Counter Culture Interview with Radu Isac

raduisac

Radu Isak: “cynical and tricksy”?

You’ve been described as “simultaneously sweet and dark” and “cynical and tricksy”. Our own review of your show described your comedy as “dark and edgy”. Do you think these are fair descriptions?

I like them. I think they describe my personality and if I managed to get that across in my comedy that makes me happy.

Some of your jokes might be deemed offensive to some. You discuss some potentially sensitive issues like depression. Do you worry about causing offence? How do you deal with the possibility that some might be offended? Do you think there is a right not to be offended?

I don’t really believe there is a right not to be offended. I do think about offending people though. If a joke gets one person upset in a live show that ruins the flow of the gig. Doesn’t matter if the person is right to be upset or not. My work that evening is still ruined. I listen to what offended people have to say. It’s always constructive. I can either edit the joke to include their viewpoint. Or add another layer to the joke to contradict it.

In Good Excuses for Sociopaths, you talk about keeping the audience liking you. Is it working and how do you do it?

I am mostly joking when I say that I want everyone to like me. Of course, a lot of people don’t and won’t like me. I’m happy with that. Wanting everyone to like you seems like a very constrictive way of life. 
But generally, I think if people are laughing they are liking me. Most of them came to the comedy show to laugh.

Do you feel that comedy, in general, has any social responsibilities to avoid topics or deal with them in a certain way?

I honestly like all types of comedy. From musical to prop and even magic sometimes. If it brings a smile to someone’s face I’m happy it exists. The only type of comedy I don’t like is the preaching to the choir and learning genres. I think those comedians should get into politics, teaching or motivational speaking and stop hijacking comedy. Comedy has a responsibility to itself to never become another disciplines bitch. If the teacher does a joke in a chemistry course, it’s still a chemistry course. I wouldn’t want the Professor to start teaching chemistry in comedy clubs under the pretext that they’re doing comedy.

You’ve worked in different countries. Have you noticed differences in the way audiences from different nations react to your comedy?

I have noticed big differences between cities in the UK and even the boroughs of London. I don’t think the differences between countries are bigger than that. Generally, in my experience, wealth, education, class and sobriety are the big important parameters of differentiating audiences.

You draw on your Romanian background to highlight some differences between Romania in the past and what used to be referred to as “the West”. Clearly, we know a little about the bad side of Romania in the past but were there any areas which were better than what you’ve seen in the UK?

Well, we always did better at gymnastics than the UK. And I’m sure there are a couple of other areas where we always surpassed you. But in my show, I was mostly addressing the differences between communist Romania and capitalist Romania. I like to highlight the negative parts of our transition to capitalism. As I feel “The West” only ever talks about the positive ones.

The reaction of the audience at Good Excuses for Sociopaths I attended was very good and people were talking about it on the way out after and in the bar area. What kind of feedback have you been getting for your show?

I’m very happy to hear that. One of the main reasons for doing controversial material is to get people talking about me. I’ve mostly been getting positive reactions as well. Writing the jokes was the tough part. I had to try out suicide and genocide material sneakily in London. People still react well to edgy jokes in 2019. But no one reacts well to edgy work in progress jokes. You get branded as a risky booking way faster and more permanently than with other jokes that fall flat.

Have you seen any Fringe shows yourself? Are there any you really enjoyed?

I haven’t seen enough. I really enjoyed all that I’ve seen. Leo Kearse, Rich Wilson, Luca Cupani, Tony Law, Phil Nicol, Tania Edwards, John Kearns, Olie Horn, Darius Davies.

What next after the Fringe?

Back to the grind, I guess. I have a lot of shows booked around the UK and Europe. Will use them to write and hone new material. And hopefully, be back with a new offensive but fair and considerate hour next year.

Radu was interviewed by Pat Harrington

Radu Isac is currently giving ‘Good Excuses for Sociopaths’ at the fringe. Tickets can be purchased here.

The Counter Culture review is here.

#edinburghfringe2019 #edinburghfringe

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Chaika: First Woman in Space 

chaikatheSpace on North Bridge – Argyll Theatre
14:20, 18:20
Aug 22-24
50 minutes
Suitability: 12+ (Guideline)
Group: Acting Coach Scotland

The “Chaika” of the title was the codename given to Valentina Tereshkova, who became the first woman in space on 16 June 1963 and is Russian for seagull.

