Sunday, 31 August 2014

Comic Art Masterclass on ITV news

I did a Comic Art Masterclass at Porthcawl Pavilion on Friday and ITV news came along and filmed me, which was nice. Above you can see the clip on Youtube (below you'll see the earlier version I filmed it on my phone, which was the only way I could work out to record something that's on ITV Wales which we can only get on the TV in the back room and not on our cable, until I googled that). You might be able to see it here on the ITV Player, but that link possibly disappears after a week. Try it anyway.

Now I'm off to remind all the schools in Wales that I'm available for the Autumn term. Oh and here's that flipchart, my first attempt at a Peter Capaldi since the start of the new series.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing Pansy Potter in The Beano, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He's been writing and drawing comics for 25 years, he must know something.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Pansy Potter: Deportment - in this week's Beano (and last)

It's been such a whirlwind of activity, with me being up in Edinburgh for the month, that I've not mentioned my strips in The Beano (when I've finally been able to get a copy - Edinburgh is home to a swathe of newsagents who will all confidently assure you The Beano is no longer being published!). So here we see the original demo version of the strip that appeared last week, which began its life entitled 'Deportment'.

The latest of my strips to appear, which continue with this week's 'Scrum', see a slight change in style in that they're no longer lettered by me as part of the artwork, but have the voice bubbles added later in the office. This means the editorial team can changing the wording if they feel they can improve things, as they did last week.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing Pansy Potter in The Beano, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He's been writing and drawing comics for 25 years, he must know something.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Mumford & Socks - new live video from the Scottish Falsetto Socks

If you missed the Socks live in Edinburgh with their new show ...And So Am I, then prepare to enjoy it in two minute segments. Click above to watch Mumford and Socks, just one of the hit songs from the show, and below a small piece on Scottish Independence.

And as if all that weren't enough, if anyone missed the Socks' landmark appearance on BBC 4's Edinburgh Extra, here it is. It'll be like you were actually there.

(oh boy, we need to make a new tour banner, don't we?)
The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre are on tour... NOW!
July 30 - Aug 25 Gilded Balloon, 10.30pm - Edinburgh Fringe 2014 

Sept 26 - MAC, Belfast Comedy Festival 
Oct 10 - Heron Theatre, Beetham Cumbria 
Oct 11 - Leamington Royal Spa Centre 
Oct 16 - Ormskirk Civic Hall 
Oct 31 - Lichfield Garrick Studio

Monday, 25 August 2014

Edinburgh 2014's Squeezed Middle - some views

I asked a question on Facebook, hoping to find peoples feelings about the economics of Edinburgh Fringe 2014. Here are some replies.

Kev Sutherland : Is it possible to get a coherent verdict on Edinburgh Fringe this year or do 1000 different people have 1000 different opinions? Here on Facebook I've read a few people having a hard time, others having their best. Some say audiences are low, some that reviews are hard to get, others have a view on everything. Anyone else want to sum up Edinburgh 2014?

Ewan Spence I think 1000 people = 1000 views is about right. From slightly outside the performer space, it does feel like the 'mythical' ability of the Fringe to self-correct itself has decided to address the issue of ticket price (through the Free Fringes, a more picky crowd of punters, too many venues, etc); I think that's happening to media coverage online, the print media feels sparser, BBC coverage is up but rather focused on the top of certain verticals, and the online sties feel a touch in flux. 
    In summary... changeable conditions. Like hail, rain, snow, wind, and sun, all in one hour. So Thursday then.

Kev Sutherland And the state of criticism is in flux, as highlighted by FringePig and stuff like this: (Mobius sound like a clever lot, and well done for making Adam Riches the most well known 3 star show of 2014)

Ewan Spence "Comedy coverage", i.e. one third of the shows, and we won't call them reviews so we can use them to get on the telly comedy panel quiz chat show things

Lewis Cook Personally it was my best Edinburgh ever (though this is largely because my previous 2 fringes were awful, its taken me 4 years to get back) got some nice reviews in a nice venue and most importantly, performed a show I actually liked. This year felt like there were more shows than audiences and the power of free venues seems to be growing stronger and stronger.

