A Fortean at the Fringe part 3 2011

The third and final part of my 2011 Edinburgh Fringe Review


The Dead

Young Actors Company


Laughing Horse @ Jekyll and Hyde

Crowded into the back of a pub and we're almost sitting on top of each other and just to add to matters there are zombies wandering around. Eventually the zombies all shuffle off to the front of the stage area and the show starts. And we're back to 1953 Whitby. Our heroes are travelling in their car to meet with friends for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. All well and good but something goes horribly wrong. Namely the zombie apocalypse arrives. The show is a witty look at how some normal people cope (or not) and how they interact with other survivors. It's full of energy (even from the zombies) and it proceeds at a cracking rate and if you're into zombies its guaranteed to entertain. But there is a slight warning to go with the show.
You may end up taking more back with you than you intended. I was bitten by a zombie. I'm now just waiting for the invertible...



Chris French - Meaning and Randomness: Seeing What Isn't There


Skeptics at the Fringe of Reason, The Banshee Labyrinth


Unlike most other shows in the Fringe these Skeptics in the Pubs events are lectures, many of
which would not be out of place in an UnConvention. For Chris French's appearance this year he spoke about how our brains perceive order out of randomness. From EVP to the Bible Code and reverse speech analysis (not just Led Zeppelin lyrics backward either). The venue is great but the problem comes when you have a popular speaker like Chris - when its full it becomes unbearably hot. Mind it is a pub and I guess this means they sell more beer! We were treated to
illustrations of how bad people are at understanding probabilities (well the National Lottery is popular) and how subjective validation convinces us that the medium we have just seen was spot on. An interesting and informative talk, the one criticism I would have was that there was so much more he could have told us and there just wasn't time.


Amanda Fucking Palmer


The Edge Festival at HMV Picture House


Amanda Palmer doesn't do tours. She does a series of concerts all of which are slightly
different. For example Palmer performed at the Edinburgh HMV Picture House the day before a show in Glasgow. At Edinburgh we had Palmer dressed courtesy of items brought by her Twitter fans and we had Neil Gaiman singing The Problem With Saints about Joan of Arc - an unexpected bonus but sadly the closest I got to Mr Gaiman. And in Glasgow they will have had something similar but different.

Palmer (former singer with the Dresden Dolls) is a true entertainer belting out lyrics of
forthright and thoughtful songs - how many concerts do you go to where you hear about genetic disorders and coming ice ages?

A post apocalypse punk concert that would not be out of place in the world of Mad Max.


Gordon Rutter - A History of Talking to the Dead


Skeptics at the Fringe of Reason, The Banshee Labyrinth


Another event from the ever busy Edinburgh Skeptics in the Pub. Obviously this was the best
event in the Fringe and I'll just leave it at that...


Barry and Stuart The Show


Udderbelly's Pasture


Barry and Stuart are two likeable Scottish magicians, the pair featured recently on the ITV show Penn and Teller Fool Us - they didn't. But don't let that put you off - like many appearing on the show they were doing it for exposure. So due to this most people had a vague idea of who the
duo were and they knew vaguely what to expect. And what they got was an hour of top class entertainment - funny and clever, and all with a knowing wink. During the course of the show you had the option to find out how one of the effects was performed. And it really was an
option. As the trick was repeated there was a screen above the stage - watch with coloured glasses and you saw the explanation, without and you were none the wiser. The magic was great and suitably baffling and in one instance the sort of thing that could found a religion - water into wine anyone? And the first Facebook card trick I've ever seen! If you haven't seen them and you get the chance - go.

Barry and Stuart The Tell


Udderbelly's Pasture


And now for magicians an interesting departure. Some 45 minutes (or time enough to pop to
the bar) and a few feet away from the first Barry and Stuart show we have a complete expose of the workings of what we had just seen.

A much smaller - but still sell out - crowd crammed into a Fringe venue eager to see how
Barry and Stuart had mystified them. Firstly, just to make sure you weren't just after the secrets you had to be able to show a stamped ticket from The Show. I went with a friend and I had the tickets for The Tell whereas he had his own ticket for The Show, I showed both
tickets for the current entertainment and was then asked for the tickets from the previous one. I'm sorry - I couldn't resist - I showed my ticket, palmed it and then showed the same ticket to the box office attendant who was convinced he had seen two separate tickets. Sorry. It amused me.

So they had exposed one effect already and then they went on to expose all the rest - exactly as it said on the tin. A few memory ticks were also taught to the audience as well and we all left happy. So - the water into wine - how did they do that? Well what they did was, erm sorry no.
You need to go and see The Show and The Tell, and I guarantee you won't regret it.



Harlequinade and Asthmatic Astronaut

The Banshee Labyrinth

A Lovecraft rap
performed by a clown with sound accompaniment from Asthamtic Astronaut. What could possibly go wrong with that as a show? Well quite frankly lots but in this instance nothing did - it all worked and it came out as sheer brilliance.