This play brought to us by Acting Coach Scotland is both informative and entertaining and tells the story of her life from a young girl who lost her father to war, had her schooling delayed by the war and who as a young woman went to work in a factory and became an avid parachutist in her free time, a path that was ultimately to lead to her trip into space.

The all-female cast takes turns at telling Tereshkova’s story with a Russian Cyrillic Velcro name badge being at times passed from actress to actress and Nikita Krushchev is even briefly depicted as the ultimate arbiter of which of the female cosmonauts will go on the mission. Props are minimal and some effective use of lighting techniques helps to take the audience into space with Tereshkova.

Prior to watching this play, I had only a basic knowledge of Tereshkova’s story and the information that I gleaned from this production has resulted in me going on to read further about her. The cast of “Chaika: First Woman in Space” convey real energy and enthusiasm for telling her story and this play is very much worth going to see.

Reviewed by David Andrews
#edinburghfringe2019 #edinburghfringe

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Interview with Eddy Brimson

naughtyboy

Eddy Brimson as Joe in Naughty Boy

Eddy Brimson is currently performing in Naughty Boy at the Edinburgh Fringe.

1) You have written about football hooliganism in the past; how did that equip you to create the character of Joe? Is he perhaps based on, or in part on, a particular individual that you encountered in this world or is he a product of the parts of several different people?

I have written a few books on football fan culture and the violence that can go with it. Back in the late ’70s and early 80’s I was involved in the darker side of football and so I have a good knowledge of the subject. The books blew open the stereotypical view of what a football hooligan was and his background and so they made quite a stir. This play has been adapted from the book I’d written, which I will now release as an audiobook post Festival. There is quite a lot of personal experience in the character as well as attitude. I hope the political side of Joe comes across. he is definitely a man of the people, or the cogs, as he puts it. There is a lot of Them against Us in his thinking. There is a political edge to his outlook on the world.

2) Previously, you’ve worked in comedy. What inspired you to venture into the rather dark world of Joe?

I am a full-time comedian, I’ve been pro for 17 years and I’m very lucky to be so. I think that if you are a creative person you need to test yourself. And this has been one hell of a test.

3) Joe expresses the view that violence makes him feel truly alive. Can you explain why Joe feels this way? How did you understand his motivation to participate in violence?

Violence sets Joe free from the weights life places upon his shoulders. In such moments nothing else matters, he feels truly himself and so that is the motivation that drives him.

4) Joe seems to hold ‘normal’ life and people in contempt. Why do you think that is? Does he see himself as better than them?

Joe holds those that follow the herd in contempt. He despises those that just follow trends as he feels they have just given in and handed themselves over to being what those he sees as controlling us want rather than who they truly want and should be.

5) How important is being part of a group for Joe?

I think being part of the group reassures Joe that he is not alone. That said, he is a violent man, and a violent man will always find a fight alone or not.

6) What sort of reaction and feedback have you been getting from audiences?

The play has exceeded all expectations. I’ve never attempted anything like this before and the kind words on my ability to pull it off, both from punters and reviewers are really encouraging. Whoever, the most important thing for me is the writing. People seem to really like and understand it. That is just amazing.

7) Where next with “Naughty Boy”? Do you plan on performing it elsewhere? Is it a genre that you would continue next year at The Fringe with another show or repeat?

I would love to tour this, and a few offers have been made and so fingers crossed. My next aim is to record the audiobook. That’ll be a good 4 hours plus so it’ll take a while to knock that into shape as the play has evolved and that will affect the style of the book, and then who knows. Next year seems a long way off but it has been such a great experience that I am already tempted, which means I’ll be back. Maybe something lighter next year.

8) What other projects are you working on just now?