Matthew Perret I have noticed a polarisation.... top-end business as usual, Free Fringe generally thriving.... and a squeezed middle of smaller rooms in the big venues struggling to compete with the free shows and "big names"... (Personally: my first Free Fringe run, and I'm absolutely delighted, though it's tough getting reviewers in).

Jordan Raskopoulos We were around 95% tickets sold. However we sold a lot less merchandise than in previous years; we put that down to the economy and the fact that folks have moved on from physical media. I think we'll be moving to a digital solution in the future; USBs or download cards.
      On a more general note, on more than one occasion I saw groups looking at the GB lineup and overheard them say to one another "shall we go to a free venue instead?". It definitely seems that the middle is being squeezed out. Folks will pay to see a headline act but are avoiding risking their cash on smaller shows in ticketed venues.

Kev Sutherland Interesting takes here on the "squeezed middle", which I guess are shows you "take a punt" on, in the Fringe sense. I spoke to non-comic friends who'd booked a disappointing number of shows by people "off the telly", though their take-a-punt shows were reassuringly theatre things that they'd got through word of mouth. But, yes, that's the area where Free Fringe makes punt-taking a lot safer.

Fred Ferenczi Some venues are diabolically unsuitable for comedy.

Steve Griffin A lot of hard work, but definitely worth it!

Salvatore Monello Some if the best venues are too far away from the necessary footfall ,and sound systems can't be relied on

Gary Lynch Rain. Very low international visitor numbers. Dreadful service everywhere, buying a drink or getting food is a project. Rain. Serious re-think needed about whether it is worth doing the Free end of things. Serious re-think needed about whether Edinburgh is worth doing at all when an old and feeble joke wins the joke of the fringe award. Yeah, you may have guessed I am not in tremendous love with it right now.

Sean Brightman Useless street team, inconsistent numbers, terrible suffering financially. But rewarding at times. At the moment, I'm with Gary on this one.    

Bob Walsh for me on the Free Fringe on 3rd consec Year with the same show that my numbers were up at the expense of that much talked about squeezed middle (I don't pay money unless I know of or have been recommended shows or acts ) so punters up but money per punter down despite highest quality shows yet and bigger name guests. for me still, a good one ! ! delighted about many of the same punters back again for 3rd year !

Jordan Raskopoulos That's interesting, Bob. I'd like to know more about if the money donated per punter was down across the board for a lot of the free fringe program. 
     It definitely felt like folks had a lot less to spend this year. We had plenty of people wanting to come to our meet and greets wanting photos and autographs but not many walking away with merchandise.
Wil Hodgson    Well, judging by the fact I've had my best numbers since at least 2010 (in spite of a total lack of reviews) I reckon taking a foray into spoken word was a good move this Fringe. Thanks to everyone who came to the show. If I can take it tour then I will.

And finally: Fringe Claims Record Box Office - Chortle

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The History of the Edinburgh Fringe - The Early Days

During the month I've just spent at the Edinburgh Fringe, my 10th year staging a comedy show, the 30th anniversary of our first visit as punters, I've given thought, as usual, to its history. I've posted a few blogs of our souvenirs from that first visit (though to be honest I got way too busy to be nostalgic, so most of these things will have to wait to be posted on their 31st anniversary) and have joined in the conversation about the Future Of The Fringe, hoping to put things in a wider perspective through the wisdom of my great age.

However, to be honest, I've never known enough about the history of the Fringe. And asking my Mum, who was an art student in Edinburgh in the 1950s, is no help as she seems not to have noticed the Festival or the Fringe even happening back then. And now I know why.

Last week, en route back from the art exhibition at Inverleith House, I bought a book from 1997 called Banquo On Thursdays - The Inside Story Of 50 Years of the Edinburgh Festival by Iain Crawford. And, though it concentrates on the official Festival, about which I could care less (and which is, we can deduce, celebrating its 67th anniversary this year), it sheds light on the early days of the Fringe.

