Review – An American in Paris, Dominion Theatre, 2nd September 2017

An American in ParisIt’s been a few months now since An American in Paris hit the London stage, a much-awaited Big Ticket with a strong reputation for great dance and musical magic. It will probably come as no surprise to you, gentle reader, to discover that neither Mrs Chrisparkle nor I have seen the film (we’re useless cinemagoers) so I came to the show without any preconceptions or knowledge of what to expect.

AIP 4The original movie is of course a product of the Hollywood machine, with a score by those legends George and Ira Gershwin. I knew many of the songs, but didn’t know they came from this show. I Got Rhythm, ‘S Wonderful, I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise, The Man I Love, They Can’t Take That Away from Me… all show classics. To do the film justice, I’m guessing they concentrated on high production values, and as a result the show looks stunning. The sets are inventive, with an amazing use of projection to create different locations at the flick of a switch. The orchestra is fantastic, making those famous songs sound truly superb. I particularly loved the whole performance of “I Got Rhythm”; how it starts off as a languid, rather funereal anthem and so unlike the party piece we all know and love, but then gets a kick up the rear with a funky arrangement. The orchestra play it again as the entr’acte music and it’s absolutely brilliant.

AIP 11There’s also a great cast. When I checked my programme – more of which later – I was delighted to see some favourite names in there. Jerry is played by Ashley Day, who was a sensational Curly in the touring production of Oklahoma! a couple of years ago. Zoe Rainey, who was a stylish and charming Hope in Sheffield’s Anything Goes, plays Milo Davenport with elegant enthusiasm. Ashley Andrews, superb in both Drunk and Mack and Mabel, shines as the difficult choreographer Mr Z, and there’s even the evergreen Jane Asher providing a frosty warmth to the role of Madame Baurel.

AIP 10However, something’s just not right. It was Mrs C who pointed out that for some reason it just does not add up to the sum of its parts. Once you’ve got over the amusing set up of having three friends all chasing the same girl and none of them realise it, the story is paper thin, and doesn’t really sustain two hours forty minutes. The famous American in Paris ballet sequence, which acts as the climax to the show, whilst musically strong and immaculately performed, left me just a little bit bored. Leanne Cope, who plays Lise, is a remarkable performer for her combination of ballet (a First Artist at the Royal Ballet) and superb voice, but for me she maintains that beautiful ballerina countenance at the expense of emotional reaction to all that happens around her. I never got that spark of attraction between her and any of her three suitors, so their combined plight was never as moving as I’m sure it ought to be. It was like observing an immaculately beautiful museum piece, finely constructed by a master craftsman, but almost totally devoid of passion. There’s a slight disconnect in the dance too, with Miss Cope’s feet firmly in the ballet camp and Mr Day’s firmly in musical theatre, so that when they dance together something doesn’t quite gel. The ensemble and swings do an amazing job at filling the stage with their colourful energy but, again, I felt that some of Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography lacked a little imagination. So it all never really soared.

AIP 2I was also slightly disappointed at the way some of the big numbers came across. ‘S Wonderful felt like a very slight kind of song somehow, like a wispy feather struggling to stand still in a breeze. I’ll Build a Stairway to Heaven was given a very grand Hollywood setting (think the finale to A Chorus Line but even more so) but it seemed strangely inappropriate; for me, the look and the sound clashed. I can’t explain it more; I simply remember watching the performance and thinking, no, this isn’t for me. And I like musicals!

AIP 7There’s a running joke in the show that Jerry’s designs for the American in Paris big ballet sequence are not up to Mr Z’s demanding standards, and it’s only when Milo Davenport threatens to remove the funding for the show that Mr Z relents. The adaptation of Jerry’s designs to the actual staging of the number and the costumes of the dancers is incredibly well done – technically fantastic. However, I think I have to agree with Mr Z. When it actually came to the big number, I thought the abstract designs were rather cheap looking, and didn’t enhance the narrative of the dance.

AIP 8You’d think from this that I didn’t enjoy the show. Not true – I certainly did. There was so much to appreciate musically and from the performances, and from the entertaining script (I enjoyed the occasional tongue-in-cheek references to George Gerswhin!) It looked sumptuous, and the orchestra were fantastic. It’s just that we didn’t connect with it. Still, a very appreciative house did; and I see that it has recently extended its booking to April 2018, so it’s obviously doing something right. I’m very glad to have seen it; I wouldn’t want to see it again.