A short show, just over 30 minutes but the material gave an hours worth of entertainment to
the brain. From the moment Harlequinade appeared on stage he was in fifth gear with a non stop tirade of words. Not based on a specific Lovecraft story it was in the theme of. What would happen if the rain just started and didn't stop? With typical August weather we thought we would find out for real, but fortunately we had to make do with the pictures weaved by this talented artist. Big Brother and many tentacled ancient ones vied for our attention. Social
commentary as well as horrific landscapes. To get the full richness of the show I went back for a second viewing it was at least as entertaining the second time around.

I know some people who refused to go to the show because of the clown make up. Their loss,
and it really is.


Jon Ronson


Edinburgh Book Festival


Jon Ronson has a new book out. When you read it it will make you paranoid. The Psychopath Test, includes a checklist of information on how to diagnose a psychopath and as you hear him tell the story you can't help tick off the ones that apply to you. But will you reach the
magic 25 (or 30 if you're in the US) that would label you a psychopath? In Ronson's inimitable style he regales us of tales of how he self diagnoses and then, armed with the knowledge from a three day training course, how he diagnoses those around him.

Scientologists, Broadmoor inmates and influential CEO's all get a look in and you start to realise how, from Jon Ronson's perspective, it's a scary world out there.

For those who have seen Ronson speak before you'll know he has a very engaging and sometimes
overly intense style to him. For this presentation we were warned he had only recently stepped off a plane from America and might be a bit jet lagged and liable to fall asleep - not a bit of that was on display.

It's an entertaining presentation and the good news is that you can all get a chance to see it again at this years UnCon.


The Prophecy

Siamsoir Celtic Dance Company


C Venues

A dance group with a tale of fairy folk and 1920's Edinburgh. Modern and interpreted Irish dance were the order of the day as we witnessed the story of a young woman taken by the fairies and tasked with uniting the warring tribes. Successful and she gets to return to life above ground, unsuccessful and she is doomed to say in the fairy kingdom. I saw the same group last year and I must admit I felt the show then had much more life to it. That's not to say this one was bad, far from it but it did seem generally a bit clinical. I didn't dislike it but there was a certain something about it that didn't make me go wow, which was a shame as that was one of the reactions from last year. Some shows on the Fringe make you bemoan the fact that you have lost an hour of your life you will never get back, this was nowhere near that level, but still I left a little disappointed.




Underbelly Cowgate

The truth behind every urban legend you've ever heard. They're all down to the Mythmasons - two of whom were here tonight to explain their methods. Headed by Gillian McKeith and David Icke the Mythmasons are an ancient and illustrious order who have been around since the first appearance of people on the planet. They really came to their fore during the Greek period - someone had to come up with all of those gods and these are the modern representatives of those responsible. Dr Glen Eusebius and Professor John Porcupig went so far as to allow us to make up our own myth. I shan't tell you what it was just in case someone tells it to me, swearing its happened to a friend of their cousin.

Of course its a comedy and the more you know about urban legends the more you will get out
of it. The performers seemed to enjoy it just as much as we did.



Grant Morrison


Edinburgh Book Festival


Grant Morrison - Scottish born comics author and champion of the counter culture - appeared at the Book Festival after a break of 21 years. In the intervening years he has taken both DC and Marvel characters to dizzying heights and then plunged them into pits of despair, all to the general delight of anyone who reads his work. A respected proponent of non linear narratives he tells a cracking good yarn. And he's got a rather interesting new book out, Supergods. Supergods is a history of the superhero from day one through to the current love affair they are having with Hollywood. But its more than that. It's also part Grant Morrison - The Autobiography.

Obviously in love with
his job his infectious story telling drags you along in its wake whether he's telling us or if we are reading it. Morrison tells us of his belief that superheroes are something to which we should aspire and they are a perfect antidote to the troubles we are currently in. Delighted to be a part of an immortal story - Superman et al pre-date him and they'll be around long after he has gone - he ended the evening by undertaking a massive signing - everyone got a signature and a chance to chat and no one was hurried along. Lets hope its not another 21 years before he comes back!


Shona Hilton - The Media and Public Health

Skeptics at the Fringe of Reason, The Banshee Labyrinth


Dr Shona Hilton, of the MRC / CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit is interested in how
the media portrays health issues. For some the answer would probably be a knee jerk reaction of "badly" but the case is not quite as clear cut as that. Many scientists are not media savvy and some of the problems are just down to them not putting the message in the form a journalist can actually use. There have been some health issues in the news over the last few years - from the fact that we're all going to die of swine flu through to Jade Goody's and Kylie
Minogues well publicised cancers. In general Hilton argued that awareness of these issues is raised but many opportunities are missed. For example the coverage of Goody's cervical cancer did raise awareness and testing, but not in the groups who were most at risk (overweight, low fruit and veg intake, smokers, sexually active, low income). So as a result the number of extra incidences of cervical cancer picked up were low. Some of the Skeptics at the Fringe events are heavier than others - this one had a serious message and id use a number of graphs and charts to get the point but why shouldn't the intellectual capabilities be given an outing a the Fringe as well. Keep it up guys, I haven't been to a show I didn't enjoy.




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