Or should I say fringe? In its first few, and they are very few, mentions in the book, those shows surrounding the Official Festival are fringe shows with a lower case f. The author himself had appeared in one of the very first Fringe events in 1947, "albeit before the title 'Fringe' had been invented" he notes. In the YMCA Theatre in St Andrew St, Crawford played Banquo in the Christine Orr Players' Macbeth, a show that got reviewed by Kenneth Tynan and EM Forster. It would seem, to begin with, shows on the fringe of the Festival's line-up of Shakespeare, opera, classical music and worthy plays did much the same as the visiting professionals, but as amateurs.

In 1948, BBC producer and playwright Robert Kemp coined the name Fringe in The Edinburgh Evening News thus, "Round the fringe of official Festival drama there seems to be more private enterprise than before". This term quickly displaced the more ponderous Festival Adjuncts, which had been in use until then. But still the Festival, with its contents chosen by committee from professional companies national and international, was the only significant game in town and remained so for some years.

By 1949 the Fringe had acquired its capital F, and Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop had joined the party, staging Ewan McColl's The Other Animals. Such 'alternative' events were included in the official Festival's programme, but had no financial support and were not chosen by the committee, which was the Fringe's defining characteristic. Anyone could do it, though still few did. Fringe shows were marked in their desire to innovate and experiment, in contrast to the conservatism of the Festival proper.

In 1958, the stuffiness of the Festival was challenged by Yehudi Menuhin's trio who wanted to take their music out of the concert hall to a new and wider audience. In a move that would presage Peter Buckley Hill's Free Fringe by nearly 4 decades, Menuhin hired the Embassy Cinema in Pilton and wanted to make admission to the one-off concert free. There was however a legal technicality preventing this, so the Saturday morning performance was staged at one shilling per ticket, still well below the price of the Kings, the Lyceum, the Usher Hall or the Playhouse. The 1000 seater cinema was packed, with journalists having to sit on the stairs, and his experiment in reaching the genuine wider non-theatre-going public of Edinburgh was proved when "to Menuhin's delight, they clapped in all the wrong places."

1958 was also the year of the Festival's first widely publicised financial crisis, when the papers ran the story of it having a deficit of £22,000. The City Fathers suggested there should only be a Festival every three years and that the city could not support it. Of course, that didn't happen. The story of a financial crisis at the Festival or the Fringe, and the warnings of doom and disaster that accompany it, has been an annual Edinburgh tradition ever since.

1966's "biggest Fringe to date" saw 33 companies staging 70 productions "ranging from mime, jazz and rhythm-speaking... to plays by Edward Albee, Thornton Wilder and Tennessee Williams" and gave the Fringe one of its first West End transfers in the form of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Comedy, which had made its mark as part of the official Festival with 1960's confusingly named Beyond The Fringe, was becoming a small presence on the Fringe. As well as revue groups, of which Cambridge's Footlights were acknowledged kings, David Frost had a late night show at The Palladium. In a talk to the Fringe Club, there was a call by John Calder for "two Fringes, professional and amateur", suggesting that "the Fringe had taken over drama from the official Festival."

In 1967 Richard DeMarco, "a one-man Fringe-and-Festival" burst onto the scene with the Edinburgh Open 100 art competition. Modern art became central to the Edinburgh Festival, as Nigel Gosling wrote in the Observer, "Now largely due to one man, the Sixties have broken into the city in force and things will never be quite the same again." Nearly 50 years later DeMarco's home in Summerhall and his massive art archive remain central to Edinburgh's art world.

In 1977 the popularity, and populism, of the growing Fringe was made clear in a speech by retiring Festival Director Peter Diamand who said "I watched... the programme Russell Harty Comes To The Festival. If I didn't know anything about the Festival, this - the Edinburgh Festival which I saw on this programme - I would stay away from it. I mean, it was principally the Fringe and every allusion to 'serious' programmes was carefully avoided."

It was in 1981 that the Edinburgh Fringe, as modern visitors might recognise it, really came to be, when William Burdett-Coutts, "a tall pale-faced, black-bearded Zimbabwean actor-manager-impresario" was given access to the Assembly Rooms on George Street, via the official Festival for whom he was producing a play. He decided that, instead of using the newly-available space for just one play, he would lease the whole building and sub-let it to different shows. The Festival spent "a substantial sum" on the adaptation of the Assembly Rooms Music Hall into a theatre. With this, the first multi-tenanted and curated venue, the pattern was set for the Fringe as we know it today.