AIP 1P. S. The programme is a big colour brochure full of great photos (but then so is their website). £8. “Do you have smaller ordinary programmes, or is this the only one”, I asked the slightly surprised programme-seller. “No, this is it”, she replied. I duly paid out my £8, and wondered how I was going to break the news to Mrs C. It was so big I could hardly stuff it into my man-bag. I’m not going to use the words “rip off”, because it’s probably not bad value for what it offers. It’s just that it almost offers too much! For £8 I could buy a week’s worth of undies at Primark.

Production photographs by Johan Persson and Helen Maybanks

The Agatha Christie Challenge – Death in the Clouds (1935)

Death in the CloudsIn which that famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot travels on board one of those new-fangled aeroplane things and one of his fellow passengers is murdered in plain sight of everyone else. With the help of Inspector Japp and contributions from fellow passengers Jane Grey and Norman Gale, Poirot uncovers the truth of this extremely bold murder. And if you haven’t read the book yet, don’t worry, I promise not to tell you whodunit!

OsteopathyChristie dedicated the book to Ormond Beadle. This is likely to be Ormond A. Beadle, 1903 – 1976, osteopathist and writer, but I can find no evidence of a friendship between him and Christie. The book was originally published in the US in magazine format in the Saturday Evening Post during February and March 1935 under the title Murder in the Air; in novel format, again in the US, it first appeared in March 1935, its publication coinciding with the final magazine instalment. In the UK, an abridged version was published at the same time in six instalments in Women’s Pictorial Magazine as Mystery in the Air; the full novel appeared in the UK in July 1935, this time as Death in the Clouds.

Cat-and-MouseThis is a terrifically exciting and entertaining read. Even though I was fairly sure all the way through that I could remember whodunit – and I was right – this didn’t impact on my enjoyment of the book. In fact, in many ways it enhanced it, as you realise what a clever cat-and-mouse game Poirot plays with the murderer on and off throughout the investigations. He tells us early on that he is certain he knows who the murderer is – it’s apparent to him as soon as he receives the list of the contents of everyone’s luggage – but he cannot fathom a motive. “Poirot gathered up the loose typewritten sheets and read them through once again. Then he laid them down with a sigh. “On the face of it,” he said, “it seems to point very plainly to one person as having committed the crime. And yet, I cannot see why, or even how.”” From that point of view, Christie is scrupulously fair with her reader, as she gives us all the same information that Poirot receives, alerting us to the fact that he has already virtually solved the crime under our noses, so it’s easy for us to go back and re-read the information that Poirot found so crucial. Which item(s) is/are so revealing to Poirot? Unless we make our own guess, we do not find out until the very end. And it’s not until he is satisfied with the motive that he calls for one of those exciting showdown denouements.

waspElements of the book examine the subject of the psychology of crime. Much is made of the boldness of the crime; how it was committed in an enclosed environment, and the fact that it must have been witnessed by a number of people who simply didn’t recognise or weren’t aware of what they were looking at. Christie had a similar enclosed environment in Murder on the Orient Express, but in that book, there was always the possibility that someone could have got on, or got off the train, whilst it was stuck in snowdrifts. No one can get off an aeroplane mid-flight! Furthermore, it was committed in front of the great Hercule Poirot, but I’m suspecting that the murderer wasn’t aware he would be on the plane. Fournier, of the Sûreté, is convinced there must have been a psychological moment – either a point in time when everyone was distracted by another event, or when everyone simply forgot to pay attention for whatever reason – when the murderer struck. They may, for example, have been distracted by the wasp. Poirot reflects on the fact that there was such a moment in Three Act Tragedy.

DentistAnother of Poirot’s observations on the psychology of crime addresses a major problem of his trade: “In every case of a criminal nature one comes across the same phenomena when questioning witnesses. Everyone keeps something back. Sometimes – often indeed – it is something quite harmless, something, perhaps, quite unconnected with the crime; but – I say it again – there is always something.” And Christie makes a further observation that I don’t believe had appeared in her books before, that of the societal implication of being associated with a crime. Rumour and gossip work in two directions. Jane Grey, for instance, suddenly becomes much more in demand at Antoine’s, the salon where she works, whereas Norman Gale’s patients at his dentists’ practice start leaving in droves. The same association with the same crime can have very different effects on an individual’s work, socialising, reputation and character. Poirot accepts that this wider effect is something one cannot overlook when trying to solve a crime.

