Not The Messiah - Three’s Company
Not the Messiah – Three’s Company
1st – 24th August, 1pm
For their 7th year at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Three’s Company brings us Not The Messiah; a fascinating, amusing yet emotional snapshot of the life of Graham Chapman, the only non-surviving member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
The role of Chapman is played by George Telfer, whose extensive repertoire of one man shows shines through in Not The Messiah; he switches through a spectrum of characters, all of whom influenced Chapman’s life. There is an element of meta-theatre to the show; Telfer plays Chapman, who then plays John Cleese, his father, significantly a policeman, and countless others. Telfer’s acting skill is outstanding, the way he conveys these varying personalities essentially creates the comedic aspect to the show, as well as embellishing the story. Telfer conveys the emotions and relationships between Chapman and these characters exceptionally well; his expression is spot on.
The set and props used are remarkably simple, yet creative. A hospital curtain became multipurpose, and the use of a phone is very significant. The show is a narrative framed by two telephone calls with Chapman’s partner David. The latter brings about a very natural conclusion; we all feel that sense of an impending ending, except for, it seems, the person on the other side of the line. After nigh on an hour getting to know the life and character of Chapman, the audience feels a sense of empathy towards him, and the inevitable end becomes quite the tearjerker.
The performance takes place in a portakabin off the Courtyard site, Pleasance This. Despite looking like little more than a toilet block from the outside, it’s a delightfully intimate space seating just over 50 people. This is a perfect setting for Not the Messiah; exploring Chapman’s struggle with alcoholism and homophobia with such a small audience seems innately natural, meaningful and personal.
Although the performance has a serious and emotional story, Three’s Company pay homage to Python itself by interspersing the narrative with absurd and downright silly humour. Though being a Python fan isn’t prerequisite to enjoy Not The Messiah, the writers have really hit the nail on the head with the accessibility of the show. Some awareness of the concept would probably help, but the powerful storytelling can enthral even a Python novice.
The team behind Not The Messiah, Three’s Company, was formed in 2000 by Tom Crawshaw, Yaz Al-Shaater and Michael Grady-Hall. The trio have had great success both nationally and specifically to the Fringe. Six years in a row they’ve received a wave of 5-star feedback for shows such as Play on Words and The World’s Greatest Walking Tour of Edinburgh. Not the Messiah has been no exception, and is definitely a must see at this year’s festival.
by Francesca Lawson
'Under' - EP REVIEW
Spitfire Hostels, having just played their first gig; at Newcastle City Library, as part of a youth open-day are to release an EP. ‘Under’, from the ‘That Old Beige’ EP, out now online, is a neat and tidy first single from the young North-East band. Recognisant of early Metronomy, the riffs sink effortlessly into the rhythm and sound of the song. The drum beats are sharp, and the overall effect is that of an experienced musicianship. Spitfire Hostels should be proud of a single which shows such promise, a potential and a professional sound for the band. This song is ready for radio – try to catch them before they take off.
An Interview With Field Music
It is a warm July day in Sunderland. We are sitting in a small recording studio in an industrial estate near the river. The room is packed with loose bits of foam sound-proofing and pianos and keyboard stands, guitars and boxes of percussion. I try not to sit anywhere where I might break something.
The studio belongs to Peter and David Brewis, who are part of one of the North East’s most critically acclaimed bands of recent years, ‘Field Music’. They have been described as ‘one of the smartest rock bands out there’, and are their albums are regularly greeted with shining reviews from the likes of Pitchfork, Q, Mojo and various other magazines. Joining us are Spitfire Hostels, who had just played their first gig; at Newcastle City Library, as part of a youth open-day. We asked them if they wanted to come along to talk to Field Music about making the leap from school-band to indie-rock stardom.
"The Daily Grind, The Moral Wealth, A Portrait of The National Health"
Maximo Park have certainly come back fighting, with their fourth studio album The National Health.
