HEN PECKED When Frank Chickens performed at a recent Anglo-Japanese got together in London and English woman in the audience wrote to complain, not because of their spiky, dyed hair, or bright painted faces, but because she thought them vulgar. After all Japanese women simply don’t talk about pissing in the street.
But then Kazuko and Kazumi aren’t your average Japanese women. After living in London for eight years it’s more than just the accent they’ve picked up, and it’s this combination of East and West that makes Frank Chickens a very different cabaret act. The complaining woman probably thought she was going to get a lot of songs about kimonos, tea ceremonies and arranged marriages, and it is exactly this and other stereotyped Western attitudes toward the Japanese and Japanese women in particular, that Frank Chickens send up.
Meanwhile, back in Sony land, they’re considered pretty hip because of the success they’ve had in the Western hemisphere. Last time they were there (which isn’t often) they were asked to perform in English. They refused — niether there nor here are they trying to ‘sell their differences’, although Kazuko feels this difference has a lot to do with their popularity. But there is a lot more to it than that. They are politically conscious, street conscious, fine musicians, and perhaps most importantly, funny as hell. If you are wondering about the name, it’s not meant to mean anything. They found it printed on the side of a biro of all things- wierd these Japanese. (Hattie Evans) Get Chickenized, Frank Chickens, Supper Room, Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street (venue 3), 226 242 7/8. 24—30 A ug. 12 midnight—1.30am.
£4.50 (£3.50). [F]
Lasr Fringe the Merry Mac Fun Co. exploded onto the cabaret scene with their idiosyncratic blend of satire and song. After a Perrier award nomination and playing the Donmar Warehouse ‘Pick of the Fringe’, they have had constant airing on TV , including Wogan and Get Fresh. Thevaen (uncredited) hogged the front cover of the Observer Magazine.
This year they have two new shows, one in their familiar revue style, the other a melodrama, and a new member, Mary McFanshawe (Think about it . . .). Mary admits she ﬁnds the thought of joining the Mac, an instantly recognisable trio, daunting. On being a Mac, she says, ‘I’m an exhibitionist. You have to be.’ No concessions have been made to her femininity by singling her out or providing a different costume. Indeed if you look closely you may spot that the costumes have been made from a fabric not dissimilar to tartan tea towels . . .
The essential formula of the Macs’ revue show remains the same — the sharp satirical humour interspersed with songs and a good dose of audience participation, but the addition of Mary gives the show more scope and diversity.
Psychoshanter promises to be an altogether different experience, a melodrama which shows the company’s willingness to experiment rather than stick to the same old material. The Merry Mac Fun Co. also presents Shamy Dubs, a Scottish comedy by the prominent new writer Duncan McLean. (Meryl Benstock) Psychoshanter, The Merry Mac Fun Co, 10—30Aug (not Mons) 8pm. £2.50 (£1); Sharny Dubs, 10—23 Aug (Not Mons) 9.15pm. £2.50 (£1); Macattack, 11—30Aug (notsuns)
1 pm Free. All at The Crown Theatre (venue 53) Hill Place, offNicolson Street. Tickets: 667 7588. [F]
The prom at Portobello is usually only populated by joggers, but come summer the bucket-and-spade brigade is out in force. This seaside town is blissfully ignorant of the arty pretentiousness which descends on Edinburgh in the form ofthe Fringe. However last year as part ofits Arts Outreach policy the district council deemed that the Fringe should venture beyond the old established boundaries.
Two one-day open air festivals along the lines of Fringe Sunday were organised in Leith and Portobello, using local resources and council funding. Although both were successful, only Portobello’s Fringe at the Seaside has survived. James Grant, the administrator, claims it’s ‘the largest cross-cultural community arts festival in Scotland’. Indeed last year it attracted 40,000 people, some of whom he claims ‘normally wouldn’t dream of going to the theatre.’ Part ofits appeal is because ‘people are fascinated with the idea of a seaside romp,’ says Grant.
