29 tweets: it begins

31 Jan

The first tweet is scheduled to go out tomorrow. These are the rules I worked with:

1. Each tweet is exactly 140 characters long.

2. Each tweet contains at least one link, @reference or hash tag. A hash tag is defined as valid if it’s previously been used by at least one person.

One tweet breaks these rules, but that’s purposeful.

The tweets will be going up every day at 11am.

The list of others playing is at https://twitter.com/#!/list/29tweetsproject/fellow29tweeters. Let me know if you’d like to be added.

Let the stories commence!

29 tweets: I love a deadline

29 Jan


Remember this project? Tell your life story in 29 tweets. I planned this in September last year, and part of that plan was regular updates as to the process.

The process, it turns out is much like any writing process. An enthusiastic beginning and a strong outline (at least I know the story) but a metric ***ton of work still to do in the next few days.

I know there were a few folk interested Way Back When – is anyone still joining me? I’ll do it anyway but it is so much more joyful with a group.

Tweet at me @29tweetsproject to let me know if you want to play, too. Otherwise, look out for the story from Wednesday morning UK time.

Lizzie x

The 29 tweets project

19 Sep

February 2012 has 29 days. They’re my last 29 days of being 29. I’ve decided to tell my life story in 29 tweets. You can play, too, if you like. 

I’ve been mulling this project over for a while, but the recent chat from Carol Ann Duffy, and the SOA tweetathon have reinvigorated my enthusiasm for Playing with Twitter.

Subverting a medium

The ethos of Twitter is as a live blogging site, for very up-to-the-minute information, written in the moment, each tweet a stand-alone artefact.

But one of the joys of life is taking something and using it for something other than its intended purpose. I’ve decided to do just that, and use Twitter to tell an epic story, something that is carefully crafted and written, and then released on Twitter. I’m hoping to use the medium’s restrictions to create artistic possibilities.

Turning thirty

I also wanted to do a wee project to mark turning 30 next year. I realised 2012 is a leap year, and I turn 30 in March, so my last 29 days of being 29 will be a special sort of 29 days. So I decided to combine the two ideas, and use Twitter to tell my life story (so far) over those 29 days. I’ve set up a Twitter account (@29tweetsproject) to tell the story.

Join me!

I’m trying to craft it to be as good a read as I can, and it’ll be an interesting experiment, but my life story is probably of interest to relatively few people. So I figured the whole thing might be even more interesting if other folk wanted to join in. So, if you want to play, too, tweet me (@29tweetsproject), or comment below with your Twitter name. I’ll curate an open ’29tweetsproject’ list through that (unfortunately we can’t use hashtags because there’s no room in each tweet – see rules below).

You don’t have to be 29 – in fact it’d be cool if we can get a mix of ages, and a mix of people generally.

What’s the point?

To play around and have fun. If lots of people join in then I do have a few ideas about how the ’29tweetsproject’ might evolve (and I might set up a dedicated blogspace if it get busy), but there’s no overarching philosophical or commercial aim or any of that nonsense. I just think projects like this are kinda cool. lf no-one else wants to join in then I’ll just have fun by myself, but things are normally more fun if other people play, too.

The rules

  1. One tweet a day over the 29 days of February should come together to chronologically tell the story of your life so far. The point is to write them all in advance – I’ve started already – so that it’s all planned and crafted. You can use stuff like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to then queue the release of your pre-written tweets from the 1st to the 29th of February.
  2. The chronology doesn’t have to be relative – skip the dull stuff and then write five tweets covering the same month if you like. Everything should be in essence true; but little details get blown up, glossed over or mis-remembered, which is a normal part of biography.
  3. Each tweet must be exactly 140 characters long. Extra shiny bonus points for including a relevant hashtag, @reference or link.
  4. Break the rules or make more of your own if you like.

Comedy review: Wendy Wason

22 Aug

First published online for The Skinny

Heavily pregnant Wendy Wason’s show is quite cleverly conceived (no pun intended). She looks back at incidents that have shaped her life thus far and there’s something about her imminent labour that lends extra weight to the concept. Essentially, it is just an extended set, but it works, the Flashbacks concept tying it nicely together; it neither tries too hard to fit a theme, nor meanders off course.

She doesn’t labour the point of her pregnancy too much, either, which provides reassurance that her impending motherhood is an incidental fact, not something played for a gimmick.

Wason is charming and sections are beautifully nostalgic, if a section playing songs from her iPod seems clumsy and unnecessary. Her show may not be the place to go if you’re looking for subversive, political or ground-breaking comedy, but as far as a cosy and funny afternoon out is concerned, you couldn’t go far wrong in Wason’s company.

Comedy review: Storytellers’ Club

18 Aug

First published online for The Skinny

Comedy lends itself well to storytelling; that’s what a lot of comedy is. But acts tonight have been told not to worry about being funny, but to focus on the story. Of course, I’ve spent enough time with comics to know that a good act can’t help but tell a story without it being funny, and there are inevitably stories lifted out from the acts’ sets. But this material doesn’t seem crowbarred into the genre, and all of the acts on tonight are very natural. The stories themselves are allowed room of their own; space to breathe and to be told without the ever-present Cowell-esque question of ‘yes, but is it funny?’ They are allowed to be touching, inspiring, tragic and comic in their turn as host Sarah Bennetto guides us through tonight’s offerings: stories of failed romances, betrayal and the Eiffel Tower.

