Tuesday, 25 April 2017

"Worthy of the Marx Brothers" - The Swindonian reviews the Socks

A lovely review of Socks Do Shakespeare in Swindon by Ben Thomas in The Swindonian:


Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets do Shakespeare – Swindon Art Centre – Saturday 22nd April




Posted by Ben Thomas Date: April 23, 2017

I thoroughly enjoyed the Swindon Fringe, I really did. It was a dizzying whirligig of the imaginative, inventive and avant garde. However, by the end of it, I was thirsting for some Legitimate Theatre, to have my palate cleansed by immersing myself in some of the unadulterated Classics.

So imagine my joy when I discovered that the world renowned Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre (est. 2005 by Sir Kev F. Sutherland OBE) would be sweeping into Swindon with their latest elucidation of the Bard of Avon’s work and on the Eve of his birthday, no less. From memory this is the first visit from one of the truly leading Shakespearean companies to our fair town since the RCBC (The Royal Chuckle Brothers Company) brought us their Timon of Athens in 1994.

"...an inexhaustible manic energy worthy of the Marx Brothers"


A small but select audience were gathered at the Art Centre for this Royal Command Performance (no actual Royals could make it, but Princess Michael of Kent sent her apologies) and Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre didn’t disappoint. We were treated to two-handed excerpts from Richard III, Hamlet, Othello, Coriolanus and even a short improvised outing for that lost play “King Arthur” (as suggested by an audience member whose knowledge of the Bard’s oeuvre appeared somewhat lacking in certain areas).

There were also musical interludes. We were treated to an exploration of the gender fluidity in Shakespeare’s work to the tune of Blur’s 1994 dance floor-filling classic ‘Girls and Boys’ and we were also presented with a minute-long musical precis of the plot of Othello made to the melody of Abba’s 1977 chart-topper ‘Thank You For the Music’.



But the highlight and rightful finale of the show was an abridged interpretation of ‘The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.’ I can honestly say it was the best production of the play that I’ve ever seen performed by two grey-flannel sock puppets in the Scottish Falsetto style, trumping even Sir Ralph Richardson’s rendering at the Glasgow Empire in 1964.

At the end Sir Kev F. Sutherland OBE himself came out from the tartan marquee stage and took a bow (the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets didn’t accompany him, presumably not wanting to hog his spotlight) and the audience rose as one to applaud him.

Culture. That’s all I ask for in this Town of ours: a little bit of culture.

This has admittedly been a very silly review. But then the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets was a gloriously silly endeavour filled with daft puns, inexplicable prop juggling and costume changes (how many hands has the man got?!?) and an inexhaustible manic energy worthy of the Marx Brothers. It’s one of the best two-sock/one-man shows that you’ll see.

Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets do Shakespeare tours until May. They will be appearing at The Subscription Rooms, Stroud on 27th April.



2017 TOUR
Feb 15 - Buxton Pavilion Arts Centre Studio 
Feb 17 & 18 6.50pm - Kayal, Leicester Comedy Fest
March 9 - Aberystwyth Arts Centre
March 15 & 16 - Dram! Glasgow Com Fest
March 23 - The Bill Murray, London
Apr 1 - Rotherham Comedy Festival
Apr 6 - Victoria Theatre Halifax
Apr 8 - Rondo Bath
Apr 13 - Hexham Queen's Hall
Apr 22 - Swindon Arts
Apr 27 - Stroud Subscription Rooms
Apr 28 - Merlin Theatre Frome
Apr 29 - Perth Concert Hall
May 1 - Chiddingstone Castle Kent
May 5 - Artrix Bromsgrove
May 6 - Stafford Gatehouse

May 12 - Croydon Spread Eagle
May 13 (4.30pm) & May 14 (5.30pm) Komedia Brighton
May 19 - Carriageworks Leeds
May 26 - Aberdeen May Fest
June 2 - Eden Ct Inverness
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 20 - Grassington Festival, Yorks
June 23 - Hertford Comedy Festival
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe
August 15 - 17 Camden Fringe

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Story of Rahab & Jael Wife Of Heber written


Having finished the script for Book Of Ruth last month, and the artwork for Book Of Esther the month before, I've had the tentative go ahead to write more Bible stories and today finished and delivered two brand news scripts, The Story of Rahab (above) and Jael Wife Of Heber (below).