watsonOnce again, there is no named narrator for this book; just Christie’s own voice telling us the story. But she creates a brilliant first chapter by interspersing the third person narration with the first-person thoughts of many of the passengers. We hear the commentaries of Jane Grey, Norman Gale, the Countess of Horbury, Venetia Kerr, Dr Bryant, Mr Ryder and indeed Poirot himself. It’s a quick and effective way for us to get inside the skins of the main characters and it gets the book off to a fast and furious start. Structurally, the book is typical of a number of Christie’s books where Poirot involves some of the younger people in assisting him to solve the murder – here he gets Jane and Norman to accompany him on meetings and act as his eyes and ears in different locations. It’s been a while since we last met Captain Hastings (that was in Lord Edgware Dies) but he would return for Christie’s next book, The ABC Murders, and Poirot seems to lack a degree of male companionship that helps him find the truth. However, in this book he does have Mr Clancy, writer of detective fiction, off whom he can bounce some ideas.

writing at a deskClancy is possibly more like Ariadne Oliver, last seen as part of the Parker Pyne Investigates team, on whom Christie based herself to a large extent. There are a few tongue-in-cheek passages in the book about Clancy where Christie pokes fun at herself; Japp is not a fan, for example. “These detective story writers… always making the police out to be fools… and getting their procedure all wrong. Why, if I were to say the things to my super that their inspectors say to superintendents I should be thrown out of the Force tomorrow on my ear. Set of ignorant scribblers! This is just the sort of damn-fool murder that a scribbler of rubbish would think he could get away with.” Christie also employs her own personal knowledge of the world of archaeology to colour the characteristics of the Duponts, almost ridiculing them as they argue amongst themselves to the extent that they notice nothing else going on around them; a typical archaeologist’s trait, one expects she would argue.

Pile of suitcasesScience and technology are wonderful things, are they not? is a question Poirot might have rhetorically asked during the course of this book. For Christie’s contemporary readers, the thought of travelling in an aeroplane would probably have been an exciting and innovative thing to do, and you can sense more than a little general wonderment at the whole air-travel experience here. “Jane caught her breath. It was only her second flight. She was still capable of being thrilled. It looked – it looked as though they must run into that fence thing – no, they were off the ground – rising – rising – sweeping round – there was Le Bourget beneath them.” For her readers today, it’s fascinating to see the differences between the 1930s and modern day air travel. There’s no obvious weight or baggage restrictions: “The maid passed along the gangway. At the extreme end of the car were some piled-up rugs and cases.” The Countess of Horbury and Venetia Kerr both assume they would be allowed to smoke during take-off, but the steward tells them off – no doubt they could smoke later on though. Seats don’t all face in the same direction, some of them face backwards as in a traditional railway configuration. Stewards provided food and drink to the passengers and expected to be tipped like any other waiter. This is a very different aviation experience from today!

selfieBut it’s not only air travel that makes a technological impact in this book. When the case causes him to interrogate someone in Canada, Fournier remarks “it is romantic, you know, the transatlantic telephone. To speak so easily to someone nearly halfway across the globe.” Poirot’s response: “the telegraphed photograph – that too is romantic. Science is the greatest romance there is.” Today we text each other photos without a second’s thought. But in the 1930s, this was a huge achievement; and the evidence it provides wraps up the case for Poirot: “a photograph of your transmitted by telephone has been recognised” is the killer line he uses to capture the killer.

le Bourget airportThere are many references in this book, that I couldn’t resist but research. The flight of the Prometheus was from Le Bourget to Croydon. Le Bourget airport opened in 1919 and was the only airport to service Paris until the arrival of Orly in 1932. It was at le Bourget that Nureyev defected to the West; and Hitler made his only tour of Paris from le Bourget airport. It closed its doors to international traffic in 1977, but it is still used for domestic and international business aviation. It is also the home of the Paris Air Show. Croydon Airport, on the other hand, opened in 1920 and was the main airport for London at the time. It was the commercial home for Imperial Airways who operated from 1924 to 1939, and it remained in use until 1959.

