Wednesday 31 August 2016

Edinburgh round-up - the selfies

I've probably written all I need to write about the Edinburgh Fringe just gone by. On the way I took a lot of selfies whenever I bumped into friends in the street. Here are some that haven't featured in the blog before now.

Marcus Brigstocke

Bethany Black

Vicky Jeffrey

Martin Gray and Steven

Scott Agnew

Nick Steel

Paul Gannon & Amelia (& Hev Tweed)

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do Shakespeare played at the Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe August 2016. On Tour through Spring 2017.

★★★★★ "Accessible, contemporary and ridiculous" - Brighton Argus May 2016

Tuesday 30 August 2016

★★★ "A glorious put down on pretension" - TV Bomb

This year's tradition of getting our lowest star-ratings for our best ever show continues with another "reads like a 4" review, from TV Bomb. Published on August 30th, just too late to either help or hinder.

Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets Do Shakespeare
at Gilded Balloon Teviot
* * * - -
Puns aplenty as the popular Sock Puppets satirise Shakespeare

It’s always astounding how much animation can come from what are essentially, socks. It feels as though these two puppets can actually see us, and suspending disbelief that there’s a human being lurking behind the facade is pretty easy, even despite the “fourth wall” being continually broken. There’s a nostalgia in it too, reminiscent of simpler, less technologically advanced times. Of course, entertaining a room of people for an hour does require more than a retro gimmick and here it combines with comedy, singing and the satire of high brow theatre in a low brow format.

This show must nail just about every Shakespearean pun possible, especially when it comes to character names. There’s some clever jokes but also a great deal that have us groaning, so it’s a mixture of predictable cliches and astute observations (one of the latter being a reference to audience members enjoying flaunting a little knowledge of Shakespeare – a glorious put down on pretension).

Given the dexterity required behind the scenes to pull this off, performing this show is an impressive feat from the clearly very talented Kev F Sutherland (although in terms of audience enjoyment, it’s irrelevant whether there’s one man or a small team working away behind the screen). While the show is scripted, he throws in a fair amount of improvised banter which is witty every time. “Costume changes” (yes, the socks wear costumes) are a lot of fun too, contributing a great deal to the comedy and personality of the piece, especially in the way they reflect the theme.

The scripted jokes are at times obvious, repetitive and hackneyed, although as with all comedy this can be a matter of taste. There’s no doubt though that The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre delivers a funny and entertaining show that has been – and looks set to stay – popular at the Fringe for many years.

Tamarin Fountain / @Tamarinfountain
Writer.. comedy lover and reviewer.. occasional performer. Based in Edinburgh

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre do Shakespeare played at the Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Fringe August 2016. On Tour through Spring 2017.

★★★★★ "Accessible, contemporary and ridiculous" - Brighton Argus May 2016
★★★ "A glorious put down on pretension" - TV Bomb August 2016
Aug 3 - 29 - 10.30pm The Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh Fringe 

Monday 29 August 2016

Jupiter Artland & the bins - Edinburgh round-up

We've seen a lot of art this month in Edinburgh, and will definitely be putting one of the Blurb books together cataloguing our photos. Today we finally got round to seeing Jupiter Artland. It's a half hour drive out of Edinburgh, and Hev's wanted to get to it in previous years but it's never happened. This year it did, and what a revelation it is. A sculpture park in the ground of a grand private house, with works by everyone from Anish Kapoor, Cornelia Parker and Anya Gallacio to Ian Hamilton Finlay, Andy Goldsworthy, Antony Gormley and (above) Jim Lambie. The pieces by Laura Ford are particularly photogenic:

Since the permanent collection is always being added to and the visiting shows have a constant turnover, this is one to return to every year. A splendid discovery, to add to the 27 galleries and exhibitions that Heather and I have visited in Edinburgh this month.

Not that everything in Edinburgh has been so picturesque this week. Have a look at the state of our courtyard at Worlds End Close, after the bin collectors had left it uncollected for a fortnight, and one flat appears to have had a complete clear-out, including a mattress and a video monitor, as well as bags of toys and games (and a signed poster for Macbeth, which I've nicked to put on eBay). But look what happens after I'd tweeted the above photo to Edinburgh Council...