My fascinating investigations into the stories of the Bible continue and, if I get the greenlight to draw all these strips up, we will have a 60 page graphic novel ready to spring on the world. As I may have said, I'm rather pleased with my humorous adaptations of  these stories from the Old Testament, and I really hope that everyone at Bible Society will agree, so that the public can get to enjoy them.


One of the most amusing details I discovered during my research was the appearance Jael Wife Of Heber makes in the works of PG Wodehouse. If you're familiar with the story, and as per usual I wasn't until I wrote my adaptation, you'll know that (spoiler alerts) she gets a bit violent with a hammer and a tent peg. As a result, she features heavily in Renaissance art cos, come on, who doesn't want to paint the chick with the stake in skull-crushing action? It's hard not to become a Jael fan, and Wodehouse was definitely one. She gets a mention in half a dozen of his stories, including this from Bertie Wooster in The Code Of The Woosters:

"Just before Jeeves came in, I had been dreaming that some bounder was driving spikes through my head—not just ordinary spikes, as used by Jael the wife of Heber, but red-hot ones."


Jael Wife Of Heber, Story of Rahab, Book of Ruth and Book of Esther could see the light by the end of the year if we're all lucky. Stay tuned for updates.



Comic Art Masterclasses coming up in 2017:

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

General Election Prediction

Okay, let's get our clueless predictions in now. My guess, based on no facts whatsoever is the result will be:

Conservative 306 (down 24)
Labour 240 (up 8, inc seats in Scotland)
Lib Dem 36 (up 28, inc seats in Scotland)
UKIP 0 (as is)
SNP 50 (down 6)
Greens 2 (up 1, gaining a Bristol seat)


I also predict Jeremy Corbyn still won't resign, using the increased vote as an excuse, and that Theresa May forms a minority administration not a coalition.

Less than two months to see how wrong I was.

PS: It all comes down to the vagaries of the First Past The Post system, and voter turnout. That's why my stab-in-the-dark predicts Lib Dem gains, as recent polling suggests they could retake seats they lost following the coalition, and no UKIP gains. Also a good few SNP seats are marginals that could go Lib Dem or Labour. Labour increasing their total number of seats overall does defy all statistical predictions, very true. Exciting, ain't it?

The biggest playing field is the 49 seats lost by the Lib Dems & the 50 gained by the SNP at the last election. That's 99 seats* very much in flux, which could totally swing the outcome. (*I know it's not 99, shut up. 99 sounded nice.) The only thing you can be sure of is that the SNP can't gain more, and the Lib Dems surely can't lose more. But again, what do I know?

PPS: PS: I've just realised my result would give Jeremy Corbyn a potential coalition government with the SNP, Lib Dems, Greens and Northern Irish parties. Ha ha. Didn't see that coming.

Comic Art Masterclasses coming up in 2017:



2017 TOUR
Feb 15 - Buxton Pavilion Arts Centre Studio 
Feb 17 & 18 6.50pm - Kayal, Leicester Comedy Fest
March 9 - Aberystwyth Arts Centre
March 15 & 16 - Dram! Glasgow Com Fest
March 23 - The Bill Murray, London
Apr 1 - Rotherham Comedy Festival
Apr 6 - Victoria Theatre Halifax
Apr 8 - Rondo Bath
Apr 13 - Hexham Queen's Hall
Apr 22 - Swindon Arts
Apr 27 - Stroud Subscription Rooms
Apr 28 - Merlin Theatre Frome
Apr 29 - Perth Concert Hall
May 1 - Chiddingstone Castle Kent
May 5 - Artrix Bromsgrove
May 6 - Stafford Gatehouse
May 13 (4.30pm) & May 14 (5.30pm) Komedia Brighton
May 19 - Carriageworks Leeds
May 26 - Aberdeen May Fest
June 2 - Eden Ct Inverness
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 20 - Grassington Festival, Yorks
June 23 - Hertford Comedy Festival
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe
August 15 - 17 Camden Fringe

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

New car and other trivia



Guess who's got a new car then? At the end of March Peugeot phoned me up and asked if I'd like a new car without having to pay any extra, so I said yes. In brief, though it took half a day sat in a showroom signing things and waiting for stuff to go through, I continue paying a little over £200 a month (I've been paying £210 a month since I got the last car at the end of 2015, now I'll be paying £219 a month) and we've replaced my silver Peugeot 208 with... a silver Peugeot 208. Yes, apart from updating the 13 plate for a shiny new 17 plate, for all the world it looks like someone's just given my old car a really good hoover. I forgot to photograph the mileometer when it had nothing on the clock, so here it is after we'd driven from Robins & Days to Cabot Circus.