Tzaribrod stationSeveral of the passengers on board had been to visit either Juan les Pins or Le Pinet. The former is a well-known resort on the French Riviera; the second a small town near Beziers, not far from the French coast. When Mr Clancy was being pestered by the wasp on the plane, he was working out a plot concerning the 19:55 train at Tzaribrod. Christie is playing a little game with us there, as Tzaribrod also featured in Murder on the Orient Express, and no doubt she too had to investigate its train timetables. Modern day Dimitrovgrad, it’s on the extreme edge of modern day Serbia near its border with Bulgaria (and would indeed be taken over by Bulgaria for three years during the second world war).

Bruton StreetChristie gives us the home addresses of all on board the plane, so naturally I have checked to see how many of them are real places. Madame Giselle lived at 3 rue Joliette in Paris; there are two rue Joliettes in France but neither of them is in Paris. Dr Bryant lives at 329 Harley Street; the street of course exists, but in real life only goes up to number 125. Lady Horbury lives at Horbury Chase, Sussex; the village of Horbury exists, but it’s in Yorkshire, near Wakefield. She also has an address at 315 Grosvenor Square, but Grosvenor Square maxes out at number 50. Venetia Kerr is said also to live in Horbury Chase. Norman Gale lives at 14 Shepherd’s Avenue, Muswell Hill; there are plenty of avenues in Muswell Hill – Kings, Queens, Princes and Dukes but no Shepherds. Jane Grey lives at 10 Harrogate Street, NW5, and works at Antoine’s in Bruton Street, which is also the location for Mrs Dacres’ posh shop in Three Act Tragedy – Christie obviously liked the area. NW5 is the Tufnell Park area of London, but there’s no Harrogate Street. Mitchell lives at 11, Shoeblack Lane, Wandsworth (a good old working-class type name for that address) but sadly it doesn’t exist. Mr Clancy lives at 47 Cardington Square; success! This is a real address in Hounslow, just off the Staines Road.

susaSome other references to grapple with – the Duponts have been excavating in Persia (Iran) at a site not far from Susa. According to Wikipedia, so it must be right, this was an ancient city of the Proto-Elamite, Elamite, First Persian Empire, Seleucid, and Parthian empires of Iran, and one of the most important cities of the Ancient Near East. It is located in the lower Zagros Mountains about 250 km east of the Tigris River, between the Karkheh and Dez Rivers. Mr Clancy’s book that features a blowpipe is The Clue of the Scarlet Petal, but sadly such a book does not exist. In other book news, Mr Ryder possesses a copy of Bootless Cup, which Christie tells us is banned in this country. It also doesn’t exist, but it implies that Ryder is a bit of a lad. Miss Kerr has two Tauchnitz novels. Not a writer, but a publisher – Kipling, Galsworthy, Henry James, all published by Tauchnitz.

Alexandre_Stavisky_1926Jane won her holiday by entering the Irish Sweep. Properly known as the Irish Hospitals’ Sweepstake, this was a lottery game based in Ireland before the legalisation of lotteries in the UK, but many British people entered it anyway. Winning tickets were assigned to a horse expected to run in one of several horse races, including the Cambridgeshire Handicap, Derby and Grand National. The sweepstake raised money for hospitals and the health service all over Ireland, and the final sweepstake was held in January 1986. Fournier refers to the Stavisky business, when assessing the honesty or otherwise of the Duponts. Alexandre Stavisky was an embezzler whose death caused a political crisis in France in 1934. You can read all about it here.

FoxhuntingJane and Norman speculate on the kind of person that Lady Horbury and Venetia Kerr might be tempted to murder – and come up with an MFH. This didn’t mean anything to me, and it doesn’t really seem to fit in here either. The nearest I can come to understanding this is Master of Foxhounds. I suppose that might be correct…. Unless you know different!

BlackmailAs usual, I’ve converted any significant financial sums into what their equivalent would be today – just to get a better feel for the amounts involved. The sum of £100 is mentioned twice – it’s the amount that Jane won on the Irish Sweep, and also the amount she is offered by the hound at the Daily Howl for an interview. Today the equivalent would be a little under £5000. When Poirot gets Gale to pretend to be a blackmailer and call on Lady Horbury, he tells him to ask for £10,000. You can probably work out that that tidy sum is the equivalent of nearly half a million pounds. Madame Giselle’s estate is valued at between 8 and 9 million francs. Today this is an astronomical figure – somewhere in the region of £600 million. Worth committing murder for?

