OUT TO LUNCH: Eilidh's Daily Ukulele Ceilidh
Anne-Marie Marquess enters the weird and wonderful world of the ukulele
Before Eilidh’s Daily Ukulele Ceilidh begins, Out To Lunch artist-in-residence Geoff Gatt takes to the stage with his own ukulele, singing a lovely melodic song all about a girl. A girl who loved a boy. The actor and entertainer proves himself a talented singer and songwriter.
Then Scottish entertainer Eilidh MacAskill takes her place on the stage. Singing her theme song, she tells us that she likes to educate as well as entertain: she calls it edutainment. What follows is a random collection of songs, stories, costume changes, improvisation, comedic moments and amusing general waffle. The Scotsman describes her show as 'endearingly haphazard', and I have to agree with that synopsis. It's completely random, but somehow holds together.
Before the show begins in earnest, MacAskill asks everyone why they are here. Is it for the ukulele? To see her in the flesh? Or just because they want to get out of the rain and have some warm food? She tells us that people ask why her show is called a ceilidh when there is no dancing involved. Because, she points out, 'a ceilidh is whatever I say it is'.
She tells us she was invited to a Ukulele festival in New York and panicked, being amongst such high profile ukulele people. She says, though, that none of them had a sense of humour. They were dull, so absorbed with the ukulele itself, and not the best communicators. She describes the ukulele in a slow and sensual husky voice, starting at the bottom and working to the top, describing it in great detail, plucking the strings and comparing it to the shape of a beautiful curvy woman. Without arms and legs that is.
Before things get too hot and steamy,she turns to the topic of ugly shoes, pointing out that she bought her latest pair in TK Maxx. A song ensues. Another bizarre tune includes the line 'Are the crackers here called crackers / cos they’re made of crack cocaine?'
The audience is asked if they know where the ukulele comes from. 'Holland!' shouts one man. No, she tells us, the ukulele originates in Madeira. Then begins a song. 'Once upon a time there was an island and the island was called Madeira.'
We are then told a bizarre musical story about a man named Fernandez and his machete who went out to sea on a boat to Hawaii, with a group of people who hated him by the end of the journey, due to his constant singing and playing. She sings about his arrival and how he invented and named the ukulele (jumping flea) in Hawaii. So that’s our ukulele history lesson over. I checked, and bizarrely, the ukulele is an instrument developed in Hawaii and does roughly translate as 'jumping flea'.
Another song follows about MacAskill's cat, a cat who doesn’t like the ukulele. 'My cat don’t run away, She don’t like the way, I play, the ukulele.' We learn that MacAskill is trained in theatre art, but as she says, 'I’m not very good at learning lines. So I don’t.'
She then talks about her body, legs that can walk 500 miles, a rear that’s made of prime scotch beef on the bone and a stomach that’s constantly growing. She tells us that she doesn’t know the due date for the baby that’s made completely of beer! She stretches her arms and marvels at the length, 2cm longer than her height, making her 'ape positive'. When she talks about putting on weight she tells us that a small animal has attached itself to her midriff.
She tells us how she would like to appear on Newsnight Review, and another song ensues. On the subject of internet spam, a subject that anyone using a computer in their daily work will be aware of, she sings a song that’s probably best not repeated here. It puts into song the sort of spam we're all aware of!
MacAskill tells us that her act appeared in The LIST top list of 100 Scots who rocked our world in 2007, landing in at #95. Her trusty ukulele has taken her far, though she feels she has yet to master it. Closing the show with another song, MacAskill actually proves a really good singer, with a great sense of humour. It's ukulele overkill, but enjoyable (if random) musical edutainment.