Meanwhile, since last I updated my diary, it's been travelling and working as per usual. March took me to Rathdrum County Wicklow, Darlington, Levenshulme, Dundee, Swansea, Malvern, Swindon,  Aberystwyth, Caerphilly, Hendon, Birmingham, Glasgow, Uley in Gloucestershire, Gloucester, Andover, Newcastle, Alnwick and back, while so far this month I've been to King's Heath, Rickmansworth, Halifax, Bath, and tomorrow I fly up to Hexham. It really doesn't get any quieter till August when, did I mention, the Socks won't be going to Edinburgh?


In the meantime, here are the few trivial notes I've made on Facebook recently.



John Clarke has died, aged 68. If you've never heard of him, and I hadn't until a few years ago, he and Brian Dawe did brilliant satirical sketches on Australian TV. This is quite possibly the best and most famous.






I've just read the history of Gibraltar (Wikipedia version) for the first time. Neanderthal, then Phoenician, then Carthaginian and Roman (at the same time), then Visigoth - yes Visigoth - then Islamic, then Nasridian then Marinidian (no, me neither), then Castilian - the first vaguely Spanish sounding name on the list of owners, and we're up to the 14th century already. Then the Castilians sold Gibraltar to Conversos - those were Jewish converts (oh good, we've got the Spanish Inquisition in there) - who were then expelled, and it stayed Spanish till the Anglo-Dutch captured it on behalf of Austria and finally, in 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht put it under control of the British. Somehow it was even part of the American War of Independence. Suddenly the idea of going to war over Gibraltar sounds like it might be compulsory.



It was supposed to be a joyous trip to one of France’s famous gastro palaces – what could possibly go wrong?
THEGUARDIAN.COM

I rarely read restaurant reviews, but who could resist this gem by Jay Rayner. A meal for two in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris, costing £600? And it includes mushrooms that are "..black, like nightmares, and sticky, like the floor at a teenager’s party". A joy to read, and a reminder that you're missing nowt sticking to a Ginsters.



I don't want to worry any of my fellow illustrators, but over on Children's Book Writers and Illustrators group, someone's just told us of the Phillippine artist they use, who'll do a page like this for 20 dollars. That's 16 quid.

*************
Just watched The Nice Guys by Shane Black. Was I alone in finding the mysogyny a bit distasteful, spoiling the tone of the film? He seems to be trying to have his cake and eat it. Simultaneously saying "wasn't the porn world of the 1970s awful & exploitative?" and "now look at these lovely boobies". His story structure and comedy routines are excellent, but does he ever write anything other than violent buddy movies? Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Last Boy Scout, Lethal Weapon? I gues you know what you'll get when you go to old Shane.

Who else is watching This Country on iPlayer? Hopefully it'll get a showing on BBC 1 or 2 and get the audience it deserves. It's brilliant, and by two creators - Daisy May Cooper and Charlie Cooper - that I'd not come across before. Trust me, it really is worth catching.

*****

Got an Only Connect for you. What's the connection?
The Incredible Hulk (1963)
Dan Dare (1967)
X-Men (1969)
Wonder Woman (1986)

Comic Art Masterclasses coming up in 2017:



2017 TOUR
Feb 15 - Buxton Pavilion Arts Centre Studio 
Feb 17 & 18 6.50pm - Kayal, Leicester Comedy Fest
March 9 - Aberystwyth Arts Centre
March 15 & 16 - Dram! Glasgow Com Fest
March 23 - The Bill Murray, London
Apr 1 - Rotherham Comedy Festival
Apr 6 - Victoria Theatre Halifax
Apr 8 - Rondo Bath
Apr 13 - Hexham Queen's Hall
Apr 22 - Swindon Arts
Apr 27 - Stroud Subscription Rooms
Apr 28 - Merlin Theatre Frome
Apr 29 - Perth Concert Hall
May 1 - Chiddingstone Castle Kent
May 5 - Artrix Bromsgrove
May 6 - Stafford Gatehouse
May 13 (4.30pm) & May 14 (5.30pm) Komedia Brighton
May 19 - Carriageworks Leeds
May 26 - Aberdeen May Fest
June 2 - Eden Ct Inverness
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 20 - Grassington Festival, Yorks
June 23 - Hertford Comedy Festival
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe
August 15 - 17 Camden Fringe

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Donald Trump & Your Nan - more comics by kids


And as Donald Trump once more rears his ugly head, at the suggestion of a class of year 3s and 4s, we see that he has become ubiquitous in the minds of children. The most haunting and memorable comment on the great orange baby came from a Year 4 pupil who said, when Trump had come up in conversation, "All I know is that he's banned me from his country." Eight years old and that's the first thing she knows about politics. How's that for a sad state of affairs?

