London-based Danish comedian Sofie Hagen last year premiered her “Bubblewrap” standup/storytelling act. In part of act she read her own fanfiction, written when she was young and hot on a boyband. Hagen self-ironic commentary and further elaborations of teenage (or preteenage?) troubles made one of the finest standup performances I have seen.
I myself have gotten hold on my own young writing. An exercise book in the “Danish” course, where the hand-in would sometimes be my favorite topic: “fristil”, “freestyle”. Here you could select your own topic and let your fantasy run away. One hand-in that I discovered was “Min hverdag” (“My daily life”) from an exercise book from 6th grade (I was perhaps 12 years old), a short story with a self-confident carelessness detailing what has become a common theme in my life: getting late.
Here is my (present) English translation. Enjoy:
My daily life.
I just made a time machine when I got home from school. Yesterday I made a car powered by water, but that broke.
When I was finished with the time machine, I set it to the year 1872, 7 Savile Row, London, England. I went into the time machine and pressed the button which started the time machine. Everything went black. One minute passed, and then suddenly I was standing right in front of Phileas Fogg. He did not seem to be particularly surprised. I turned around, and there was Passepartout. I said hello in Danish. They understood that well, as I had an interpreter machine with me, that I had made a couple of weeks ago. They too said hello. Passepartout stood with a valise. Phileas Fogg and Passepartout went out of the street door and that I did too. That was lucky as they locked the door behind them. I asked if I could come along. Phileas Fogg said yes. We went to the end of Savile Row precisely as in “Around the World in Eighty Days”. But they went further and towards a store. I asked, whether they were not going around the world. Mr. Fogg answered that they had been around the world, so I did not want to play this game anymore. I pressed the button and flew back to the present.
I was a bit annoyed as I did not get around the world. I wanted to try again but then the time machine broke. I could of course have repaired it. I did not want to use the 5 minutes that it would take to repair it, as I had homework to do. I could of course put a robot to do it. But on the other hand: You also need to learn something.
The teacher remarked “Excellent. But where did you get the topic from?” :)
Here is the Danish original slightly edited:
Jeg lavede lige en tidsmaskine, da jeg kom hjem fra skole. I går lavede jeg en bil, der gik på vand. Men den gik i stykker.
Da jeg var færdig med tidsmaskinen, stillede jeg den på året 1872, Saville-row nr. 7 London, England. Jeg gik ind i tidsmaskinen og trykkede på knappen som startede tidsmaskinen. Alt blev sort. Der gik 1 minut, og så pludselig stod jeg lige foran Phileas Fogg. Han så ikke ud til at være særligt overrasket. Jeg vendte mig om, og der stod Passepartout. Jeg sagde goddag på dansk. Det kunne de godt forstå fordi jeg havde en oversættermaskine på mig, som jeg havde lavet for nogle uger siden. De sagde også goddag. Passepartout stod med en vadsæk. Phileas Fogg og Passepartout gik ud af gadedøren og det gik jeg også. Det var heldigt fordi de låste døren efter sig. Jeg spurgte om jeg måtte komme med. Phileas Fogg sagde ja. Vi gik ned for enden af Saville-row, præcis som i “Jorden rundt i 80 dage”. Men de gik videre og over mod en butik. Jeg spurgte, om de ikke skulle jorden rundt. Mr. Fogg svarede, at det havde de været, så jeg gad ikke at lege dette her mere. Jeg trykkede på knappen og jeg fløj tilbage til nutid.
