LODGE PORTER ATE MY HAMSTRING
Arriving at ElkFest with a twisted knee, as opposed to my usual twisted sense of journalism, I was overjoyed to discover that the Lodge Porter had relocated the press room from the first floor to the ground floor. It was a little dark ... er, very, very dark ... and it was actually in the basement (or dungeon) ... but it showed there is a heart beating deep within his surly exterior.
Rumour has it; he even paid for Hayden (an ElkFest regular) to fly to Spain to join that nice Mr Orwell in his fight against fascism. No-one had the heart to mention that it was all done and dusted, bar the paintings, years ago.
MARQUEES COME AND MARQUEES GO
In the blink of an eye, which I was wont to do, on account of my adjustment from the dark interior of the new press room to the extreme daylight of the great outdoors, the marquee was up and ready. So quickly in fact, that the erection team didnt know what to do with themselves (as it was too early for elevenses). But then the lighting riggers arrived, with a great deal of tutting and inhalation of breath. After more tutting and wheezing, they decided that string was needed. Did they have string? Of course they did. And before you could inflate a chicken and shout bombs away, the scene was set for the cabaret.
FOLLOW THAT CAB
The cabaret kicked off with a confession. Regular MC, The Mitchell, burst onto the stage with his scary travellers tales. With horror stories of the wrong coloured sand; dismay and despair about Spaniards daring to speak Spanish, cook Spanish food, and well just be Spanish ... in Spain! ... I was surprised, not only by how well travelled The Mitchell is (I mean Spain is beyond Ipswich isnt it?), but by his ability to complain so much to so many, and so publicly. A truly cathartic experience. But then he remembered why he was there and introduced the first act.
Clive bode stroldly onto the stage and delivered The Prologue to the Play. There was much (the miller) talk about weeding in Sherbert Forest, Robbing Hoodies, and Will Scarlett Johansson ever master the offside rule [wrong Hansen, Bob Ed] [sorry must have been lost in translation Bob], but he ultimately failed to find a suitable rhyme for Friar Tuck, although this may have been that Google have been threatening to block access to the ElkFest website. A great first act, but Im still not sure about his mock West Country accent.
Next up was Ken. Its always good to see a Festal Virgin tread the ElkFest cabaret boards and Ken didnt disappoint. He rather skirted around his two black eyes on his way to deliver the punch line, but a brave performance, especially with so many seasoned previous performers present.
And then it was time for some peaceful reflection, as Moos Musings took us on a trip into a gentler, softer, safer and more caring world. Utterly out of place at ElkFest, but another assured delivery from one of ElkFests top ten poets.
Working solo this year, but ably assisted by herself, Suzanne really hit the X right on the mark, with her spot the granny competition. After the tranquil interlude from Karen, this cast us back into the surreal and violent world, traditionally visited by the ElkFest cabaret. I dont believe Ive ever witnessed a demonstration of the two most common methods of strangulation before; and Im not sure I would ever want to witness it again. Nevertheless, another tour de force. Shes cool, shes no fool, cant pull the wool ... over Suzannes eyes. Itll be break dancing next year, methinks.
And so, with just minutes left to continue the overrun, Maxine Makeover delivered the finale. Uncannily, on the dimly lit stage and from certain angles she looked a lot like Phil; but angles can be deceiving, and perception is in the eye of the bee keeper. Having coerced an unwilling volunteer to be simultaneously serenaded and transformed into a poplar tree, (which involves delicate use of separate baskets one to lift and separate and the other to find a quiet, isolated place for deep meditation), Maxine delivered. I mean, she really delivered. The babys doing well. When Hayden gets back from Spain, no doubt theyll decide on a suitable name. My moneys on Gertrude.
RAIN DELAYS PLAY
Well the rain delayed the whole evening actually, but thats weather for you.
Id been looking forward to The Lodge Porter and the Chamber of Cheesecakes for weeks, but alas the play turned out to be Robin Hood and the Sherriff of Widdington.