Returning back to basics, the album is an echo of their first release A Certain Trigger: big sound, high energy, indie-pop-rock-genre anonymous. This album pulls from a wide variety of styles; eighties synth meets punk guitars, meets dance rhythms. Imagine it as a nostalgic pick and mix: The Park have created their own unique musical concoction. Lead singer Paul Smith really shows off his range in this one, transforming seamlessly from belting out power choruses of Waves of Fear and Write this Down to the smooth lullaby-like melody of Unfamiliar Places. However, The National Health isn’t going to send anyone to sleep very soon. Up-tempo, edgy, erratic guitar riffs make for some anthemic tunes almost written to be played in crowded rooms.
A highlight from the album, as with all Maximo’s efforts, would have to be the eloquence and wit of lyric smith Paul. He brilliantly conveys an entire spectrum of emotions; the title track is a satirical, cynical critique on modern society: “The daily grind, the moral wealth/ a family bound by means of stealth/ a portrait of the National Health”. Many of the songs on this album do have melancholy undertones, like the dramatic opener When I was Wild, showing off fourth album maturity and depth. The album is basically a thirteen song poetry anthology set to guitars, bass, keys and drums.
A song worth drawing particular attention to is the latest single The Undercurrents. One of the softer ones on the album, with an “oh la la la” backing reminiscent of a bygone musical era, it’s essentially a nice, atmospheric, melodic love song. Yes, I did just use that ‘n’ word,’nice’, because that’s what it is: relatively simple, and unlikely to offend.
The National Health is a valiant effort from Maximo Park, and I only hope it can match the timelessness of A Certain Trigger. However, I doubt it’s going to fuel their mainstream career. Maximo just seem more suited to being low key, even retaining local ties in the form of geographic references and covert prestige.
Maximo Park - “The National Health” Tour
Maximo Park made their return to home turf after three years, with a superb, sell-out show at the O2 Academy Newcastle.
Support came from a six piece French export, La Femme, creating an eclectic, genre-ambiguous noise from too many synthesisers. They certainly did a good job of warming up the crowd; it’s just a shame it was due to a craving for some decent music.
By the sheer volume coming from the audience alone, it was clear this was a home crowd; eager for Maximo’s return. The band opened on a melancholy note, beginning with the atmospheric When I Was Wild taken from their latest album. The peace didn’t last long; with the frenzied, erratic riffs of The National Health, the floor was already jumping.
It’s a good job the fourth album was released prior to the tour, as the new tracks were received the same as the classics: hands in the air and relentless crowd chanting. The sign of a satisfied audience. Acrobat, an emotional ballad from A Certain Trigger had its first airing in a while, saved for the home show. A varied setlist kept proceedings thoroughly enthralling, moving from such slower, lyrical songs as This Is What Becomes of The Brokenhearted, to major anthem Going Missing.
The Park are on trademark form, with ineffable energy. Singer Paul Smith’s avid gesticulation and hip wiggling endured throughout; all the while battling with the microphone stand. One distinct feature of Maximo concerts is the level of audience interaction; every time the chorus of Questing, Not Coasting came around, Smith would point at a different audience member to sing “Hey you, what’s new?”, and explaining song meanings added a personal touch. Songs were interspersed with the traditional audience banter; “It’s good to be back – I had a bath in my own house!” brought about raucous cheering from local fans.
There’s something special and homely about the O2 Academy; compared to the Arena, the venue for the band’s 2007 sell out tour. At least Maximo Park seemed completely comfortable and relaxed in their surroundings, pulling off a brilliant, charismatic performance. Welcome home.
Seize the David O’Doherty
The Stand is no more than a dark basement when Sam the Sound Man has turned down the house lights for David O’Doherty to take to the stage. David, as always, begins his set with his famous ‘unnecessarily long off-stage intro’, and immediately after, the tension is high, and you’re in that right mood you need to be in for some classic O’Doherty.
This being his first time touring to Newcastle, it feels like the ‘unnecessarily long off-stage intro’ has been hanging in anticipation since 2000, after his first proper Edinburgh Fringe show. But now he’s here; wrestling through a full house to get to the stage, in a basement with the riotous echo of eager applause.