How's that? Full marks to Edinburgh council for that work, which happened while we were out at Jupiter Artland. Why it was a performance piece in itself. 

Here's my doodle in the comments book at Edinburgh Printmakers, the view you can see of the printshop from the gallery. I've not drawn much this month, so nice to be reminded I've not lost it.

Other things I'd like to remind myself off this month are:

 - I thought my iPhone was busted cos it wouldn't charge, so we went to the Apple store, expecting it to have to go in for servicing. The genius stuck a pin in, pulled out the fluff and it worked.

- My slippers have been shedding letters all over floor. I have been spelling words from the letters L, E, R, V, M and A on the windowsill.

- I got a haircut on the day after our first night. Still looking good.

- We've been watching random stuff on Netflix this month, including Australian sitcom Dreamland, first episode of Green Wing, old episodes of Gary Tank Commander and Still Game, and surprisingly funny episodes of Dick Van Dyke from 1961.

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

Saturday 27 August 2016

All's Well That Ends Well - Edinburgh audit

Me, flyering with my characteristic flick (the fingers, not the hair). 10,000 Socks flyers distributed, and the best part of 2000 for The Sitcom Trials (with a little help from my cast)

I may have said this in previous years, in which case forgive me, but I think this has been my most enjoyable Edinburgh Fringe ever. For one reason above all others: I had a good show from the start.

In past years, 2015 in particular, I've had a show that I've not been completely happy with, and that has led to nights when I've come home unhappy and disappointed. But this year (though I still have 3 nights to go, at time of writing) with Socks Do Shakespeare, every night has been good. Some better than others, but all good. It's the first year ever that I've not changed the script since the start of the run. In the past I've moved the running order around, cut sketches and musical numbers. But this month, though I've added some fabulous gags and ad-libs that have grown along the way, I'm still sat behind the set looking at a script dated July 28th, as printed out for our penultimate preview. I've video'd the show 4 times, partly to ensure I got the audience on a good night, but mostly cos a curtain kept falling in front of the lens halfway through the recording. Let's see how it looks when I get round to editing it all.

Not that everyone agreed about the quality of our excellent show. We've had precious few reviews, with one4review giving us 4 stars and, to my slight chagrin, Martin Gray giving us a nice review in the Scotsman which read like a 4 stars but went out with a damned-by-faint-praise 3 stars on it. Broadway Baby, who've given us 5 stars in the past for shows that were not nearly as good as this, gave us a 3 star review from a student whose main complaints seemed to be that we were too popular and people were laughing too much. This, though, is not unfair. I now know what Mrs Browns Boys must feel like. And she was wrong, and I know it, so there. All other reviewers have stayed away, sadly.

Audience numbers have been good. And stunningly consistent. Have a look at this snapshot of my Sales Graph for the last decade. 

You can see that, for our first 4 years (07-10) we built our audiences steadily, culminating in the stellar sales of 2010 when, in a 9.15 time slot, with appearances on the One Show and the Culture Show, an interview in The Scotsman, the Vuvuzela video having gone viral, and lots of 4 and 5 star reviews all in in the first week, we reached peaks we have yet to equal. Then when we returned in 2012 we hit the London Olympics, which decimated everyone's audiences. Since which time, from 2013 to 2016, we have sold almost exactly the same number of tickets every year. A 10.30 time slot every time, no major telly appearances, our reviews appearing late in the run if at all, and with ads in the programme for 2 out of the 4 years (a cost I think I won't bother with in the future), our trajectory on the graph is pretty well identical every time, regressing to the mean of a final figure somewhere in the low 1700s.

Of course one of the novelties of Edinburgh 2016 for me has been The Sitcom Trials final. I last tried it in 2013, hoping to pick up some of the So You Think You're Funny sponsorship money (which the main competition itself then lost, so we never got a sniff of it), and delivered a disappointing show with which no one was very happy. This year I took more control, producing the show myself, and hosting it too, and it went very well. I might even break even on the box office, we'll have to see*. Of course it'll only be worth doing again if I can attract some sort of sponsorship for it, but I'm sufficiently inspired to think I might make a push for that in the autumn.

