Walking under a wooden doorframe to enter the ‘venue’ (which was not quite the summit, by the way) before sitting on a patch of grass atop a volcano whilst a man sings about the London Underground - this is definitely a unique way to spend the afternoon.
Barry Ferns creates a wonderful rapport with the audience and random passers-by, really playing up to the environment. As the rain sporadically showers or a half-naked runner passes by, all situations are met with a light-hearted humour. He even took a moment to ponder over the poignancy of the situation, reciting the poem ‘Leisure’ by W. H. Davies, altering the words to ‘What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to sit and stare?’ It really is a beautiful setting and I was glad that he took the opportunity to draw attention to it.
His guests were Jay Foreman and Patrick Monahan. Unfortunately this line-up didn’t feel full enough to constitute a ‘gala’. Furthermore, I didn’t find Foreman’s songs very funny - they were more of a pleasant distraction. Monahan was an expert when handling the crowd, attempting to crowd-surf the couples and families sitting on the grass, and striking up humorous conversations with audience members. However, this was all that he did, with quite a short set for which he hadn’t prepared any material.
Last week, a rogue issue of Broadway Baby was published giving a certain Barry Ferns a six-star review, referencing Jesus Christ himself. While the Gala did not live up to this albeit biased and fabricated opinion, Ferns is an amiable and funny host and his Lionel Richie obsession may be strange but it’s certainly fun. All visitors to the Festival should certainly take a trip up Arthurs Seat at least once during the month and this is by no means a bad way to pass the time. However, don’t expect to be blown away, unless it’s by a particularly strong gust of wind.