C Royale

Showmanship

18/08/18

C Royale, Edinburgh

In the American dust bowl of the 1930s, a travelling carnival is pluckily plying its trade, still managing to part the locals from what little money they have left. Myra Collins is their resident fortune teller, a woman who happily admits to having no supernatural gifts whatsoever, just an ability to look the part and say all the right things. Sure, it’s dishonest, but a woman’s got to make a living, right? It’s only Showmanship.

In this monologue, written and performed by Lucy Roslyn, Myra tells us how she came to be here – about her former life as a showgirl, about her vulnerable mother and the hard drinking man she became entangled with – and she explains how, even in the depths of the darkest depression the world has ever experienced, people are still willing to pay up front for a little shot of hope. And hope is what Myra offers them, dangling it just out of their reach, keeping them hooked so she can slowly reel them in.

Roslyn is a charismatic performer, giving Myra a sly, knowing demeanour and spitting out sarcastic lines that are often laugh-out-loud funny. Perhaps there’s not quite enough incident in her story to sustain the piece for a full hour, but I enjoy the performance and the atmosphere she creates – and I particularly love the clever ending, which sends the audience out in a state of wonderment.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

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My Pet, My Love

24/08/17

C Royale, George Street, Edinburgh

Rob Gaetano’s My Pet, My Love is a little gem. It occupies that awkward space between performance and conversation, but with such ease that it feels natural and compelling. To be clear: there are actorly skills at work here; Gaetano employs physical theatre, mime and monologue to convey his story, and he does so with great precision and control. But he also creates an intimate atmosphere, and speaks to us as if there is no boundary between stalls and stage. It’s a winning approach, successfully drawing us into his world.

This is a piece about fear, and more specifically about the fear of ageing and forgetting. We learn about Gaetano’s first pet, a fish called Bluey, and about his Nonna and her dementia. We learn about his wish to make his family proud, and his concern that he can’t achieve this as a single, not-all-that-successful gay actor. (Not all that unsuccessful, though; he’s won plaudits from critics, as well as an award.) Mostly, we work with him to unlock a series of memories, key moments that – held on to – help to define just who he is.

I only have one criticism of this piece, and it’s minor. But when he plays Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon at full volume, it saturates the room and becomes unbearably evocative. If the aim here is to take me away from the play in front of me and lose me for a while in my own memories of being thirteen, then it works. But I’m definitely not focusing on Gaetano at that point, although, as soon as the music ends, I’m right back with him.

There are only a few days left of this year’s Fringe, but it’s definitely worth seeking out this piece for a satisfying denouement.

4 stars

Susan Singfield