The Father Turk

Let’s Talk Turkey

As usual, my attempts to make this a weekly blog continues to fail spectacularly. Since I ranted last, I have been practicing hypnotherapy, tarot readings, teaching and performing on the streets of Istanbul and right now, I’m part of the magical, mystical menagerie currently roosting in the railway arches of Shoreditch’s Village Underground known as The Imaginarium.
I shall try to post a few blogs over the next couple of days, so watch out.
I’ll start in Turkey.
Istanbul is always a great place to visit, however, this was the first time I have visited where I felt a palpable sense of tension. Turkey is in a strange and delicate place right now. Friends I talked to, told me that the government was systematically rounding up those who had demonstrated earlier in the year. Including arresting members of the army- Turkey’s traditional safety catch against anti-secularism. Those I talked to, were pessimistic about the future of the country. The undercurrent seems to be dissatisfaction bordering on outright dissent for the current ruling party’s actions. But there is fear, friends of friends suddenly arrested, charged and languishing in jail. I sincerely hope that it doesn’t go this way. Turkey’s path has been as twisty-turny as most nations including controversy, darkness and mishap but part of what makes Istanbul so unique for me, is the way it neatly straddles East and West, a cultural ragout and the way Ataturk blazed a path of reform. Turks are proud of their independence and the progressive ideals sown by their leader.
In fact, I was in Istanbul to celebrate Ataturk and his story at a drama festival, so it seemed poignant and entirely appropriate to look into his influence on modern Turkey. You may not know it, but there is a great story regarding the father Turk during the Gallipoli campaign. During one of the pitched battles, a shell exploded near Ataturk. He made a point of being in the thick of it and his men adored him for it. This shell sent a piece of shrapnel into his chest, knocking him off his feet. One of his men ran over and saw that the shrapnel had gone through his chest, Ataturk however, was alive but shaken. He was saved by a pocket watch in his jacket pocket! The watch was given to a friend of his after the war and was unfortunately stolen, so that today, it’s whereabouts are unknown. Whether or not the story is embellished, it makes for a fantastic story and you can’t but help imagine what a different Turkey sans Ataturk would have looked like today.
On this visit I was staying on the Asian side in Kadikoy, enjoying great views from my top floor breakfast lounge across the Bosphorous, minarets of Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque glinting in the distance. I love the Turks, they have to be one of the most friendly and interactive races on the planet. I have many, many anecdotes that I normally dine out on with regards to their famed amiable nature and hospitality however, I’ll give you this new one: I like to go out and walk around a city. I like to orientate and I like to meet folk. On my second night in Istanbul I went to a few of the local bars, some of them less salubrious than others, in fact one or two wouldn’t look out of place as an interior for a Sergio Leone movie. It’s hard initially, to tell their character because the norm in Istanbul seems to be dark windows and small entrances designed to pull you in via your curiosity and the obligatory rictus grin doorman. So I opted on a bar and in I went. Immediately upon entrance I was clapped on the back and told to sit down. I ordered an Efes and within two sips was joined by a lady. It became apparent that she was ‘working’ so I made clear that my companion for the evening was the pilsner and I decided to change the dynamic by getting out my ESP cards. The transformation was instantaneous, the barman, the doorman, the lady and two of her friends gathered around. Pretty soon the pock-marked and scarred proprietor sauntered over and oversaw what we were doing with his shark-dead eyes. I know about seven phrases in Turkish- none of them applicable to what we were doing and the level of English in the room was lower than a Balham speakeasy at five am. So I let the cards do the talking. The reception to what occurred was lovely; a mix of consternation, rapid chatter, a slice of wonder and narrowed eyes/furrowed brows and jabbed fingers indicating that I should do it again. So I let them take over and we had a great fifteen minutes of scratching heads and pondering via carefully measured moustache strokes. I was interested to see if mentalism, that is normally so dependent on language could still affect, still make a profound impression on someone significantly outside of my culture and linguistic framing. Afterwards there was much cheering, a couple of nervous glances and I was invited over to share a brew with the Turkish version of Spinal Tap by means of a devil’s horns salutation. A dynamic duo, one in head-to-toe black leather with studded accessories and the other wearing a classic 70′s East German secret service combo of box jacket, sleeveless mustard cardy and jaunty-collared shirt. Leatherman performed complicated air guitar solos for me whilst Trabant, his keyboardist friend insisted I listen to Richard Clayderman tracks on his iPhone and communicated his great passion for Clannad. They took me on a tour of a few more bars and although we could only communicate by grunts and gestures, we had a great time hanging out. They were entirely generous with their time, humour, drinks and banter. I’m not sure, as the details are a bit sketchy, but I may be the newest member of the band.