That first Assembly Rooms comedy line-up offered a choice between Radio Active starring The Heebeegees (Angus Deayton, Philip Pope and Michael Fenton-Stevens) or An Evening Without... starring Griff Rhys-Jones, Rory McGrath, Jimmy Mulville and a not-yet-famous Clive Anderson (variously the Cambridge Footlights revue teams of 1973-76). I should know, because my Dad and I went to the latter.

Another multi-tenanted (but not curated) venue pre-dating the Assembly Rooms was the Wireworks on High Street which, I learn via Dave Cohen and Bruce Dessau on Facebook, was home to Rowan Atkinson & Richard Curtis's breakthrough show, the venue having been partly built by the performers, with Atkinson driving the JCB. Shows ran there from 1978 until at least 1992, it is now the site of a primary school.

The curated venues that followed the Assembly's model include The Circuit, which occupied a marquee on a building site on Castle Terrace from 1981 - 86; The Pleasance which has occupied a University building on the street of the same name from 1984 to the present day; The Gilded Balloon which took over the former 369 Gallery and adjacent buildings on Cowgate from 1986 until it burned down in 2002 and they found their current home at the University's Teviot building; C Venues in Adam House on Chambers Street since 1992; The Stand, Edinburgh's only permanent comedy club, which began in 1995 and runs all year round, expanding into many more venues for the Fringe; the Underbelly who began on Cowgate in 2001, expanding to include an upside down purple cow in Bristo Square in 2007; and venues many and various such as Southside, Greenside, Just The Tonic, Zoo, The Space, and many more that have come and gone over the years.

The Free Fringe, which has proliferated in recent years, began in 1996 with a show called Peter Buckley Hill & Some Comedians at the Canons Gait pub. In 2002 Peter and the Laughing Horse club joined forces to curate a range of venues where admission would be free to audiences, whose donations are collected in buckets at the end of the show, and whose acts would not have to pay to hire their venues. In 2006 these divided into two separate organisations, and were joined by other companies dedicated to offering a free (or cheap) range of shows to the public. These include the Five Pound Fringe, Heroes Of The Fringe's "Pay What You Want" shows, and in 2014 Freestival.

The birth of the curated venues saw the growth of comedy within the Edinburgh Fringe, whose flourishing in the subsequent 4 decades has been the subject of many articles, one of which I shall no doubt write some time.

ADDENDUM 3/9/14: Returning to the subject, I've just re-read part of Stewart Lee's How I Escaped My Certain Fate, which paints a nice picture of the transition from the 80s to the 90s. I quote...

When I went back to the Edinburgh Fringe... in 1990... my management company (Avalon) introduced bold new ideas to the stand-up comedy scene, such as advertising and two-colour posters. (The innovative idea of insurmountable performers' debts, paid off piecemeal by working for the management company's other departments, was yet to come.) The photocopied bits of paper everyone else pinned up in Edinburgh newsagents' windows suddenly seemed so drab. The eighties were over. The bright new dawn of nineties comedy was rising, and we drove around Edinburgh under cover of darkness in a panel van, flyposting illegally with pots of paint and brushes, like the A-Team with jokes.
...Nobody on the Fringe had seen anything like it. Advertising! ...It was the beginning of the end, and I was an accessory.

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do Shakespeare every night at 10.30pm at the Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe August 2016. BOOK NOW to avoid disappointment

★★★★★ "Accessible, contemporary and ridiculous" - Brighton Argus May 2016
★★★★ "Eat your heart out, Olivier" - What's On May 2016 
★★★★ "Comedy genius at work" - Theatre Bath April 2016 

Aug 3 - 29 - 10.30pm The Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh Fringe 

Doctor Who Deep Breath - my review

A packet of Costa coffee bought this week, obviously being marketed to Doctor Who fans.

