Jul 17, 2015

Fringe planning update plus a picture of an elephant

Today, my Manchester preview of Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship was a top five pick on Creative Tourist by my utterly unbiased Bad Language colleague Joe Daly. The article's quote "you may struggle to know what you've seen" is better than any blurb I've come up with: it feels like a performance challenge as much as a description.

Here's where I'm up to with the show:


I've cleared my diary so I can continue working on the show. I don't want to miss a good idea. More importantly, I need to allow head-space for that internal critic...


I've just approved proofs for flyer artwork. I'm not quite sure the flyers are good enough. But I haven't got the creative energy to do better: it's all going on the darn show.


I'm aware my publicity has had very little traction overall, but I'm also aware that I just want to survive the 14 day run without everything going on fire or being attacked by buffalo. If I get a single review or column inch, it's a bonus. Consider that expectation parked.


I had a mini breakthrough last night when I ditched a bit of material I thought I *should* do - but actually, the show's stronger without it. It's probably the riskiest thing I've done in my planning: I hope it holds together. Already, I feel more certain about my show than I did in this blog post.


I've some writing left to do, mainly little visual stings that will drop in every ten minutes, and a whole bunch of marker pen madness to do. So if I don't go to your event / drinks, it's because I'm getting jiggy with a sharpie (see above).

Actually, I don't use sharpies. I tend to need better art pens for the kind of shizzle I do. Y'know. Just saying. Jeez, shut up about the sharpies already.

Want to see me in Edinburgh? Here's some Free Festival information.

Jul 10, 2015

An update on writing Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship (Edinburgh Fringe 2015)

As you may well know, or not, I'm presenting my first ever show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship runs from August 6th to 19th at the Cellar Monkey, and there's a Manchester preview on July 26th. All free as part of Laughing Horse's brilliant free fringe.

Writing an Edinburgh show is different if you're under the category of "spoken word". It's not as if I'm a gigging comedian polishing the same 20 minutes week in, week out. In fact, us spoken word acts have it easy.

At least, I thought it would be easy. As it happens it's kind of hard. This is how the show looks so far. I've kept it vague so there are no spoilers.

> Me doing an introduction to tell you everything that's going to happen over the next hour;

> Me imparting some of my amazing wisdom about electronic music. I expect lots of "aahs" and "oohs" at this point;

> Me attempting something approaching poetry although I've looked it up in a dictionary and I thought a "poetry" was a kind of fancy spoon;

> A few things that have gone down well recently because the audience laughed and didn't throw tomatoes or rocks or saucepans;

> A bit where it all gets a bit down. I call this the "dip". Feel free to scroll your phone at this point.

> A chunk of audience interaction, assuming I have an audience by this point and the room is just me and some chairs and a startled mouse transporting a piece of cheese from one side of the room to the other.

And I have little linky bits that should glue the whole lot together, done in the same style as the introduction. What I'm missing at the moment is an end. And I'm missing a specific element of uncertainty (other than the audience interaction or response) that will keep all 14 shows fresh for me, and add a bit of an extra challenge for my performance. Fear not. I have ideas.

This whole experience of piecing together a show has had some serious ebbs and flows. I think I have something, then it drifts away. Ideas wash into my head like the tide, tickling my brain with their bubbles, then all I have left is seaweed. One day I can look at my show and see 50 minutes of brilliant material: the next day, I think I have 10.

One thing I do have is confidence that the show will be entirely Me, capital M. What state Kraftwerk Badger Spaceship will be in after 14 dates in Edinburgh, I have no idea. Will I lose myself? Will all of my audience just be mice? How on earth do gigging comedians cope?

Click here for details of my Manchester preview.

Jul 9, 2015

An unedited rant about beer prices in a theatre

I'm in the tickly clutches of Manchester International Festival. On Sunday, I saw Bjork play the Castlefield Arena, and she was her usual uncompromising mesmerising self. And tonight, I get to see Maxine Peake in Skriker.

I won't bore you with my reviews of MIF events. There are plenty of people doing a better job than l'il ole Fats. And indeed, the slight disappointment of Damon Albarn's Wonder.land musical, which I saw a couple of days ago, is well documented on social media.

What I do want to bore you with, however, is something that left me speechless, that made me never want to set foot in a traditional theatre again.

I got to the Palace Theatre having paid £30 for my Wonder.land ticket. I decided to do what other theatre-goers do: buy a drink when I arrived, then order one for the interval. The bar was bereft of pumps, so I scanned their fridge for bottles. The best drink they has was Carling. Yeesh. That's okay. I was out of my comfort zone already: let's live a little and drink Carling.

