Twonkeys Blue Cadabra

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Twonkeys Blue Cadabra: An Overview (1)

(Rather than waffle on, I’ve relegated a chunk of our belated Blue Cadabra review to ‘notes’ at the bottom. So there you go).

Finally this year, Twonkey’s show was nominated for a major award at the Edinburgh Festival. He didn’t win, losing to an 80 year old Britain’s Got Talent contestant who, like many others who appear on that travesty of a show, isn’t remotely British. By all accounts, her show was superb. And it’s definitely a step in the right direction for Twonkey.

We caught this year’s show both at the Itchy Grumble book launch (April 2013) and the official opener at the Brighton Fringe (one week later). Then, during a couple of shows at the beginning and end of the Edinburgh festival. Our first August show could be filed under ‘special’ by the attendance of Kate Copstick (2), the festival’s celebrity Scotsman reviewer. It was probably quite a coup that she chose to attend. Pop along to Twonkey’s Blogspot to see which way she swung *cough*. She definitely could be seen to be enjoying the Twonkey experience and who can blame her? His 4th Festival show was another triumph deluxe, and was a huge hit with both audiences and reviewers alike (3). They are the highlight of our year.

On paper, the venue was a step up to previous years, but had the unfortunate side effect of having a bar at the back of the room where random strangers could heckle from.

The show begins, in wonderfully bizarre Twonkey fashion, with a cover of George Harrison’s Shanghai Surprise (4), before moving on to the first of two reprises of material from his first Twonkey album, Fucking Storys. Here Vickers states that a microphone should be ‘sexualised’. In that regard he certainly takes his own advice and gets away with absolute murder. So much so that I didn’t even realise until the last weekend just how sexual the show had become. There are obvious bits, such as the Ship’s Wheel which can guess people’s sexual preferences (5). But suddenly the Stan Laurel story seemed a whole lot more sinister, as he ‘takes liberties’ with a young girl, but to add insult to injury, makes her do all the hard work for him. And the story about the clogs later seemed to be Sexual Imagery Central with peg-legs and, erm, porridge. I’m thinking that ‘porridge’, in this instance, may share a consistency with Stan Laurel’s ‘chucklemuck’.(6) Stan can’t complain, however, given he gets a song in his honour, a new track from ‘Paul & Pierre’ which is nothing short of an absolute masterpiece. The songs throughout are as amazing as always, with Stan Laurel and The Flying Tailor being the highlights from new album Gasp!, and a great new song, Straggler On The Run. Vickers was in fine voice throughout, possibly the best I’ve heard him (7).

There were some unexpected changes and additions since Brighton, including a horse race which the audience participate in. We had ‘Best Bit of Fuzz’ at 18-1, and I could feel a victory coming on. I had that Martine McCutcheon song ‘This Is My Moment’ blasting out in my head (complete with video) but it was not to be. I didn’t bloody win. It was a fix – The Florist won every night. Even during the festival run, parts were still being added, including a new opening for The Flying Tailor.

Some of the funniest things, certainly for a Twonkey veteran, were fairly minor on the surface. Like the desperate way the songs were shoe-horned into the narrative (such as it was). And after all the weird and wonderful names he has given his puppet assistants, to call the new one ‘Chris Hutchinson’ was hilarious.

Helpfully there was a typed up setlist right at our feet, which gave another insight into how Twonkey constructs his shows as they go. Coz he didn’t entirely follow it. Parts were skipped, songs were added, etc. ‘The Horror of England’, a comedy classic from his new CD and early performances of the show was bizarrely nowhere to be seen. Had he been burned by a raucous Scottish audience who didn’t get the joke on a previous night? Not impossible (8).

Team: Playboys With Hunchbacks even ended up on stage, helping Mr. Twonkey perform what we thought was a magic trick. Assorted knick-knacks are put into a sack with a pair of large clogs which, when shaken, shrunk. Now I’d seen this in previous shows and assumed some sleight of hand was going on. But – darn it – I swear that sack was getting lighter as I shook. Was it just the buzz of being so close to Mr. Twonkey? Who knows, but if it wasn’t just a cheap trick at all, I couldn’t let Twonkey down – not with Copstick looking on. So I put my heart and soul in to it, doing my best Louise Woodward impression until I could feel those clogs practically vanish. I hope the reviewer took note, but I even put a cherry on top, concentrating so much that the clogs also changed pattern and shape. Oh yeah!

If that wasn’t enough to rock our world, Twonkey then points out that he has brought something miraculous with him, in the vein of finding the image of Jesus in a coffee stain. We were shown the bottom of a Morrocan biscuit tin which featured… well, I shouldn’t spoil it, coz it was so fantastic he should bring it out again next year. All I know is that there was something pictured on that tin which made me re-evaluate, well, everything! Doubters may scoff, but I know what I saw!