People Talking Loud

Tilting at windmills requires proper study

Tilting at windmills requires proper study

 

 

I went into Banbury today to sit in the warm, as my current abode is a crumbling 300 year old stone edifice that loses heat quicker than a MP submits expense claims.
I settled on the Mill Arts centre as I have a little history with the place and they make decent coffee and set about writing a proposal for my new show. What struck me more than the caffeine and the toasty warmth uncramping my toes and setting them fizzing; was how loud the British public have become. ‘Perhaps it’s just theatricals’ I thought, but no. This was good old Joe Public in full effect. To be fair, groups of people meeting in a theatre bar are probably measurably (scientifically) louder than most. In the same way that people react better to magic when there is a camera on them. I have noticed overall, since my return to the bosom of Albion just how loud we have become as a race. It used to be, that we looked across the pond at our American cousins or to the far flung shores of Oz, and tittered and remarked on the loud nature of the denizens of these places, but now it seems we are no longer the exception (if indeed we ever were). I remember visiting Beijing for the first time. I was so excited, as I had grown up a fervent martial artist on a diet of Water Margin, Monkey and Golden Harvest films. I expected the ‘motherland’ to be a place of repose, meditation and dedicated stoicism. I stood in Tiananmen Square suffering from culture shock assailed on three sides by pedlars of Mao Tse Tung watches and other cheap goods simultaneously shouting at me whilst I searched desperately for a shaolin monk to cling to. I remember thinking then ‘fuck, these guys are loud!’ And now I’m thinking it in Banbury.
So what has prompted the British to turn it up to eleven? Have our upper lips somehow become more supple? Have the timorous masses decided to roar? Are we simply increasing in number and therefore louder or is it a by-product of the growing tendency not to listen rather than to wait for your opportunity to talk?
AA Gill posited that we were the ‘Angry Isle’ and I think he’s got a point, we are aggressive-always have been- as a race. And we don’t have an outlet other than the pub. We don’t fiesta, we don’t have Carnevale, nor do we really go for a knees up on holidays like St. George’s day in the way that other countries do for their national days and/or saint’s holidays.
We are an unsupervised pressure cooker without a properly functioning lid that is occasionally vented by an uncaring chef.
We are the seething nation, busily convincing ourselves that we a still up there in the top countries of the world.
But we know, don’t we, we know deep down that that’s not the case. We eat the partially digested truths our politicians and patriarchs feed us and the bitter fuel hardly sustains us.
But there’s just enough attention to keep us from blowing.
At least in the pressure cooker, we are all in it together, aren’t we? Blitz spirit and all that. We can shout to each other and affirm ourselves by being another voice in the directionless dissent.
The fear of the alternative to the constant squeeze keeps us nicely agitated.
But we’re not really in this together are we?
There’s a whole strata of people who are clearly not in this with us, and they’re not planning on joining us any time soon.

So keep being agitated and keep jostling for room

In a pressure cooker no one can hear you scream.

See.

Sifting the void.

Mental Notes

So last weekend I attended a meeting of the shadowy, clandestine group known as Psycrets (The British Society of Mystery Entertainers) and their bi-annual series of lectures Tabula Mentis.
I don’t propose to tell you much about the meeting but suffice to say it was an illuminating and gratifying day spent in the market town of Hitchin.
Quite a few folk ask me the question ‘what exactly is a mystery performer?’
There isn’t an easy answer to that question as the jury is out amongst mentalists and performers of mystery. The term is a broad brush stroke that covers many individuals, some who indulge a passion for psychology, others who look to prestidigitation and the art of conjuring, others still, practice more esoteric arts or are full-timer readers of the Tarot or other oracles and some folk are psychics.
A lot of us combine it all.
We are an inclusive bunch, respectful of each others views and skill-sets. The common thread then, is a love of mystery and the possibilities inherent in presenting mystery in an entertaining format.
Throughout the day I was struck by how much I like these people. I enjoy the camaraderie, the Craic and the minute attention to detail given to words, gestures, signs, symbols, ideas and stationery. The palpable excitement when someone receives, exchanges or gives knowledge.
I am also always slightly relieved that most of these insanely clever people I meet are practicing mystery performance instead of turning their abilities to crime and politics.
There is something beautiful about mystery, the absurdness of our existence, the fleeting scrabble for understanding that constitutes our lives and those profoundly affecting moments where you pause and let the wonder of your reality permeate your consciousness.

