The Fringe - Eastbourne 2000
Reported by Mandy Davis
This year's Fay Presto Fringe events were heralded by a Blindfold Drive performed by Richard Pinner during the first morning of the Convention at Eastbourne.
The weather on the first night of the fringe was more than appalling. It was almost storm conditions with raging winds and torrential rain. I just didn't feel I could face the walk to the venue that night, although there was a capacity crowd. Star of the evening was John Archer whose act was enhanced by the choice of American Tom Jones (no, not that one) and British Rachel Wild as victims for his trick. Richard Pinner's Russian Roulette appeared to have been performed successfully, too, as he was still around at the convention on the following day!
The Thursday night, however, was a knockout, too. Mandy Muden (photo) compered with some strong gags based on stuff we had seen earlier that evening in the IBM Shield competition.
Hugh Nightingale was the first act, starting with a cut and restored rope routine. This led into a proposed cut and restored worm (!) called Gerald who was shown wriggling frantically in the air as Hugh held him. The enthusiastic helper had no qualms about holding the worm, too, but she was merely asked to blow the worm from a tube into the air so that it could do a somersault to entertain us. Another helper held an empty envelope and we were all amazed when we were shown that Gerald had landed in it. There were some calls of 'twin worms'SSS!
Hugh (photo) then gave us a delightful comedy Linking Rings, complete with linking hacksaw which attached itself to a volunteer's bracelet. A borrowed £10 note was turned into - the centre of a burnt napkin and Hugh ended with Torn and Restored newspaper.
Mel Harvey is known to most as a dealer and his appearance on the stage at the Fringe venue took the shape of a dealer dem. There were lots of strong gags and a puppet doing bird impressions. He chose a volunteer from the audience and then proceeded to perform Anti-Gravity - which went hopelessly wrong to leave the poor spectator thoroughly soaked. At the end, three members of the audience were chosen and made to sit up and down on large rubber pumps in order to have an inflated balloon competition. Well, it was funny at the time!
Len Blease has a wonderful sense of humour and everything he does on stage is designed to have the audience in fits of giggles. His six card repeat used a mixture of large and small cards and he vanished a banknote, then showed us an empty thumb tip!
Danny Buckler (photo) also performed six card repeat with lots of by-play. He was not impressed by the keyboard player who insisted on playing through all the patter acts. Danny continued his act with a good impression of Paul Daniels and had great fun performing Kovari's Codology before launching into his escape from the 'chains of doom.'
Mark Shortland, last year's Comedy award winner, bounded onto the stage with loads of sight gags. His Torn and Restored Mouse used a real mouse which was signed and then loaded into a working liquidizer. This was not for the faint-hearted - I had to turn my head away. Mark then gave us his spelling game. By challenging a spectator to a competition, he appeared to win each time and had to eat a cream cake whilst his helper ended up with tins of prunes. As Mark got sicker and sicker, a tin of cat food is won, opened and found to contain the revived mouse.
Circumstances caused us to miss the banquet part of the evening; it had been arranged that conventioneers who were not attending the official dinner could call various take-away emporiums in the town and either have delivered or bring in their own supper. Apparently, all went well and we joined the enthusiastic gathering in time to see the cabaret.
Mark Stafford is a juggler with a difference. He must have performed for about twenty minutes to half an hour but there was really very little juggling. Instead, there was hilarious patter and great comedy. His fish juggling turned out to be tins of tuna and there was lots of laughter when he juggled with a sickle, an axe and a toy piglet. It was amazing to see him lay on a bed of nails with magician Michelle standing on his chest and his finale comprised of juggling fire whilst walking across a volunteer laying on the floor.
Last night of the Fringe
The magic performances were enhanced by the songs of Lesley Young who opened the show with All That Jazz.
Derren Brown, the discovery of last year's Convention, 'swore in' a spectator and put her in a trance like state. She was then seen to lift and lower her arm at Darren's physical command; even another spectator could make her do this. A quick card trick followed in which an invisible card was selected and eventually appeared in a shower of rose petals.
With the spectator back in a trance, a selection of cars bearing various ideas were shown and one chosen. Over a period of time, various thoughts were then divined pertaining to the idea.
Lesley Young sang Autumn Leaves before Megumi Biddle displayed her intriguing talents. With simply some black paper, a pair of scissors, several snips and a couple of folds we were amazed by a three dimensional cat. She then created a larger than usual head silhouette of a member of the audience.
Lesley's final song heralded the arrival of Keith Fields performing his club style comedy. On turning the pages in my notebook, I have discovered that I was laughing at Keith so much that I have made no notes about his act! Suffice it to say that, as usual, he was outrageously funny. A modelling balloon disappeared up his nose, as did a cigarette which reappeared and was offered back to the spectator who had thrown it on stage, as requested; Knife through Arm was followed by the antics of a severed hand which rampaged all over his body.
Keith was a fitting end to a fun filled Fringe and Fay Presto has reason to feel proud of her venture. As she had work commitments towards the end of the week, her team of Richard Pinner and Peter McCahon were on hand to ensure the smooth running of the events. They are all to be congratulated.
© Mandy Davis, October 2000