|Side one of a locally-distributed Scratch Fest flyer.|
The first thing I saw - and one of the stand-outs so far - was a stylophone-based musicomedy performance, with self-deprecation and 'off the wall' jumps from image to pun. It’s one the best acts I've seen since Stuart Lee, and you should check out 'Stylophobia With Dan Rubinstein' on Facebook for his upcoming gigs. I found a lot of it was funny because it wasn't all that funny - "corny" is a word Dan used himself, which is a very apt one for me - and the intentional lack of slickness is part of not just the charm, but also the element of surprise, that, for me, made his jokes burn brighter.
On another night, though, we've had a journey through Richard Pulsford's research into his family's military history in 'Conflict of Interest'. I thought, because he was introduced as a comedian, that the presentation he was giving was going to be an elaborate ruse for a whole heap of humour. In the end, it was a 'straight' account of said history and, whereas not my 'usual cup of tea', it was still a pleasure to be able to attend, to see someone's work made reality, and to learn.
There was, of all things, a delightful nun - Sister Christian - who was captivating in her fascination with balls and juggling them, who peppered her performance with double-entendres. It amused me and made me feel very carefree. We had a chap (who I can't find on Facebook - sorry!) perform a scene from his Michael Jackson and Prince show (did you know they were both born in the same year?). They're two artists I'm not overly fond of, but the possibilities of his act - exploring the lives of two such eccentric superstars - are undeniably fascinating (and he's playing both of them, as I understand it). Also, we were treated to some proper magic by local legend Kevin Cunliffe - who I've always found to be a warm guy, generous with his time y'know, just because he's a star, doesn't mean to say he doesn't have time to chat, which is groovy. He kept the audience gasping in surprise, even the sceptics amongst us. We also had a more politically-focused poet, who, despite rhyming, made some good points, and made them in interesting ways. His name escapes me, as he replaced someone else on the roster, but, well, just be on the lookout for any poetry in your area, and maybe he’ll be there? Who knows…
I've talked before about the privilege it is to be able to go to poetry readings - and this festival is very similar. It’s not just being in an environment where works are more ‘in progress’ than you might see in, say, a big arena, but also to get to talk to the artists afterwards is great. I had a good few words with Richard after his show about the process of him putting his presentation together, and he was very generous in chatting to me - especially as I’m just this randomer with a can of lager and healthy disrespect for personal boundaries.
To have time with them away from the stage (i.e. in the pub) is always fascinating, too. I often consider it my duty to buy these heroes of the stage a drink (a personal thank you for their efforts), and often we have a chat about their act. In Dan's case, we spoke comedic aesthetics, and the possibilities of punnery, as well as how lucky we felt to have him, and how lucky he felt to have such a space (outside his usual London) to take his work. In Kev's case, we spoke a bit about his career (punctuated by more 'tricks' of his).
I've also been lucky to spend quite a bit of time with Walter DeForest, creator and embodier of the fantastic and internationally-renowned 'Van Gogh Find Yourself'. Whereas last time I spoke to him more about his act, this time it was thrilling to just ramble about any old anecdotes, share in cheeky puerile humour, and some of the Sportz Banter (TM). Other members of our fair Morecumbrian society were talking about CBD-soaked (literally) times, and, although the oils weren't flowing in reality, the intoxication was caused by these crazy, switched-on, rule-makers and -breakers, the inspirers and questioners of our time and place. It's a massive boon that there are suddenly places now in my home town that cater for us misfits, thanks to Matt Panesh and his team. It's just wonderful to be mixed with all these idea-mongers and talent-spinners, talking across genres and experience levels.
And this festival's only just beginning, y'know. My good friend Jim will be performing later today, and there’s more through the week. I could do with knocking [some... most...] of the drinking I previously alluded to on the head, but, I must admit, alcohol is an easy lubricant that gets some of the big-energy ideas dripping out the holes in our brainsponge. It is through this haze that I've largely been looking lately - and the things I have seen, my friend... Oh, the things I have seen...
|Side two, detailing the acts.|