What details can I tell you about the meeting?
Nothing.
You’ll have to live with the mystery.

Brooklyn Burger

The Big Apple

I’ve always had a soft spot for New York. I am sure it comes from watching multiple episodes of Taxi, Differn’t Strokes and Cagney and Lacey as a burgeoning adolescent. So you might imagine how excited I was to be in New York a couple of weeks ago. One of the many joys of NYC is simply walking around manhattan and ticking elements off of your mental checklist. There’s always a corner that you’ll turn and bosh! There is a view that you’ve seen many times in a movie. Chrysler building, check! Empire State, check! Steam issuing forth from a drain in the road, check! Cop with donut, double check! Stretched limo, fire truck, tinfoil hat wearing hobo, Times Square, mad lady on subway, well dressed elderly woman with ridiculous yappy dog standing under awning talking to a doorman with a peaked cap…checkity, check, check! And my particular fave: grouchy deli sandwich maker annoyed that you stood for five minutes in the line and you still don’t know what you want!
I was working on 8th avenue delivering drama workshops but also had an ulterior motive/ mission which was that I had manged to finagle a slot on manhattan’s prestigious Monday Night Magic. A mighty magical institution that is New York’s longest running thaumaturgical theatre experience.
So how did it go?
Well, I learnt a whole lot, that much is certain.
1) As my friend Sherri Sutton has oft told folk ‘don’t make fun of Jesus’
2) know your Americanisms, know your crib from your bassinet, your hourglass from your timer.
3) Get on with it! That is to say, you got twenty minutes, that’s all you got!
The staff at the venue were absolute diamonds, Ryan and the tech crew were effortlessly organised and lovely. I got to meet a fair few Magi as well including Bobby Torkova, who astonished me and made me feel that wonderment that I hardly ever feel about magic anymore. He was a gentleman and a consummate professional and just a joy to watch. I only wish I had had time to see him perform some mentalism because the gentleman exudes quiet charm and confidence. Also on the bill were Peter’s Samelson and Kougasian the former, the headline act and the  latter, the  MC for the evening.
I should also at this point say a grand and fulsome thank you to the producers of the show and in particular Michael Chaut who so kindly allowed me to take the stage.
A little bit about what I did.
Well, I tried, for better or worse, to do something different from perhaps what the audience are used to. I have a show that is two hours long end-to-end (with an interval!) and I’m used to establishing a connection, some rapport, with my audience. My mentor Ed, has always preached the importance of being likeable and he’s right as usual. In fact, I was lucky to get some excellent albeit brief feedback from the great Ken Weber, author of ‘Maximum Entertainment’ and I immediately went back over the book upon my return to the UK and he makes the point too, but more on KW later.
My problem therefore lay in a twenty two minute set. On reflection, I should have done an Osterlind and got straight down to it. Less preamble, less chat. I’m a natural talker and I like to chat on stage, it’s part of me and part of my show however, this wasn’t my show, it was a slot on a magical variety bill.
I decided upon a multiple mind read whereby I read ten people’s minds. When I get it wrong (and I do get it wrong, and that’s part of me too!) I like to give myself an incentive not to get it wrong again by a painful reminder, which translates as either a staple from a Staple gun in my arm or sometimes a mouse trap on the tongue. This horrified some of the audience (important point) and it would seem that American audiences are a little more squeamish than their European counterparts. During my time in Edinburgh, I performed a variant of this routine and an eleven year old girl volunteered to come on stage and pull the trigger on the staple gun! No qualms whatsoever, however, the audience at MNM were unsure about what I was about. One criticism I received was that it didn’t work because I hadn’t contextualised it enough. Fair comment. I shall work on that.