*UPDATE: When my box office settlement came in October, Sitcom Trials had sold £450 of tickets. Deductions for the Prog entry, venue fee, credit card charges, Fringe fee and technician came to £657.60. I had £238 taken from the Socks total payout. Had I simply done another night of the Socks I'd have had none of those deductions and would have taken at least £450 anyway, which means I'd have been about a thousand quid better off by not doing the Sitcom Trials. Sigh.

Everything else that can go wrong seems (so far, touchwood) not to have. I didn't do art classes during the days, so I haven't lost my voice during the run. Our flat (World's End Close, same place as 2014) is great once more. Mum came to stay with us, there was Bec & Gav's wedding, Hev threw a dinner party for Stephen & Nick and Tim & Hazell, the Socks made guest appearances on BBC Shakespeare, Chortle's Fast Fringe 3 times, Forth at Work and Kids Do Forth On The Fringe, otherwise keeping our powder dry, and during the day Hev & I went to see all the art in town (21 galleries and exhibitions, according to Heather's diary). I met some good folk in the street, comedians and friends, the people you see once a year and have long chats with in the Loft Bar. The selfies will linger, the conversations have long since evaporated.

As for the rest of Edinburgh, the usual things have gone on and have been of note only to the obsessives who are up here. The Edinburgh Comedy Awards went to many of the people we all knew they were going to, and there were ship-in-a-bottle fracases involving Wil Franken, Peter Buckley Hill and others, none of which you'll need to remember when you get home. The weather was largely good (some wind, some rain, but mostly bright sun, especially in the past week) and there were lots of punters around throughout the month (avoiding the week 3 slump that we saw in 2015). 

I am reminded of the Goodies song I Wish I Had Something To Say. I've enjoyed doing my show every night, and that's been what my whole month's been about. That and Hev & I enjoying a holiday. I have work to get back to next week (The Book Of Esther, Clifton Village, and a new commission about loaves and fishes, plus my first few schools) and the only cloud on the horizon is that I've, foolishly (due to my own oversight) agreed to play on the final Monday, the 29th, which is something I've always vowed never to do (since the Sitcom Trials team did it in 2001 and it was the most depressing anticlimax imaginable). So far we've sold 6 tickets. I take great consolation in the conversations I've had, and things I've read online, about acts who've had crowds that small even on regular nights. So, let's just count our blessings and hope we can sail across the finishing line and home.

The plan is still to take 2017 off from the Edinburgh Fringe and discover what the rest of the world has to offer in August (for the first time since 2011). A Socks Do Shakespeare tour in Spring 2017 beckons, if I can get busy with my quill and carrier pigeon and book the damn thing. 

Exeunt, pursued by bear.

2015 Report
2014 Report
2013 Report Part 1 and Part 2
2012 Report
2010 Report
2009 Report

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

Friday 26 August 2016

Socks do 10 Edinburgh Fringe Questions - British Comedy Guide

This, fresh online from the British Comedy Guide:

