DarkChat - Reviewing the Edinburgh Fringe since 2008

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We like Alexis Dubus, we also like Marcel Lucont.   We caught up with him as they prepared for his three shows at this year's Edinburgh Fringe.



2009 was the year DARKCHAT first became aware of the multi-talented

Alexis Dubus.  Whilst DARKCHATTERS Phil and Legs chose the rude sounding

"Alexis Dubus - A R*ddy Brief History of Swearing" (nominated for Best Comedy)

 Anne, Katerina and Dave selected " Marcel Lucont - Sexual Metro", without

realising they were the same person (reviews can be found in our 2009 review pages).


The following year we joined forces to see Alexis Dubus " A Brief History of

Swearing", which won the DARKCHAT award for Best Moment of the Festival,

for his stunning final appearance  which so shocked the ladies they promptly

walked into the Gents toilet!  We didn't catch last year's offering " Marcel Lucont etc:

A Chat show" but this year Alexis is back with a new show We interrupted his

preperations to  discover what we can see this year and his thoughts on

previous Edinburghs.



"The show I' m taking up this year is called CARS AND GIRLS.

It's basically a collection of travel tales from before my stand-up comedy days. I've told a few of the stories at Storytellers Club in the past and this is my attempt to pull them all together into a (hopefully) coherent show. It's been a lot of fun to write, and is coming along very well. I think it's going to be a lot of fun to perform.

At this stage the finished show may include the Nevada desert, UFOs, Ecuadorian bean festivals, truckers, helicopter rescues, an amateur Jesus and the Dutch".



When was your 1st Edinburgh festival?


1998 (student), Shakespeare (William), Tempest (The), Modern (drum 'n' bass soundtrack), 12.00 performance (midnight), 2 stars (The Scotsman).



Why did you come?


I'd always wanted to go to the Edinburgh Fringe - at university I was doing a philosophy & psychology degree, but spending far more hours involved in theatre, comedy and cabaret shows. I was going to just go up as a punter, but saw an ad on the forum that the EdFringe website used to have, looking for performers. I think it was all slightly hastily arranged, which kind of appealed to me. Auditioned for the part, got it, and ended up frantically rehearsing with a really fun bunch of people, then frantically taking it up to the Fringe.



What did you expect?


Well I didn't expect Hollywood to come knocking, when doing a two-week run of a post-midnight Shakespeare play done to death by students, in a Gothic church. And indeed they did not. What I did expect was to have a laugh, get inspired and see what all the fuss was about up there.



How did the reality differ from your expectations?


 A laugh was definitely had. What student doesn't appreciate a city whose bars never really close, in a festival full of the world's best performers? The size of it all was pretty overwhelming and we soon realised just how small a fish our little production was. But I saw some amazing comedy up there, which almost definitely spurred me on to go into comedy myself.



What is the best thing about the festival?


The sheer breadth of it. You do get a feeling of being part of something very special, this incredible melting pot of artists from all over the planet doing their thing. And doing the Edinburgh Fringe has, in turn, been my stepping stone for taking shows all over the world and meeting some bloody brilliant people every time, who are now a big part of my life.



What is the worst thing about the festival?


The sheer breadth of it. Unfortunately it's now become almost impossible to make a profit, due to all of the extra charges associated with putting on a show, to sell yours above others - the marketing, the production costs, the venue charges, the obligatory cost of being in the Comedy Festival programme...

One of these years I'd like to take a risk and just cut out all but the fixed costs, just to see how many tickets I sold on the strength of the show, or on how many followers I've built up over the years. I'd love to be pleasantly surprised and have all those extra costs shown up to be unnecessary, but let's see...



What has changed over the years?


A/ For the better – social media seems to have taken over printed reviews to some extent, when it comes to getting bums on seats. I think less people are reading reviews, and more are relying on recommendations from friends / friends of friends. Facebook and Twitter have meant that shows can find the right audience that much quicker, which is great, as I've lost count of the reviews I've read that totally fail to understand what a show's about.