As I’ve said, the audiobook and seeing about a tour for the play will be top of the list as I need to keep the momentum going. I’d love to get an agent for the acting and writing side of things as well. Aside from that, it’ll be back on the road doing the stand-up with a tour of Asia to look forward to in October, which’ll be nice …. Onwards

Tickets for Naughty Boy can be purchased here

The Counter Culture review of Naughty Boy is here

 

 

Eddy Brimson was interviewed by Pat Harrington
#edinburghfringe2019 #edinburghfringe

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Interview with Aletia Upstairs

aletiaupstairsandpatrick

Patrick Harrington with Aletia Upstairs

Interview with Aletia Upstairs who is currently starring in her fringe show ‘A Queer Love of Dix’

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be a performer?

I come from Cape Town, South Africa. I’ve lived in London for the last 12 years. Apparently, I had an hour and a half of singing repertoire at the age of 18 months. My parents met on stage in a school play, so it was my destiny.

Do you hold strong political opinions? How would you describe them?

I come from South Africa….Our country changed a hell of a lot during my first few years at university. I couldn’t really see myself being involved with political cabaret in South Africa because everything had to be so PC. And of course, cabaret SHOULD be political. A Queer Love of Dix is my most political show to date and it is still quite mild, I think.

My political opinion is simply that everyone should be treated equally. I grew up seeing the inequality in South Africa…and I became more and more aware of that as I grew older. My idea of feminism is tied in with this view.

You cover some great songs from the Weimar period in your show, (“Pirate Jenny”, “It’s All a Swindle” and “The Lavender Song” to give a few examples). Do you have a song that you like to listen to more than the others and is that different from one that you really like to perform?

I don’t really listen to my show music when I am performing it, as I would get sick of it, and because I listen to it A LOT when I’m learning it. Recently I was listening to ‘Just a Gigolo’ in German (‘Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo’) the Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester version, on a loop… constantly…on my bicycle, in the tube, in order to learn the German words. This song was composed in 1928 by Leonello Casucci to lyrics written in 1924 by Julius Brammer. I am interested in the history of the songs (maybe because of my Musicology studies) and with that – especially Lavender Song (‘Das Lila Lied’), which was composed by Mischa Spoliansky under the pseudonym Arno Billing.

You describe Weimar as a ‘utopia’. How far do you think our impression of 1924-29 of Weimar in this period is skewed by Berlin’s reputation as a city where “anything went”? Do you think this vision of Berlin has made us forget that it wasn’t typical of the country, traditional attitudes persisting particularly in small-town and rural areas and amongst the older generation?

I think, most of what we are aware of through say the Cabaret movie – as this is the first taste of that world for many, is the decadence and hedonism of the period…but then there is a part in the movie where the people in the countryside sing a folk song and make the Nazi salute. This makes me think a lot about Brexit, since it was mainly the people in the rural areas who voted out. The people in the cities – London, at least, were generally not that positive about Brexit.

Berlin, in the 1920s, was a forward-looking place though. There were many lesbian and gay bars. People had this little taste of freedom just before the worst event in history set in. When you go on a walking tour in Berlin, specifically The Christopher Isherwood’s Neighbourhood walking tour http://www.isherwoods-neighbourhood.com/  you learn a lot about the LGBTQI community at the time, but also about how people were taken away to concentration camps. There are these little plaques at the entrances of certain homes with people’s names and when they were taken, whereto and when and where they died.

During the Weimar Republic, homosexuality was certainly tolerated but it wasn’t legal (The 1871 Code which criminalised it wasn’t repealed until 1994). Also, outside of Berlin, social attitudes were still very conservative. The Eulenburg Scandal in 1907-8 drew attention to the goings-on in the Kaiser’s own circle, where the death in 1908 from a heart attack of the Chief of the Military Cabinet while dancing in the Kaiser’s presence dressed in a ballerina’s tutu added to rumours that the Kaiser was bi-sexual. The point, however, is that it WAS a scandal. The magazine “Simplicissimus”, the “Private Eye” of its day, made sure of that. The Nazis hated Weimar culturally as well as politically. Would you accept that, to a degree, they reflected the opinion of many in this regard?