I then followed with a hypnotic segment which went really well. I hypnotised a complete stranger and whilst in trance was able to ascertain a word thought of by another audience member. I was very happy with the hypnotic subject and the way the mind-to-mind link played out.

Ken Weber as I mentioned before, gave me some solid gold comments whilst giving me a lift back to midtown. Anyone who performs seriously can benefit from reading his book and I have certainly percolated on his advice.
After watching the other acts, I noted importantly, that success was evident and threaded throughout the evening, magical success. This is perhaps a reason why I wasn’t such a good fit for the evening with my election of material.
I quite like to fail. It doesn’t bother me unduly, other than the staples, that I don’t always get things right. I don’t believe I could do what I do and get it all right. I present mysteries and part and parcel of that is allowing the mystery to run it’s course. For me, it is what keeps my performances vital. That is not to say that there isn’t a plan or indeed a structure, as anyone who has seen ‘Your Place or Mind’ will understand, however, I factor into my shows spaces where for want of a better expression ‘stuff can happen’. And stuff has happened. Participants going off on little unplanned journeys of discovery. Folks divining things they couldn’t possibly know without my help or any suggestion, dumb luck or providence striking clearly like a bell- I love it.
I realise that last sentence may be a bit loose or suggestive of what magicians like to call woo-woo. I suppose it is, but it is also a desire to make the live event, exactly that; a live event. No two shows are the same. There will be familiar materials, there will be process and scaffold but the building should come out different, even if only slightly, every time. My background is very much in theatre. It’s where I grew up. I don’t care for acting ‘tricks’ to make a performance seem fresh because it hardly ever does it for an audience (even if the performer feels so). An act of theatre is an act of communion between the performer and the audience. Whether It is tacit or overt communication, we are ‘en rapport’ or should be. For the same reason I love the word ‘script’ but hate the word ‘patter’, because patter suggests something you trot out (even if it has been meticulously crafted), that it is an adjunct to whatever you are attempting, as opposed to a script, which whilst carefully assembled allows you to riff off it, to throw yourself into the darkness knowing eventually you’ll hit a net. I suppose a criticism that might be honestly levelled at this approach is one of ‘who cares about what you want’ but what I want is connection with the audience, they are the focus and I want them to share something which is temporal, a one-time deal, mine and theirs only. So I don’t like performances delivered so fluidly that they lack connection. I don’t like disjointed or by-rote performance either. It’s a thin line. One of the joys over the Fringe Festival for me, was to talk to Frankie (my technical manager) after the show and go over what had happened that particular evening. It was always different and lovely to talk to participants afterwards too, to hear their version of what had transpired.
If you’re still with me, then I guess the point I am making is that the next time I play a twenty minute slot, it will be a different me. The next show I’m going to create will be theatre where magic happens and not the reverse. And lastly, I loved every crazy second of it. It was wonderful fun and I got to meet some of the heavyweights in my world like Tony Razzano and Nick Belleas, who, by the way, you should avoid going with to Irish bars when you have to catch a flight in a few hours!

New York's Finest Mid-town mayhem with Mr. Belleas.

New York’s Finest
Mid-town mayhem with Mr. Belleas.

A ship atop a building.

