There are some shows on the Fringe that seem to defy description. But, I’m a writer, so I’ll give it my best shot.
I really don’t know what to expect from It All – and I’ll confess, when Cameron Cook strides onto the stage dressed as a mime, I fear the worst. Oh dear. Is it going to be one of those shows? You know what I’m talking about, the ones where a performer struts and frets for a weary hour, full of (no) sound and fury, signifying nothing…
Mr Cook launches into a piece of prose poetry, something about the human condition and I mentally prepare myself for something very po-faced. But then, quite without warning, he breaks off, glances at the silent musician in the corner of the stage and then begins to talk to an imaginary director. It doesn’t feel right, he says, the mood’s not there, he’s going to have to start over…
And the pomposity is instantly undercut. I’m chuckling at the absurdity of it. Cook begins again… and I find myself being pulled into his world.
And here’s the thing. The man is an extraordinary performer. He’s… well, the only word that really fits is ‘mesmerising.’ The eerie piece of performance art that unfolds is an extraordinary tour de force. Cook, it turns out, has many characters lurking within him and they have a tendency to hijack whatever he’s saying, wrenching him headlong from one outpouring to another. One instant he’s a sneering CEO explaining his brutal work ethic, how money is the key to everything in life. The next he’s a little girl talking with absolute adoration about her pet dog. In each case he’s utterly convincing, every mannerism, every gesture perfectly executed. A conversation between a little boy and his father is so brilliantly observed, I feel almost breathless as I watch the two disparate characters interacting with each other. And, it’s very funny. I find myself laughing at so many of these people, sometimes because I’m appalled by them, sometimes because there are qualities I recognise that strike too close to home.
The physicality of the performance is also astonishing – at times every muscle in Cook’s body seems to pulsate with energy as he encapsulates whoever is holding him hostage. He sings, he dances, he whirls and twists around the stage in paroxysms of rage and frustration. Sometimes, it feels as though the services of an exorcist might be required.
In the end, I decide that I’m never entirely sure what It All is about, but that it hardly matters, because what I’m being shown is the diversity of humanity, the many personae that lie beneath what an individual is prepared to show to the world – and, whatever Cook is trying to tell us, he does it with such intensity, such control, that the result is frankly riveting. The hour’s running time seems to flash by. As Cook and musician, Clare Parry, take their bows, the audience is mostly on its feet, applauding madly, but I’m sitting there stunned, still trying to assimilate everything I’ve just watched.
There are only three more opportunities to catch this and I’d advise you to grab some tickets while you still can.