In the show, I say it was ‘permitted’. Of course, generally, social attitudes were still very conservative, but we always think about the majority being cisgender. Is that really the case though? Was that the case then? Is that the case now? Or are many, many people just going along with societal norms which are based on gender norms dictated by the main religions?
Are you saying that the general public didn’t agree with the liberal lifestyle practiced in the Weimar Republic? I guess not…and that’s one reason for the Nazis rise to power. They had the populist support in combination with the support of those who were fearful of opposing them. Of course, we know that the Weimar Republic was, as I say in the show, ‘an attempt at a perfect democracy’, but it failed because it had some major flaws.

This makes me think of Apartheid South Africa, again, where I know, for a fact, that white people were killed who opposed the government, so, as a result, some people just took the easy way out, ignorant, or oblivious of what they were actually supporting.

Have Brecht, Weill, Isherwood, etc. captured our imagination and distorted our perception of the country and period?

Generally, people are more au fait with Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret than with any of them. Based on the movie, I wanted to be Sally Bowles. When I was in my early twenties, I used to write my bio as ‘Aletia Upstairs wants to be Sally Bowles’, but Isherwood’s Sally Bowles is quite different from the Liza Minelli version everyone knows. Naturally, I wanted to explore the period more and more.

None of them paint a purely utopian picture of the Weimar Republic and Berlin of the time, however, I would say that Otto Dix with his New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) style gives us a much more realistic view of the period. This is why I had to combine his work with the music, some of which quite well-known, of Brecht and Weill.

Do you think that our own period in our own country where homosexuality is legal, and discrimination outlawed still struggles with negative social attitudes amongst some?

Absolutely, yes. There are still numerous homophobic attacks taking place. The two lesbians who were attacked on a bus is in London, for example…that happened on May 30th.

What can we do to win hearts and minds and change these attitudes?

Keep preaching…to the non-converted. I’m trying to change some people’s perceptions with this show. I rejoice in the fact that cisgender people can sing along to the words ‘We’re not afraid to be queer and different’. It is educational in a subtle way. And if they didn’t know that we say intersex these days, rather than hermaphrodite, they will when they leave the show. I hope that experiencing the show might open their hearts and minds and make people more accepting of the whole LGBTQI spectrum. I think, in a small way, I am accomplishing that.

What attracts you to the culture of the Weimar period so strongly?

I had that image of Anita Berber, used for the poster, as an inspirational picture for many years before I made the show. Although cabaret did not originate in the Weimar Republic or, more specifically Berlin, it is the kind of cabaret similar to how it was performed in South Africa when I was growing up and the way I was trained in cabaret.

Why do you think that many are fascinated by the Goldene Zwanziger (“Golden Twenties”) of Weimar?

This was a moment in history when, like I say in the show, the outsider could be the insider. It was a time of an explosion in artistic activity and personal freedom. The New Objectivity style, used by Otto Dix, originated during this time. Androgyny was fashionable, as documented by Dix’s painting of Sylvia von Harden. It was the time when women cut their hair in the bob hairstyle. This act, in particular, indicated more freedom for women, in particular.

You feature the work of Otto Dix in your show as a backdrop to your singing. What connects his work to the songs for you?
I see it as his work illustrating the songs. I have never seen Brecht and Weill performed in, as I call it, the world of Otto Dix, but I feel that they were talking about the same things, so I thought it would work well in combination.

Who/what do you blame for Hitler’s rise to power and how might it have been prevented?

As I say in the show, in the Weimar Republic, the left and the right could not come to an agreeable compromise, and meanwhile, nationalism was rising. The Weimar Republic’s democracy was flawed. The people were too passive; they went along with the Nazi party for what it promised them – employment and so on which was necessary following the Depression and the period of hyperinflation. I think a lot of people didn’t know what they were letting themselves in for until it was too late.

How has the audience reaction been to the show? What kind of feedback have you had?

People have said it’s been educational, thought-provoking and enjoyable. That’s my intention…exactly that. I don’t want it to be like a lecture, but I do want people to feel that they’ve learned something from it: maybe take another look at their own attitudes to the Other. Some have said it was unique, which is nice to know.

Have you ever thought of presenting the content of your show in another format – a documentary or book for example?

No, not at all, but on a previous project I collaborated with a documentary writer, so it’s not out of the question. I just have to see what opportunities come my way.

What plans do you have for shows in the future?