"Can I have a Carling please? And one for the interval?"

"No problem, hot blogger guy. Lemme just sort that for you now."

This is how the conversation went, honest. The bar person waved a plastic pint glass at me, and I nodded and smiled. No problem. I understood the need for an audience not to have a load of glass projectiles to hand. So far, so good.

She poured the Carling into the pint glass expertly and without over-foaming. It barely reached the half-pint mark. I balked a little. Must do small bottles in theatres, I thought.

"Is that alright, hot blogger guy?"

"Yeah. Yeah, that's... fine." One half-pint of Carling now and one half-pint of Carling at the interval would have to be fine.

"That'll be £8.80 please."

Wut?! Half a pint of Carling at Manchester's Palace Theatre will set you back £4.40. Of Carling. Half. A. Pint. Of. Carling.

I should be raging about the overhang in the circle seats blocking off half of Wonder.land's visuals, about how the tickets were never listed as "restricted view" by Manchester International Festival, about the fact that at least seven people near me walked out of the performance because they couldn't see the fracking thing properly.

I should be raging about that. But no, it's the beer.

And they wonder why theatre is inaccessible for 'normals' like me. A theatre should be attracting audiences, poor and old alike, theatre-savvy or stage-noobs alike. Yet the Palace has the audacity to charge a fortune for a thimble of spittle.

No doubt, you can get a similarly expensive drink at Port Street Beer House, but at least they'll serve you a half-pint that will marry your tastebuds and do disgusting things to your brain at the same time.

"Crumbs. I'd like to cancel my Carling order."

"No problem. Hey, you're really hot, blogger guy."


Jul 2, 2015

Short Shrift: come and see our short story showcase in Lancaster

This year, I went back to school. I was selected to attend the Short Shrift short story writing course curated by Jenn Ashworth and Litfest. On occasional Saturdays in 2015, I took my words up to Lancashire to have them prodded and poked by fellow writers.

This course has been a ray of light these past few months. There are five others on the course and they are, without exception, lovely people. We submitted and critiqued work and we absorbed buckets of inspiration from our tutor Jenn Ashworth, a creative writing lecturer and author of The Friday Gospels, and also from a brilliant Q&A with the ridiculously talented Kirsty Logan.

I take away from the course a renewed respect for the writing process. I can see the mechanics of a short story much more clearly now, and yet that hasn’t dulled my enthusiasm for the works we’ve revelled in since January: John McGregor, Leonora Carrington, Raymond Chandler, Ali Smith and of course Flannery O’Connor. In fact, considering I’m so busy with Bad Language and the Edinburgh Fringe, I’m amazed I got as much as I did from the course.

Tomorrow, on Friday July 3rd, us course pupils will present our work to the public in Lancaster (click here for tickets). It’ll be a small crowd but it’ll be fun to hear our work over a microphone, and to chat about writing and process and whether Bics are the bestest pens ever (they are).

Jul 1, 2015

How to keep cool in a heatwave if you like dance music

One! Listen to loads of cool Icelandic bands. The stuff music journos call "crepuscular". This will turn your brain cogs to ice cubes.

Two! Neck a load of illegal pills. Y'know, the kind that have Shaun Ryder's head imprinted on them. Take off your shirt. Pretend it's 4am in a club and start a fight with a bouncer / any fat guy you see.

Three! Learn alchemy. Change bass vibrations into cool air. Turn snare sounds into diamonds. Magic a turnip into a buffalo. Jeez, enough of the alchemy already.

Four! Embrace the Ibiza weather and produce a novelty chart hit. You will need a bouncy beat, sheep for the video, a traffic warden saying "techno" over and over to a camera, loads of pilfered samples and, of course, comedy shades.

Five! Attend any stadium techno gig. Secreted on stage they'll have a couple of fans, to keep them and their equipment cool. Nick the fans mid-set. Knock over their laptop. Nudge the mains switch. And run like heckers because the Chemical Brothers *will* kick your face off.

Twelve! It is only scorching because your love of techno is bringing hell on earth. Placate God's judgement by listening to more holy music genres, such as hymns, country and western, prog rock and trap.

Seventy! Become the Vengaboys (pictured) because when the sun finally explodes and life on earth withers into the great beyond, their faces are the last thing any of us will see. That and they're always dressed for the summer.