Edinburgh Fringe 2011
The Arches and Adrian Howells return to this year’s fringe with a personally revealing and humorous production entitled “May I Have the Pleasure…?”. Staged in the capitals’ luxurious Point Hotel, you are assigned the role of guest at a wedding reception and it’s in this recognisable seating arrangement that Howells relates his wedding experiences. Written by Howells, the actor confesses to us his role in numerous nuptial ceremonies. He performs equipped with some genuine and excruciating home videos, a killer list of obligatory wedding songs and poignant memories.
The top floor bar of the Point Hotel Conference Centre has one of the most magnificent views of Edinburgh city. We mingle there waiting for the show to begin, listening to the Bee Gees and George Michael. We can see into the performance area where the round tables are festooned with bright balloons. A wedding cake has a starring role in the corner and we start to get slightly restless, comparable to a real wedding. Dramatically, a curtain is drawn across the window and we are invited in. A man sits alone at a top table, his shirt open and bare foot, swaying in time to the music and downing what is apparently not his first glass of wine. He leaps to his feet, and crosses the dance floor mimicking the formal walk down the aisle. A projector flickers into life and Adrian Howells, very informally, begins to talk to us through the images on the screen. This particular footage is of one of the sixty weddings he has attended in his life, and too often as the best man. The experiences slot together to make a jigsaw that portrays his life. He regales us with stories of his speeches, some successful and some horribly misjudged. The audience are invited to tell their wedding faux pas tales. Each table has a list of slow dance tunes from which they are to pick a song. Someone at the next table selects Leo Sayer’s “When I Need You”, and Howells shrieks with camp delight – he loves this song! A dance partner is politely requested to accompany him and they take to the floor. After the dance he stands very still with the partner, echoing photographic images from his childhood that we have seen earlier in the film footage.