Jeg var lidt sur fordi jeg ikke var kommet jorden rundt. Jeg ville prøve igen, men så gik tidsmaskinen i stykker. Jeg kunne selvfølgelig have repareret den. Jeg gad ikke at bruge de 5 minutter, der skulle til at reparere den, fordi jeg havde lektier for. Jeg kunne selvfølgelig sætte en robot til det. Men på den anden side: man skal jo også lære noget.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015 began Friday 7 August and I went the first weekend and the first Wednesday to see a few of the many thousand shows. Here are the votes of the Dane’s jury:
Friday 14 August 2015
We did not get inside to the The Outsider at first. Technical problems delayed the start. Eventually inside, The Outsider was as Finnish as possible: Technical and mute, – and involving a mobile phone. A silent otherworldly clown character enters and starts interacting with two man-sized vertical flatscreens showing prerecorded video of the clown himself as twin copies with the “real” clown “entering” the video and appearing in another part of the set. This interaction between the live theatre performance and the prerecorded video requires very precise timing and only a couple of times was the performer, Janne Raudaskoski, half a second late. It shows what preciseness can be achieved with careful planning and rehearsal. The recording and the live were similar lit. On the stage you could see the difference between live and video, but in a recording from 2011 which conveys aspects of the show well it will not be clear to you what is the live character and what is the precorded character. Indeed an interesting concept, the story of the show, however, was meager, the overall message I got was: just do soap bubbles and everything will be ok.
Milton Jones, apparently a name in the UK with some TV appearance, performed at a large venue with the audience queueing early and filling the seats. That means if you queue up late you will get a seat quite far from the performer. While Jones can pour many-a-good absurd one-liners the show was a bit too UK-centric for my liking. I was behind in laughs compared to the rest of the audience. A problem with UK comedians is their reliance on British or English-speaking topics for some of the jokes. I did not know the word spinky/slinky so a joke on Milton Jones’ depressed uncle was lost on me. Last year I saw a British-Pakistani female comedian, Shazia Mirza, that was marked ‘U’ for a universal audience and even that stand-up show contained some UK-centric material. Perhaps it is a good recommendation for an international audience to steer free of big UK acts. At 18.50 Pounds the Milton Jones ticket was also the most expensive one. On the other hand if you are a connoisseur of absurd one-liners and a good word pun Milton is worth considering.
Céilidh Friday night yielded a sweaty two-hour journey back to Rosenkilde School of Dancing in Ørum. Totur til Vejle (Two-trip to Vejle) and the popular Trekant (Triangle) is what I remember. They were popular and requested more than the “traditional” Quickstep, English Waltz, Foxtrot or Chachacha. Blending in his own jokes, some kind to his wife Bente, blackmailing us with candy, our dancing instructor made a popular appearance each Friday in the Winter months. I recently googled Rosenkilde and found him still alive near 90. He lately have been mentioned in news media after heading a request for a monument for one of the leading men of the Danish resistance movement during the Second World War: Tholdstrup. Rosenkilde himself was as a young man member of the resistance.
Why is traditional dancing not more widespread in Denmark now? For the Scottish ceilidh the room was so full that both an inner and an outer circles had to be made to accommodate all dancers and there was a good age range. The old dance melodies seems more appreciated here than in Denmark.
Saturday 15 August 2015
“Old Jewish Jokes” was a collection of good classic jokes delivered without a microphone and wrapped with a small personal story by Ivor Dembina. As such he distinguishes himself from the classic stand-up comedian where the jokes are autofictional. The stories told where often set in the Jewish family (husband/wife, mother/son) with a misanthropic or at least pessimistic mood. Almost all where new to me. I have heard one in a non-Jewish setting before. Dembina modulated his voice well almost whispering at times and with no microphone he could gesticulate freely. The microphone-free approach did, however, had a back side. The venue was a closed room in the back-end of a bar and the noise from the bar and his at times low voice could make it strenuous to hear some parts.
Ivor Dembina’s act was at the Free Fringe, that is, the part for the Fringe where there is no entrance fee. I was not completely aware of what that meant, so I thought it better to buy a beer at the bar in case that was expected of me. In the end Dembina would tell us what Free Fringe meant: You pay a courteous exit fee with an amount of your own liking. Dembina was kind enough to let us know what an appropriate amount would be: He was looking for a “silent contribution” – that is to say “no coins”. Wonderful Jewish humour. He got 5 Pounds from me. The fully packed room had an audiences of 43 with a few standing. With three weeks and working 7 days a week an average of 5 Pounds will only make around 4’500 Pounds. Not much. He practically have to live on the street in August’s Edinburgh to afford the Caledonian Sleeper back home to London.
