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Brighton Fringe 2010

An Audience With Adrienne

Adrian Howells

Venue: Nightingale Theatre


Low Down

Adrienne invites you into her rented holiday apartment to share stories of her life chosen by you from a menu. She dances, she sings and even doles out ice lollies!


Led up the stairs and into the flat above the Nightingale Theatre, you know that An Audience with Adrienne will not be your average fringe show. The set is a real-life sitting room, fully decked out with Adrienne’s ‘tat from home’ which has been brought along to her seaside holiday apartment to make her feel comfortable. The room is certainly not to everyone’s taste, but it is cosy, and I have to say that if I could watch every fringe show from a sofa I would be very happy!

Adrienne is a man in drag, that man being performer from Glasgow, Adrian Howells. The play is really a story about his life – an exploration of his sexuality and who he is. The first half is the more light hearted half – Adrienne doles out ice-lollies and gets the small audience to do a craft competition making commemorative plates about the recent election. He is certainly an engaging performer, funny and likable and a gracious host (apart from the lack of runner up prizes for the plate making!) We are treated to a dance (The Slosh – Pontins holiday camp favourite dance circa 1973) and for the transition into the more reflective part of the show, the melancholy song, Seasons in the Sun.
The guts of the play is Adrian’s self exploration – and the audience are shown a series of video interviews between him and his family, where he asks them to tell stories about him as a child and asks what they think of him as a gay man who likes to wear drag. The interviews are unstaged and honest, and it is a very intimate portrait of a family’s reaction to having a gay son.
The ‘guests’ in the sitting room also get the chance to discover more about Adrian/Adrienne by choosing stories from a wonderful home-made beach cafe menu. Some are funny, some are touching, and in the latter half of the show some are heartbreaking and brutally honest. Adrian is an engaging performer, who tells the stories with humour and self-deprication. Later in the piece the audience are asked whether they have any stories they would like to share, and people did – the intimate and trusting atmosphere that had been created meant that strangers told each other quite personal stories about their childhoods. It was also Adrian’s honesty which encouraged this trust – he is certainly baring his soul, and admits to having found the process of making the play quite theraputic. 
An Audience with Adrienne does appear to be a form of ongoing psychotherapy for Adrian. It is about him dealing with and learning to love the different sides to his personality; the one which likes to dress in drag and whose childhood ambition was to be Danny La Rue, and the one which is vulnerable, sometimes feels depressed and wears a tracksuit. I can imagine that it is a cathartic process – the audience couldn’t fail to love Adrienne’s bubbly personality, but can also connect with Adrian, understanding what he’s been through and sharing their own stories. 
So many one-man shows these days are autobiographical, and the form can seem a little tired – however, the originality of this piece makes it something really special and well worth the trip up to Adrienne’s seaside apartment.


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