The Spice 0f life
Rehabilitating the much- maligned term ‘variety show’, the chills, thrills and spilled drinks of TV’s Viva Cabaret hit the Edinburgh stage in Viva Variety. Stan Ferguson checks out the performers who love the smell of a crowd.
Brought to you by the people behind Channel 4‘s Viva Cabaret, the similarly-titled Viva Variety hopes to bring back the excitement, danger and spontaneity that they believe an all-too- professional Fringe is crying out for.
Forget over-scripted stand-up: 'variety', apparently, is where it’s at in ‘94, and this show intends to reclaim this much-missed (1’) artform from the likes of Roy Hudd and his music-hall chums on the Good Old Days. But what about variety‘s image problem in the hip world of contemporary comedy, which is more rock ‘n‘ roll than Black And White Minstrels?
The show‘s compere and self-
Viva Cabaret: Blackpool values in [dim
confessed ‘old slapper‘, Lily Savage, admits that she‘s not keen to revive some ofthe traditional variety acts: ‘l‘m not a fan of old-fashioned variety, you know, withjugglers, poodles jumping through hoops and all that shit. This is the old variety format but it's been modernised. it's definitely not an old-style variety show.‘
instead, Viva Variety offers ‘variety for the 90s'. What this means is an international line-up that includes established acts such as Savage and her inimitable co-host Bob Downe, alongside Paul Morocco‘s comedy music extravaganza, Dave Schneider of BBCZ's Tlte Day Today fame, and Fringe newcomer, Leo Bassi.
The show‘s producers hail ltalian Bassi as an example of the loosely- structured and risk-taking entertainment that they h0pe will set Viva Variety apart from the succession of stand-ups that make up the ‘Greatest Hits' comedy shows — those safe-bet, catch-all agglomerations ofthe Fringe's ‘best‘ comedy turns that seem simply designed to get more money from more punters with less effort. Hot from a festival date in Holland, Bassi says that the audiences he plays to all over Europe and America think he's funny because he does ‘crazy things.’ These appear to involve ‘personalityjuggiing’ and other, generally unspeciﬁed, ‘wild stunts‘.
On ltalian TV‘s equivalent of Saturday Night Live, for example, he is known for performing while hanging off famous buildings such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. or having the ltalian airforce divebomb his outdoor shows. Clearly. the conﬁnes of the Edinburgh Playhouse will limit his antics somewhat, but he promises that, whatever he does, ‘it will surprise people, change their reality and take them out of their normal lives.’
Predictably enough, Australia‘s King of Kitsch, Bob Downe, stresses the ‘tacky glam‘ element. ‘We‘re trying to put the fun and glitz back into Edinburgh,‘ he smirks, ‘with a little bit of Blackpool as well.‘
I Viva Variety (Fringe), Edinburgh ' Playhouse (Venue 59) 557 2590, Fri 19 and Wed 24, llpm, £12/£l0.
. mum'- Thoracic Park/ Going
Despite having once suffered the misfortune of having The Cambridge University light Entertainment Society stay at my flat, I decided this year to cast aside all preludlces and go in search of the funniest revue In town. Oxford contributions are thin on the ground this year, and The Cambridge Footllghts stopped being funny donkey’s years ago. The Durham Hevue, meanwhile, whose toilet humour claims to be the funniest in the country, were in France when I phoned.
This left two contrasting Cambridge groups: the Cambridge Medics, with their appallineg named ‘Thoraclc Park’, and Heavy luggage, whose ’Colng Places’ seems to have its eye fixed clearly on the main chance.
So what appeals about comedr? ‘lt's
)ust great to make people laugh,’ says Chris Winchester of Heavy luggage, a four-man team performing a mix of sketches, songs, and, or, more sketches.
Isn’t this a little old hat? ‘It could be, but we twist things in a way other groups don’t.” Tim Senior of The Medics disagrees revue ls hackneyed in any way. ‘Parsons and llaonr have lust opened a comedy sketch show in
i london, so there’s plenty of life there . l ’Thoraclc Park’ is amateurish and
l largely unfunny, with at least two
g blatant rip-offs that I spotted. So how
) serious do they take themselves?
; ‘Largely it’s just for fun,’ says Tin.
; Chris, on the other hand, sees this as a 3 career option, with credits for Radio Four’s ‘Weekendlng’ already under his belt.
‘Coing Places’ is a much slicker show with some genuine musical talent, but its overall smugness left me cold, and is no more original than ‘Thoracic Park’.
But what if The Medics were picked up by, say, Channel Four, would they hang up their scalpels for good? ‘I don’t think any of us would turn it down,’ is the honest response. ‘llobody would,’ agrees Chris.
Don’t touch that dial.
Thoracic Park (Fringe) The Cambridge Medics, Adan House Theatre (Venue 34) 650 W, until 27 Aug, midnight, £5 (£3.50).
Going Places (Fringe) Heavy luggage, Southside Community Centre (Venue 82) 667 7365, until 3 Sept (not 23,1), 11pm, £4.50 (£4).
Debauch reprobate with nothing better to do than hang around street corners when it’s way past your bedtime? let Craig McLean show you five ways to keep out of trouble.
I The flight larry Kramer Kissed Me A true-to-life coming of age tale set in New York's glorious gay scene, as written and performed by David Drake. Funny, poignant and hopeful.
The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me (Fringe) Sandpiper Productions, Traverse (Venue [5) 228 I404. 23 Aug—3 Sept. 10.30pm, £8 (£5).
l Corky and The Juice Pigs Our bug- eyed trio have been banged up for crimes against normality. The result: stir craziness and wickedly accurate Neil Young and REM spoofs.
Corky and The Juice Pigs (Fringe), Gilded Balloon (Venue 38) 226 2151, until 3 Sept (not 23 and 29), 10.45pm, £6.50 (£5.50).
I How To live Raucous fusion of physical theatre and text sees lbsen spinning in his grave as ex-DV8 member Nigel Chamock and Volcano storm the classics once more.
How To Live (Fringe) Volcano Theatre. Theatre Workshop (Venue 20) 226 5425, until 27 Aug (not Sun), 10pm. £6 (£4).
I Risk Cay Scott Capurro had a bit part in Mrs Doubtﬁre and a better part in Edinburgh. This San Franciscan makes his Edinburgh debut with a show where ‘gay‘ lives up to both it's deﬁnitions, without resoning to more kitsch corniness.
Risk Gay (Fringe) Scott Capurro, Southside (Venue 82) 667 7365. until 3 Sept (not 25 and I). 10.30pm, £5 (£4). I Late ’I’ live The late-night deadbeats' hang-out — you pays your money and you takes your chances about who will turn up for a turn each night. Whoever, whatever. Smiley (Mon—Wed) and Phil Kay (Thurs—Sun) as comperes should be enough to entice. After winding down about 3am, Late ‘N’ Livers get free entry to cool club Cheese ’N‘ Onion next door. A ﬁne way to thoroughly destroy yourself.
Late 'N' Live (Fringe). Gilded Balloon (Venue 38) 226 215]. until 3 Sept. [2.300m, £7.50 (£6.50).
The List l9—25 August l994 57