“Can I start again Please” was a two-actor piece by Sue MacLaine running in the Summerhall venue where the art-sy theatre plays run. Having a first row in the remote Red Lecture Theatre gave a relief from the bar noise of Dembina, – necessary as half of the play was silent with one of the actors – Nadia Nadarajah – doing her lines in sign language. The other actor was Sue MacLaine herself speaking with a distinct clear voice, – a trained actor I thought. From the notes in the Fringe program it was not clear what the play was about and on the surface level it appeared as a discussion on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophy particular criticizing his quotation “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Another concept put up for commentary was “silence means consent“. Obviously these statements are highly questionable if you cannot speak because of a handicap. Unfortunately, another issue that went over my head during the play was silence in connection with childhood trauma. We were given the clue after the play. I think it may give the audience a better appreciation of the play if the clue was given in advance. I saw the play as mostly a learned critique of Wittgenstein. Given that I am already a bit of anti-philosophic and think not highly of Wittgenstein I did not see that the play added much.
I am thinking that MacLaine perhaps did not want the audience to know the “solution” to the play in advance but keep the secret as a meta-comment to the play itself: the play remains silent about its own core content and reveals only the surface plot.
I am reading “Forensics: The anatomy of crime” by Val McDermid. In this true crime book McDermid tells the story about a 14-year-old girl allegedly abused by her father (I am reluctantly using the word “allegedly” here) and recording it on video. On page 185 McDermid tells us that the jury went with “not guilty” “because they didn’t believe the girl – she hadn’t cried enough”! Surely, it seems that the behaviour of children experiencing trauma may be seriously misunderstood, whether the child does not cry or – as put forward by MacLaine – remains silent.
Devoted Westlife fan Danish London-based Sofie Hagen had her ‘Bubblewrap‘ Fringe show premier at the Saturday night. Something went wrong with the venue and the dates so people had apparently met up Friday for her show and the venue wasn’t finished. She got booked in a comparatively large venue that according to rumour could seat 500 people for a rock concert. I suppose that Sofie Hagen was afraid that she would be playing in a large mostly empty room. One day in the Fringe 2013 she performed for just two people according to her excellent Danish report on the Fringe. For the Saturday opening there was no problem and her show was quite well-attended with the room that didn’t feel too big. And with a five-star review rolling in on the show from Skinny and four-and-a-half from Chortle (though a mingy Scotsman only find three stars) it shouldn’t be a problem getting people to the venue.
Sofie Hagen has been spinning jokes around her physical appearance for some time, indeed she is a self-declared body activist according to a Danish news paper interview. Now she is moving on to her teenage years as an insecure boyband fan. For those who think that she just made it all up she has been keen on uploading an old tv-program showing her as an all-absorbed teenage fan and a recent radio Westlife encounter. You’ll also be able to find radio interviews about it from British Comedy Guide. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to find some of her Westlife fan fiction. I still haven’t been able to find the juicy fan fiction presented in Bubblewrap. Her time as a Westlife fan provides her with unique material that she effortless recounts with the punchlines well-timed and well-wrapping callbacks. There is more personal storytelling than quickly forgotten one-liners. Westlife will be proud of their fan and Denmark has yet another Sofie making a mark in Edinburgh. (the first one being Sofie Gråbøl’s theatre performance in Edinburgh last year). Sofie Hagen got 10 Pounds from me. The show is surely worth it, not just for the comedy but also as a document of teenage fandom. The best comedy I have seen so far at my two years on the Fringe.
It is recommended that you should only do 4 shows a day, so the last show I saw Saturday was too much. A puppet show around tv-crime (yes the Sarah Lund sweater was there) sounded funny and was at times. At other times I was behind in laughs compared to the other audiences. The puppeteer did a good job but the material was too thine for my liking. The banter may cater to a UK audience, but this Dane was too tired.
