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Edinburgh Fringe 2011

Helmsman Pete:Postcards from the Edge of the World

The Tar Pit

Genre: Storytelling




Low Down

This moody, atmospheric show features Helmsman Pete, aka Pete Reid, an engaging raconteur who fixes his audiences with a close gaze, telling a series of stories through words and song.


The different stories are bookended by the character of a boy stuck down a well who sends postcards to the outside world. The stories fall into three categories of “edges”. The stories move gently, told through song and prosey verse, or poetic prose, it’s a fine line. The set is evocative of the “curio cabinet” style that Reid purports


The stories themselves are interesting explorations of characters. A stargazer finds a communique from outer space, yet he can’t connect to those on this planet. A sheriff marches for days to arrest a crook, but isn’t rewarded for his tenacity. A woman escapes execution at the hands of the law, only to be struck down by accident days later.


The first thing to say about the show is that it has bucketloads of potential: it really could be a four star show with a few simple expediencies. Pete invites us to approach the stories “as a children’s birthday party”, but doesn’t do enough to lighten the atmosphere with enough energy or sense of playfulness that more suits the cabaret/storytelling style. The songs are all quite slow and often a capella, and sometimes the recorded soundtrack is simply too loud, drowning Reid’s words. Reid is Australian and I was surprised that he didn’t make a few more Australian characters – most of the characters in the stories have an American accent, but the stories are largely not location specific.


I’d be interested to see this show evolves: all the elements are right, but just need a little tweaking to really hit its stride.



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