NEIL INNES DELIVERS WITTY DITTIES AND EGO
The Edinburgh Festival came to a close this evening (Saturday, 31 August) with a classical music concert and an enormous fireworks display. Throughout August each year, the Scottish capital hosts the biggest cultural get-together in the world featuring theatre, dance, opera, music, art and comedy. Plus there is a great deal of jazz, a book festival and a leading film festival.
Appearing in Edinburgh for eleven nights during the festival was a show called Ego Warriors, featuring Neil Innes and John Dowie, promising, "witty ditties, heroic humour and ridiculous rhymes". And as anticipated, it was a delightful performance of musical excellence, humanity and humour.
Python fans hardly need reminding of the great talents Innes has. A master songwriter and parodist, he made a significant contribution to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and worked on the Rutles projects with Eric Idle. Tonight, Innes appeared dressed all in black, playing solo guitar in a plain space.
Innes's new songs in the show are wry, witty compositions that reflect how his personal view of the world is at odds with the increasingly media-driven, technological, commercial society. "Face-Mail in the Meet-Zone" praises the practice of actually meeting those with whom one communicates, and a further song - I think it is called "There's More of us at the Bottom of the Pile" - gives comfort to those who don't feel part of the present materialist society.
More idiosyncratic fare came from a song based on haiku, attempting to squeeze each line of the song into the Japanese form. And he sang a ditty dedicated to the people of France. Innes also performed favourite "Godfrey Daniel", and a medley of Rutles classics on piano, which included "Cheese and Onions". The show concluded with its title track, "Ego Warriors", the aim of which is to deflate pomposity and reveal the absurdity of the human condition.
John Dowie's role in the evening was as a "performance poet". He punctuated Neil's songs with some amiable insults and nostalgic, droll poetry in his affable Birmingham accent. Dowie played a pioneering role for British comedy in the late 70s and 80s, and has recently concentrated on his poetry and directing other comedians, notably Simon Munnery's bizarre creation The League Against Tedium.
In fact, Munnery was in the audience (as was comic Jerry Sadowitz). The show took place late at night in one of Edinburgh's Traverse theatres - a small, intimate venue where the audience sits above and around the performers.
I saw Munnery on the previous day in his own show "Noble Thoughts of a Noble Mind", which was in fact the best comedy gig that I saw throughout the month. He appeared for the first twenty minutes dressed in orange with an orange bucket on his head, explaining his Buckethead Philosophy, before introducing us to two orange ventriloquist puppets, both of which were wearing orange buckets on their heads.