Friday 1- Sunday 3rd May 2015 – Machynlleth Comedy Festival, Powys, Wales.

Mega Mach  Day 1.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is fabulous, mindbending, multicultural, frantic, hilarious, eye-opening, educational and sometimes (but rarely) stupendously tedious, but there is another festival that we have come to love, even more than the Fringe, over the past three years.

That festival is small enough to be friendly and intimate, but big enough to be surprisingly varied and that is Machfest; a comedy gathering held over the early May Bank Holiday weekend with start times on the Friday evening and the last shows ending late on Sunday. The festival covers comedy, theatre, music, cabaret and children are welcome too – (although not to all comedy – as there are adult themes and material)

Since we began attending it in 2013 it has become our favourite weekend of the year, and this year, despite rain, wind, our tent threatening to take off to Kansas, unfortunate showering experiences and plenty of mud, we once again had a Machnificent time!! (sorry!)

The weather for Friday was dry as we set off from Cornwall, and only got sunnier and warmer as we drove North. We broke the 239 miles to Mach with a stop at Bristol for petrol, and again at Builth Wells for a spot of lunch at the Cosy Corner Tearoom (55 High Street!) who did me a lovely Vegetable Stew with Mash and a Burger with Stilton for Dave, and on we drove, arriving at Mach just before 3pm. Dave dashed off to swap his printed show receipts for tickets and I started the always complicated business of getting the tent up, and trying to ensure I pegged it down hard enough to STAY up (oh, yes, did I forget to say, we had the Machfest camping deal of three nights for £25 each?).

Then came the horrible realisation, no, I hadn’t forgotten the duvet this year (check out last year’s blog for more on that) but something even worse – I’d left the flipping bottle opener at home! A quick request to the nice people in the mini van parked next to our car, and an opener was loaned for a few minutes so that I could get the inaugural two bottles of cider open to christen the birth of the tent from its packing case.

Campsite

At the campsite – looking relatively fresh on Friday! Our Machfest beer mugs have already been christened!

I’d got the inner dome part up and was wrestling with the porch frame when Dave finally arrived back. The box office had had a rather long queue. Next year we’ve decided to get all of the tickets sent to us at home.

Soon enough the tent was sorted, the airbed blown up, bedding chucked in, the pitch left as secure as you can make a zippable tent, and off we jolly well went to our first gig which was starting at 5.30pm (of four that night).

On the way we called into the lovely sweet shop, Losin Lush, where Festival Chocolate Bars are for sale, some with very special tickets enclosed in the wrapping. If you win one you get to go to the Sweet Shop Gig with a friend, (which we did last year). Dave bought five bars, with the intention of auctioning any winning tickets for charity as we already had a gig booked which would clash. We had nothing hidden in the wrappers though, so we just had to settle for eating the chocolate, what a hardship.

The very bendy Thom Tuck in his show “Flaneur” at the Vayne Tempest venue in the Y Plas was our first show of the festival. With his (probably) Marks and Sparks cardi, and comfortable looking trousers, Thom gave us his views on life and prompted the crowd to give us statements with ” I am…” sentence starters. If I’m totally honest, I’ve never been a big Tuck fan, I saw him at Edinburgh two years ago in the Alternative Comedy Experience and I found him snobbishly irritating in that,  but ok, he’s won me over with this hour and I’ll let Dave have this one – sometimes he does know better!

Next up was a change of venue to the Owain Glyndwr Centre for Goose, “a one-man comedy whodunit about a hate-crime committed against David Schwimmer. Live music. An alphabet of characters. All a bit sideways.” (quote taken from the Machfest programme). We loved it, and it got a spontaneous standing ovation in the small space it occupied. A definite highlight. With the main man deconstructing his own show as he went along, he kept us thoroughly entertained, if a little bemused, for the whole hour. Dave was dragged up on stage along with another Dave, a comedy fan whom we know (thankfully!), and directed to get down on the floor and become a bit more intimate! Dave never gets pulled up on stage without giving it his theatrical all and the ensuing snog may still be being marvelled about in whispered wonder at next year’s Mach!

Back to the Y Plas, and soon revisiting our barely cooled seats for Beth Vyse‘s Get Up With Hands. If you’re a regular (or irregular) reader of this blog, (Does anyone read this blog? More feedback please!) you will be well aware that Dave has history with Beth’s manic, brilliantly observed, tragic alter ego, Olive Hands, morning tv presenter for the second most popular morning show on TV.

In Edinburgh Dave saw this show for the first time, and was pulled up onstage to be “victimised” while I was otherwise occupied, and then he enthusiastically hauled me in for a second viewing for him, and for me to be amazed at the manic originality of Beth’s creation, whereupon he was dragged up and painted/dressed up for a second time whilst I fell about in hysterics and tried to focus the camera.

This time he did his best to be slightly more unforthcoming, hovering around the back seats; which I was not having, so I marched up, settled us in the front row and awaited for chaos to ensue. Olive is supported by the always wonderfully surreal Ali Brice as her matching leopard skin dressed son. Ali’s hapless attempts to stop Olive causing systematic and surreal suicide to her TV career are wonderful to behold, but in the end…well I’m not going to say – because if you can get yourself here, you will find out exactly what happens – and this will be your last chance!

As for Dave, yes, I’m afraid there was no escape.

Dave at Get Up With Hands V2

Olive Hands (Beth Vyse) and Dave in Letitia Dean get up.

Next up, and our last show for the evening, was Nick Helm doing his Masterworks In Progress at the Owain Glyndwr Centre’s Billiard Room – the Billiard Room being a new venue for Mach.

Nick is a thoroughly nice bloke, (despite his “shouty” persona during his musical gigs!) and always has a word and a hug for the fans. We started with David Trent giving us a bit of a musical intro on his guitar whilst everyone was getting themselves in and seated  and then Nick was on with no huge fanfare and gave us a quietly spoken hour of trial material, all stand up with one liners, some story telling and observations. A lovely end to our first evening.

Tired, slightly drunk, and happy from bumping into so many Mach friends, we headed for our tent, fingers crossed that a) It was still standing, and b) that the spots of rain that were just starting weren’t going to be the precursor of anything horrible, although the weather forecast all week had not been encouraging.

The popup campsite (they move the sheep out, then move us in) is shared with the Dyfi Enduro meet, run by Dyfi Mountain Biking each year. They are on the other side of the site and have their own marquee/entertainment/food tent and boy, do those guys love get their party on. The sound of popular hits drifted across the field till the wee small hours each night. Teamed with the noise that the rain is making on the tent, you would think we’d be awake most of the night, but we’d partaken of a few of the local ales and ciders and it wasn’t too long before we were well gone.

Carole.

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