Today was Robin Ince day, and why not. It began at Canon’s Gait, for his show Carl Sagan is still my god in which he compered a science-based stand-up show, with Helen Keen, John-Luke Roberts, someone I can’t remember the name of, argh!, and Professor Richard Wiseman. All were entertaining and elucidating, as was Robin himself.
Next to the GRV (I’ve clearly been lucky missing all the power cuts) for Robin Ince and Michael Legge with Pointless Anger, Righteous Ire, where they did lots of shouting about things – including those suggested by the audience such as people who are walking in front of you in the street and then stop randomly, and getting annoyed by critics who just write down where they’ve been and what they’ve seen (oh well, sorry Robin, this is more just for my memory than any actual criticism in the sense of the word 🙂 ). It was Michael’s birthday so they handed out whisky to the crowd and we all sang him an angry Happy Birthday. Michael at some points did look like he could do himself a serious internal injury if he keeps us this level of anger, I hope he’ll be okay.
A pause to Robin Ince now, as we head over to the Under- and Udder-bellies, first for the Fitzrovia Radio Hour, a hilarious telling of three wartime radio shows as if we were the radio studio audience – complete with silent cast hatred, low-budget sound effects and frequent adverts for Rose’s Carbolic Soap. I see the Guardian have already written the perfect review with “Just the right mix of fondness and irreverence”, so we’ll go with that.
The Magnets performed their a cappella, accompanied by a human beatbox (Andy Frost), perfectly – no matter how much I looked at the man doing bass and the man doing drums, you kept forgetting it was them producing these sounds and not some off-stage instruments. This was compounded when Andy Frost performed a routine on his own, putting together all the others’ parts and creating more simultaneous sounds than seemed possible from the one mouth.
Robin Ince now asked Why? back at Canon’s Gait, where he had a stack of postcards on topics and was going to ask the audience to choose from them. I say was going to because he didn’t get round to this until the latter stages of the act, which was a tiny bit disappointing as some of the material before then had been the same as in other shows I’d seen today (not to unexpected given the amount Robin is doing, I don’t want to seem churlish, it was still funny!). But there was more than enough new material too, even before the postcards – on banal sex, or a horror theme park ride by Ingrid Bergman, or his son’s sense of wonder.
A quick 30-minute walk across town to the Eric Liddell Centre for what would undoubtedably be the strangest evening of the fringe. Robin Ince has a book out, about his quest through second hand book shops for the Books That Taste Forgot. Firstly, we had some readings from his book itself, but this was followed by readings from Killer Crabs or Night of the Crabs with various musical accompaniments. We had Stewart Lee accompanied by Charlotte Young on spoons, Kevin Eldon accompanied by Josie long on swanee whistle, Helen Arney performing a lovely that-day-written song about the side of killer crabs we don’t think about, plus jazz trumpet from Steve Pretty and tap dancing. Hilarious, mad, wonderful.
Then it was all the way back to town for Frisky and Mannish’s one-off and final showing of The School of Pop. I’ll confess to never hearing of them, but was recommended by friends, and I’m glad they did. From their version of No Scrubs sung by Queen Elizabeth I to explain Tudor foreign policy, to their Kate Nash version of Wuthering Heights, to my favourite, the nursery rhyme version of Sound of the Underground (including Wheels on the Bus, Old Macdonald and Mary had a little lamb), this was some sophisticated and flawlessly performed singing and piano playing. Their medleys were also great – we had one based on Destiny’s Child’s Independent Woman (“Question”) but with questions from just about every pop song with a question in it, one horror-themed one (Total Eclipse of the Heart has never seemed more frightening), one on love, one on leaving at the end (Go now always bringing back memories of Return to the Forbidden Planet). A lovely end to a great day.