The Big Durian

Singapore was amazing. I went there to deliver some drama training and lead a student ensemble. I count myself fortunate that I get to do this. I got to work with middle schoolers, high school students studying theatre at diploma level and also teachers. Whilst working with ISTA, I visited the gardens on the bay, which were superbly crafted bio-domes containing plants from different climatic zones across the globe. The riot of colour and range of smells were delightful and the architecture made me feel like an extra in The Minority Report or a live-action remake of The Jetsons.
Singapore is a roaring city-state. It makes itself known and wants the visitor to know that it is not by chance that Singapore has come to be, it is the product of industry, hard work and vision. In fact, Singapore is all about vision. Singaporeans work hard, they pay and play hard also. I have a few friends who are Singaporean or work in Singapore and I am always constantly amazed by the stories they tell. 100% tax on a car, schools corralled by square feet per student, the populace re-housed by the government on a whim or order to make way for a new, brighter development and of course, the fines!
It is possible to be fined for any kind of infraction in Singapore. I watched an entertaining piece of theatre by the students of Lasalle College of Performing Arts based loosely around the life of Singapore’s most famous playwright Pao Kun integrated alongside the story of Peer Gynt. The thrust of the performance was the playwright’s struggle but also to demonstrate the range of skills of the student actors incorporating moments of physical theatre, voice work and borrowed moments of eastern theatrical traditions. A mezcla of styles and practices but nevertheless a very enjoyable one. A good deal of the comedy came from a character, an ‘Uncle’ slapping fines on the hero for a series of wrongful doings including spitting, poor parking, littering, jaywalking and disrespecting ancient cultural property!
To be fair, most of the laws make perfect sense or are at least common sense and you’ll get fined if you lack common sense. For example, littering. You know you shouldn’t do it, so don’t. However, there are a few strange or at least draconian laws such as 500 dollars for eating and drinking on the subway or a nippy little 130 dollar fine for dropping off someone in your car at or near a bus stop. I narrowly avoided transgressing the law when I took a soft drink into the MRT, luckily, a poster pointedly reminded me of the risk I took, so I took the way of brain freeze instead and drained my cup before carefully depositing it in the proper receptacle.
They had just entertained the formula one race in town too, so I got to see remnants of the infrastructure being dismantled ( no doubt to a specific time frame to avoid being fined) as I walked to Clarkes Quay to watch the daily spectacular light and sound show from across the bay.
Singapore certainly doesn’t do things by halves.
I really like Singapore, it has a duality, it’s yin and yang, though don’t even think about taking a Durian anywhere by public transport.
I’m wondering what the penalty would be for jaywalking in possession of a ripe durian…
A ship atop a building.

A ship atop a building.

Killing the Mystery?

Participant amazingly accurate with psychometry exercise

Participant amazingly accurate with psychometry exercise

A little over a week ago, I made the pilgrimage to Tamworth to join in at the monthly ‘Evening of Mystery’ curated by Mssrs. Anthony Black and Christopher Gould. This evening that takes place at a small bar in Tamworth has been host to some exciting, unusual and high quality acts, so I thought it was time to lower the bar!
Seriously, though, what makes this evening almost unique in the UK, is that it is night dedicated to magic in all it’s forms. This particular evening of mystery featured mentalism, comedy/ bizarre magic and even some classic stage illusion and do you know what? The audience loved it.
I realise that there are a few other nights like this one, I know that Morgan and West run an evening in Oxford, however, it is an uphill struggle despite the favour it garners with an audience.
Why then? If there is an appetite, has this corner of variety not been exploited? Well, it has- in a way- by the same folk who exploit musicians at local gigs. Venues. Not all venues and those who run them follow this model, I myself, worked for years for the Mean Fiddler organisation in Harlesden and Clapham and have worked small independent and brewery-tied pubs and in the majority of those venues musicians and performers got paid. Sometimes it wasn’t a lot and sometimes it was payment in kind, a rider, some food and the promise of some filthy Luca if the word spread and the night became popular. But there is a sub-set of publicans, promoters and event organisers who like to get their artists for free and to this I take exception. I’m not talking about the ‘you rub my back’ scenarios, nor charity, because these models offer different rewards. I talk on the fairly common development where a owner or promoter of a venue operates what musicians call a ‘pay to play’ system. The received wisdom here is that you should be thankful for the exposure, that it is free publicity and a stepping stone to other, greater opportunities.
Tosh.
But the carrot of opportunity is a sweet and alluring vegetable, it sways above our heads wafting beta-carotene goodness and we admire its healthy glow.
I stopped doing these gigs as an actor years ago, because they almost never led on to anything. I turned down an ‘opportunity’ a while back to perform for free even though ‘who knew where this might go, we’re looking ahead’. Chris and Anthony work hard and get nothing in return, they rely on the goodwill of their peers and we support them because a) we stick together b) we recognise the importance of keeping profile on the mystery arts and c) there’s a curry house in Tamworth that needs our patronage. Yes, it’s a good place to try out new untested material, yes, it’s good to perform something to keep you metaphorically on your toes, and yes, we enjoy it. Fundamentally, it’s a fantastic night. However, wouldn’t it be nicer if the venue stepped up and ran a tab/ provided food for performers who have travelled in some cases many miles to be there?