I've watched Doctor Who - Deep Breath twice now, once on the cinema screen with an audience and once at home on iPlayer with earphones in, and I love it. 9 out of 10.

Obviously lots of criticisms if you want them. Ben Wheatley directs the actors brilliantly, getting the best performance yet out of Jenna Colman. The downside of his technique is that he takes time for lines to sink in, which made some bits last longer than they might have. The show would have been 5 minutes shorter if we hadn't paused before everything clockwork man said for example.

And Steven Moffat's cringey contrived gags are as groaningly painful as ever. I mean I like "who frowned me this face?" - there's a t-shirt right there - but puns like eyeballs "they're my gift/I accept" and clever clever indulgences like "androids and apostrophes, I could write a book" look great in a comic strip but become very awkward and unrealistic when you're trying to believe that these are real people talking. But, whatever, we're used to that by now and I try to enjoy those rather than get annoyed.

Two logical incorrectitudes: "How did you power this?" "Skin" - making a balloon out of something is not "powering" with it. And when Clara asks Jenny how she'd feel if Vastra changed from the person she loves, Jenny says "and as to different, she's a lizard" - that doesn't answer the question about changing, does it?

Oh yes, and Moffat's understanding of human sexuality and relationships is very clockwork-mannie, as if he's learned it all third hand from actual humans and has difficulty explaining it. We get that Vastra & Jenny are a couple, you don't have to labour it so. Or turn Vastra into a letchy old perv. Awkwardness aside I love the Paternoster gang (Sherlock Holmes in-jokes notwithstanding) and think they should have their own TV series, animated and sold internationally.

 I positively hated the fan-boy pleasing quotes from the old show - "here we go again" from Vastra as the Brigadier, and "you've redecorated, I don't like it" - both of which crossed the line between homage and lack of originality.

But Deep Breath avoided the worst crimes of the previous series - a new viewer could watch it without knowing 50 years of arcane back-story (almost) - and it put an entertaining adventure to the fore, with the indulgent self-examination taking second place (though why the hell Strax had to give Clara a medical examination I will never understand. It's not like the show needed padding for length!).

So 9 out of 10 for me and I really really enjoyed the experience of watching the show in a cinema for the first time. The audience laughter and responses add a lovely dimension to the shared experience. Here's to the rest of the series. (A whole series, for the first time since 2010 - so excited!)

Kev F

PS: Thanks to Alan Hayes on Facebook for pointing out where the new version of the Doctor Who theme got its inspiration:

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Edinburgh 2014 report

The secret of improv is "Yes, and..." Edinburgh Fringe meets the Scottish Independence debate.

Where did that month go? Edinburgh Fringe 2014 was the fastest moving Fringe I can remember. With my schedule being the busiest ever (26 consecutive shows at 10.30 every night, and Comic Art Masterclasses in libraries and schools on 12 days, with Uncle Stuart's funeral and a day of filming for Newsnight into the mix) it's no surprise that, yet again we saw hardly any shows (4 I think), though we have done the art galleries justice, visiting the Museum of Modern Art, the galleries on the Mound, Inverleith house, Ingleby, City Art Centre, Collective on Calton Hill, National Portrait Gallery, Talbot Rice, Fruitmarket and, my favourite, Summerhall.

My audiences have been good, my numbers up a tiny bit on last year, and the flyering experience has been perfect. Our flat in World's End Close has been the best location ever, I can get to work in 10 minutes, and the avenue that connects Assembly Gardens, The Gilded Balloon, Udderbelly and Pleasance Dome is the most fruitful stretch I have ever flyered - and that's in nearly 15 years of flyering, since my first show here in 2001.

UPDATE Aug 25: My final total has beaten last year by 10 tickets (1663 vs 1653) - in a smaller venue. Last year's Billiard Room show could hold 105 on a sellout, while this year's Sportsman's capacity was 90, so this year I've sold a higher proportion of tickets. My last night was the second best last night ever (74) just beaten by 2010's 77. 

The Future Of The Fringe. Well, these two blogs tell us a lot, with both Janey Godley and Richard Herring announcing that they will be coming back next year with Free Fringe shows. Janey in particular thinks the paid for venues are in trouble. I have heard this echoed from a few other sources informally (I thought I'd seen a number of people on Facebook mention poor audience figures, but when I followed them up they turned out not to have said that after all.)