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets answers 10 questions about their 2016 Edinburgh Fringe show...
Give us a quick overview of your comedy career so far. Are you happy with where you're at?
We started appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2007 so this is our ninth new show. We've done horror, sci fi, detectives, and now we're doing Shakespeare. We're happy if we're somewhere people want to laugh at us.
Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (but mix them up, keep us guessing!).
1. Benedict Cumberbatch once tried to walk off with us.
2. Donald Trump called us his favourite thing about Scotland.
3. Our fans include crime writer Val McDiarmid, singer songwriting superstar Dean Friedman, and former home secretary Jack Straw.
Describe your new show in exactly 23 words.
From Macbeth to Richard III to Romeo & Juliet, we do Shakespeare better than he did cos we make the comedy bits funny.
Any cunning plans to get more punters in?
We've done Shakespeare. In 2016. For god's sake, how much more damn original do you want us to be?
What's your plan for trying to eat - and drink - healthily during the Fringe?
Being Socks, eating and drinking's not really been much of a problem. After getting sweaty on stage for an hour every night, trying not to ming is our biggest challenge. That's why we recommend Febreze, for all your not-minging needs.
What will you miss most while you're away from home?
We'll miss having to explain what the Edinburgh Fringe is to people. Then, if we get good reviews, we have to look forward to explaining to people what "The Scotsman" is, and what all those stars mean.
Aside from performing, what else are you looking forward to doing in Scotland's fine capital?
Veggie food at Hendersons (the best veggie haggis in the world), then watching all the student theatre groups on the Royal Mile lying in the road so that no-one can see them. That and all the art, of which there is tons.
If you took over programming a Fringe venue, what would your perfect line-up of comedians be?
The National Theatre Of Brent (saw them at the Assembly Rooms 30 years ago, still probably the funniest show we've seen), with Johnny Vegas (in his first year here, when nobody'd heard of him and thought he was a scary mad bloke), Noble & Silver (whatever happened to them, they were genius), and Russell Howard (playing in the 50 seater room he started in, which means he'd have to do about 2000 nights to get through all the punters).
Name the one person you'd rather not bump into during the festival.
Shakespeare. We'd only argue about how to do the funny bits.
Why should audiences pick your show over the 1,800+ other Fringe offerings listed on BCG this year?
Because, as a promoter in Bristol once said, "they're alright, if you like laughing."
'Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets Do Shakespeare' is at Gilded Balloon at 10:30pm until the 29th August. Listing

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

Thursday 25 August 2016

★★★★★ "Genius!" "Hilarious" etc - Edfringe Reviews

I totally forgot that there are reviews by the public on the site. Check them out, they're 99% lovely:

Maggie18 days ago

I'd you have never seen the Socks before, prepare to have your mind blown (and possibly warped and melted from the utter hilarity). If you have seen the Socks before, prepare to have your mind blown, and possibly warped and melted from the utter hilarity. The Socks never disappoint.

Maria Paul17 days ago

Genius. Hilarity in doublet, ruffs and tights
Laugh a minute. Great costumes . How on earth does he do it all? Highly recommended.

Sheila Brisland17 days ago

Hilarious! Some of the best costumes I've ever seen on a sock. Some of the best jokes I've heard from a pair of socks! Not to be missed.

Francesca Collis13 days ago

This was a late show for us so we were all very tired. But it was worth staying up for. Very inventive, silly, clever and very, very funny. A unique Fringe experience and highly recommended.

Graham Bull11 days ago

This is an absolute hoot! Daft, irreverent, saucy, silly gags you've heard before, erudite ones you will not have heard. Something for everyone who has ever seen or heard or read a Shakespeare play. If you hated the Bard at school, go and see this. You will love it. There's even a few Nonny Nonny's thrown in for good measure.

George Forsyth10 days ago

A Fringe stalwart - The Socks. I've enjoyed 'their' show 3 or 4 times before but this was the funniest. One of the best hours you can have at the Edinburgh Fringe. The couple next to us spent most of the time crying with laughter. If there had been room for them to roll on the floor, I'm sure they would have.

A room as hot as a sauna but that, in my experience, is all part of a FSPT show. (5 stars+)

Piffy9 days ago

Heard great reviews of this and was disappointed in that I was hoping for a funnier set. That said, the ad-libing was good as were the puppet costumes. Definitely catered for a younger audience but a start time of 22.30 is way too late for the kiddies.

Richard L8 days ago

Lots of fun as always.

Fiona A5 days ago

Never fails to amuse. Another very funny shows centred around two socks. Daft but great fun, you can't fail to love the socks.

Chrispy3 days ago

This show is what the Fringe is all about: 100 people crammed into a sweltering makeshift auditorium (which was probably the bin store a month ago), battling against the sound of another show leaking through the curtained walls, watching a man wearing two socks on his hands making jokes about Shakespeare. Magnificent....

