Paul Levy offers some highlights and recommendations for shows that explore and celebrate icons and legends.
Fringe Theatre has always been curious, celebratory and a fair bit opportunistic. Legends from entertainment, the arts and history are explored across the genres, to some success and occasional disaster. Here are a few of our highlights.
In the mood for shoe repairs
If you are in the mood for a comedy musical, something off the wall, wonderfully obscure and yet celebrating the legends of locks and keys, then Gigglemug Theatre’s Timpson: The Musical is worth picking the lock to the Warren’s Blockhouse.
As Wikipedia explains: “Timpson was founded in 1865 by shoemaker William Timpson and his brother-in-law Walter Joyce, selling shoes at 298 Oldham Road, Manchester. It expanded into shoe manufacturing in 1884 at factories in Kettering, and repairs in 1903. The company was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1929. In the 1950s, turnover was around £10,000,000 and profits £900,000. The company moved its headquarters to Wythenshawe in 1964.“
Now, find out more by getting the show engraved on your memory. Yikes.
A Clutch of Icons
Meet some of modern history’s biggest heroes and villains. “During the 20th Century, the human race hung by a slender thread. Jack Klaff’s play takes 12 influential males of C20 and recounts matters such as the atomic bomb, WW2 & the Cuban missile crisis. Featuring Hitler, Stalin, Einstein, Kennedy and Gandhi, their stories are told by the women that knew them, offering funny insights and devastating indictments. But as C21 unravels, have the lessons been learnt?”
Set on the fateful night of the shooting of Martin Luther King, Dream of a King is a solo piece of theatre that “explores the extraordinary man behind the legend.
Performed by Christopher Tajah, the writer/actor says: “He is a continual source of inspiration to me, an iconic figure. He was a great black man who exuded a sense of pride, dignity, intelligence and humanity. I wrote my play to try to understand the man behind the great orator.”
We highly recommended it last time we saw it. Our reviewer said:
“I’d give my last farthing to see this again. This is a very fine production that has made members of the Max Miller Appreciation Society proud. It is staged lovingly and respectfully with a script that shows the light and dark side of this comedy legend. It’s highly recommended!” (Fringe Review)”
Don’t Regret Rien
There is normally always at least one show about Edith Piaf and/or Marlene Dietrich and this year is no exception. Dietrich: Natural Duty arrives with very strong provenance. Edith Piaf Live at Nimegue offers an “affectionate retelling of the life of Edith Piaf and re-imagining of her last filmed concert. Piaf’s childhood was traumatic and she sang songs of tragedy, but she loved to laugh. This show tries not to lose sight of the laughter.” For something less theatrical and more cabaret, try Patricia Hartshorne‘s Dressing Up Dietrich at the Warren.
“Patricia Hartshorne brings Marlene to life before your eyes. Watch her switch from mere mortal to Hollywood icon – and back again. No smoke, no mirrors. Just a suitcase – and an okay pair of legs… ”
The Boys on the Radio
“Lucky Dog are now quite a Brighton Fringe fixture, constantly presenting different Laurel & Hardy material every year. Brand new for 2019, the award-winning duo return with a supporting cast to help recapture the magic of the best-loved comedy team of all time. Stan and Ollie recorded several unique sketches on the radio for US troops, but these were never broadcast. Presented in a live recording setting, this will be the first time they have been performed professionally since the 1940s. It’s the closest you’ll get to seeing the original pair in action.”
A few final tips. Fans of Elvis will love local legend i its own right, Suspiciously Elvis which, this Fringe, goes Country and open air!
So, there are a few legends and icons to get you started. We’ll be adding more as the fringe gets closer.
Now, Don’t Get Disappointed
One way you’ll find yourself disappointed at the Fringe is if you are looking for a tribute show (for example you will find a fine looking Bowie Tribute at the Brunswick called Bowiesque) and find yourself in an audience for a piece of theatre that has taken creative liberties with your favourite legend. Many fringe shows are “fringe” because they aren’t just tribute shows. They mash up the material, collage it, cut and paste it, mixtape the narrative and have their own speculations on the truth.
So, don’t be shocked if you don’t find a straight legends and icons tribute. Read the listing well, click on the web sites and read past reviews. Do your research. Are you looking for some favourite songs, comedy or cabaret routines? You will find them in the pages of the Brighton Fringe programme. But you’ll also find a lot of legend and icon-inspired work, and some where your favourite star has been dragged through the artistic mill, possibly a few times. Fans of Britney Spears (an icon or a legend or sorts?), looking for a simple tribute show will actually find in It’s Britney, BItches! “a new verbatim piece about the fans of international superstar Britney Spears. LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE! This show follows the story of fans of Britney along with some of your favourite songs. Stories of coming out, addiction and abuse and most importantly, Britney Spears.”
Then there are the interpreters of icons. For example (and bound to sell out), Camille O’Sullivan sings the music of Nick Cave.
Here you will get loving tribute, interpretation and some creative risk all rolled into one at the Brighton Spiegeltent.
Here is our full Brighton Fringe coverage.