Brighton Fringe 2023
Alexander Millington’s I Love Michael Ball is, in the words of one director, the absolute spirit of The Fringe. That is, brilliantly oddball, in fact deranged. Millington, wholly in command, is winningly able to return us to the sanity of sheer good singing. So make a date.
Written and performed by Alexander Millington, directed by Helen Millington, designed, lit and stage-managed by Helen Millington with Alexander Millington. Further support and tech from The Lantern Theatre.
Till June 3r
Believe the awards nominations. Amongst the one-person plays and shows you still might think to avoid after three weeks, cut across to the Lantern to Alexander Millington’s I Love Michael Ball written by and featuring himself and directed by Helen Millington. It is, in the words of one director who saw it, the absolute spirit of The Fringe.
That is, brilliantly oddball, in fact deranged. Alex is convening the tenth anniversary of the Michael Ball appreciation society, though Amy his normal co-host has objected, and Chris and others who were such stalwarts last year, aren’t in attendance. Which leaves us. Except one of us hasn’t heard of Michael Ball. Another, asked to read the minutes for Alex, plugs their own show. No, that’s not part of Alex’s act, it’s part of hers. Spirit of the Fringe?
Alex despite his buttonholing questions presents as a battered young man, and we’re soon ravelled up in his life story, with his t-shirts and perishable merch. And some very fetching badges you simply can’t avoid. Millington is particularly affecting not just on pathos, but on the pathological damage and escape an idol might bring, especially when shared. He makes you root for hangdog Alex, though he and we are increasingly disturbed by noises off and how Alex keeps returning looking like – you’ll find out. Quite apart from that Millington can really sing those snatches of Lloyd-Webber and Les Mis.
It’s a well-wrought, convincingly detailed narrative. Growing up with a musically talented elder brother George, a violently abusive father (whose friends are equally so) and a complacent mother, they take refuge in Michael Ball. At seven in 1999, Alex is hooked.
George after one more beating escapes in a battered pink-faded 1986 Citroen AX to Guildford Drama School where Ball went and he’s rapidly on the path to being Ball’s understudy in Shaftsbury Avenue. George will fetch down Alex. The homophobic, violent father will feature no more in their lives. Later, Alex doesn’t make drama school, and only gets to a Welsh university where after one remarkable incident – well, it’s Welsh.
There are clues, but even so, it’s not quite what you might think, or even hope. This is almost as much comedic black humour as searching backstory, but it’s believable, just. Millington, wholly in command of his little group of AGM attendees, is winningly able to return us to the sanity of sheer good singing. Helen Millington manages many elements – sound, synching and lighting. It’s tight and packs in many props you’d never dream of seeing. So make a date below.
After its inaugural slot, it has just two more. 2nd June at 10.00 pm, and 3rd June at 9.00 pm. There’s also a company website.