I am hoping to tour this show to other parts of Europe. I am in negotiations about taking it to Romania and Germany. I don’t have a plan for another show at the moment. It will come when the time is right.

Tickets for A Queer Love of Dix are available from:https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/queer-love-of-dix

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Radu Isac: Good Excuses for Sociopaths

raduisac

Radu Isac: dark and edgy comedy

Comedy (satire, stand-up)
Venue
27
Just the Tonic at The Grassmarket Centre – Just The Meeting Room
20:30
Aug 16-25
1 hour
Suitability: 16+ (Guideline)

If you like your comedy dark and edgy then this is the show for you. If you are in need of a ‘safe space’ then probably not! Radu Isac isn’t afraid to push boundaries and buttons. Yet as he explains he wants to keep the audience onside and still like him. He says that he got into comedy because he realised he could say things that might offend but still keep friends if he said he was joking!

I found it refreshing that at a time when comedy is coming under pressure to conform Radu talked about difficult subjects like depression, suicide, and male sexual desire. He did this in a way that revealed some truths through the humour. He is a very skilled comedian with a dry wit.

The audience loved it and I think you will too.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

You can buy a ticket here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/…/radu-isac-good-excuses-for-s…

#edfringe #edfringe2019 #edinburghfringe2019

 

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Yesterday (2019)

Yesterday_(2019_poster)

A feel-good movie 

PG-13 | 1h 56min
Dir: Danny Boyle. Starring: Himesh Patel, Lily James, Ed Sheeran (as himself), Joel Fry, Kate McKinnon, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal.

The basic plot is preposterous – a down-at-heel musician (Jack Malik) wakes up in an alternate reality where no one has heard of the Beatles. He sets about releasing their songs as his own to great acclaim.

Of course, the music is great (and reminds you just how versatile the Beatles were). There is a bit of a side-swipe at Oasis who don’t exist without The Beatles but other music exists unchanged. That’s a bit unfair on Oasis and also doesn’t give a true indication of how much of our modern music is Beatles influenced. The hole in our culture left by taking the Beatles out could have been explored more in the film and that’s really my only criticism.

At heart, though this is a RomCom about the relationship between Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) and Ellie Appleton (Lily James). Yesterday delivers a simple, upbeat message that love is all you need (where did they get that idea from?!). It does this in a very funny way. I loved Ed Sheeran (playing himself) and the hard-nosed Kate McKinnon as Jack’s manager. I found Kate (played by Kathryn McKinnon Berthold) very funny with her hard-nosed, unsentimental business viewpoint playing well off the increasingly doubting Jack. Her role hasn’t been mentioned much in reviews but, for me, it was one of the comedy highlights.

I couldn’t help but leave this film humming ‘Hey Jude’ and feeling a little more positive about the world. “Feel-good movie” is a cliche but also a very accurate description of Yesterday.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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Ask A Stripper

askastripperHeroes @ Bob’s BlundaBus – Top Deck
19:50
Aug 5-13, 15-20, 22-25
55 minutes
Suitability: 18+ (Restriction)
Country: United Kingdom – Scotland
Group: Gypsy Charms and Stacey Clare/ Heroes / PWYW
Warnings and additional info: Buy a ticket in advance to guarantee entry or Pay What You Want at the venue. Audience Participation, Nudity, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Strong Language/Swearing

What have you always wanted to ask a stripper? This show gives you your chance. Gypsy and Stacey confidently field any question from the audience with humour and intelligence. The questions on the night I attended were very varied. Being a political animal I asked about power relations between the stripper and their client. Others there asked about safety, Feminism, and why they did the job (was it just for the money)? Some serious social and political issues were covered but there was also a huge amount of fun.

If you are easily shocked this is not the show for you. If you are openminded, however, you will learn a lot from the experiences of Gypsy and Stacey. I think everyone came away with a better understanding of these workers but everyone was also entertained!

I’d advise booking a ticket in advance as the venue is quite intimate (small) being a converted bus. As word gets out about this show it will be a hot ticket.

You can buy tickets here: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/ask-a-stripper

#saveourclubs #strippersrights #sexworkeradvocacy #edinburghfringe #edinburghfringe2019

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