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Brighton Fringe 2012

Who Did I Think I Was?

Coughing Sheep

Genre: Drama


 Upstairs at Three and Ten


Low Down

Peter Henderson returns to the Fringe with a one man two-hander in a tragicomedy about a son and a father thrown together again.


Billed as "A tragicomedy of a father and son being together again", Peter Henderson returns to Brighton Fringe in a "one-man two-hander", playing both father and son.
There’s something Meldrewish about Henderson as the father but he’s darker and prepared to dive even deeper into the intolerance and irritation of later life. This is a show that is finely observed and there’s a lot of detail that will finesse even further over a longer run.
It’s staged with simple economy and there’s a marvellous sense of someone past it and thwarted. The son is haunted, and wonderfully overlapped with his older relative. Henderson is equally believable as both dad and son. A son moving back in with his dad at 48 – a bachelor pad for two. Memories, secrets, a life gone astray, this is a well crafted monologue from a professional in charge over almost every millisecond onstage. Almost, there are a few slips, some some parts are more completely crafted than others.
Two single gentlemen sharing digs one is reminded of the classic father-son polarity that has been expounded by British Television comedies such as Don’t Wait up, and even in the music of Cat Stevens. But this is more refined, deeper, beter observed.
The son leaves us in no doubt as to his irritations with his father in a delightfully delivered rant. A father and a son thrown together, united in their differences, grudging accepting even as they reject.
Dad and son of course look rather alike and this lends weight to this comedy of differences, and it’s a testament to Henderson how quickly we as audience can switch between the two, sliding from one into the next episode/chapter. Dad really is dad and son is a sharply realised chip off the old block (on the dad’s shoulder as well).
Monologues such as this are sadly becoming rarer on the fringe. They feel traditional, straightforward and unfussy. This is well observed writing, direct acting without need for theatrical gimmicks. A simple set up that works: a highly accomplished performer playing two closely related people, evidencing two contrasting takes on life, connected by life’s unplanned circumstance. It would make a good radio play but the live action gives us added visual comedy that needs very little movement. This is the comedy of vocal delivery and inroom or at-table gesture and playing with simple daily objects.
I’d like to see the script delivered in a less hurried way in places. We need time to take it all in and silence is an authentic part of every thinking human being.
It’s a rich picture – that is what we are given, and we are the better for this hour at the Three and Ten. I can imagine some reviewers not getting the mastery here. It’s very well crafted work, a character piece about a father and a son with troubled pasts, uncertain futures and shared angst in the present. I found the father more caricature than the son who feels a bit richer and more realistic in the way he is portrayed.
A sparse audience weren’t up to the task of giving this the laughter response it needs and deserved. There were also many poignant moments, especially at the end. Henderson delivered anyway under tough circumstances and more than held his own in a show that deserves a much bigger audience. Crisp writing, fine character acting, and a father and son who deserve each other ! Strongly recommended.