The Edinburgh Comedy Award ended up being won by John Kearns who was playing in PBH's Free Fringe, which must signify something too. I've written a short blog about the early days of the Fringe, based on a book I bought this month, which puts things into a bit of perspective.

The Socks' 2014 show, And So Am I, has been very good, though not my favourite ever. I think the UKIP Song and Oh What A Lovely War are deserved highpoints, and the audience agrees (not had a visual highpoint as good as the burka appearing since we debuted Star Wars back in 2009). The Baby In The Corner running joke is my favourite running joke since we did Who's On First as part of the 2008 show. And there are lots of opportunities for audience rapport in the whole Scottish Independence Debate and European Elections segments - these being so expandable that they often necessitate removing 5 minutes of material from the end of the show.

But that final 5 minutes, the Macbeth as Alex Salmond skit, is one I've been happy to drop half a dozen times. When it works, at breakneck speed hitting the laugh points and moving on, it goes so well nobody has time to notice that it doesn't make logical sense and doesn't really have a proper ending. Robbie the technician (who's been a star) pointed out that the culmination of Baby In The Corner is a perfect end to the show, and I think he's right. When we write the touring version, Alex Salmond and Macbeth will be history (quite possibly in the wide sense, not just in a silly Socks show) but I think our running joke will go on and on.

We've also been getting great laughs from Always A Bastard and Sweary Poppins, but I feel a little guilty because they're items from past shows (Always was 2010 then the tour that included Adelaide, and Sweary was 2009 then every touring show since, though Edinburgh's not seen it for 5 years). Our audiences have been at least 50% new people every night, sometimes 90% newbies, and everybody loves those songs, so why not give them the hits from time to time?

(For the record, Socks In Space is my personal favourite show, followed by a tie between Hollywood, Telly, Boo Lingerie and And So Am I. Turns out I'm quite the Socks fan!)

Hev at Summerhall in a cracking installation with arcade games and retro poster stylings.

The rest of my experience can probably be summed up in tweets. We had a great flat, a great show, and a great time. This is a taste of it...

Aug 12: Just failed to flyer with crap attempt at a gag. Almost glad he didn't take one

Just failed to flyer W Burdett-Coutts en route to It's almost like I'm losing my knack. (NB: I'm not)

And totally failed to flyer 's That's 3 celeb flyerfails for 3.

Yes! Successfully flyered Rory McGrath. I still got it.

Just successfully flyered & Henry Normal in one go. Can't top that. Off to prepare for the show

Nothing says star comedian off the telly like a great poster campaign. Tim Key in an underpass.

Every night at teatime we've been loving Alias Smith & Jones on ITV4 That's our guilty secret.

Not saying it's windy but.... & booth just blew down the street & collapsed.

I just learned the techs in my venue are working 22 HOUR DAYS. Any acts wanting to tell us how tired they are, take note.

Good news: finally found this week's in Edinburgh (Canonmills). Bad news? I'm not bloody in it this week!

 Christina Aguilera's given birth. Didn't even know she was in the Mickey Mouse Club.

Aug 19: Ha ha. Just remembered I came up to Edinburgh 3 weeks ago, and brought shorts with me. Ha ha ha.

 Watching I've just realised who the MP was that I flyered the other day - it was only blooming Philip Hammond!

I flyered the Foreign Secretary. And last year Jack Straw came to the show. I win Foreign Secretary Edinburgh bingo!

Aug 20: When it comes to resisting punching Avalon comedians in the face, three weeks is clearly too long.

  Is: Discovering a quarter of your audience are Swiss. And 2 are German. Show got a lot funnier after we worked that out tonight.

Focus of the Edinburgh widens. Only 8 out of the 13 nominees are on at this year.

Attendees at will be delighted to know I won't be flyering them outside the McTaggart this year cos I can't be arsed

PS: And we're the 298th top-rated show in Edinburgh. Yeah, that's right!

