Thursday, 18 August 2011
So, Edinburgh went well; a very cheering little trip, and I needed one of those. Lovely old Edinburgh. It made me homesick for the days when I used to spend a month there. I wasn’t playing poker back then - although, for all the adrenaline of trying to put shows on, the money lost on venue hires, the late nights in a place where the pubs never closed, and the remarkable weirdness of fellow performers, I might as well have been.
This year, I went for the UKIPT though I didn’t play the main event; I remembered from last year that, as much as I love poker tournaments, I love the Edinburgh Fringe more. I didn’t have the patience to sit properly for three days of a tournament, knowing that beyond its walls lay 24-hour theatre, music, comedy and people in Victorian dress on stilts reciting poetry. You can’t play a tournament properly unless you really want to be sticking around in it.
But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you’re only going to play one leg of the UKIPT, play the Edinburgh leg. It’s just a fantastic time of year to be in that city. If you don’t get knocked out, you win money! If you do get knocked out, there are a million brilliant things to do.
What I did play was the High Roller event: a side event with a bigger buy-in and a smaller field, so likely to be played out in one night or (at most) one night and a bit of the following afternoon. I finished second, for £6550, which I was very pleased with. The winner was Jon Spinks and we finished on a bit of a gamble: I stuck it all in with A8 and he called with JT. I think he called because it was 2.55 in the morning and play had to stop for the night at 3. If we didn’t finish, we’d have to come back the next day. He spiked a jack to win the tournament - but I was happy enough, because it was a lot of money and I was free to see more shows on the Sunday!
If you’re in Edinburgh, or going, here are my tips.
Get tickets for Adam Riches at the Pleasance NOW. He will certainly sell out on every day of his run. I’d never heard of this guy before - though apparently he’s done several previous Edinburgh shows - but his hour of sketch comedy is a work of genius. It’s creative, quirky and different; it will blow your mind if you expect sketches to begin with the words “Nurse, please send in the next patient…”. He has audience participation - *shiver* - but he does it beautifully and with perfect charm, so nobody looks like an idiot. He’s gorgeous to look at, and incredibly funny. As I mentioned on Twitter, I haven’t felt so excited about a Fringe show since I was 17 and went to Edinburgh for the first time - when I saw a lot of unknowns who included, at that time, Eddie Izzard, Jack Dee, Steve Coogan…. Yes. That’s how old I am. But going to Edinburgh makes me feel like a teenager all over again, and I remember that we’re all just kids really. Where was I? Oh yes: do not miss Adam Riches.
Dave Gorman’s show was also terrific. It’s very much my cup of tea: stand-up comedy which is extremely clever, ruthlessly logical, yet utterly personal and could have been done by nobody else but the man on stage. DG is on top form, and for me that is another don’t-miss.
But Dave Gorman is a big TV name, and Adam Riches is the hit of the Festival, so if you want something a bit different then go to see Ben Brailsford at the Pleasance - I think it’s around 3pm so doesn’t have much competition. It’s an extremely charming, unusual, funny and informative show from a… okay, bear with this curious sentence… a bassoonist who was arrested in the Fortnum & Mason protest. It’s not a “big show”, but it’s different and rather lovely, and deserves a bigger audience.
I also really enjoyed Tom Rosenthal’s show, Child Of Privilege. He’s best known for being an actor in the sitcom ‘Friday Night Dinner’, but he’s also an extremely confident and likeable young stand-up who I suspect is going to become a bit of a star.
Lastly: I bought some tickets for an improv show called The Noise Next Door. I’d seen them on the Fringe in Camden the year before; I went along (as I often do) with my friends Ben and Charlie, and we expected it to be a bit terrible. Improv usually is. Improv in small rooms above Camden pubs especially usually is. But they kind of blew us away. They were great. I didn’t actually make their Edinburgh show, in the end, because it clashed with Adam Riches who I was too anxious to see. So I gave the tickets to a couple of fellow gamblers, and they came out saying the show had been brilliant and they loved it.
I won’t throw any more names at you, because these show tickets are usually about £10 - £12 each and you don’t want your mind boggled with too many. And chances are you’re not going to Edinburgh anyway. In which case, you can just read this as a little chirp about how well the tournament went.
While I’m here: the new series of Only Connect started this week; the first episode is up here on the BBC iPlayer for another few days, and the series continues on Monday nights at 8.30 on BBC Four… Good luck.
Next leg of the UKIPT will be in Dublin, September 8th - 12th. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be able to make that one myself. But it’s another great location.