David appeared to enjoy having more time to play with, now that his show is free from Fringe boundaries. In the first half an hour of his show, David spent time getting to know his audience; although this didn’t really pay off in Newcastle, where his fans are young and more likely to still be studying. He picked up a lady from the audience’s shoe box. The shoes weren’t for her.
When back on from in the second half, O’Doherty retreated back into his shell; which although didn’t engage the room as dynamically as the first half was supposed to, did allow a better mode for channelling some fine David O’Quality (- and by this I mean his excellent comic rhythm and droll tone).
Being most well-known for his tiny keyboard, the old favourite ‘Party Time’ certainly got us all ‘excited’; and the friendly atmosphere that his stage presence exuberates make the room feel ‘all invited’.
David expands his comic range on stage, from more than just the ‘witty doofus’ we’ve seen of him from the panel shows, to some pretty solid stand-up; containing, in his own words ‘some actual jokes’! Although, he still works best as ‘Cabaret-vide O’Doherty’, it is his combination of whimsical storytelling, sarcasm and song that is still true to his past material.
Fresh from the Fringe: Frisky and Mannish
Continuing our Fresh from the Fringe feature, Scott Weddell talks to Laura Corcoran, the ‘Frisky’ half of the sublime cabaret duo ‘Frisky and Mannish’; Edinburgh Fringe favourites and stars of Scott Mills’ Fun and Filth Cabaret.
SW: So then, what can we expect from your tour?
F: It’s based on our Edinburgh show, but because it’s longer, we’ve added some of our old favourites and a whole new bit where we interview Cheryl Cole! – Big pop silliness.
SW: How would you describe what it is you do in one word?
F: I would just say ‘ridiculous’. It is ‘ridiculous’; the things that we do to the songs. It’s ‘ridiculous’ to think that this is a thing we can do for a job and it’s something you can go and buy tickets for! Pure silliness.
A particular favourite song of ours in ‘Student Review Towers’ is Frisky and Mannish’s ‘Kate Bush in the style of Kate Nash’ (‘Wuvverin’ Wuvverin’ Wuvverin’ Heights’?)
SW: Have any of the artists you’ve ‘ridiculous-ed’ responded to the way you’ve ridiculed them?
F: There’s only two… which we’re comfortable with. Kate Nash was extremely sweet about it, which was endearing
After Radio 1, we got a tweet from Wigfield [‘Saturday Night’] herself! It’s weird that we now have more Twitter followers than them…
Frisky and Mannish are now touring Frisky and Mannish: Extra Curricular Activities till the end of December. – They will be appearing at The Stand Newcastle on 27th November.
Pappy’s Last Show Ever
Pappy’s Last Show Ever is thankfully no ‘closing down sale’. Set under the premise of aged Ben, Tom and Matthew’s flashbacks to their ‘Last Show Ever’, the now ancient team (Matthew wearing glasses over his glasses is surely a sign of very old age) are remembering how that fearful night left them divided – by the trio of temptations: wealth, fame and true love; each of which are punctuated sharply with a series of interlinking sketches. The latter, the true love sketch, takes a lady from the audience and supposedly follows her love life from Ben to grave; with a whirlwind of props flung about by Tom and Matthew. The end result smacks of a cheesy dating website advert – An effect we can be sure that they intended.
Pappy’s relaxed stage presence is warming, and carries their laid-back style of presentation well. Although the cast’s self-awareness is endearing, I do hope they lose the faux ‘corpsing’ by the end of the tour.
For these veterans of the Edinburgh Fringe, it is good to see that their show treads well on tour, unearthing new ground and reaching a larger audience. A highlight of the first half (a prologue made of the oldest and best sketches) is ‘A Bobsleigh Team’s Working Lunch’; As trivial, ludicrous and immature as that may sound… Well, that is exactly what the show is about. Their integrity is kept, due to the evident care and attention they give to the genre; maintaining a welcoming, professional and thoroughly entertaining hour and a half of comedy.
The overall flashback premise allows for a swift movement through the sketches; keeping their act slick and on the ball. This show serves to affirm Pappy’s legendary status and professional legacy in the field of sketch comedy.