Monday, 13 August 2012

#46 The Edinburgh Fringe (For Geeks)

I’ve just got back from my holidays! Last week I ticked off an entry on my bucket list and went to see the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. While I was there I noticed several things about Edinburgh. I saw that it was a sunny, tropical paradise. I saw that Edinburgh is one of the few places in the country whose Police Telephone Boxes are still standing, so everywhere you go you feel like you’re being stalked by the TARDIS. Finally, I learned that the Edinburgh Fringe is basically the Internet made flesh. At one point I was in a pub that was little more than a 3D representation of my Twitter feed.

Now, there’s always been a fairly heavy amount of crossover between the works of comedy and geekery. Comedy, after all, makes heavy use of shared references and cultural touchstones, and geeks love nothing more than sharing references and cultural touchstones (unless you’re a male geek and theperson who wants to share is an attractive women, in which case you apparently get weird and resentful because they wouldn’t talk to you in high school).

Whether we’re talking about Spaced, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or enjoying the science bits from comics such as Tim Minchin or Robin Ince, geekery and comedy just keep running into each other. So if you’re a geek and happen to be in Edinburgh this month, there’s plenty of stuff out there for you.

While I was there I didn’t see many genuinely post-apocalyptic based comedy shows (because, quite frankly, they were mostly about the Mayan 2012 apocalypse and I already made the best joke about that).
Quetzalcoatl love, you've pulled!
But there were a few shows that got my geek heart racing. And by a few, I mean these ones:

Full disclosure- while I was in Edinburgh I was sleeping on the Beta Males’ sofa. Of course, I was also paying £10 a night for the privilege, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to give them a shit review if I want to.
However, regardless of my complete journalistic freedom to slag them off, should I choose, Space Race is really very good. Firstly, and I can’t stress this enough, it’s a Quatermass parody. When was the last time you saw a Quatermass parody? Because I honestly can’t think of another (Okay, Wikipedia tells me that both The Goon Show and Hancock’s Half-Hour did Quatermass parodies. Sod off, I never claimed to know everything).

Secondly, the show has some truly great bits of world building going on. The village of Lower Birchley is painted out with all kinds of little details that string the sketches together, and even the publicity fliers fold out to show enough documents, maps and communications to provide the background to a pretty good D&D campaign.

Oh, and also it’s funny. I should probably have mentioned that first, but yes, you will be crying actual tears of laughter.

Incidentally, if that’s not enough for you next weekend the Beta Males will be collaborating with a whole host of other comedians to put on the Midnight Movie Theatre, where a “classic” horror film will be shown interspersed with practical “special” effects, additional scenes and a live “director’s” commentary.

You can’t get much more geeky than a text-based choose your own adventure game. Unless maybe it’s a text based choose your own adventure game performed live by a person with an X-Box 360 controller strapped to his chest.

If you live on the Internet there’s a good chance you’ve stumbled across The Dark Room on Youtube. The live show is very similar, except that instead of being shouted at by your laptop screen you’re being shouted at by a very shouty man in the room with you who isn’t afraid to make personal remarks.

To start with John Robertson (the shouty man in the video) will select members of the audience to try and beat the game, until eventually it dissolves into he time-honoured method of decision-making-by-mob-shouting.

The game starts off well, but really comes into its own once you find your way out of the room into the vivid, detailed and magical world that John Robertson has lovingly created.

The show is free, providing you’re able to shuffle past John Robertson at the end ignoring his outstretched money-bucket. However, if you like black-as-pitch story-telling based comedy I’d also recommend going to see his other show The Old Whore for £5, where Robertson tells the true story of how he fucked the queen of England (although if, as he claims, The Old Whore contains clues to beating The Dark Room, I missed them).

Well we should have something post-apocalyptic in here, and if you like a bit of Shakespeare I’d recommend Drunk Tank Productions’ apocalyptic take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This version is very much set in the Fallout-style apocalypse, where the bomb apparently dropped during the 1950s and the human race survives in the underground “Athens” bunker.

Rather than going into the woods, our characters climb out of the bunker in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, where the “Fairies” are disfigured mutants and Puck is a crazed scientist.

To fit the show into an hour some fairly hefty cuts have been made to Shakespeare’s script, with any action that takes place in Athens being swapped out for black and white newsreel footage. The play manages the job of actually making Shakespeare’s comedy funny, although I’m still a bit miffed they cut Puck’s epilogue.

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