The plot was rather taxing, but this didnt deter the ElkFest Radio Players. Unphased by the labyrinthine twists and turns of the storyline, they came, they saw and played conkers.
Phil was suitably sneering and slippery as the Sherriff, but his sidekick, the only Guy in Gisborne (Dave) lacked the original casting idea, although he coped well when the Sherriff mistook him for a guitar. Robin Hood, played by Cat, and his bitch, played rather too well, I think, by Jemma, arrived later in the show, slightly delayed by a visit to Hadrians Wall. Cat kept abreast of proceedings magnificently, which the surly serf (Andy) pointed out on more than one occasion, while Bitch was nicely servile, until she delivered the writers invoice.
Clive, as the Soldier, nailed his part to a T or was it a tree? Anyway, we all winced in empathy as the final nail hit home. And Sue, as the swooning wench, brought her turnip soup to life and won first prize in the ElkFest Master Chef competition.
Samanthas effects interrupted proceedings as usual, but alas mostly in context, until the Soldier attempted to post a decree by opening a door and rustling paper. All in all (and with Lodges dry stone wall narration), a SOUND performance, not to mention Moo causing a bit of a stir with her cameo or was it her dungarees?
TWO OF A PERFECT TRIO
Unannounced and quietly refusing to waken a sleeping Lorraine, they ambled on stage and delivered echoes of bygone ages, casting crimson shadows, spanning 1969 to 1994.
With Andy Van Helsing on bass, Catwoman on vocals, the Smoking Man on guitar, and a brief appearance of Old Porter on percussion, they performed a short set, which demonstrated how a mixture of nerves, lack of rehearsal time and sheer bravado can overcome stage-fright, last minute practise and copious quantities of Courage Best.
What can you say about Crimson Shadows unique wall of noise?
Firstly, its more of a barrier than a wall. Secondly, its more noise than you can comfortably listen to. But this year it was ... well, much the same, really ... but they had built in an extra layer. No, not another chicken (Ill get around to that eventually), but a keyboard player.
The new sound was not only bigger and better, but better and bigger. With favourites old and new, they played long into the night and the undergrowth, and even had the seasoned hippies dancing in the cornfield; complete with their trippy, glowing armbands cocking a snoot at the mysterious green light (which we now believe appears to be on a ley line between the strategically placed wasp-ridden fruit, the Lodges back door and somewhere in the middle distance; the middle distance still proving to be elusive and somewhere in the distance, and somewhere in the middle).
I did manage a brief interview with the newest member of the ensemble Shaun (keyboards), - and asked him why he was often in the background (volume-wise). Andys amp goes up to 11 I cant compete, he replied. I tried it once, but he bought an amp, which went up to 12. When he threatened the infinity amp plus one, I gave up.
With every year which goes by, Crimson Shadow get better and bigger, bigger and better, beggar and bitter. And yet, they refuse to play 21st Century Schizoid Man or Geronimo. One day, perhaps.
AND SO TO BREAKFAST
The traditional Surreal Breakfast has been sadly lacking the former in recent years, but this year there was an attempt to reintroduce the old to the new.
Discussions ranged far and wide and in between, but I was most intrigued by the dietary habits of the most recent newcomers the chickens. Not just any chickens, but ElkFest chickens. Evidently they are fed on a mixture of corn, cat food and gravel. The latter is not for nutritional purposes, but to weigh them down, for fear of them floating off into the Stansted flight path, when the only humane thing to do would be to shoot them out of the sky, which would have a hugely negative impact on egg-laying potential.
So, did I have scrambled, poached, boiled or fried for breakfast? Er, no. I had toast. And with that, I toast the Lodge and ElkFest 2009. Another success. And I look forward to ElkFest 2010.
This report of Elkfest 2009 has been reproduced from the Widdington Evening Moose using unbranded sticky tape which was really not all that sticky and hence took much longer than it should have done. Too much cost cutting at the Widdington Evening Moose.