Tuesday, 20 September 2011


The next show proves cabaret is a very broad church. I find myself at Twonkeys Castle, upstairs at the Beehive. The Free Festival version of cabaret features an unkempt northerner standing in front of a heap of battered stuffed animals, a crumbling toy castle and a wire Empire State Building full of pink lanterns. There also seems to be a puppet made from a loaf of bread. Things are not looking good.
However Mr. Twonkey, aka Paul Vickers, is an inspired absurdist whose rambling patter dips in and out of sense and who paints wonderfully abstract pictures of the world in song and in word. True, there are some walkouts. Perhaps these were people who thought they would go into a cabaret in a little room above a Grassmarket pub and find the Folies Bergère.
It is their loss. Mr Twonkey is a true comic original, whose shambling delivery conceals a real talent for wordplay and whose ridiculous catchy songs won't stop running round and round in your head. He's what they call a room divider, but if you are one of those people who get the joke you just can't stop laughing. As the woman perched behind me said of the walkouts: "Where are they going? The man is a legend."
Claire smith.
Interview THE SCOTSMAN: Paul Vickers, cabaret artist.
How did you come up with the idea for your new show, Twonkey's Castle?
I bought a toy cottage a couple of years ago for about ten pounds and the idea slowly developed from that point. I thought that things could live in the cottage and it would be good to do stand-up around this as it would be unexpected. I started to imagine the universe around Twonkey and I guess that spawned a trilogy: from last year with Twonkey's Cottage, now it's a castle and I've been thinking about doing Twonkey's Empire next year.
Why have you set it in Liechtenstein?
I've always been obsessed with small countries: when I was at school I wrote a letter to Prince Charles saying I was disappointed in him as he hadn't been to visit enough small countries. He wrote back to me saying he understood my concerns and he had just returned from a skiing trip to Luxembourg! I think he was rubbing it in.
Were kids' television shows an inspiration?
Things like Roobarb and Custard and Chorlton and the Wheelies were, but I like the idea of my show being a little evil and Twonkey is definitely slightly nasty.
You're in the cabaret section; do you think you've benefited from that?
There seems to be a lot of talk about this because it's newly introduced to the brochure and the definition of cabaret was music with comedy, which is what I do. Plus there's a sort of vaudeville element to Twonkey's Castle as well, so I think it fits in best there.
Before now you were best known as a frontman for bands like Dawn of the Replicants and Paul Vickers and the Leg; how did you end up doing comedy?
I guess I'm a bit of an all-rounder in the old sense of the word, like Des O'Connor, those kind of people, just that my world is a lot stranger than theirs, although I do find this world pretty odd. I think if I was ever to have my own show I'd probably sing a few songs, do a bit of comedy and then I'd interview Pat Cash at some point.
What are your thoughts on the free Fringe?
I think it's being taken a lot more seriously this year after Imran Yusuf was nominated for the Best Newcomer at the Foster's Comedy Awards. So since that there's been a lot more interest in it, the economic situation has boosted its popularity as well because you can see a lot of good-quality shows for free. JOHN GLEN.
Brief history: Paul used to front Dawn of the Replicants, a group of rock noiseniks from the Scottish borders who were signed to the might of Warner Brothers Records. The two had an intriguing artistic stand-off where neither appeared to know what to do with the other.
Fast-forward through his outings with the leg to last years fringe and Twonkeys Cottage, arguably the hit of the free fringe. Naturally he has upscaled for 2011 to the equally bizarre and bijou Twonkeys Castle at the grassmarkets beehive inn.
This is the album to accompany that show, and if it can never quite do the live experience justice (despite the canned audience tracks), it is still a significant enhancement.
Hot Beryl sounds like tom waits going on a fringe bender, all megaphone gruff blues vocals and nonsense lyrics, while the Graveyards Of The Moon is vintage Vickers buffoonery- burke and hare under the influence of bad pills perhaps. He flirts with his grubby rock n roll past with Lillian Gish, the actress whose ghost haunts Twonkeys Castle. He sounds possessed by the spirit of Josef K and John Cooper Clarke, as uncomfortable as it sounds. Eccentric? Without question. Essential? Only if you feel the pomposity of modern pop needs to deflated by a maverick telent. Mad as a box of someone else’s hair.
Download this: All of it. Colin Somerville.
6.00: Part of the heralds round-up of priceless comedy at the free fringe. Fate steps in, as it has a habit of doing in Edinburgh in august. It comes in the form of musician-turned-oddball raconteur Paul Vickers. He hands me a flyer for his one-man show Twonkeys castle. It brings us neatly to and possibly the strangest offering on this year’s Fringe. Bizarre and surreal, Twonkeys Castle involves sock puppets, a toy bi-plane, snatches of recorded birdsong and a costumed Vickers singing self-penned songs about (variously) silent screen actress Lillian Gish and a beer and gin cocktail he invented called Hot Beryl. It’s close to genius. I give him a tenner and leave with two CDs and his effusive thanks. Three other punters are so moved/amused/bemused that they pose for a photograph with Vickers afterwards. Barry Didcock.
