There is a cafe at 65 Pleasance called Breakfast, Brunch & Lunch or bbl. It’s across the road and a little to the left of the Pleasance Courtyard and just by the postbox. If you can’t see the postbox it may be that there’s a white van parked in front of it while white van man pops in to pick up a ‘Full Breakfast’, it ain’t called ‘Full English’ in these parts, and a cup of coffee.
The bbl cafe is also the place of choice for many of the young guys and girls who work the festival and the place does get busy with many in the yellow on black or the black on yellow Pleasance t-shirts, lanyards and walkie-talkies. If you see one of these lovely people give them a hug. They work long hours in the thankless task of keeping all the festival goers happy and in the right place to see whatever it is they have tickets for and they always have a smile for you.
On entering bbl you may well be greeted with ‘what can I get you pal’ with a lovely Edinburgh burr. This request may come from either the petite blonde or petite brunette who will sort your order out while dancing and practicing kicking their height, at least they were doing that on the day I was in, maybe Tuesdays are a bit special. Enjoy the dancing and certainly enjoy the conversation it may be the only chance you get to hear a Scottish accent during your stay at the festival.
After topping up on home made link and lorne sausages, they do home made veggie sausages too, and they were yummy, it’s nice to wander over to Pleasance Dome for your second breakfast of the day at the Big Bite-Size Breakfast Show.
Before you take your seat for the Big Bite-Size Breakfast Show you are offered, coffee with croissant and strawberries. You then have an hour which is taken up by a number of short plays played out as anything from a one hander to the full on cast. The ensemble which usually comprises two to three guys and two to three girls are such consummate actors they can take on any part from the troubled to the angry, the in love, the out of love and everything in between.
The Big Bite-Size Breakfast Show is made up of about six plays that are often edgy, sexy, funny, tragic and sometimes all four at once. It’s an hour long emotional roller coaster ride but what a great way to start the day.
Back across to the Pleasance Courtyard for the first glass of red wine of the day before going to see Arthur Smith perform in ‘Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen’. While waiting to be served the guy in front of me who was being served a glass of white wine said to the member of the bar staff ‘oh good girl you managed to serve that without spilling a drop’. Maybe it was the phrase or maybe it was his irritating voice or maybe I just needed a drink but it sounded so condescending and patronising. It’s times like this that you wished you had the wit of an Arthur Smith and could come up with a really good put down or failing that your good manners didn’t get in the way of you picking the drink up and throwing it over him. It would have been worth the price of a drink and a dry cleaning bill.
Arthur Smith himself was in the canopied bar of the courtyard, there’s very little in the way of a ‘fourth wall’ around here, while waiting for his call to perform. Ah to rub shoulders with the great and the good. If only I had remembered to bring my copy of his autobiography that I had been reading on the train up to Edinburgh I could have been really rude and intruded into his quiet time and asked him to sign it, I wonder if he would have signed it Arthur Smith or Daphne Fairfax? Or just ‘To a really rude twat who intruded into my quiet time, if only I drank I could have thrown it over him’.
The flyer for Arthur Smith had told me that his Leonard Cohen show had gone out on Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra, not sure what the difference is, maybe more lines and roller skating floor walkers like Tesco. Anyway I don’t have a radio so I hadn’t heard it.
Arthur Smith actually has a pretty good singing voice, I don’t know why I was surprised, and he was more than ably supported by his three woman backing band ‘The Smithereens’.
Arthur Smith took us through the best of Leonard Cohen and even did Hallelujah in a way that Leonard, who must be sick of singing the song, would have enjoyed. I hope that song still brings Leonard plenty of money from all the covers that have been made of it both good and bad. I think Leonard may need it after his personal financial crisis in 2005. Two years later the world would follow suit with its own financial crisis, Leonard always ahead of the game.
After an hour of great comedy, some very moving reminiscences, an explanation of the world shortage in exclamation marks, great singing from both Arthur and the Smithereens and excellent keyboard and trumpet playing the show was brought to an end in a way that had to be seen to be believed. It’s probably the best ending to a show at the festival and that is no over the top hype.
Planning ahead and making sure of some tickets for shows that are must sees like Arthur Smith, or Banksy: The Room in the Elephant or Eilish O’Carroll (spoiler alert – she comes out as a lesbian! Who saw that coming!) is wise but it’s a good thing to just take a punt on something that is ‘pay what you think’. These are often in pubs so beer is on tap, yum yum.
Over to Dram House in Guthrie Street for ‘Who Ya Gonna Call’ and a walk up a flight of nose bleed inducing stairs, the kind you only get in Edinburgh and into an attic room to get a beer and get comfy, not to close to the front though just in case the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man turns up.
‘Who Ya Gonna Call’ is a free show I would have paid good money to see and on the way out I did. It is a comedy about ‘Ghostbusters’. A comedy about a comedy. We are on double time comedy already. The three guys, Katy, Tom and Jon are superb actors, singers and writers. That impression of ‘Venkman’, the hand to the head one, was as if Bill Murray had walked in the room, although he may have been a bit out of breath with those stairs.
To get the disparity in height between Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver one of the actors sat in a wheeled chair and looked up at the object of his desires all doe eyed while wheeling himself about. Seeing that written doesn’t sound funny but the scene where Louis Tully is wandering, or wheeling, up and down the corridor trying to get Dana Barrett to go to his party is fall out of your chair funny. Thankfully though Louis Tully didn’t fall out of his chair.
The show is child friendly too. They tone down the discussion on phallic symbolism in the movie and white stuff squirting about to suit the audience or an audience member just covers the child’s ears, whatever is easier.
It’s nice to listen to those flyer people. They have a hard enough job standing there dressed up as an astronaut, a bottle of aspirin or an impoverished student. Then they have to hand out flyers and then they have to give the elevator pitch as to why this is the must see show in Edinburgh. But they know the shows better than anyone and the flyer girl described Liam Williams as a cross between Jack Dee and Eddie Izzard. Although not ‘a pay what you think show’ the show was in a pub called The Tron so beer was readily available and the locals were a lovely set of people and didn’t seem to mind their pub being invaded by a load of luvvies.
This gig was in the basement and was down a flight of nose bleed inducing stairs the kind you only get in Edinburgh, oh I think I said something similar above. Liam Williams spent about ten or so minutes pacing up and down between the sound desk and the bar, not a huge area to pace, before going on. I guess it must be nerve wracking waiting to go on but when he did the audience took to him immediately.
You will have seen some great comedy acts in the past where you leave and someone asks what they were like and you can’t remember a single joke they cracked. I can’t remember a single joke Liam Williams cracked. I was too busy laughing and thinking yeah too right mate. I do remember him asking the audience to stop applauding as he still had things to say which must show some kind of confidence.
Was he like Jack Dee or Eddie Izzard? He has a little bit of a dead pan delivery but he comes across as too nice a bloke to be Jack Dee. His material is similar to Eddie Izzard in its breadth and insight but there was an absence of eyeliner and transvestism. But if you have to describe someone in terms of what we already have the flyer girl got pretty close with her elevator pitch. The flyer girl also described him as like your mate in the pub who says funny, clever things. Except Liam Williams says very, very funny and very, very clever things.