Now it’s time for my usual at-a-glance summary, for Death in the Clouds:

Publication Details: 1935. Pan paperback, 7th impression, published in 1983, priced £1.25. The simple illustration on the front cover shows the wasp-like dart that Poirot finds on the floor. Quite a dull cover, really.

How many pages until the first death: 8. No messing around.

Funny lines out of context: I drew a blank here. Shame!

Memorable characters: Characterisations aren’t really this book’s strong points. However, Jane Grey and Norman Gale appear like the typical Christie sweet young things, and Jane, in particular, is a well-drawn character. Madame Giselle’s maid Elise is also fiery and solid in support.

Christie the Poison expert:
Christie takes the mickey out of herself for the suggestion that the death is caused by the “infamous arrow poison of the South American Indians”. Dr Bryant confirms that would be curare. The second death is caused by hydrocyanic acid, a solution of hydrogen cyanide in water; better known in the detective books as Prussic Acid.

Class/social issues of the time:

Plenty of examples of Christie’s usual bêtes noires; none more so than that strange xenophobia frequently expressed when it comes to characters from overseas. The coroner’s jury that considers the death of Madame Giselle decides to find Poirot guilty of the crime. “”Foreigners,” said the eyes of the square-faced man, ”you can’t trust foreigners, even if they are hand in glove with the police””. The verdict rather pleases Poirot: “”Mais oui! As I came out I heard one man say to the other, “that little foreigner – mark my words, he done it!” The jury thought the same.” Jane was uncertain whether to condole or laugh. She decided on the latter. Poirot laughed in sympathy.” Later, when Poirot is questioning Mitchell, his wife adds her twopenny worth. “I tell him not to bother his head so. Who’s to know what reason foreigners have for murdering each other; and if you ask me, I think it’s a dirty trick to have done it in a British aeroplane.” Christie adds – as if we couldn’t imagine it ourselves – “She finished her sentence with an indignant and patriotic snort.”

M. Zeropoulos, the antiques dealer, on the other hand, offers quite a low opinion of Americans. “An American – unmistakably an American. Not the best type of American either – the kind that knows nothing about anything and just wants a curio to take home. He is of the type that makes the fortune of bead sellers in Egypt – that buys the most preposterous scarabs ever made in Czecho-Slovakia […] He asks the price and I tell him. It is my American price, not quite as high as formerly (alas, they have had the depression over there). I wait for him to bargain but straightaway he pays my price. I am stupefied. It is a pity; I might have asked for more!”

In some more purely racist moments, at Antoine’s, Jane’s friend Gladys uses the pejorative slang term “Ikey” to refer to their Jewish boss. And when Norman and Jane are finding out about each other on an early date, they discover that they have a mutual dislike of “negroes” (along with loud voices and noisy restaurants) – and there’s no sense of embarrassment or discomfort at this revelation. That’s quite a hard one to take nowadays.

The French also come in for their fair share of the disapprobation. When Jane is engaged in conversation with Jean Dupont she tells herself “he’s French, though. You’ve got to look out with the French, they always say so.”

There are also observations about class; one is almost the reverse of the anti-French sentiment, where a character (Mr Clancy’s housekeeper) is belittled by Christie in a rather Dickensian way, poking fun of her language; she announces Hercule Poirot as “Mr Air Kule Prott”. On another occasion, Christie returns to a subject she’s tackled before, that certain members of the lower classes (that would be her terminology) are intimidated by the police. “Fournier was much excited, though distinctly irate with Elise. Poirot argued the point. “It is natural – very natural. The police? It is always a word frightening to that class. It embroils them in they know not what.””

The 1930s were not a time of great financial security. As Zeropoulos noted, “they have had the depression” in America. One of Christie’s more unusual observations on the world around her comes with Cicely Horbury’s conversation with Poirot about the family finances. “”You have a generous heart, Madame; and besides, you will be safe – oh, so safe – and your husband he will pay you an income.” “Not a very large one”. “Eh bien, once you are free you will marry a millionaire”. “There aren’t any nowadays.” “Ah, do not believe that, Madame. The man who had three millions perhaps now he has two millions – eh bien, it is still enough.””

One last and maybe surprising issue of the day: “Nowadays, we have discovered the beneficial action of the sun on the skin,” notes Poirot. “It is very convenient, that.” People were starting to cover up less in public, even if this was rather shocking to some older fuddy-duddies.