B/ For the worst – The prices of shows have rocketed. I used to try and keep mine below £10, but now I've been forced to rise above that due to all the other costs. I still cap it at £10.50, and stand to make around £2,000 loss each year, but I just know what I'd expect to pay for a one-hour show, and I think a fringe festival really stops being a fringe festival when shows' prices rise to a ridiculous amount, and acts are playing gigantic venues. The Free Fringe ethos is great - I did my first ever solo show as part of it, and had a great time. I think what the Free Fringe struggles with sometimes is being the affordable option for first-timers and a viable option for more experienced acts trying to get media coverage. That said, there's some absolute gold to be found among the free shows - Robin Ince, Nick Doody and Yianni Agisilaou, to name just 3 last year. Maybe we will start to see a shift in the power balance as prices in paid venues get higher and higher...



Roughly how many shows do you see each festival?


I guess I'll maybe see 20 or so shows each festival. I wish it was more but I tend to do a ridiculous amount of extra-curricular activity - I  guesting on other people's shows, interviews and general socialising. And after a while it's just nice to go and sit up a big hill to get away from it all, rather than cramming more entertainment into your head. Everyone says it, but for those doing a full run, it's always a week too long. It's never enough to make me sick of doing what I do, but I do tend to over-do it every year, making sure I've got at least a week booked off after it all to sit on a beach and do bollock-all.



What was your favourite Edinburgh show to watch?


Usually anything touched by the comedy hand of Daniel Kitson. One year I got myself a Late & Live pass, when he was the regular host, and would just sit in there in awe. This stuttering, beardy, bespectacled man was the absolute king of a throng of pissed-up locals and feral festival-goers from midnight to 2am (3am if Johnny Vegas was on), and I'd learn more about comedy in one hour than I had done in a whole year of gigging. Kitson was unbeatable as an MC, and, as many comics seemed to find, unfollowable. We'd sit and watch the alcohol-fuelled ebb and flow of various comedians' fortunes over the course of the spectacle (a spectacle that was, at times, more gladiatorial than comedic) - it was quite something to see the big names of the Fringe face this trial by fire. I've always liked watching the shows that divide crowds too - Noble & Silver, The Mighty Boosh, Sam Simmons, Paul Foot...



What was your worst Edinburgh show to watch?


Haha, well I've seen a fair few contenders... I do try to be more discerning nowadays and go on mates' recommendations rather than taking a chance, but back in the day I'd be making full use of my venue pass and seeing as much as I could. It was always a bit tragic to go and see something god-awful that was clearly pulling in more of a crowd than yourself. But I think the prize has to go to a show I ended up guesting on in my early stand-up days, probably 2004. I'm not being diplomatic here, I genuinely can't remember their name, but they were an American troupe peddling a kind of risqué freak-show comedy act. I had to follow a man in a nappy riding a hobby-horse, and a vomiting Pope. "And now ladies and gentlemen, here's some observational comedy....." Not my finest 15 minutes.



Who is your favourite overall performer (s)?


See above (Kitson, not pukey Pope).

I love Justin Edwards as well. He's a great songwriter and performer in his own right, but The Consultants were a superb sketch group and Jeremy Lion is maybe my favourite character act other than Alan Partridge. I don't usually go and see the same show twice, but Jeremy Lion's Happy Christmas was one of my all-time Edinburgh experiences. It was on at about 2pm from what I remember, and as if a giant man stuck in the Pleasance Hut in an undersized children's entertainer's outfit wasn't funny enough, both times I saw it a parent had mistakenly brought a child to the show, a show that featured an insane amount of alcohol consumption, a snowman ripping away its flesh to reveal its inner organs, and a terrifyingly satanic ventriloquist's dummy.

The man was a wreck after a month of doing that show and then the sketch show a few hours later, but it was a fine piece of art to suffer for.



