Edinburgh Fringe 2016
“A gunshot on New Year’s Eve on a beach in Thailand changed musical theatre artist Nils Bergstrand’s life forever. Through original cabaret songs, we hear Nils’ inspiring story full of heart and, surprisingly, humour.”
Nils Bergstrand offer us a solo cabaret-storytelling show that centres on a personal event that transformed his life. The story unfolds over an hour through a mix of narration from a diary, a stand-up comedy style, plenty of self-penned music, a little physical comedy, and moments of theatre.
This adds up to a cabaret built around a tragic story that contains lessons, twists and turns, and plenty of intelligent songs based around piano. Nils can sing, he has a deep, bass voice that he puts to the service of musical-style songs, and that voices often smashes the back of the theatre, sometimes with a fist of fury, and often a booming, but well articulated wit of a man using comedy to comes to terms with the pain of life. It’s variety singing, ranging the emotions and themes that arise from his story, a story that feels importantly and lovingly shared with us. The cabaret style ensures that we feel performed, not just to, but with.
A show that would benefit either from a baby grand rather than electronic keyboard, and perhaps even a full backing band, the show nevertheless is an exquisite piece of cabaret narrative anchored in music and story.
The story: “Taking us from an island in the tropics through 35 surgeries, amputation and tough rehabilitation, we learn how this one-legged man redefined himself, managed to cohabit with his disability and eventually to rise again.” This is a tale of personal change, a complex tale that arises from a simple, shattering moment.
Tbe One Legged Man Show is extremely well penned, as Nils reads extracts from his real diary and takes us skillfully on a journey that is full of insight, self-reflection and a continuing struggled to come to terms and make use of a single shattering moment in life that could happen to any one of us. When tragedy strikes, and we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, life then presents us with the paradox of wishing it had never happened, yet also realising that unexpected good can, and does, come if it.
Nils is a confident host, his songs are witty, wise and often pointedly funny. In this show we hear about one soul’s response to one moment in life. The script is mature, rarely too sentimental, and mostly powerful; powerful in the wisdom it has grasped through encounter, acceptance and struggle. The story explores how we remake ourselves, especially when change is forced upon us. This remaking process is rarely easy but can yield us the gifts of insight and change. We are not offered cheesy lessons in life, even if some of those lessons appear before us whether we want hem to or not: Accept life, embrace it, love yourself. These are not always things we choose wilfully – they are survival mechanisms.
The balance has been struck extremely well between the different elements in the show – comedy, music, narrative, and serious moments of theatre all blend well together to make a greater whole. The hour flies by and I wanted it to last longer – always a good sign. It’s a show that skillfully takes us into the shadows, guides us, teaches us without ever preaching to us too much (except at the very end which felt a little unnecessary).
The One Legged Man Show is a must see for its wit, wisdom, laugh-aloud moments and, most of all, emotional power. Don’t miss this fine work from the One Legged Man who, ultimately, walks wherever he chooses. He invites you to join him for an hour. I gladly accept.