Sunday 16 August 2015
The Danish Bagpipe Comedian Claus Reiss delves into a classic Danish act scheme of one man, one musical instrument and some jokes. Internationally recognized Victor Borge and one of the best Danish sit-down comedians Niels Hausgaard have excelled in this scheme. Claus was scheduled early and this should tell you something about the ambitions in the show. I had my expectations set low and they were fulfilled. He is an excellent piper, but his stand-up material and delivery was not fully in shape. His interaction with the audience was at times somewhat out of tune. One should think that a bit of technical comedy consultancy from Sofie Hagen could benefit. Hagen recounts that she was given advice from a fellow comedian who did not like her show: to film all her gigs. That might help on Reiss’ movements on stage which seemed both unplanned and staged. An indication that his material probably stems from a Danish show was an explanation of a Danish word pun, that had to be translated back and forth to English, – all too elaborate. Reiss is on the Free Fringe so there is no harm in watching his show. After all, Pipe’n’comedy could be a classical Edinburgh mixture bound to be a success if he hit the right comedy note. He already handles his instrument effortless. He got 5 Pounds from me.
A sidenote: I do hope that the firemen look into the venues and no Danish comedian gets burned alive. It seem to me that particular Espionage was a labyrinthine maze of rooms and walkways with a complex escape route. And what appeared to me to be an emergency exit seemed locked.
“Tubular Bells for Two” had made it all the way from Australia, – again. It is a well-established act on the Fringe. On YouTube you find good and not so good renditions of Mike Oldfield music. As a follower of the music of Mike Oldfield I was interested in this, but had not set that high expectations for the performance. In a packed room in the venue at Pleasance with perhaps 400 audiences the performance was not at all bad. They managed to render Mike Oldfield’s classic quite close to the original album and the rock part on side two was a powerful performance. They supported themselves with loop machines and a mouth piece that I hadn’t seen before. It seemed that they deliberately made it look hard, – probably because it was hard. Well done, Aussies. Surely a must for an Oldfield fan.
BLAM! provided no intellectualism but a quite start on a bad day at the office. Packed with 500 to 1000 (or more?) audiences with a broad age range, the wordless but not noiseless drama built steadily up to a grand great finale. Quite a physical feat I was genuinely afraid that they might hurt themselves and wondering whether their stage will survive to the end of August. The performance has minimal story but that hardly matters in this physical theatre play’s joyful application of non-pretentious theatre violence. Here is a toast for the fine entertainment and a hope for the survival of the four actors. If you missed it this year it will probably be there next year.
Wednesday 12 August 2015
The classic play, The Cherry Orchard, from the beginning of the 20th Century was shaken up by 3 young women from South Korea. Taking the parts of the mother Lyubov and the two daughters Anya and Varya they made a highly stylised and physical performance. The pretentious, abrupt, extreme and peculiar acting repeating lines made my think to music videos such as Psy’s videos, – one of my very few references in Korean culture. Or a talkative modernisation of pantomime. Good and Artsy. More South Korean than Russian.
Ivor Dembina had two shows on the Fringe 2015 and based on the his show Saturday I wanted to see his second show, New Jewish Jokes, which was billed at the The Stand, – but I came late. Last year I saw a good ol’ fashion late night stand-up show in what I remember to be The Stand. This was a bar where there was no problem for a late-comer blending in once you paid the entrance fee and grabbed a beer. But The Stand has multiple venues along the street and at this particular venue with Ivor the Jew it seemed inappropriate to late-come.
Standing in the street outside The Stand I was handed over a small flyer for Silky, an entertainer with a guitar, a singing voice and a pack of humorous anecdotes. Professional but also somewhat casual entertainment in a small room with perhaps 40 seats and with an audience of 25. Apparently, he changes his show every evening. He straightforwardly interacts with the audience adding their names to his songs. Friendly entertaining which seems to have no high aspirations. I cannot help comparing him with the Danish guitar-playing Niels Hausgaard. Hausgaard seems better at establishing a stage persona and establishing expectations in the audience as the show goes along.
