Gilded Balloon Teviot, Nightclub
The first show of the Fringe is always an uncertain affair. Audiences are still warming up, the performers are finding their feet and the ticketing system is going through the difficult process of ‘settling in.’ So it’s gratifying to start with something so good, and so ideally suited to a Fringe setting. It’s intimate, confessional and thought-provoking – everything you’d want in one handy package.
The lights dim and out strolls Brian Joseph, a tall affable American, clearly brimming with self-confidence. He picks up an acoustic guitar and plays in a style that evokes the great Don McLean, a whimsical song about how ‘normal’ he is, how he’s just an ordinary guy with nothing much to say. But don’t be fooled. He has plenty to tell us and it helps that he’s so versatile, delivering songs in a range of styles on a variety of stringed instruments and, at one point, even bashing out a jaunty Randy Newmanesque piece on an electric keyboard.
His set is regularly punctuated by his photographs – indeed, he takes a few pictures of the audience along the way and invites us to return the favour – and, as his story unfolds, it gradually begins to dawn on me that there is a darker subtext here, one that is finally revealed in a moment that actually hits me like a punch to the solar plexus. I won’t spoil it by revealing what it is, but prepare to be moved.
Joseph guides us expertly through his ‘based-on-real-experience’ story, manipulating his audience with real aplomb and somehow, after dragging my emotions over the coals, he still manages to send me out of the show, singing the chorus of his final song over and over. (Apologies to anyone unlucky enough to be in earshot.)
If this is a portent of what’s to come this year, then bring it on. But whatever the case, Normaler Than Everyone is well worth your attention.