The school is in King's Heath in Birmingham and, true to form, when I asked if anyone in the class had a relative in UB40, two classes had. Try it. Everyone in King's Heath is related to someone in UB40 (these kids had Grandads and Uncles in the band).



On the more cheerful side of things, these two comics emerged from what I call Mega Classes. Usually I only work with a group of up to 30 pupils maximum. Beyond that it's unworkable. However, every now and again, a school feels they can only have me if I work with a larger number of pupils, and so a Mega Class comes about. In this case we got 60 pupils at a time into the hall for the introductory half hour of the session. Then they broke off into their two respective classrooms to do the characters drawing, while I went into just one of their classes to do the Naming Of The Comic procedure. So only Year 4 got to name the comic (in the afternoon it was Year 5 who got that privilege). Then all back to the hall for the demonstration segment How To Do A Comic Strip (aka the Treading On A Worm routine), after which they were back into their two classrooms to draw their strips. This time I went with the other class, so only they (yr 3 am, yr 6 pm) got their caricatures drawn. It's not ideal doing it this way, depriving half the kids of caricatures, the other half of the chance to name the comic they'll be taking home, and all of them as much of my attention as they'd usually get, but we got away with it. I produced two versions of each comic on the photocopier, and sent home 120 satisfied customers at the end of a knackering day.


Rickmansworth library, in contrast, was a textbook pair of classes, made only slightly slower by having to use one of those library photocopiers that only has a flat lid on the top, no sheet-feeder. If you've ever wondered how long it take me to produce the A5 photocopied comics that each kid takes home, it take 10 minutes on a sheet-feeding copier. A lid-only copier takes nearer half an hour. And that's how interesting that anecdote's going to get.




This class was fun, in a community centre called Zion in Bristol that I'd never encountered before. A result of my emailing art centres at the start of the year, this is one of half a dozen of my classes that's been open to the public for a change, and has of course sold out. This one had no access to a photocopier at all, but the kids still seemed happy taking home their strips and their caricatures. I aim to please.


The celebrities these five groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Theresa May, Donald Trump three times (I think we have this year's winner already) and Barack Obama.



Comic Art Masterclasses coming up in 2017:

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who et al, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here

Monday, 10 April 2017

Dandelion experiment


Eurgh. No, it's okay, you're allowed to say it. Eurgh. Who wants to look at a photo of a scab? You're right, nobody does. So please feel free to move on. This is the photographic record of an experiment that I tried over the past week. The Dandelion Experiment.

It's something that I first tried way back in 2005, and for the life of me I can't remember where I got the idea from. But it worked then, and it seems to have worked again. I've done it at least one other time inbetween. It seems, you see, that the juice from a dandelion gets rid of warts.

First time I tried it, it was for a wart of my hairline. A week later, after going gruesomely dark and scabby, the thing had gone leaving smooth skin beneath. This time I tried it in three places. On a rather well established bump on my face to the left of my nose, on a smaller white spot above it, and on a mole-like thing on my neck. The two spots on my face seem to have gone through the dandelion process and emerged unaffected, like so:


But, as you can see from the progress at the top of the page, the mole fared far better. The first picture shows the mole in situ before I applied the dandelion. Then we see the area around the mole reddening, the mole itself turning into a scab while the skin around erupts in tiny pustules (none of which turn into complete spots or burst), then the scab falls off, and gradually the inflamed surrounding skin returns to normal. At time of writing it's not quite smooth, but it's heading in the right direction. That said, there's now a small, clear, translucent wart about a centimetre below where the mole was, so perhaps I'm back to square one. But a less visible square one, which I consider not a bad result.


Sunday, 9 April 2017

Socks Do Shakespeare on tour - great gigs


The Socks Do Shakespeare spring tour has been going so well I've not even got round to writing a blog about it. What can I say? We've had great audiences, including sellouts in Leicester, Aberystwyth and, by my estimation, last night in Bath, as well as good healthy audience sizes all round. So hooray for us. Here are some backstage Sock-selfies. Above and below from the Rondo Theatre in Bath.