With the title Scotland’s Pick at the Fringe you should think that you got the creme de la creme of Scotland’s stand-up comedians at the Beehive in Grassmarket. I spend some time trying to buy a ticket to the show, but this was only possible at the door. The second floor around 50-seater room had perhaps an audience of 30 lending an ear to four stand-up comedians and Gus the presenter. The ‘pick’ seems to have been just a random one with a varying quality, – one on open mic level or just having a bad day. The UK-centric issue was not that much of a problem. A Welsh young women was perhaps the best although relying on somewhat stereotypical stand-up material.
The Edinburgh Festival amalgates multiple sort-of independent festivals during August month. The original festival is the Edinburgh Festival. And then the Fringe Festival is the fringe event of that festival. A book festival is stoved away in the middle of Edinburgh. And the 152nd International Photographic Exhibition appears in Great King Street. The official book for the Fringe is over 400 pages long.
Going in the dense area of Edinburgh you will invariably get fliers for all sorts of performances: Shakespeare was there at venue 54 but didn’t see him; Crtl-Alt-Sketch was rescheduled to 8:30 PM and contained catty porn; Kurakuraw is the first and best known Taiwan contemporary indigenous dance theatre – and “deeply touching” according to the Scotsman; while Feng Dance Theatre’s Kid Box is a “fantastic realm of language visual arts drama, installations, singing and dancing” and James Loverige is simply just “funny because it’s true”. Other acts are “impressive and hilarious”, “deliciously farcical” or contain “wonderful, terrific, life-affirming stuff.” The New Celts are also there with The Magic Egg and Lace Up in 36. There is also the show that “transcends the stage”. These were some of the fliers I was handed.
Here are the acts I ran into in 2014:
Made in ILVA – The Contemporary Hermit in the Summerhall venue was a one-man theatre performance from an Italian theatre company called Instabili Vaganti. Indeed he worked for it in this piece that primarily stood out with the physical performance, supported by the monologue in English. The single man used his body in repetitive machine-like movements in a spare scenography. As he was coming to the end his shirt was dripping wet and when he threw it on the floor a “smash” sounded through the room. A promotional video does not quite give justification for the performance.
James III: We didn’t manage to buy tickets to James III playing at the non-fringe part of the festival. But standing at the ticket office we must have looked sufficiently confused and innocent to get handed over two tickets by a couple for free! Thanks, very much” From a Danish point of view this particular piece was of interest as Sofie Gråbøl had a part in the play as the queen. With her monologue in the final scene she provided the theatrical highpoint of the show. Whereas Fringe shows typical last an hour, this non-Fringe piece lasted several hours with a break in the middle. Good but not dangerous.
Shazia Mirza provides deadpan humor based on her British-Pakistani background. We got £10 seats for the show, Bulletproof, playing in The Assembly Rooms in the late afternoon at 17:15. The joke I remember from the show was a remark to the Guardian-like audience. She is apparently on again for the 2015 edition of the Fringe trying out new material.
We lost a show because we did not manage to get there in time. Parking in Edinburgh during festival time is not an easy task.
Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall had a show called Success Arms at Underbelly Cowgate that I did not see. But I did see a free afternoon show Alasdair Lists Everything, a whimsical minimalistic endless monologue of pure words. For a whole hour! Interestingly, he manages to associate quite freely, an amazing capability. See an examples here: “Crafting a really nice pancake”, “Coffee table smell”, …
The Warriors: A Love Story was traditional modern dance with multimedia, with a theme around the bombing of Dresden.