One of the curious conundrums of modern living that I have found to be true across the globe is that if you get something for nothing, you simply don’t value it however, giving it a value results in people drawing an alternative conclusion. I directed a play once and didn’t charge for entrance and guess what, half-full houses and folk reserving tickets and not bothering to turn up. The following year, I directed another play but this time charged significantly for tickets -above what would be deemed as reasonable- and hey presto! With some solid advertising, we sold out.
So, if the venue doesn’t care, doesn’t really promote the event, doesn’t talk it up, tweet, push or share it out, is it any wonder that the audience becomes indifferent or occasional?

There was a guy in the audience last week, who was incredible, he was stunned at every turn, he was a vocal chap who voiced expletives, wows! and incredulous ‘what!’s.
I saw him after the bar had closed and he was talking animatedly to his partner and this was an hour after the last performer. He was stating how he’d be back for the next one. He was great. A walking advert for a great evening and I thought to myself, ‘I bet he’d pay a fiver to come and see the next show’ and I reckon he would, and he’d bring some friends.
Anthony and Chris have got something special happening in Tamworth, It’s the first Thursday of the month. I suggest you see this why you can, it’s a ‘happening’ and it deserves your support and attention. If you do go, step up to the bar and make some noise about how much fun it is and how can this survive. Because it won’t you know, unless people start to value it.

“Life without industry is guilt; industry without art is brutality.”

–John Rushkin

Pathway leading to the Royal Mile

On the rim of the border of the fringe of the fringe

So my delightful little run of shows has come to an end and what an end! My stage manager and tech support, not to mention bosom bud, Frankie is currently horizontal at the Edinburgh Eye Pavillion having had eye surgery. Frankie love noticed something amiss on the morning of the final show and within hours was told he needed an operation to fix a tear in his retina. I always think these little reminders of how fragile we all are serve two purpose other than the reminder of mortality, they prove that a) shit happens all the time for no apparent reason and that b) we are not an intelligent design, sure we are amazing but we are very far from perfectly put together thus we are ironing out the kinks as we evolve.
My performance has evolved again over the past few days and I’ve had a lot of food for thought. One of the contributing factors has to be the venue of the Arthur Conan Doyle Centre and the lovely people that inhabit it.
Over the past few days I’ve watched demonstrations of mediumship, had some spiritual healing and generally hung out with the spiritualists and I have to say that as people, you couldn’t ask to meet a nicer set of folk. I told them very clearly that I don’t consider myself psychic and that I’ve never been convinced by anyone who does claim psychic abilities and they were still curious and interested in what I performed and how I achieved it.
They in return, explained elements of their practice and were very generous with their time and also help in promoting the show. In the past, I have been a vocal and rampant voice against clairvoyants and clairaudients because I have always felt them to be ‘Grief Farmers’ (my term that I came up with), praying on the unhappy and vulnerable but I may have to re-jig slightly in light of meeting the congregation at the ACD centre. I’ve seen a few demonstrations of mediumship now from differing practitioners and I remain unconvinced that they are channelling the dead, but I believe that some believe they actually are doing what they say. I remain unconvinced by those that roam the country exchanging messages for cash but what I witnessed in Edinburgh was different. I saw a community, a supportive environment where people sharing the same belief received comfort and help, hope and joy at the idea of a continuing existence beyond this one and that their loved ones were no longer in pain (though apparently just as irascible, stubborn and generally prone to moods as they were in this life) At one of the demonstrations I attended, hymns were sung, notices given, a medium gave readings and then a small plate was passed around for collections. So very different from the glitz and ghoulishness of the clairvoyant bandwagons trolling the UK charging twenty to thirty pounds for the chance to salve your pain or receive a message from the other side.
So do I like spiritualists?
Well, I suppose I do, i like most people of religion who wear their faith on their sleeve but don’t expect you to wear clothes cut from the same cloth. I certainly like the Edinburgh spiritualists, I think that they are misguided and I am certain they think the same of me but from what I saw, they weren’t telling people to take spiritual healing over conventional medicine, they weren’t counselling folk to listen to the spirits with regards financial decisions or relationships, in fact mostly all the ‘spirits’ seems to want to pass on, were messages of love.

 

Staple of mentalism

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Flyer

So, Edinburgh day five and it feels like we’ve been here for two weeks.
Life has settled in a haze of trundle, perform, trundle, promote, eat, change, perform, trundle, eat, drink and sleep.