Classic denouement: Yes, although there are a limited number of people present, so unless the murderer is going to be unveiled in absentia – no reason why that can’t be done – Christie has done some narrowing down for us in advance. Once again, there is no indication as to the identity of the murderer in advance. It’s a beautifully written finale to the book and you want to savour every moment of it, as the murderer goes through various self-assured, then anxious phases before Poirot makes his final pronouncement.

Happy ending? Yes. There’s almost a Shakespearian getting together of couples; nothing certain though, Poirot is merely content to have created the possibilities that various people might hit it off. He’s distinctly playing the matchmaker.

Did the story ring true? Absolutely. I can easily imagine how the murder could have been achieved in the way Christie suggests, and the general plot progression all makes perfect sense. It’s a first-class book.

Overall satisfaction rating: Even allowing for a couple of unfortunate, non-PC, racist comments, I still can’t see a reason not to give this a 10/10. Christie achieves a truly fluid and entertaining writing style in this book, and Poirot has never been so manipulative.

Murder in MesopotamiaThanks for reading my blog of Death in the Clouds and if you’ve read it too, I’d love to know what you think. Please just add a comment in the space below. Sequentially, Christie’s next book is The ABC Murders but I’ve already read and written about that here, as it was one of the first three of her books that I read when I were a nipper. So next up in the Agatha Christie Challenge will be Murder in Mesopotamia, featuring Hercule Poirot in among the ruins of Christie’s beloved Middle East archaeological digs. As always, I’ll blog my thoughts about it in a few weeks’ time. In the meantime, please read it too then we can compare notes! Happy sleuthing!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2017 – Late’n’Live, 26th August 2017

LatenliveOur very last show in Edinburgh this year is Late’n’Live at the Debating Hall @ Gilded Balloon Teviot at 01:00 in the early hours of the morning of Sunday 27th. Let’s read that last blurb: “’Still the best late night show on the Fringe’ (Scotsman) is back for its 31st year! Different shows every night, but always the same recipe: one hilarious compere, four amazing acts, one incredible band, two hours of dancing and a whole lot of fun… Leave to simmer from 1am–5am and you’ve got yourself ‘the celebrated comedy abattoir that has slain a thousand comics’ (Scotsman). Comperes will include Scott Gibson, John Hastings and many other top names.”

I really can’t see us staying up till 5am. However, I’m sure some people will! We’ll just stay for the one hilarious compere and four amazing acts, whoever they are. Check back sometime after 3 am (or preferably on Sunday morning, or later) to see whether we survived.

If you’ve been following our reckless pursuit of entertainment over the past eight days, thanks very much for your loyalty! If not, I can’t blame you. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!

And we fell at the final hurdle. We already thought that this was going to be A Show Too Far, and so it proved. So rather than watching this show, we’ve treated ourselves to a bottle of shiraz in the hotel bar. Rather a quiet way to end our Fringe week, but the quality has been outstanding. Hope you had fun too!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2017 – Late Night, 26th August 2017

Late NightTaking us up to Sunday morning is Late Night at the Bedlam Theatre at 23:00 on Saturday 26th. Here’s the blurb: “Strap in tight to the most rad, bizarre, awe-inspiring comedy and alt-performance rollercoaster at the Fringe! We’re back for our third year with one-off takeovers from your favourites, cabaret stuffed to the gunnels with fun and a feeling of general satisfaction. Last year’s stage was graced by Fern Brady (The Alternative Comedy Experience, 8 Out of 10 Cats), Andrew Ryan (Russell Howard’s Good News), 2016 Funny Women Awards winner Harriet Braine, sketch-mongers Princes of Main, Fringe First nominee clown Helen Duff and World Poetry Slam champion Harry Baker. This year’s line-up is ruddy epic – get down here!”

Not entirely sure what to expect – and I guess that’s the point! A variety of comics and cabaret artists, I hope, with that unpredictable Fringe twist. Check back shortly after midnight to see what happened. By then the final preview blog should be available to read too.

So it turned out to be an hour in the company of Lach; an American guitar singer who also tells jokes and does poetry. I found his music soporific, but in a good way. But it was very low key in comparison to what I was expecting, and I wouldn’t have booked his show under other circumstances. Sorry Lach, I just wasn’t your natural audience.

