Sometimes you choose productions knowing that there’s a recurring theme, and sometimes by chance a theme presents itself. Take my day last Friday at the Fringe. I chose to see three productions that seemed vastly different from each other, and yet all three contained an old-fashioned quality.
Take Morgan & West – Crime Solving Magicians (****), a comedy magic duo who present themselves as time-travelling Victorians. There’s an old-fashioned charm to the whole act, and they play off of the audience, and each other, brilliantly. Some of the tricks are better than others, but there are a few moments that truly amaze. After all, they are one of the few acts that managed to bamboozle Penn & Teller on their recent TV series ‘Fool Us’. Well, they fooled me a few times, but more importantly they utterly charmed me for the whole duration of their show.
Belt Up’s Twenty Minutes to Nine (***) is an odd ditty of a monologue. For an hour, an old woman (played here by an actual young woman) reminisces, rambles and philosophises on life. Dressed in a wedding dress and living in a dusty loft (perhaps she’s Miss Havisham from Great Expectations?), the woman welcomes the audience, asks them questions and makes some outrageous statements. It is charming, well-played and loads of fun. However, like its protagonist, the production is in a bit of a fog, and one is hard pressed to remember specifics a few hours later. Still, it is a pleasant enough production with a stellar performance.
While Twenty Minutes to Nine is about an old woman living in a new world, The World According to Bertie (***) is about a young boy living in an old-fashioned world. Bertie is of course the child protagonist from Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street serial. His world doesn’t feel like ours but rather a parallel universe that’s safer and more innocent, and it’s populated by people who are mostly harmless and live interesting lives.
As drama goes, it’s about as safe as it gets. There are no bad people, just selfish characters who think they’re doing right, and heroes are people who have the courage to tell the truth and stand up against what’s wrong. But it is all so delightful and heartfelt that it is impossible to feel the slightest bit cynical about the whole thing. It has a large cast who play colourful characters, all of whom are charming in their own way, and it is staged in a clever reversed theatre-in-the-round, where the audience sit in the middle and watch the cast traverse about the space. It will appeal to anyone looking for an amiable diversion, but it should play better to those who like a polite comedy of manners or are fans of the books.
Morgan & West – Crime Solving Magicians performs at Gilded Balloon at 1530. Belt Up’s Twenty Minutes to Nine performs at C Soco at 1745. The World According to Bertie performs at C soco at 1920 & 2100.