Captain of the Lost Weekender
Festival started proper. As we walked towards the main arena we could hear the jolly strains of the cantina music from Star Wars and a amiable Chewbacca greeted folk next to the universe’s tallest Jawa.
There are lot of serious fans here, the sheer level of detail on some of the costumes beggars belief and you an see the love and craft that have been applied to the costume. Stand-out costumes for me were the Judges, a Motion Capture Jar Jar Binks, a hugely impressive ensemble from Total Recall and a Warhammer 40k Marine. The Galactic Knights were out in full force and in detailed finery, a bunch of Hobbit characters and a mother of dragons/ Khaleesi who made me do a double take.
Glenn rocked up about two pm along with Alan Mitchell. It’s always a bit weird meeting your idols however Glenn was instantly welcoming, warm and friendly. Glenn sat down and instantly got to work whilst across the tables Simon Bisley and Will Simpson were busy working. Alan Mitchell has to be one of the most interesting and thoughtful people I’ve met in a wee while. We had a good chat about the state of things including martial arts in movies with particular focus on Judge Dredd and The Raid.
It was fantastic to see the painting for The Devil Without in full glory behind Glenn whilst he chatted and drew commissions for fans. It really is a striking image.
Whilst hanging out in the ‘strip club’ I met with the boss of Area51, Matt Page.
Area51 are an amazing unit of performers, designers and bespoke festival and events planners. Throughout the day eight feet robots, fauns, leather-clad warriors and other-worldly creatures promenaded through the spaces. Matt kindly offered me a slot with the Imaginarium and Caravan of Lost Souls’ evening performance which gave me a chance to perform a scifi specific routine I have been working on that uses Doctor Who as a premise.
The crowd were lubricated, loud, communicative and up for as much fun as they could get. A perfect audience.
I started off with some blindfold work and moved into the time travel routine pausing briefly only to ask the audience to aid me in making the Tardis sound.
In the routine, I get something wrong but as I can time travel, I go forward to the end of the show taking note of what I got wrong and then go back in time to leave myself a note!
The note contains a word that a volunteer is thinking on.
The lady’s face was pure shock when I told her the word. I always love these moments of incredulity from participants whilst their brain re-boots! She was excellent and it was great to run it out to a crowd who ‘really’ understood the concept of time travel.
Backstage whilst giving the appearance of untrammelled chaos was in reality, a finely choreographed movement piece by the unflappable stage manager Ming. I always love being backstage at events, behind the glamour, seeing the nuts and bolts of theatre, the last-minute checks, alterations and hurried ciggie’s before assuming the character and striding into the stage.
After my performance I got to go through the pass door and watch the inestimable Professor Elemental whip the crowd up with his relentless chap-hop anthems. I particularly enjoyed his riposte at the news that Michael Gove listened to his music and the partisan crowd agreed with his response too. The highlight of his set was when he came amongst the crowd and freestyled on objects the audience held aloft- including a shattered sleeping child, proudly hefted high in a Spider-Man costume.
After the show, I repaired to the bar for a few drinks and a catch-up with Frankie to go over the performance. I always like to pick apart the performance whilst it’s still fresh in my mind and to sift over what worked and what did not. When the adrenalin started to fade so did I so I turned in at a respectable 2am.
A breakfast bap from the Spar and a cup of coffee from Starbucks set me right for the second full day of SFW5. I was determined to get some film in the can and also to get some publicity for the new show. Yesterday, I was meant to have a three minute stage slot to plug the Kickstarter however timings had gone over and it didn’t happen (such is the way of things) so I approached the good folk of Area 51 running the Caravan of Lost Souls and asked if I could do a set, again, they were receptive and I was scheduled in to do ten minutes of the second show of the day. As this was much more straight-up street performance I went off to do a little planning. I love street work, it’s very honest and you know if you’re getting it wrong because people just move on.