Lilly Vumper (9) was apparently set to make an appearance, per the setlist, but didn’t show (10). Even Paul’s axe of choice, the slide whistle (11), was waiting on his table of tricks purely to be utilised for that performance. Instead he plumped for a funkier finale in both of the Edin shows I witnessed, with Goat Girl (12).

It’s another fabulous show, and you can feel the Twonkey name is growing in stature every year. We left with what may be an exclusive… Twonkey will return next year with Twonkey’s Creepy Restaurant (13) where, per a brief mention in this year’s story, he hangs out with Nosferatu, Frankenstein and The Riddler.

We will be there.

  1. An ‘overview’ is the technical term for a review that is three month’s late
  2. Call me bitter, but Copstick was in the audience during Playboys With Hunchbacks’ sole onstage Festival performance. And did she mention it in her review? Did she bollocks. We were on stage with a camp, charismatic powerhouse hitting notes we never thought we’d manage. Honestly, if that description makes us sound like Monsterrat Caballe, that’s exactly what we thought too. And then… nothing from Ms Copstick. As the feller says in Red Dragon ‘You were privy to a great becoming, and yet you recognised nothing.’
  3. Everyone else did, but Three Weeks didn’t like it, with an almost identical review as last year. I will not buy their rag ever again. Even if it is free!
  4. Shanghai Surprise actually sounds, both musically and lyrically, like a Vickers original. If he hadn’t announced the track at the Itchy Grumble book launch back in April as coming from the ‘flawed Madonna classic’, I would have been none the wiser.
  5. A story about a sexual coming of age watching a snail on a Great Yarmouth beach is told in such detail that it can surely only come from Vickers’ own formative years!!
  6. It begs the question, ‘Would semen under a different name taste just as sweet?’
  7. His voice was bruised and battered at the Itchy Grumble book launch and, for that reason, may never sound better. Croaky as hell, even just when speaking, the vocals were utterly amazing that night. His brother filmed the whole thing – surely there’s a Blu-ray in the pipeline!
  8. In one of his live shows, Stewart Lee mentions a night when he was almost attacked on stage in Scotland for a routine claiming ‘William Wallace was a gay’. It was at an after-midnight Variety Show at the Assembly Rooms and Team: Playboys With Hunchbacks witnessed the whole sorry spectacle first-hand. That said, if we’d known how big a hypocritical bitter old prick Lee would soon become, we’d have chucked the first bottle fer sure.
  9. Lilly Vumper is the number previously known as Lilly Bumper from last year’s show. The song appeared in its new form on this year’s Gasp! CD. Aside from the new surname, the recorded version was also a bit more experimental. Vickers misses his vocal cues a couple of times, adding a bit of amusing anarchy to the number. In his earlier Brighton gig (and possibly all others where this gets performed), he tried to recreate that spirit and it all went completely arse over tit. He was still halfway through the verse when the chorus kicked in on the backing track. Which just adds to the creative mystery. Did he mean to a) get a little lost in the song and instead get totally lost?, b) balls it up intentionally and not care where he ended up, or c) know exactly where he was at every moment? Who. The Hell. Knows?
  10. I was describing the Twonkey show to a friend when he said ‘so, he just sings, he doesn’t play an instrument on stage?’ I replied in the affirmative, momentarily forgetting about the slide whistle. Sure, it may only get an airing for a single number, but we’re dealing with quality here, not quantity. Don’t get me wrong – I’m no authority on the instrument – but if there’s a better slide whistler than Paul Vickers anywhere in the whole wide world, I sure as shit don’t know who it is.
  11. New song All Old Minds Are Dead was originally included in the show per the setlist but was skipped at least once. There could be a few reasons for sitting this one out in Edinburgh, but here’s one for sure: the lyrics are easily misheard. ‘Your Old Mind is Dead’ – the chorus lyric – sounds more like ‘Your Old Man is Dead’ in Vickers’ tones. And that’s dangerous. Coz the song is so ridiculously upbeat, with Vickers waving his hands from side to side (‘like a Day Centre’) with a big smile on his face. What if some poor fella was on his first night out after the death of his father, hoping for a laugh to cheer himself up, and suddenly heard that? What if he was from Glasgow? It wouldn’t be pretty. Twonkey would end up having to twat him with The Flying Tailor. Could make for a good showstopper actually. I was glad to see it back in for the final weekend when I guess he could afford the risk with the Reichelt doll.
  12. Not, of course, just a choice of song, as Goat Girl comes with mighty fine opening gags involving ecstasy, Wagon Wheels and Skiing holidays.
  13. That said, this year’s show was supposed to be called Twonkey’s Empire which didn’t last, so all is subject to change.
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