Looking for Paul – Wunderbaum provided one-of-a-kind show: Labeled as “performance art, multimedia” it started out with Inez van Dam, apparently a young respectable Rotterdam bookshop owner and not quite comfortable on the stage. She complained about a sculpture put outside her window, the Buttplug Gnome of Paul McCarthy. This part of the show appeared like some kind of slide show, public hearing, theatrical documentary, mockumentary or explanation of the making of a documentary where the actors join in as characters in a theatre company. Wanting to confront Mr McCarthy – or at least they tell us so – they go to Los Angeles taking Inez along, but then the preparation for the play or a play apparently goes wrong. The rest is transgressive theatre – inspired by the perpetrator McCarthy. A playful narrative, to such an extent that I am still not sure about Inez van Dam and what is fiction and fact and what is satire and not. Well done, Holland!
We managed to find some good late night standup in a cellar in Queen Street I believe. One gay did gay humor and one women did jokes about her washing machine. Good ol’ fashion standup.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, somewhat away from center, featured a disappointing exhibition of some forgettable sort.
Almost everything with the Wikimania meeting in London in August 2014 went very well, people, talks, entertainment, organization, monkey, squirrel, etc. What I am confused about is what happen during my last hour at the meeting Sunday evening: After the buffet I had the experience of meeting two females, one who gave me a business card with a link to wikitranslate.org, and claimed to be behind the wiki web site. The females seemed not very old, in fact when queried one of them claimed to be 10 years old, and when queried further, she responded she had made the web site when 6 years old with a little help from a family member…
During the Wikimania meeting the documentary about Aaron Swartz, The Internet’s Own Boy, was shown. In that documentary we learned that Aaron Swartz was 12 years old when he created the Wikipedia-like site InfoBase. Thus prodigies can create wiki web sites when they are 12 years old. From that we can deduce that it is unlikely that a six year old female can produce a wiki web site. The closest explanation for my extraordinary vivid experience at Wikimania I can come up with is then that it was a hallucination.
My question is then: How do I get rid of the hallucination? Have other Wikimania participants had a similar hallucinations of meeting preteens claiming to make web sites? Or am I just getting old?
The hallucination has persisted for many days now because I still both see and feel the business card I got.
Danish DR TV-series Forbrydelsen (The Killing) author and producer, Søren Sveistrup and Piv Bernth, have been kidnapped by a terrorist organization referring to themselves as BFSR (British Front of Subtitle Readers) saying they won’t release Sveistrup and Bernth until Forbrydelsen IV is filmed and aired. BFSR furthermore demands Forbrydelsen IV should consist of 20 episodes, with the original Guðrun and Guðrun jumper, – and with a lot of moving torches seeking in dark places.DCI Tennison leads the police investigation from Scotland Yard. With Minister Jim Hacker giving priority to the case, Tennison is assisted by DC Anna Travis, Wycliffe, Taggart, Reid, Morse, Bergerac and the Lochdubh-based police officer Macbeth as well as Dempsey and Makepeace. Quite unconventionally the British police has requested the assistance of a civilian named Holmes. Also a middle-aged Belgian and an elderly British woman seem to be intimately involved in the investigation. After initial Fawlty search in Gallowshield, the police now believes the kidnapped persons are being held in a scarlet studio in Dartmoor. A butterfly collector, referred to as “The Street”, was apprehended, but now released. BFSR states that unless DR begins filming Forbrydelsen IV, BFSR will start showing episodes of the failed DR crime series Rejseholdet (1983) to the two kidnapped victims. While Bernth is believed to be capable of withstanding this ordeal, it is generally thought that Sveistrup will not survive this IMDb 4.8 rated tv-series. Sofie Gråbøl states she won’t yield to the demands of BFSR, but Kenneth Brannagh has acknowledged his ability to step in at short notice and take over the part of Sarah Lund, with Emma Thompson taking the part of not-actually-dead (it was only a blank shot) Detective Inspector Jan Meyer.
One usually needs to take care when writing corrections: An error in an erratum looks silly. For those with knowledge of Danish would note that a word in the title has a typo: “Radioavsien” should have been “Radioavisen”. Somehow the picture of the pig adds some humor to the typo.