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Tuesday 9th August 2005

Tuesday 9th August 2005

I saw a couple of great things today. The first was an exhibition of some of the photos of Henri Cartier-Bresson. He wasnÂ’t someone I knew too much about before and I only went along because IÂ’ve been asked to review this and some other things for a radio show on Friday, but I really loved the photos. Cartier-Bresson lived a long life and travelled the world and photographed both the famous and the everyday. I preferred the mundane moments, giving as they do a glimpse into the past. He seems to manage to capture wonderful moments in time and often though you are drawn to the main figure, once you study the photo you will see other expressions on the faces of bystanders or touches of humanity and itÂ’s heart-warming and beautiful. There are great humorous shots, but also some serious ones. The most amazing one is from the end of World War II, where a woman is identifying the woman who had betrayed her to the Nazis. The betrayer looks shame faced and terrified, but the accuserÂ’s face is a mask of triumph and hatred. Is she happy or furious or both? You would never choose to depict the woman like this if you were painting it, but the camera has caught the incredible and in some ways unpleasant truth. Then you look at the faces of the people behind all this, which are almost blank, but their eyes all show their disapproval.
The funny ones are great too. Cartier-Bresson manages to find and bring out great characters. ItÂ’s great. Go and see it if you can.
Later I saw about half an hour of the Jim Bowen show, again for the review programme. I wasn’t able to see the whole thing, not because I was offended and had to walk out, but because I had to go and do my own show. Having said that I did find it a little bit offensive, but would liked to have stayed to the end as I don’t think it’s fair to judge it on half an hour. Bowen is a bit like an elderly relative who knows loads of stock jokes, but who thinks that the world has changed for the bad and that political correctness is what has caused the ruination. He characterises his gay director by letting his arm go limp and doing an effeminate voice. He says that his director was one of his all time heroes, but insists on trying to get laughs out of the caricature. It’s a bit pathetic, but there were a few funny stories and to be honest this show is not really aimed at me. It’s a celebration of working men club culture and most of the audience seemed to like most of it (though the gay stuff did seem to leave them a little cold). In a way I liked the fact that it was a very different kind of show to your typical Fringe performance. It was deliberately aimed at the kind of ordinary people who wouldn’t want to see experimental theatre or jokes about fucking monkeys. Bowen himself mentioned that it was for the working class, before asking “Are we allowed to say that any more?” I still liked him, like the way I still liked my unreconstructed elderly relatives. I am not sure how the students that the show must also be aimed at would react to it.
Later I saw a show that tackled homosexuality from a straight perspective in a much more interesting way. Phil Nichol is at the Stand doing a show called “Nearly Gay” which is about the times in his life when he, as a fairly camp straight man, has come close to gay experiences. Political correctness (which does not exist and I am fairly convinced is a thing made up by people who don’t like the way that the world has changed – very few people would claim to be politically correct) does not mean that you can’t joke about this subject. In fact it means we can investigate and discuss issues like this in more detail. In Bowen’s world, being gay equals being effeminate and different and something that ordinary people are not. Nichol is able to discuss the ambiguity in his sexuality, and is disarmingly honest about his bizarre life. And he is open enough to show himself in a bad light at certain points, though he is clearly a very nice and thoughtful man, whose appetite for life and hedonism leads him into some unusual situations. He also writes and sings beautiful and stupid songs. I think this is one of the top ten shows I have ever seen at the Fringe and hope you get a chance to see him. Go and see this if you can. It’s a tiny room and it deserves to be a smash, so book early if you’re coming up.
I had a good gig too, which really came alive half way through. I had prepared myself for a drop off in the audience numbers as this was the first full price day, but amazingly around 100 people came, which is fantastic (I think I got about 30 for the same gig last year) and a good sign.
A gang of boys at the back didn’t like it, but were quite funny about this during the yoghurt bit, giving me the finger as I explained I was trying to annoy them. The only walk-outs were a couple who went to the toilet together during the trout-sperm bit, which led to an amusing riff about how I didn’t blame them for going as this was a sexy bit. I had two big reviewers in (both who arrived late), but who seemed to be enjoying it. It wasn’t the best show and a couple of things threw me early on (like stepping on my own microphone cable and disconnecting it – smooth), but fingers crossed that the press will be good.

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