Audiences are even allowed to join in, with a short story competition (five words), the prize of home-made comic books from Bennetto and fellow storyteller James Dowdeswell adding to the inherent homely charm of the night. The development of Storytellers’ Club really feels like a labour of love from people who want to have fun and tell stories.

A wonderfully cosy night that’s well worth catching as part of a rounded Fringe experience.

Comedy review: Andy Zaltzman

17 Aug

First published online for The Skinny

The SkinnyIt’s amazing how much you can tell from a Fringe show by its audience as you come in. For Zaltzman’s show, everyone seemed to be wearing glasses. The couple behind me were wondering if the bar served coffee, and debating where to go afterwards for tea and cake.

This feel was very much reflected in the feel of Andy Zaltzman’s show. With a set resembling a 1950s study, the usual housekeeping announcements before the show were replaced by announcements and ‘bonus jokes’ from Zaltzman. It’s a nice touch to set the scene for what was a gentle stroll of a show, in which Zaltzman uses comic metaphor and brilliantly terrible wordplay to popular effect.

The show is based on the premise that we lack the vitality for proper political uprising in this country.

Then, the night I saw this show, the England riots hit, and I couldn’t help but wonder how this had affected the show. I decided to ask the man himself.
Zaltzman told me that he did have to make changes to the show in the aftermath of events: “That’s the problem with these rioters,” he tells me “they just don’t think about the consequences of their actions. Having just finally settled on how and where to do everything, I then had to change it all.”

That’s what I love about this artform; it’s the most immediate form there is. Acts can spend months working on a show only to have world events blow it sideways. From speaking to those who have seen Zaltzman’s show more recently, it seems that it’s picked itself back up in an even more intriguing shape than before.

Therein lies the true beauty of comedy.

Comedy review: Steve Day

15 Aug

First published online for The Skinny

Telling the story of a personal feat is a tough call in comedy. Many shows either use it as only as a loose basis around which to hang material, or get so distracted by the reality of the story that, whilst interesting, it ceases to really qualify as comedy.

Steve Day’s tale of his quest to run the London Marathon victoriously manages both. He never distracts from the narrative of the story, drawing in the audience with his tale of endurance – such that I am more than once moved to tears – but at the same time keeps the laughter constant and free-flowing, and never an awkward addition.


Comedy review: The Comedy Zone

15 Aug

First published online for The Skinny

The Comedy Zone is a Fringe institution, the longest running showcase on the festival, and this year’s offering brings a mix of quality and substance.

Compere Iain Stirling hangs the night together wonderfully – friendly and cheeky with a warm and likeable persona. Opening act Hari Kondabolu then sets the bar high for the evening. The US comic approaches race issues from an original angle and keeps the audience attentive and amused with intelligent material. Next up, in sharp contrast, comes Paul Currie, whose slapstick set is perhaps most kindly described by a line I heard from a girl at the bar afterwards: ‘It’s funny because it’s not’.

Closer Phil Wang has some fantastic lines and a fresh approach, but his race material falls slightly flat, and it wasn’t the best programming decision to put two performers with such similar material in the same line up, especially bookending such a radically different style. Wang is a good act, but suffers by comparison to Kondabolu, who is a great act.

Comedy review: Comedy in the dark

14 Aug

First published online for The Skinny

Comedy in the Dark is what it says on the tin. Whilst there’s a little bit of light as acts come on and off stage, the room is pitch dark – trusty helpers are employed to cover the fire exits signs (to be uncovered swiftly in case of genuine emergency) and you can’t see your hand in front of your face. It’s a fun and innovative premise, and one that’s exploited by the comics to varying effect.

Compere Jim Smallman introduces the night in an amiable enough fashion, drawing predictable but well-delivered banter out of the situation we’re all in. The first act on stage then repeats some of this – proving that acts should always listen to the compere. Next, Mark Olver quickly decides that his material isn’t suited to the environment, and that it would be more hilarious to climb through the audience in the dark. In fact this swings between boring and dangerous.

It’s James Acaster who is the clear star of the show. Whilst he loses some of the late night audience with the experimental nature of his material, to the more sober amongst us he proves victoriously that comedy really is all in the delivery.

Although tonight’s comics largely fail to properly explore the opportunities presented by the set-up, the line-up that changes nightly, and it’s well worth checking out as a proper Fringe experience.


Comedy review: David Reed

13 Aug

First published online for The Skinny

Shamblehouse is the first solo show from former Penny Dreadful David Reed, hotly tipped for this year’s Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer.

From the moment he walks on stage, Reed is completely believable as each of his characters. This is not the masks and wigs school of character comedy. Reed is a superb actor and embraces the full physicality of each of his creations, and yet there is always a flicker of the man himself smiling knowingly and joyfully out of his eyes. This is particularly the case in his central character, a surreal Eastern European who seems to inhabit the space between worlds and between sketches, operating neither as tired filler nor something which suffocates the other characters.

If the audience’s deep investment in the acrobatic career of a doughnut seems unexpected, it’s nothing compared to their concern over the fate of an imaginary Labrador. Combining extreme silliness with moments of total poignancy, Reed is utterly captivating, and the crowd hang on his every word.

A strong ending has an epilogue which is brilliant but perhaps unnecessary, but this seems an insignificant criticism in an otherwise perfect hour.