What is your favourite venue?


I  love the Spiegeltent, because there's nothing quite like it. Guesting on The Horne Section there last year was an absolute joy - a sold-out midnight crowd with an incredible full jazz band for backing. What more could a performer ask for?



What is your favourite place to eat?


I do like a bit of Maison Bleue, for a treat. I've learnt the importance of getting as many decent meals in as possible that month. I also love the Hula Juice Bar on the West Bow hill by Grassmarket which does amazing soups and fruit smoothies, with tables outside at approximately 45 degree angles, making it impossible to eat off them.



What is your favourite place to drink?


I do like the Pear Tree courtyard on that most gloriously rare of things, a sunny day



What are you most looking forward to in Edinburgh this year?


I haven't seen the programme yet so not sure, but I know Sam Simmons and Simon Munnery will be worth catching, as ever. Going to make a concerted effort to visit the Traverse Theatre more this year too. I've never seen a bad show there".



Alexis Dubus is performing Cars & Girls at the Assembly Roxy from August 2nd - 26th

Marcel Lucont is performing Gallic Symbol at the Underbelly from August 2nd - 26th

and hosts Cabaret Fantastique on Friday 10th,17th & 24th at Assembly, George Square  


To catch them before Edinburgh : http://www.alexisdubus.com/gigs.html



When Sad Faces can equal a few smiling reviewers



Back in the day when they were 4 Sad Faces DARKCHAT first found this talented bunch at the 2009 festival, resulting in a nomination for Best Free Show ( see 2009 reviews).


We missed their 2010 show but 2 groups of DARKCHAT reviewers

saw "Suddenly" last year resulting in another nomination for

Best Free Show ( see 2011 reviews).


Well, they are back this year with a new name, a new cast

member and moving into a paid venue. We caught up with them to find

out how things are going.


" We are going to Edinburgh this year - we've managed to get time off and

are willingly throwing our moneyinto the big bottomless pit that is the Fringe.

We've added a new member to our group, the wonderful Rosie Fletcher,

formerly of York's improv group The Shambles, who has taken to

sketch comedy like a duck takes to being a duck. We've done a couple of gigs with our new line up and it seems to be going really well so far! Unfortunately Rachel won't be able to come up to Edinburgh this year, so she's going to be directing the show.


Our show this year is called "Sad Faces Remember it Differently", and it's a bit of a departure from our usual stuff (in that it has proper lighting and some music!): it's about each one of us trying to tell the story of a single day and our accounts differ in wildly incongruous ways. So hopefully it will be like a sketch show version of Rashomon (in that nobody will understand it), but it will still have a lot of sketchy elements - we've got recurring gags, ridiculous characters (nuns, Italians, a guy with a moustache) and a lot of good old fashioned puns. It's on at the Belly Laugh at the Underbelly at 13.00 for the whole festival.


I think that's come out of what we did last year as "Four Sad Faces" - we all really enjoyed last year doing a show that had a bigger theme and was more connected. This does mean that an awful lot of it still has to be written, which is both scary and exciting - we're doing a preview show featuring half the jokes this Thursday at the Leicester Square Theatre: http://leicestersquaretheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/126522324/events

in which we'll see whether the whole thing works.



Our first preview gig went so much better than I think anyone was expecting - the concept actually works! We had another one yesterday that was a bit more bizarre - we sort of knew that this one would be weirdest one, as it's random bits that we want to put into the show knitted together. The audience were confused, but then we said some puns and showed some random pictures of Martin Sheen and they seemed to perk up a bit. We need to do a bit more writing still - Tobi and Tom fortunately have a good three weeks off now so they will hopefully tackle some of it then.



When was your 1st Edinburgh festival?


Our first Edinburgh festival as performers on the Free Fringe was back in 2008 as Youths. We had done maybe 2 or 3 gigs live - no previews. We had no idea what we were doing. It was great.



