An Audience with Stuart Bagcliffe

21/08/22

Zoo Playground 3, Edinburgh

Our audience with Mr B takes place in the intimate setting of Zoo Playground, and it’s clear from the very outset that he’s really not happy about performing for us. Indeed, he’s so nervous, he can barely get his words out. But he’s all too aware that his Mum is waiting in the wings, a silent Svengali, listening to everything he says. And this is her idea, of course; she’s making him do this, insisting that Stuart tell his story to the world, exactly as it happened. She’s always envisioned something grander – a TV show or a Hollywood movie – but that hasn’t happened, so the Fringe is just going to have to do.

Stuart begins his narrative in a meek, West Country accent, telling us all about his schooldays, his friend Daisy and about the strange illness that afflicts him. At first, it’s all very funny. I can’t help laughing out loud at Stuart’s amateurish attempts to ‘act’, to impersonate the various characters who inhabit his tale. I giggle at his weird gurning expressions… and at his absolute terror of getting things wrong.

But make no mistake, the laughter isn’t going to last. We are heading into darker territory…

An Audience with Stuart Bagcliffe is the sort of show which exemplifies the Fringe at its best. Written by Benny Ainsworth and directed by Sally Paffett (both of whom can be seen in Triptytch Theatre’s other Fringe offering, Vermin), this ingeniously constructed monologue features Michael Parker as the titular Stuart, delivering Ainsworth’s script with consummate skill.

Furthermore, Parker’s powerhouse performance culminates in a display of such naked anger and contempt that I feel as though I’ve been punched in the solar plexus. One thing’s for sure: I’ve stopped laughing and my eyes are filled with tears.

There are just a few more chances to catch this little gem before the Fringe winds up, and I would advise you to take the opportunity to see it while you still can. It’s staggeringly good.

5 stars

Philip Caveney

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