Last year not everything ran smoothly. Grant told me of the plight of a troupe of dancers who danced in gigantic bubbles. They had chosed a pristine piece of grass on which to perform, but somehow some local dogs had sneaked in and decorated it. They were forced to bounce along on the sand, only to be
mauled by the audience; ‘People kept prodding them but they looked spectacular.’
One enthusiastic local has organised a fun run the day before to raise funds, which demonstrates the extent of community involvement. This is very much a community event. This year’s festival on 16 August has as its main attraction a kite ﬂying display by two of J apan’s leading kite makers. The festival stretches along the promenade from J oppa to Seaﬁeld, and also has a dance programme, local rock bands and many more Fringe acts.
(Meryl Benstock) ‘Fringe Saturday’ Fringe at the Seaside, Portobello, 16 A ug 2-6pm. [F]
The Brighton Bottle Orchestra is virtually an institution on the Fringe. Last year they seemed to be everywhere , keeping crowds of happy punters amused with their versions of James Bond themes and pop tunes, more often than not performing on the street, where their own brand of cabaret comes across best. Their novelty lies in conjuring tunes out of nowhere save rows of bottles. Since the unforeseen departure of one of their number, reputedly a Lord, the remaining two, Messrs Garoghan and Miller, have concentrated their talents more on comedy and less on music. They specialise in topical musical parodies which attract a wide and varied audience including Princess Margaret amongst their fans. They have hit primetime with a vengeance, appearing on Wogan twice. (Meryl Benstock) The Brighton Bottle Orchestra, Mandela Theatre, The Gateway Exchange, 24 Abbeymount. Tickets: 661 0982. 11—30Aug (not Suns) 12 midnight£3 (£2). [Fl
A first time visitor to the Fringe this year is the most popular, best paid entertainer in Ireland. His name is Barry Sinclair, hypnotist, magician, aeronautical engineer, but mostly ‘just an entertainer’. Barry has been wowing them in Ireland and in the States for years now, and among his more famous exploits are driving a car around the streets blind-folded and hypnotising Mohammed Ali into losing weight.
During his shows -— in which he has been described as the nearest thing yet to Houdini — Barry does magic tricks ‘a bit like Paul Daniels’ as well as the major part of his act when volunteers from the audience are persuaded to act out signiﬁcant roles from history such as the sinking of the Titanic. ‘I tell them it’s just for fun,’ he says, ‘and there’s no reason why they have to worry. No one makes them get up on stage.’ He makes more practical use of his powers as well as performing When he hypnotises people into giving up smoking ‘an 80%
success rate’ and
an FESTIVAL ' ;
drinking ‘about a 25% success rate, but if I could guarantee it every time Iwouldn’t be a millionaire, I’d be a multi-millionaire. ’ He has little time for hypnotists and doctors who criticise stage hypnotism. ‘They don’t worry me at all. They’re just jealous because I’m better than them. (Graham
Caldwell) Power Beyond Belief, Barry Sinclair, Elephant Fayre, Elephant Tent (venue 16) Zap Club, Hole in the Ground, Castle Terrace. Tel: 226 6746. 11—16 Aug, 4.15pm. £3 (£2.50) [ F I
LONDON SMILES BETTER
‘Something magical happened. I was watching one of his early films in my room about 11.30 at night and suddenly I wasn’t watching Chaplin on screen, I was watching myself.’ This is how writer/director/actor Michael London describes his transformation to the little tramp in Smile at this year’s Fringe. The one-man show attempts to portray the life of Charlie Chaplin from the ages of 30 to 63 when he was hounded out of America for alleged Communist tendencies. In the guise of Chaplin’s most famous character, London never addresses the audience direct but rather imaginary agents, co-stars, biographers etc tell the story. He undertook much research to perfect his role including watching more than 75 of his films and studying mimicry. ‘I’m aiming to do two things,’ he says, ‘entertain an audience and to an extent educate them about a man I fell in love with over a period of time.’ Smile, American Theatreworks Foundation, Heriot Watt Theatre, 30 Grindlay Street (venue 7) 1 1—30 Aug (except Suns). Tickets: 22935 74. Starting at midnight, £3. 75 (£2. 75).