Why did you come?


Peer pressure - the only reason teenagers do anything I guess? We were in a talent show for BBC7, and everyone there had been to Edinburgh so we just did it to fit in.



What did you expect?


One person (man in a kilt) in the audience per show. One star reviews from Every Important Paper. Angry Scottish heckling. Being thrown out for being really posh. Drinking heavily.



How did the reality differ from your expectations?


People like Free Stuff! OK sized audiences! Decent reviews! Friendly Scottish heckling! Everyone there is from North London anyway! Drinking heavily!



What is the best thing about the festival?


I'd say going to see a show you have no idea about in a terrifying dank venue you've never heard of is always fun. Anywhere else, it would be a crime to lure strangers into a dingy basement for an hour. In Edinburgh, it's called "marketing".



What is the worst thing about the festival?


Money. It just disappears into a big black hole. Last year we survived by eating props from the show. To be fair we had foreseen this so had written a lot of sketches bread and jam, so it wasn't all bad.



What has changed over the years?


A/ For the better –  people seem a lot less willing to market with the words "If you like the Mighty Boosh/League of Gentlemen/Chris Moyles, you'll love This Surrealist/Dark And Weird/A Fat Man Shouting At You" which they were when we first went up, which is always good.


B/ For the worst – We seem to be living in flats which are further away from the Royal Mile each year. That's not a universal thing, I admit, but it's bugging me.



Roughly how many shows do you see each festival?


I usually would try to do about 2-3 shows a day, so probably close to 100? The thing to do is to fit in as many as possible at the start when the preview prices are on/2-for-1 are on, and then just stay in and watch DVDs on the premium price days.



What was your favourite Edinburgh show to watch?


I went to go see Ben Moor with Tom in 2008 and that was unbelievable - it was a one-man comedy play about a man who lives his life by a diary that he is mysteriously given in the post. It was so unbelievably dense with jokes, puns and mind-boggling concepts - little throwaway gags that could have been an entire show - that he actually couldn't stop for laughs as it was such a tight 50 minutes. People stopped laughing after a while as they wanted to make sure they caught every gag - absolutely phenomenal.



What was your worst Edinburgh show to watch?


Possibly because it was the first truly bad Edinburgh show I saw, but in 2005 my friend and I came up to see an act who had positioned herself in front of the door out of fear of people getting out. It wasn't so much the material (which was pretty bad), it was more the way she had brought her niece along, armed with a massive filofax to sit in the front row to prompt her. And she prompted a lot. Never have I seen anyone look so bored, scared and embarrassed at the same time.


Who is your favourite overall performer (s)?


Too many to choose. So many sketch groups in Edinburgh - Delete the Banjax, The Boom Jennies, Kieran and Joe, The Beta Males - are just so damn strong with both their gags and performance. My personal favourite performer though is Sammy J - he's an amazing writer, singer, character actor, comedian and puppeteer. He's almost too talented. I hate him.


What is your favourite venue?


All the Pleasance venues apart from scary Baby Grand are pretty special, but the Canon's Gait is surely the best Edinburgh experience - it looks like an ordinary pub until you go downstairs, where it's got this great intimate stage, cosy audience pit, friendly staff even after we scared most lunch-eaters away with our shouting - it's great.



What is your favourite place to eat?


Karen Wong's Chinese Restaurant, off the back of Clerk Street. Amazing Chinese food served by a wonderful and insane woman. That or the many hundreds of pubs that serve haggis.



What is your favourite place to drink?


Don't know if it was our favourite, but most nights we ended up in the Pleasance Dome, drinking poor quality cider under the incongruous palm trees. Lovely.



What are you most looking forward to in Edinburgh this year?


 Muscling in on the acapella groups' flyering techniques by singing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" at random strangers.


To catch them at Edinburgh click on the link below:


They are also previewing their show (along with the Beta Males)

at the Leicester Square Theatre this Thursday 14th June.