Kate Copstick: The weirdest show Simon Morley has ever done

Simon Morley and David Friend in Puppetry Of The Penis.
Simon Morley and David Friend in Puppetry Of The Penis.
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This is the weirdest show Simon Morley has ever done. And he invented Puppetry Of The Penis.

But you really should spend an hour with him fully clothed (him, as well as you), because it is so much fun listening to a big friendly Australian chatting about what he brought from his own personal Land Down Under.

Morley is a great raconteur and he has a gobsmackingly entertaining story to tell. This is, be aware, a fully illustrated chat, and I think the highlight of my Fringe so far has been seeing Simon recreate his Sea Anemone underwater during a promotional video in Australia. David Attenborough could learn a thing or two. I cannot impress too strongly what a sweet show this is. Naughty Nanas and Elton John, immigration officers in Montreal and John Travolta have all appreciated the talents of Si’s Percy and the Piglets and how Morley and Mr Methane made stage magic is a story none of us in the audience will ever forget. Have a giggle, take your Nana and enjoy the exploits of Simon and his bendy bricabrac.

Deep in the recesses of the Hive, for one hour nightly, is the Temple of Perpetual Wonder, Lucy Hopkins presiding. We are, we are told, going to re-enchant the world. Lucy is not big on chat but she wafts beautifully and her armography is stunning. We start with quite a lot of retching. It is a form of greeting apparently. In very quick succession Lucy does something loopy with her theremin, gets pregnant and gives birth. The baby is then handed over to us, the audience, to pass around. There is more theremin action, portals open, rituals are performed, Mythos and Logos explained, a human theremin is formed and played and an elderly gentleman in the front row is involved in what looks like simulated sexual act. But this is all for the spiritual good of us all, so we don’t ask. There also is a dreadful (true) story about villages poisoned by washout from GMO crops and WHO boreholes in the 1950s. It doesn’t sound like it belongs, but go with Lucy, she makes it all fit in. This is an extraordinary show – mesmeric and constantly puzzling, but a wonderful experience. And the baby is fine, thank you for asking.

There are no words to explain Mark Dean Quinn’s show. Describe, yes. But explain, no. His performances are legendarily abstract. This one plunges from fun with balloons and buckets of sweets one minute to the violent death of a close friend and the surreal contrast of his coming to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to make people laugh at the same time. At the start we have a volunteer walrus, a spontaneous cancan and a lot of ice lolly eating. Quinn makes laughs out of nothing – a blank page, a non-action, even out of leaving the room. And then suddenly we are sharing the devastation of his Nan’s death from cancer. It is a strange and silly and powerful show from a fascinating and funny performer. It is an amazing thing to see an audience, as they leave and file past the bloke with the bucket on his head, giving him not just money, but a hug or a pat on the shoulder or a squeeze of the arm. Amazing.

Rob Kemp’s The Elvis Dead is a retelling of the film The Evil Dead II, using the songs of Elvis (also dead). The parodies are smart and Kemp makes a great Elvis. He is losing his voice but is, he tells us, “doped up on whisky”. The man himself would be proud. Of course we get Devil In Disguise and All Shook Up, while Lonesome Tonight and Always On My Mind are given lyric transplants and turn out horrorful. There are film clips to add to the fun and by the time we are all safe from the zombies, we have sung ourselves hoarse and laughed ourselves silly. The room is crammed full each night so look out for extra shows. When crazy works like this, it is a special kind of thrill.

I beg you, do not leave Edinburgh without spending time in the company of Jolly Goodfellow, aka Rumpel the Jester. It is an experience you will never forget. Calling it a show may be overstating things. It is more of a “happening”. “You’d probably feel a little more relaxed if I knew what I was doing,” he says at one point. Nah. His utter disarray and lack of any idea as to what might be coming next is delightful. The top of the Blundabus looks like an explosion in a junk room with a jester in a suit made entirely from ties bouncing about in the middle of the mess, getting tangled in the microphone cord and squeaking “Crikey!” We are encouraged to “Pixie out to the max” and listen to crazy tales of the journeys of Jolly Goodfellow. He seems to travel the world, creating tiny catastrophes everywhere he goes. But it is impossible not to be enchanted by him. Get a beer, wear something warm and get Jolly around midnight. You won’t ever forget it.

All shows run until 27 August. Simon Morley: Naked Ambition, Heroes @ Monkey Barrel; Lucy Hopkins: Powerful Women Are About, Heroes @ The Hive; Mark Dean Quinn: My Heart On A Plate, Heroes @ The Hive (except Friday and Saturday); Rob Kemp: The Elvis Dead, Heroes @ Monkey Barrel (except Tuesday and Wednesday); Jolly Goodfellow: Fooling A Part, Heroes @ Bob’s BlundaBus