Richard Hardy2 days ago

discovered the Socks by accident last year, and paid a repeat visit this year during preview week (cheap tickets appeal to my Yorkshire soul). Easy to see why the Socks are a festival institution, more difficult to understand how easily I can be fooled that two pieces of hosiery on opposite hands of the same bloke can different personalities.....Puns galore, mixed in with some deeper humour that can sometimes be missed due to the constant verbal barrage and late hour, so pay attention. Already looking forward to next year

Spacepuffin2 days ago

See this! It's original and well performed. How two socks, one bloke and a tartan curtain can be so amusing is baffling. The show drops into a lull about 30 mins in but picks up pace again in the last 10-15 mins. Give it a go, there's nothing else like it.

Ginny Nobleabout 12 hours ago

An absolute joy. I laugh until I cry and have seen the sock puppets 3 times now over various years. Must see

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

"Wee gem of a show" - Scotsman (reads like a ★★★★)

The very definition of an Edinburgh review that "reads like a 4", this has finally come in from The Scotsman.

Comedy review: Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets Do Shakespeare

To be or not to be... a sock. The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre has been a fixture at the Fringe for years and the joke’s not worn out yet.

The 2016 show pins the usual puns and props to the works of the Bard. Not the Scottish one, but the chap from Avon who didn’t write any good jokes. Well, so say the two singing socks, one kilted, one in a tux, both ready to don a ruff at a moment’s notice in order to make up for Shakespeare’s lack of laughs. They give us their versions of Hamlet, Titus Andronicus, Othello and Romeo and Juliet. Whether they’re laugh-out-loud or groanworthy, the gags are studiously silly, perfect for this late night show.

There’s some great audience interaction and trademark takes on the likes of Pulp and Abba… the constantly bickering socks even brush off Brush Up Your Shakespeare from Kiss Me Kate.

It’s a common claim that were William Shakespeare around today he’d be writing EastEnders. He’d not – he’d be at the Gilded Balloon, laughing at this wee gem of a show. Until 29 August. Today 10:30pm.

Star rating: *** Venue: Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14)

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

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Sitcom Trials, workplace, and all the rest

Over on the Sitcom Trials blog and social media, you may have been aware that I've been running a series of Heats through the summer. No? Well, the facts are out there, and rather oddly get missed from my main blog simply because the show has a blog of its own. So, last night was the Grand Final and quite a success, though I say so myself. I MC'ed this time, having given the job to Mark Dolan the last time we did an Edinburgh final, and was happy with how it worked. We sold more tickets for last night's show (which took over the Socks' 10.30 slot for one night) than any Sock show has done in the same "difficult" final Tuesday. (Well, we equalled 2010's final Tuesday for sales, which is pretty damn good going).

And having pulled my first proper late night after the Trials, what better way to test out my raddled voice the next morning than by playing a short Socks gig as part of Forth Fringe At Work, where we visit a workplace and entertain software engineers for ten minutes. The Socks were on the bill with Ria Lina and Thomas Green, and good fun it was too.

I've had a couple of good nights talking the hours away up in the Loft Bar. Last night my chattees included Dick Fiddy (above), Peter Buckley Hill, and the cast of the Sitcom Trials winners Like A Looks. But for once in a lifetime nights - well, once in 33 years at least - the other night I met up with two people I haven't met since we were at art college together 33 years ago, Anita Bigsby and Paul Gwilliam.

A highly enjoyable and stress-free Edinburgh has entered its last week and we just keep on enjoying it. Here, some more random photos that have come along the way.

Here are my technicians for the month. Steve, behind the desk, is my main man almost every night, and Adam, in the foreground, has filled in for a few nights, including the Sitcom Trials, which was quite a handful. I hadn't told all the teams to bring their sound cues on CD, so we had a mish mash of people wanting to play music from their phones and to get the technicians to download stuff from Youtube. Apparently this is not uncommon recently. Kids today.

And of course Hev and I have been seeing a fair bit of art while we've been up here. This was a sound installation at Summerhall. Other highlights have included a virtual reality piece and a film about the life and work of Alice Neel  at the Talbot Rice gallery, some good stuff from the archive at Inverleith House, and some nifty work in clay by Damian Ortega at the Fruitmarket. Collective on Calton Hill was a bit of a let down, but the piece at the old Royal High School by Bani Abidi made Heather cry, and we got to enjoy the works at Dovecot with Mum when she was here. More work still to be seen.

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

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