more visually...

Friday 12 December 2008

Here we are, on the telly. STV's Five O'Clock show reports on White Magic, the show in which the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are performingly nightly till Jan 4th.

Socks Christmas Videos

Hope this works. This should show you a video player featuring all the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre's Christmas videos...

Advent Calendar - Yotam Ottolenghi's Christmas with the Socks

The latest instalment from the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre's Edinburgh Advent Calendar sees them enjoying the food photography of their favourite chef, Yotam Ottolenghi.

And don't forget you can see the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre every night till jan 4th as part of White Magic in Winter Wonderland at Princes St Gardens, Edinburgh.
Clicket for a ticket

Biggest bus v taxi fare difference ever. Yes, it's that interesting.

I did my Comic Art Masterclass in a school in Penicuik this week, being based in Edinburgh for the month performing at Winter Wonderland, so arranged a taxi to get me there.

Like anyone who's used most forms of transport, I'm familiar with some costing more than others. Planes seem to cost less than trains and get there 8 times faster, cars seem to get cheaper every week (88p a gallon? What is this, Christmas?) but are slower than trains. And walking is the best for you, but the journey from Bristol to Edinburgh takes you a month and you only get a three star show out of it at the end, which hardly seems worth the effort.

And I'm used to the taxi ride from my house in Clevedon to my usual destination in Bristol costing about 20 quid and taking half an hour, compared to a bus ride that takes nearly an hour and costs around a fiver. Taxis go twice as fast but cost four times as much as buses, that's the equation I'm used to.

Edinburgh to Penicuik was different. 25 quid for the taxi didn't seem that bad at all. It was about the same distance as my Clevedon to Bristol route, maybe a bit longer, and it was warm, friendly and convenient. The journey home by bus was more of a surprise. There was I at the bus stop, jingling pound coins in my hand, and ready to dive into my back pocket should I need to break a tenner for the journey, and then the driver tells me the fare to Princes Street.

£1.10. One pound ten. Buses cost more than that when I was a teenager! The Beano costs more than that, and it doesn't take you on a scenic route into one of the most gorgeous cities in the known universe, and let you have a free copy of Metro to read at the same time.

Quite how a bus service can operate charging so little for its journeys - I subsequently learnt that you can travel anywhere in the Lothians, any number of journeys in one day, for two pounds fifty - I cannot begin to conceive. Added to which there is a bus into Edinburgh every 12 minutes, and this seems to be the pattern all over the area (a far cry from my home town's one bus per hour, and only two all Sunday, business plan).

Long may it last. Cheap buses, and plentiful, available for all. How is it that Edinburgh can have this so right, so sorted, and yet at the same time be wasting time and money on laying tram lines that go from Leith to the airport but don't quite reach the airport, and be carving up the streets of the New Town with hideous roadblocks that turn half the ancient boulevards into one-way cul-de-sacs and make the whole place look like Belfast during the troubles? Say lavvy.

Thursday 11 December 2008

Another **** (4 stars) from The Scotsman

Okay, we can't take total credit for this one ourselves. It's the whole show that we're just a part of that got a 4 star review in the Scotsman. But whatever, our second 4 star review in the Scotsman came this week, and we;;l bask in it if we want.

And the quote to go on the poster?
"The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre blend charm and cheek to superb effect." - **** The Scotsman

The full review looks like this:

Theatre Review - White Magic!

Published Date: 10 December 2008


THE Gilded Balloon is best known for being one of the major players during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but clearly knows how to show people a good time whatever the season.

Drawing together an array of popular Fringe acts, its new cabaret-style production White Magic! couldn't be more diverse if it tried. Over the space of 90 minutes, the performers serve up an entertaining mix of humour, music and magic, with not a weak link amongst them.

Kitted out with cosy booths and candle-lit tables, the Spiegeltent blends the intimacy of a comedy club with a touch of cruise ship glamour. The perfect venue to house an Australian drag act, dim-witted clown, comedic magician, hip hop duo and sock-puppeteer. Fed to us in bite-size chunks, the acts do their thing then disappear, before there's even a fleeting chance of us tiring of them.

Hailing from Melbourne, Drags Aloud have a dressing-up box any six-year-old girl would die for. Sequins, feathers – even a Muppet costume – all worn by four fearsome divas armed with withering looks that could kill you at 20 paces.

Hapless clown Clive Nicholas Andrews manages to make the most simple procedures laughably complex, while the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre blend charm and cheek to superb effect.

Add Edinburgh-based hip hoppers Etch N Sketch and close-hand magician Ali Cook into the mix, and you've got a night out to remember, all held together by the warm glow of host Philip Dundas.

From the well-oiled group celebrating a 21st birthday to the fiftysomethings on a girls' night out, a good time was had by all. Because nothing represents yuletide gaiety quite like a plump Aussie male dressed as a female Christmas pudding.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

And through today's window of our Edinburgh Advent Calendar, we find the Nativety scene. An excuse for a Christmas Carol, if ever we heard one. Eagle eyed viewers will have noticed that YouTube has gone widescreen, and we're filming our videos in anamorphic widescreen. But when we upload our widescreen videos onto widescreen Youtube, they squeeze it back into a square shape, leaving us looking all tall and thin with unecessary black strips at the side of the picture. Does anyone know how to solve this problem? Whatever, do please enjoy the video, regardless of it looking like one of those annoying TVs in a pub that's been set up by an idiot who doesn't know the difference between widescreen and square and likes watching football matches being played by stick men kicking around a rugby ball...

Away In A Manger. Click to play.

Sunday 7 December 2008

Edinburgh Advent Calendar - Trees

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre's Advent Calendar from Edinburgh. Today we look at the Christmas tree. Click and enjoy.

Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre Edinburgh Advent Calendar

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre (whom I assist) are in Edinburgh throughout December performing in Winter Wonderland in Princes Street Gardens. While we're up here, we're endeavouring to upload a daily Advent Calendar video. So maybe, at last, I'll have an excuse to keep this blog up to date. Click and enjoy...
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