Edfringe 2019

Happy Hour

25/08/19

Pleasance Dome (Queen Dome), Edinburgh

Aldo (Silvia Gallerano) and Kerfulle (Stefano Cenci) are two children, living in an unspecified future world. Initially, they present as ordinary kids, full of enthusiasm for whimsical things, both of them vying for the attention of their parents. ¬†Kerfulle longs to be a footballer – or at least, for once, to be allowed to play for his team, instead of sitting on the benches, derided for his shortcomings. Aldo wants to be a dancer, to be adored for her abilities to move gracefully around a stage, but the ‘auditions’ she attends are unsual to say the very least…

As the story progresses, a darker subtext emerges. The world in which these two live is a twisted, nightmarish version of the one we’re familiar with – and every bit of adversity that the duo face has to be greeted with a cheerful gleefulness, a willingness to meet it head on and embrace it. After all, this is Happy Hour!

Christian Ceresoli’s play offers a challenging depiction of a dystopian society in entropy. The imagery evoked here recalls scenes from the holocaust, the rallies of fascism, the irresistible rise of the far right, all set to a bouncy disco beat. This is a challenging piece in every sense of the word, because the meaning of any given scene isn’t immediately apparent: it needs to be pondered, dissected and above all else, discussed. Both Gallerano and Cenci offer powerful performances, catching the nuances of these weird children with great skill, simultaneously eliciting both our affection and revulsion.

This won’t be for everyone; indeed, those looking to finish off their Fringe on a lighter note should not be fooled by that deceptive title. But it’s undoubtedly a fascinating slice of contemporary theatre.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

Normaler Than Everyone

31/07/19

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.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney