Edinburgh Fringe 2009
This one-man show is a fantastic achievement for Danny Alder. A sparky, original script combines well with his charismatic performance in a show that is both thoughtful and eminently watchable. Though at times the pre-recorded voices device did seem crude, the show is carried forward by Alder’s energy and verve, but it is slightly let down by low production values that leave it a little rough around the edges.
An author, Chester James, is alone, but converses with several characters which his psyche has conjured to help him deal with the prolonged isolation. With them, he journeys into his past and his motivations, and his own mental state is laid bare. Part of this journey is musical; Alder duets with recordings, singing and arguing with himself as he sings.
The show itself is fairly straightforward – the pre-recorded voices are a little crude, and because it was a man conversing with a recording, their interactions were unavoidably a little clumsy. The set is simple but adequate, if a little rough around the edges, but Alder’s performance is very good, balancing comedic audience-awareness and timing with the serious gravitas needed to portray James’ decline into insanity.
I found myself especially enjoying the songs; they are genuinely hilarious and fit well where they could easily have been clumsy and redundant. Alder is an outstanding performer, and I found myself wondering what a set entirely of devised comedy songs by him might have been like. The play is a demanding one, and felt a little overstretched in places – any one aspect of it didn’t, by necessity, get the time it deserved, making the action feel a little crowded in places. Overall, however, it flowed well and was entertaining to watch.
I flirted with giving this production four stars; in many aspects, it is a four star show, but I got the feeling that Alder was holding back, not tightening production bolts when he could have been. Little, niggling things – distortion on loud voices in the playbacks, for example, meant that the polar bear character was almost painful to listen to, thumps and clicks on tapes, as well as parts of the performance that just lacked a little polish – mean that this show just misses out on that fourth star.