Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Ed Reardon’s default state is grumpy. And that’s when he is feeling in a benign mood. But misplace a trifling apostrophe and Britain’s number one pedant will be on to you in a trice. An hour with one of the wittiest curmudgeons on the circuit to brighten the dullest of days.
Ed Reardon is late. Already grumpy about being booked to appear in something as low-brow as the Edinburgh Fringe, he is now lost somewhere in the bowels of the Pleasance being harassed over the tannoy by backstage staff with an average IQ somewhere close to their average age, which appears to be about twelve. Cue stream of offstage curmudgeonly outpourings from the nation’s favourite failed author and master of the abusive email. And all this is before we’ve even clapped eyes on the fellow who is booked to share with us the vicissitudes of his life as a failed hack, author, husband, father and…..well, his life as an all round failure I suppose.
Chris Douglas’ alter ego finally bursts onto the stage burdened with a small army of carrier bags and clad in a pair of ill-fitting shorts, a wholly inappropriate shirt that may have started life as a pair of curtains and the inevitable open-toed sandals that seem magnetically attracted to the feet of overweight, bearded, middle-aged men.
With the support (and occasional interference) of Nicola Sanderson and Josh Darcy, two capable performers from the faux Theatre In A Basket Company, Reardon takes the audience through the highs and lows (but mainly lows) of his downtrodden life. We hear of his efforts to secure his first love and his first publishing contract – and the interesting connection between these two events. And how he is forced to churn out cutting edge literature such as Danger Mouse and The Ladybird Book of Shoes whilst clinging to the pittance of a royalty from a script he once penned for the BBC’s Tenko – back in 1982.
His Campaign Against Misplaced Apostrophes is renown and strikes a chord with the literate in the audience, as does his rant against the use of ‘textspeak’, seemingly prevalent in most forms of written communication these days. His thinly disguised contempt for some of the more esoteric theatrical techniques practised by his more than competent assistants fires a shot at the artistic community and suburbia gets the full acerbic treatment, although what poor old Berkhamsted had done to deserve this I’m not sure. Having lived there for ten years in the 1970’s, I can personally vouch that it really is quite a nice little town.
With his Radio 4 series, Ed Reardon’s Week fast becoming a national institution Douglas is completely in touch with his alter ego. In fact it’s hard to believe that this isn’t a real Ed Reardon such is the credibility of his bitter rants, liberally laced with irony, sarcasm and no little pathos. Who indeed could fail to have sympathy for a divorced man who now rents a one bedroom flat with only Elgar, his ageing moggy, for company.
Cricket loving Douglas once spent two years researching a biography on the life of Douglas Jardine, the England test cricket captain. He and his co-writer on this project Andrew Nickolds have been similarly diligent in their research into grumpy middle-aged, middle class England, with writing astute enough to allow the younger generation to see themselves as Reardon sees them and those closer in age and spirit to empathise with his position. All of which should endear him to his already broad fan base as well as help him to introduce new ones, like myself, to the fold.