Bath has a very good history of delivering top audiences for the Socks, and we seem to alternate between the Rondo Theatre and Nick Steel's Bath Comedy Festival venues. Last April, the crowd at Widcombe studios got a work-in-progress preview of Socks Do Shakespeare, this time round they got the finished hour. (Or hour and ten minutes, as it seems to have become).




Another town that has two venues, both of which have had us more than once, is Halifax. The Socks have played Square Chapel Arts two or three times, going right back to our very first tour in 2008, and have played the Victoria Theatre even more often, as we did earlier this week. In fact, and with many thanks, the Victoria is having us back again later this year to play their Comedy Festival. And by golly don't they have one of the most impressive ceilings?


I won't bore you with all the Sock selfies, you get the basic gist. Another successful feature of this tour has been the merchadise. Having got my act together with the production of a fresh batch of Shakespeare t shirts, along with the Romeo comic and the Shakespeare Live DVD, our merch table has done a healthy trade at every event so far too. Here, a merchandise table.




2017 TOUR
Feb 15 - Buxton Pavilion Arts Centre Studio 
Feb 17 & 18 6.50pm - Kayal, Leicester Comedy Fest
March 9 - Aberystwyth Arts Centre
March 15 & 16 - Dram! Glasgow Com Fest
March 23 - The Bill Murray, London
Apr 1 - Rotherham Comedy Festival
Apr 6 - Victoria Theatre Halifax
Apr 8 - Rondo Bath
Apr 13 - Hexham Queen's Hall
Apr 22 - Swindon Arts
Apr 27 - Stroud Subscription Rooms
Apr 28 - Merlin Theatre Frome
Apr 29 - Perth Concert Hall
May 1 - Chiddingstone Castle Kent
May 5 - Artrix Bromsgrove
May 6 - Stafford Gatehouse
May 13 (4.30pm) & May 14 (5.30pm) Komedia Brighton
May 19 - Carriageworks Leeds
May 26 - Aberdeen May Fest
June 2 - Eden Ct Inverness
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 17 - Dalkey Festival, Dublin
June 20 - Grassington Festival, Yorks
June 23 - Hertford Comedy Festival
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe
August 15 - 17 Camden Fringe

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Sincerest form of flattery? Rochdale Herald & Dwayne Pipe


They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I can only assume using your image in a photoshopped picture accompanying a joke news story is the same thing. This, from a website called The Rochdale Herald (that is very much not an official newspaper from Rochdale) makes the Sock on the Right, and his Macbeth outfit (as designed by Hev, and seen both of 2014's ...And So Am I show, as well as in this year's Socks Do Shakespeare) the star of the story.

Yes we are now "Will Of The Scottish People - Nicola Sturgeon's Imaginary Friend."


Here's the original photo of the Socks costume, and here's the 2014 blog post that they've swiped it from. We've asked for a credit, and whether they'll return the favour (of letting them use us) by plugging our forthcoming gigs. I've yet to hear back.




And this, spotted as part of a series of adverts at Newcastle airport last week. Dwayne Pipe, they call him. Yes, very original.



2017 TOUR
Feb 15 - Buxton Pavilion Arts Centre Studio 
Feb 17 & 18 6.50pm - Kayal, Leicester Comedy Fest
March 9 - Aberystwyth Arts Centre
March 15 & 16 - Dram! Glasgow Com Fest
March 23 - The Bill Murray, London
Apr 1 - Rotherham Comedy Festival
Apr 6 - Victoria Theatre Halifax
Apr 8 - Rondo Bath
Apr 13 - Hexham Queen's Hall
Apr 22 - Swindon Arts
Apr 27 - Stroud Subscription Rooms
Apr 28 - Merlin Theatre Frome
Apr 29 - Perth Concert Hall

May 1 - Chiddingstone Castle Kent
May 5 - Artrix Bromsgrove
May 6 - Stafford Gatehouse
May 13 (4.30pm) & May 14 (5.30pm) Komedia Brighton
May 19 - Carriageworks Leeds
May 26 - Aberdeen May Fest
June 2 - Eden Ct Inverness
June 15 - Crescent Arts, Belfast
June 17 - Dalkey Festival, Dublin
June 23 - Hertford Comedy Festival
June 24 - Ludlow Fringe
August 15 - 17 Camden Fringe


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