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre ...And So Am I is at the Edinburgh Fringe 2014, July 30 - Aug 25 Gilded Balloon, 10.30pm

★★★★ Broadway Baby - "Bizarre and delightful"

Thanks to Broadway Baby for sending a second reviewer to our show, and giving us this smashing 4 star review.

Since forming in 2005 in Aberdeen, the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre have performed internationally and on television around the UK. Aided by Puppet Master Kev F. Sutherland who writes their material (yes, there is a man behind the magic), the woollen duo have attracted rave reviews at the Fringe since 2007. The new production, And So Am I, takes a humorous look at the Scottish referendum. Along the way the socks also cover Mumford and Sons and UKIP - a key feature of any 2014 satire.
And So Am I is one of the most bizarre and delightful things you will find at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It’s very silly, but very clever fun.
This is a silly, laugh-out-loud piece of theatre that anyone with an interest in politics will find funny. There’s a mixture of ridiculous humour and witty satire that carries the show along at a pleasant pace. A slight issue arises when it turns out that the entire audience is either English, Swiss or German, as the referendum debate within the show relies rather heavily on Scottish audience members having their say. This is well-handled, however and there’s never a sense of the sock puppets dying on their (proverbial) feet.

The musical numbers make up some of the show’s highlights, with melodies you may have heard before. An X-Rated sing-along of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious has the audience gleefully cursing away and an array of musicals make up the tune to the glorious UKIP song. However, what astounds me most is the stamina that Sutherland shows proof of: he has to keep jabbering non-stop for an hour and maintain a high level of enthusiasm throughout. Both sock puppets have clear personalities and are very loveable, if a little weird.

And So Am I is one of the most bizarre and delightful things you will find at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It’s very silly, but very clever fun.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Socks on Newsnight

Our TV highlight of this year's Edinburgh Fringe has to be our appearance on last night's Newsnight. Okay, it was only a cough and a spit, we didn't get any funny lines in the final edit (we got more into the Edinburgh Extra excerpt, for which the BBC recorded our entire show), but we were featured in the opening montage of the show as well as being in the piece at the end, and it was a fun shoot.

As you'll see, if you catch it on iPlayer before the week is out, the piece involved 8 acts in an X Factor set-up, performing their material about the Scottish Independence debate, some pro some anti, mostly musical, and the ultimate winners performing at the end of the live show. Obviously we didn't win (if we had we'd have had to cancel Thursday night's show, which had a good sized audience, so phew) and the winners were an excellent band of youngsters from Dundee.

So many thanks to the good folks of Newsnight for including us in the line-up, it was a treat.

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre ...And So Am I is at the Edinburgh Fringe 2014, July 30 - Aug 25 Gilded Balloon, 10.30pm

John Lloyd, Newsnight, friends & family - Edinburgh selfies

This has been the year of the selfie for me, almost inevitably given that I've only had an iPhone since early this year, and I've snapped as many as I could when I've remembered to. The one above must take the cake for most impressive and most surprising. I'd walked out of the gate outside our flat in World's End Close, en route to the So You Think You're Funny party around midnight, wearing the suit I bought for Uncle Stuart's funeral a fortnight ago, and who should be sat there having a fag with his son and a colleague but John Lloyd, legendary comedy producer. We had a very pleasant chat, he has a flyer now.

And here's me with Arthur Smith, Janey Godley and Hannah McGill, at the filming last week of a piece for Newsnight which made it into last night's (Thursday) edition of the show. The Socks' contribution was a cough and a spit but obviously an honour to be part of, and telly is telly and fun to do.

Roman Armstrong and his aunt and a friend. The Socks played Roman's 12th birthday party, now he's old enough to be at his first Fringe.

Sandy and Anne. Sandy Eggo, though I call him my Uncle, is in fact my Mum's cousin, and he and Anne travelled all the way from Brechin just to see me and the Socks. How fantastic is that?

Garry Roost & Nick Steel at the SYTYF Party

Ewan & Vicki Spence


The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre ...And So Am I is at the Edinburgh Fringe 2014, July 30 - Aug 25 Gilded Balloon, 10.30pm
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