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2017 – James Loveridge: Suspiciously Happy, 26th August 2017

James Loveridge againNext up is another of my favourite comedians, and someone else whom we’ve already seen a few times this week in Spank! and that’s James Loveridge: Suspiciously Happy at Just the Attic @ Just the Tonic at The Mash House at 21:00 on Saturday 26th. Here’s what the blurb has to say: “Despite the world being on the brink of collapse, it’s fair to say James is the happiest he’s ever been. He’s just got engaged, his relationship with his cat has improved (subject to change), now all he has to do is not f*ck it up! Nominated Best Show Edinburgh Fringe, 2016 (Amused Moose). ‘Undoubtedly the best free show that I have seen at the Fringe’ (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘Animated and confident, with a fine sense of timing’ (Steve Bennett, Chortle.co.uk). ***** (BroadwayBaby.com). **** (Skinny). **** (ArtsAwardVoice.com). **** (EdFringeReview.com). **** (FringeBiscuit.co.uk).”

James LoveridgeJames has got a great stage presence and I’m looking forward to an hour of general silliness with the occasional stand back in amazement insight. Check back around 10.15 pm to see how much fun it really was. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

James is so irrepressively happy that it’s impossible not to warm to him and to love his account of how he and his fiancee got together and how they’re preparing for their nuptuals. It’s an hour of sheer goodwill, peppered with brilliant and hilarious stories of how he will inevitably f*ck things up. The comedy gig equivalent of a feelgood movie and highly recommended!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2017 – Kev’s Komedy Klub, 26th August 2017

Kevs Komedy KlubFor our last evening in Edinburgh we’ve got four shows of comedy in its various fringey hues. First up is Kev’s Komedy Klub at The Basement @ Laughing Horse @ The Newsroom at 18:15 on Saturday 26th. Here’s the blurb: “Stand-up comedy from the stars and creators of the underground-award winning Festival Fringe hit Kev’s Komedy Kitchen. Each show will feature a special guest headline act. ‘Slickness and sheer talent’ (Time Out). ‘Lively and energetic, instantly likeable’ (WhoDaresGrins.com). ‘An excellent comedian, one of the most underrated comics on the circuit’ (Toby Foster, BBC Sheffield and star of Phoenix Nights). ‘A real treat of understated deadpan humour’ (ThreeWeeks). ‘Engaging and funny’ (QuaysNews.net). ‘Bonafide Funny’ (BroadwayBaby.com).”

Kev's Komedy KitchenKevin Dewsbury is one of my favourite comics whom we only saw a couple of days ago in his Komedy Kitchen and here he is again masterminding an hour of comedy with guests. I’m thinking Will Hutchby will be involved too, but I’m not sure who else. Check back around 7.30 pm to see who else was there and how much we laughed. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

A classic host-and-guest show with Kevin Dewsbury in charge and keeping it lively with some great material – including wrestling holds – and introducing some very funny guests. We had Lee Kyle, who’s spent the last month in a tent, Mark Grimshaw, who reviews trip advisor reviews, and Liam Pickford, with his amazing party trick of telling you some basic facts about your hometown. The hour flew by! 

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2017 – Penthouse, 26th August 2017

PenthouseI’m expecting our next play to tell a fascinating story of a gifted, lucky life turned to dross. It’s Penthouse at theSpace on Niddry St (Lower) at 16:45 on Saturday 26th. Let’s read the blurb: “Ewan is one of the country’s most intelligent young bankers. However he’s just lost close to £1.4 billion of investors’ money in an illegal trade he should not have made. His plan? Hire the penthouse of a hotel and indulge in a blowout before ending it all. Everything is turned upside down when he meets an escort called Eloise. Sex, drugs and depression blur Ewan’s perception of reality. Penthouse offers an insight into the world of bankers and the pressure they face that can lead them to take their own lives.”

Penthouse 2In this day and age it asks a lot of an audience to feel sorry for a banker, but I wonder if this might just do it. Written by and featuring Ed Brody, the remainder of the cast are Cat Lamb, Ryan Hutton and Dario Coates. Check back around 6 pm to see what we thought of it. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

Great little play, and acted with tremendous attack and class. All four characters are totally convincing and the four actors all put in fantastic performances. I was really hoping for a different ending…. but I guess its resolution is the most credible. On reflection, it’s a shame that the promotional material gives away a substantial part of the plot, which the text actually nicely hides until a final reveal. Still, an excellent show.