I saw an acquaintance from the Brighton Fringe out promoting his show (We Are Goose is the name of his company and they do a great piece about Surgeon John Hunter- go see it) near the Underbelly, he’d been at it two weeks and looked, frankly terrible. He looked liked he’d fell prey to multiple six year olds asking him to peer through their special binoculars to see the strange flag atop Edinburgh castle.

I ain’t complaining, I knew what I signed up for, I’m merely pointing out the sheer hard work and energy that people pour into the Fringe.
I haven’t had much time to see anything and I’ll be going to see an afternoon show today. I did see some great comedy at The Canon Gait. It was Peter Buckley Hill’s Free Fringe comedy guest line up and was absolutely great fun, especially Peter himself, who had some cracking one liners and mumbled into the mic continually in a stream-of-consciousness-nonsensical way at the intermission until people finally had the stones to get up for a wee and a pint. Hal Cruttenden also put in an appearance and was so funny that I inadvertently snorted beer up my nose.
What has been painful is watching the attempts to get people to take your flyer in the Royal Mile.
For those of you not in the know, here are the commandments:

1. Thou shalt force, cajole or interfere with the public that they may take a flyer

2. Nudity shall know its place on the Royal Mile, for it is home

3. Period costume shall distinguish thee from the masses

4. Yea! Professional buskers and street performers must have their PA gain on full, for it pleaseth the crowd to not know what thous speaketh of

5. A Capella requireth much clicking of fingers and jazz hands, do this and bask in the radiant smiles of the audience

6. Nudity shall be dressed in gouts of theatrical blood

7. Do never doubt thyself when thou stands in a group tableau, for it is art and therefore most interesting

8. Thou shalt use ‘thou’, ‘prithee’ and ‘sire’ when promoting Shakespeare

9. If thou be a singer, then thou shall voice Adele

10. Do what thou must to pull attention from your fellow artistes, everything is permitted, but watch out for the scene stealing auld jock in full highland fig with the tambourine

For myself, I have taken to mind reading punters and whenever I get something wrong I put a staple in my arm. Glad that my run isn’t across the whole of August, though it is a great way of getting compliance
Me:”So, I’m sensing you were indoors?”
Hapless punter:”no, it was outdoors” (I go to staple..) “ah! Don’t! I was indoors, I was indoors’”

Last nights show by the way, was a beezer. Excellent trance subjects and amazing results on the psychometry experiment. More on that later. Got the press in tonight and it’s time to trundle.

Pulling a crowd on the Royal Mile

Edinburgh News

On The Royal Mile

On The Royal Mile

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Needles and pins

Yesterday was an incredible day for me. So much so, that I am still fairly fizzing with energy. As part of my ongoing commitment to training, learning and growing as a performer, I attended an event organised by headhacking (www.headhacking.com) training a group of fellow mystery performers in the art of sideshow skills. We were a small number, huddled around a strange and compelling collection of gin traps, staple guns, mousetraps, nails and nail beds, buckets of broken glass and syringes on a bright but breezy Derbyshire morning.

Sideshow has always fascinated me, and I remember many years ago watching the Enigma and Jim Rose as well as performers in Covent Garden and being stunned, delighted, shocked and surprised about what these people could do. Our tutor for the day is a seasoned performer Tristan Stothard and I have to compliment him on an excellent series of workshops building in complexity and challenge to the final pinnacle of the ‘Human Pincushion’ act. Basically, piercing yourself with needles which is something I never thought I would do as up until yesterday I had a phobic reaction to needles, syringes and anything pointy and medical-looking. I still have a healthy respect for said items but already I feel different about them. We weren’t exactly achieving the state that I’ve seen in Asia with penitents at Thaipusam, but it was a profound step for me, to get to know myself a little better and understand that there is so much more to us than we think.
In one of the morning breaks, I even broke a chopstick between my palms in an ‘iron palm’ moment! I shall try the neck next!

The video above shows a few highlights, and I don’t really want to talk about specifics other than to say that having laid on a bed of nails, on broken glass with someone standing on my head, washing with glass and stapling my arm, I am excited as I have ever been and already am looking at integrating elements of my new learnings into a new show.

Sideshow: a staple of mentalism!

Some Clients I've Entertained
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