WHAT fresh lunacy is this? More bloody street performers? A Czechoslovakian experimental play about social alienation? No, not quite. Look closely at the figure on the right. Note the manic, staring eyes, the feral, hunted look, the giant horn-rimmed glasses.
This is what former Perrier nominee Simon Munnery, the man behind Nietzschean ber-twerp The League Against Tedium and class warrior Alan Parker, has been reduced to - performing with a bucket on his head.
Is this perhaps because Munnery ended his Fringe two years ago in a cell in St Leonard’s police station and had to stand trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court months later for allegedly causing a breach of the peace and assaulting a police officer?
Munnery refutes the allegation. "Not at all," he says. "After all, the Leith Police dismiss-ethed me. All that did was put me off getting arrested. It wasn’t exactly hell - well it was for the few hours I was in the cell - but I did a press-up and I thought about writing a novel, the regular sort of things that you do when you’re incarcerated."
Munnery ended up on the wrong arm of the law after taking part in Arthur Smith’s semi-legendary Alternative Tour Of The Royal Mile - a regular late-night fixture on both the Fringe calendar and that of Lothian and Borders Police. His crime? Imitating a German tourist, brandishing a megaphone and allegedly pushing a police officer. "I actually thought it was all a game when the police grabbed me," recalls Munnery. "I was going: ‘OK, OK you can let me go now...oh I see’," he laughs.
Returning to Edinburgh the following February for the trial, Munnery had to be dissuaded from defending himself. "I didn’t want a lawyer but I was told that would be frowned upon," he recalls ruefully.
"Halfway through the trial I thought: ‘Ah -ha, we’re through!’ because the two police-men who arrested me contradicted each other in their statements but then my three defence witnesses came on and they all contradicted each other," he laughs.
The confusion obviously worked because all charges were dropped, but Munnery is undoubtedly a lawbreaker. While other comedians are content to rely on their "bankers" - tried and tested gags - Munnery continually pushes the comedy envelope. Hence the bucket, natch. "This is a genuine preview, it’s the first sighting of...whatever this is," laughs Munnery.
Noble Thoughts of A Noble Mind is a genuine Fringe show - strange, experimental and obviously self-indulgent.
The ideas behind it came from an avant-garde cabaret evening that Munnery ran in London earlier this year where he discovered his cohort in the venture, Andrew Bailey, similarly bucket-headed but even more incomprehensible. Bailey makes strange sound effects into a voice machine while manning the all-important glove puppets and rubber crocodiles.
If this sounds just too bizarre - and be honest, it does, doesn’t it? - you should remember that where Munnery treads today, other comedians will follow .
Stewart Lee, director and lyricist of the runaway box office behemoth that is Jerry Springer The Opera says: "That’s the thing with Simon. Once you’ve worked with him, you come to believe anything is possible."
Even getting away with performing a show with a bucket on your head, obviously.
Simon Munnery: Noble Thoughts Of A Noble Mind, The Stand, until August 26, 2.30pm, 6 (5), 0131-558 7272