In case you missed it, the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival is back. And to be honest, if you did I’m surprised – there’s so been so much on in July and still two weeks of the festival yet to go with everything from drama to comedy and poetry still to come.
Once again, I’m lamenting my diary, as work is keeping me away from some of the amazing show on offer – Tony Husband is talking abut his work as a Private Eye cartoonist, as well as his book Take Care Son: The Story of My Dad and his Dementia. I’m Standing Next To You, is on at Twenty Twenty Two and looks at social media, loneliness and isolation.
There are drama premieres National Killing Day by Lee Clotworthy, Love Letters to Asia, The Trial (an Edinburgh Fringe preview) and Concrete Jungle which takes a close look at poverty porn and documentaries, writtenby a TV journalist Sarah O’Connell.
And new comedy comes from The Horse Show, starring Evelyn Roberts (granddaughter of former Wigan mayor, Geoffrey Roberts) and Matt Holt from We Are People Zoo.
Just have a look at the GM Fringe site for everything that’s on – there’s a comprehensive calendar.
But the one show I did manage to get to, despite broken foot, work pressures and all my usual gadding about, was Robin Ince at Soup Kitchen.
Robin is most well known as the partner to Professor Brian Cox in Infinite Monkey Cage, and given I work on the floor below Prof Cox (when he’s not at CERN, or travelling to the jungles of Borneo, or the hills of Lancashire) it’s no surprise that I’ve been to live IMC recordings and listened intently online (go here to have a listen for yourself).
I’ve also seen Prof Cox lecture once or twice, and seen him give a student a hug during the Q&A session post lecture at the University. As you do.
Away from his partner in crime, Robin is himself fascinated by the world we live in – he is intently curious and encourages this in others – but is so with such unerring humour, and dry sarcasm that means both myself and Mr GFB have been fans for quite some time. While Prof Cox may have a stage presence that’s undeniable, Robin has a down to earth, self deprecation that has a charm of it’s own, and his humour is such that it draws you in easily.
This event at Soup Kitchen was the last solo show he’s doing for a while, so Mr GFB and I had to attend (though you can still catch him at Blue Dot Festival, and at the live recording of Infinite Monkey Cage in December). And it was somewhat surreal to be perched on seats, cup of beer in hand, in a space normally for us filled with loud music and bouncing heads.
Robin’s set didn’t go to plan – he admitted to a late night with an academic that may have resulted in a pre-show hangover – but in truth, the show didn’t suffer for it.
Though he had notes written down on cards, the humour was free flowing and the ruminations on life, on people and the anecdotes kept the audience laughing throughout.
One or two poignant mentions were concerning his mother, who died in December, and his son, seemed to perhaps hint at a wish to spend more time at home, but his ability to find humour in the most difficult of circumstances kept us laughing despite the darkness.
Overall, it was a great gig. And hangover or not, we still laughed, commiserated, and most of all, were encouraged to think, to learn and to explore the world. I already have reading notes.
Oh and Robin? In the split second before the metal hits, you’d have no time for that tear of recognition. Maybe that’s a good thing.
With thanks to Greater Manchester Fringe. I’m still trying to find more stuff I can squeeze in!