Fringe Review 3 – From Birdman to ManBat

A damp dash across George IV Bridge, dodging Taiwanese dancer-drummers in full costume, weaving through dawdling tourists encased in pac-a-macs, to reach Electric Circus – which looked as shut as the face of a bored teenager at a careers talk. So I slipped into Fruitmarket Gallery and wandered through a forest of “ladders, inlaid with silver squares”, the Jim Lambie exhibition reminding me of my own writing about the paddy fields in Goa. One audience survey questionnaire later and the venue was open for Jack Dean’s Threnody For The Sky Children, and in I blundered to a pitch-dark room where a shadowy figure in a bird-mask was doing something indistinct to the accompaniment of grinding electronica.

The lights went up on a jumble of boxes, the attic where our hero was holed up escaping – an apocalypse of mutant animal-people on the rampage? Or was it the disintegration of his own mind as his relationship broke to pieces? A weird and wonderful poetry-play ensued, the attic (and the hero’s mind) illuminated piece by piece by precarious desk lamps, the dystopian futureworld outside revealed through mock broadcasts and powerpoint lectures, funny and disturbing by turns. I think you ought to see this. Then we could have an argument about what it all meant.

The rest of the day was far more normal by comparison. Ran into Monkey Poet on the street and thus performed an impromptu set at his showcase twenty minutes later, like you do. I stayed on after my show to see The Geography Of Me by Canadian-born poet Rose Condo. She’s what I privately term a ‘gentle rhymer’, which I know may sound patronising or even derogatory but that’s not my intention. What I mean is that she uses rhymes, but they are softly subsumed by her delivery so that we are aware of experiencing a poem without losing the sense of just chatting with someone lovely. Her show is about her experience of being in various places, both literal and metaphysical, and with it she has created a very warm place to be. 

Another jaunt to JibbaJabba gave me the welcome chance to test out some slam poems before my heat tomorrow, as well as the pleasure of hearing a set from Steve Urwin and a great double act from some Australian ‘bush poets’ who want us to insist that fries are called chips. Hear, hear. Then off to a charity gig at Canon’s Gait featuring Kate Fox and Phil Jupitus among others, a welcome hug from the delightful Ben Mellor (looking extra beardy), and finally back to the Banshee yet again for the final night of Grave Invaders. Excellent, massively enjoyable performances from DJ Mixy, Mark Grist and Tim Clare sharing their experiences of touring the UK looking for the graves of famous poets. Highlight of the show being the rap battle between monsters dreamt up by school children – ManBat, the Space Unicorn and Mr Herring the Maths Teacher. Epic dissing ensued, and Mr Herring won the day with some truly awful fish puns. 

Phew. Can I sleep now?

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