When it came to previewing this year's Camden Fringe there was so much going on that we resorted to plucking random words from show names to give a hint of the range of performance on offer this month. Continuing the random approach, we picked a day - Wednesday 31 July - and picked a venue - Etcetera Theatre - and set out to watch as many shows back to back as we could.
This is not a normal way to do things. Sensible people browse the programme and select something that might appeal to their tastes, or that's local or on a time that suits. We didn't know what we were going to see till we got there.
In just four hour-long, one-hander shows, we had life stories from Colombia to the home counties, two quite different performances delivered in poetry, stand up comedy and psycho-geography. There was attempted rape, unwise tramp befriending, tube nerdery, suicide survivors, immigrants, boarding school, a double bass, loneliness and quiet desperation. We started at 3pm. We laughed, we cried, we wondered what was going on, we applauded. Emotionally drained (and very hot) by 8.30pm we had to call it a day although, we're already thinking of going back for more. So many venues, so many days to run! We saw:
Psycho-geography: An Exercise to Remember my Future: a brave one-woman show about growing up in Colombia and what happens when a family disperses across the globe with dubious migrant status. On until Sunday at Etcetera, 3pm.
Wordwhore: an intense and challenging verse monologue following a young girl from country to city, a study in loneliness and emotional detachment. Adult themes and language. Plus a double bass. On until Friday at Etcetera, 4.30pm
Elf Lyons is a Pervert: first hour-long solo stand-up show from the very endearing Elf Lyons. It's all about her and her family and very, very funny. We were also impressed to find out she's more of a tube nerd than we are. Be quick and you might catch her tonight at Etcetera at 6pm.
The Ballad of the Unbeatable Hearts: a one man show about young gay suicides shouldn't be funny but this really is, although tragic by turns. An impressive amount of couplet rhyming, a marvellous joyful vision of a sliding doors possible future, and an emotional body-blow to finish. Sorry, you've missed the boat on this one. Stick a pin in the programme and find something equally as surprising.