If you feel in the need of some comic relief: in which case look no further than Twonkeys Castle, Paul Vickers surreal one-man sketch show. Equipped with a chalkboard, a pint of “hot beryl” (half beer, half gin, so he claims, and with his own song to promote such a dubious cocktail) and a vast array of children’s toys and puppets, he devotes an hour to fast-paced eccentric skits. The gags are light-hearted and unpredictable, and his moody northern charm makes up for the few occasions where the set feels untidy. If you’re after a refreshing comedy to wind down after a days exploring, Twonkeys castle is for you. Sophie kindreich. THREE STARS.
Another lung-busting sprint from the east end to the Grassmarket, where another branch of the free Fringe is active, and staging one-man-show Twonkeys Castle. Indie kids will recall Paul Vickers as frontman of Peel faves Dawn of the Replicants (and Pluto Monkey). They may not, however, have thought of him as a likely kids’ entertainer. And if they’re thinking of calling Childline after this set they would be entirely justified. Happily, most of the audience are adults, including a sizable proportion of ‘more ‘mature’ ladies who end up in the front row, and whose expressions (one woman in particular) would freeze hell over.
For those of the audience who get it it’s a laugh-a-minute stuff, although far from the mainstream – the story is of how Twonkey is forced to move from her cottage to a draughty castle due to being haunted by the ghost of Lillian Gish, the actress who eloped to Lichtenstein with her joiner. Or something like that. A variety of (Vickers-powered) personnel are employed to get the story across, including some ‘unusual’ ventriloquism puppets and a jazz assassin, while the finale is a game of ‘Cottage Cheese’ where a blindfolded Vickers identifies various putrefying dairy products by smell alone.
All this is interspersed with tunes which, despite being basic and rather overloaded in the iPod, are distinctly Vickers / Reps in style and delivery. Scotrail attempts to spoil the party again on the way home, though in keeping with the last act, do so by diverting me to Platform 0. Somehow I avoid Hogwash Farm, and the Fife Circle, and make it out of Edinburgh alive, and despite donations, not unjustly poorer than when I left. The Free Fringe is the way ahead. Stuart McHugh.
The front man of Dawn of the Replicants successfully reinvents himself as a sculptor of the spoken word with this startling album accompanying his debut show on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Think Reeves and Mortimer at their most deranged, Pink Floyd’s Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast, Ivor Cutler’s Life In A Scotch Sitting Room, Oliver Postgate's darkest imaginings, or even a long lost chapter to Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Vickers also takes the opportunity to share his insights into the music business, the fruits of being an indie band signed to a very major label. The advice proffered is pleasingly utterly useless.
The closest to a conventional song is Lion Milking A Cow, strangely with traces of Antony and the Johnsons-but madder than a box of thinning hair. That is the quality which makes this record, a love of nonsensical language and acrobatic dexterity with words, which engages from the opening gibberish of Frankenstein’s Liquorice Castle to the hidden track concealed in the 22nd one.
Lovestruck Malcolm sounds like a bootleg recording made on Captain Pugwash's last voyage, with DJ Mark Radcliffe on the wheels of steel. Unhinged gems like Moosk boast Milligan-like dialogue, which twists and contorts logic in a surprisingly inclusive fashion. DOWNLOAD: All of it. COLIN SOMERVILLE.
Just plain silly There’s a lot to love about Paul Vickers and his not-for-kids, kids show. Ambling onstage at midday he launches into the story of Twonkey, a small, limp character perched onstage in front of a model cottage, whose love for acid house he indicates with some fierce strobe lighting.
From then on the pace slackens to an enjoyable stroll through the spoken word pieces on his latest album, Fucking Stories. Vickers specializes in surreal non-sequiturs, and finds a way to derail each of his short works by bringing in the odd unnecessary word or disconcerting phrase. His comedic set pieces are similarly daft - the best is when he tries to smoke a witch out of a toy windmill using a sparkler, and thus restore it to its proper purpose of grain production.
There’s music as well of course. Vickers is a Scottish music scene mainstay, who fronted John Peel favourites Dawn of the Replicants, and now performs with The Leg. He sings a heartfelt song about failing to get a cat from an ‘arsehole’ at an animal sanctuary and ends with a rousing number from a 1918 Broadway musical. There’s no hint of affected quirkiness throughout. Vickers is just a good, honest weirdo, and very funny to boot. THREE STARS. JONNY ENSALL.
If Pete Firman is as smooth as a car salesman, then Paul Vickers, singer with cult Scottish band The Dawn of the Replicants and the man behind the enjoyably odd Twonkey's Cottage show, is his shambolic polar opposite. Looking like Galashiels' answer to Noddy Holder, Vickers presides over his own prop-based world of underwater circuses; windmills inhabited by witches and elephant chimney sweeps. The show is a haphazard mix of Grimm’s' fairy tales, spoken-word performance and willfully duff puppetry that, should you need it, provides an antidote to the parade of slick, career-focused comics.
Vickers can't really sustain it for the full show and, if it has its own internal logic or narrative then it passed me by, but I would still heartily recommend you drop in on Twonkey. It is part of the Laughing Horse Free Fringe and so far it's the only show that has actually made me cry with laughter.

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