During my time in Edinburgh last year, I saw it happen countless times, where a performer had built up a crowd and then another came on and promptly lost them and also vice versa. The cabaret artists of Area51 are all extremely good at what they do, they worked the crowd easily with an affable charm and a gentle threat from master of ceremonies Luke. The range of work in their show is diverse enough to keep folk rooted to the spot and it’s tight, there is no dead time between acts. What I admire also is the real sense of ensemble, during any act, the other company members will be working the crowd, pulling the public in and entering into subtle by-play with them but-importantly- doing it without drawing focus from the act on stage, an incredibly hard thing to achieve. Even harder when there is a scene-stealing Dalek behind you monologuing about being unable to get served in the bar.
I managed to get along earlier in the day to the chat with Pat Mills hosted by Alan Mitchell. Informative and engaging, Mills is a man who paints his colours firmly on the wall. It was great to hear him sound off on why comics were flailing in the UK, the appeal and untapped area of Girl’s comics and the role of women in comics. Highlights included hearing anecdotal evidence of his time at ‘Spanker’ including the exploits of Captain Cainer and Corporal Punishment administering sound thrashings to the axis forces and also the storyline of a girl’s comic character who pogo-ed across Nazi occupied Europe with the plans for an invasion inside her pogo stick. Marvellous! Made me want to read it! Mills’ take on what constitutes a real hero made for interesting subject matter and I left feeling I felt a little wiser.
My performance went well and I got to road-test an idea based around the blast shield moment on the Millenium Falcon where Luke gets his first lightsabre lesson. It worked well and inspired a few ideas to maximise the comedy. The smaller of the two main areas was a nice space for walkabout and I worked the crowds indoors listening to the panels of hanging out in their Cosplay factions. It made me laugh a lot when I witnessed a bunch of Sith harassing some Jedi. One of the Jedi inadvertently got separated from his herd and the Sith were on him, manhandling him and shoving him about a bit until the other Jedi saw what was going on and came over to claim him. Another cosplayer so involved in her retreat from a Xemomorph crashed into an innocent bystander and simply righted herself and scarpered off! It reminded me of the good old days of Larp’ing and Labyrinth so very long ago.
Whilst performing in a walkabout I strayed into the merchandise area (highly dangerous) and met the absolutely lovely and super-friendly Sandira Reddy & Afshin Salehzah of Canvas Warriors.
They had THE most coolest painted converse with every kind of genre, series and style you could imagine. In fact, if they didn’t have it, they could do it. Ooh! Bespoke trainers! They will be mine! They also did a fine trade in fantasy and scifi jewellery and accoutrements. I was smitten and bought several bits to give to my family.
We talked comics, art, Djinn and energy and we did some metal bending and I hope to see them again at another event.
By the evening the Cosplay parade was in full force and winners celebrated enthusiastically. In fact, everyone celebrated enthusiastically. The evening show knocked the energy even higher. I met YA Science fiction author Bryony Pearce who I had met on the Friday (so long ago!) looking for the main stages. I’d seen her on a panel and she was sparking with energy after having been on panels all day and running around catching stuff when she wasn’t. Bryony is one of those people you know you’re going to instantly like and she proved to be excellent company, fascinating, whip-smart and with a great sense of humour. I introduced her to Alan and they proceeded to talk in earnest about time travel theories so after a while we went backstage to find Glenn holding court and a bunch of the usual suspects drinking dancing and grinning like loons. We had no intention of beating them and every intention of joining. In a rare moment of time travel theories being validated it all of a sudden became 3.30am and although the venue closed we took the executive decision to carry on back at our chalet. After a litre of brandy and Baileys and large quantities of mirth and drunken dialogue I retired to my cot at a little past 08.00 ish- it gets a bit vague. I left Frankie and the Fabry singing after joining in for a final rousing rendition of ‘Avenues and Alleyways’. They kept going for another hour or so and lulled by their mellifluous vocal stylings I found sleep.