FringeReview Scotland 2019
We are at that night in the bar where Karaoke is King, and Princes and a Princess are lined up to perform. Through song and banter get insight into the people who keep this institution alive. Gav Prentice, playing each role gives us Titch who is our host and a funny guy, young Kevin who is the tech geek and a funny turn, Caroline who has a funny perspective on life whilst Rick is holding onto a more serious secret and that is the sale of the very institution in which we are all enjoying these personal disclosures. By the end we have seen the songs with no dances, the changes which unite and the hope that things may just continue, the way it has always been before.
Any solo show has dependency upon the solo performer. Here the performances given by Gav Prentice, showed he was more than able to carry all four off, even Caroline whilst sporting a full beard. The script showed a deft touch, at times, though it was struggling at the beginning to clearly make a connection with its environment. Calling over to someone in the tech team at the beginning was not enough for me to feel it had established the formula; it felt awkward to me.
Once I got the idea, the conceit of being at a karaoke evening was what worked best. The direction was a decent hand upon the tiller though sometimes moves between characters depended more on changed screens than effectively directed changes onstage.
At the heart of this, for me though, were two things; the idea and the message.
The idea had started with that misstep and it took a little while to catch on that Titch was the host and we were all part of the karaoke night. Once it was more obvious, then it began to develop a theme that was helped by the sheer genius of the idea. If the frame was sound, then the message was much sounder.
I found it slowly revealed as we went on that the community of which we were temporarily part who were becoming increasingly engaged, this was a piece of nostalgic realism. We were being berated for giving up what was an insignificant part of heritage but a massively important element of our souls; karaoke might not be Sunday dinner, but it is part of a collective experience communities have used to relate to each other and commune. The message appeared to be, think not about the event, think more of the effect. It felt like an experience about which they were acting as one voice, without the microphone. I was, unfortunately in the minority as the audience whooped and laughed with unfettered enthusiasm.
And why not. Gav Prentice is a great storyteller. He wove between each of the characters though the announcements on the “big screen” were overly helpful. They did manage to make the changes much more obvious as Prentice is more of a storyteller at times than an actor.
The music and the karaoke part of the piece was, for me, the strongest element of the performance. The monologues were a strength, though, I always felt the songs needed to have a stronger connection to the storyline. If they had been, I might have felt the need to join the rest of the audience in standing to applaud at the end. Their subtlety may have stopped me from untying this knot.
The addition of the Karaoke background, that graphic of the parrot, the stickiness of the lyrics playing and the cheesiness were sumptuous perfection. Prentice can sing and more than carry a tune though I felt from Kevin’s song onwards his range was better suited, and we got a stronger sense and song.
Technically in the Victorian bar it was partly on the money for a venue and this added to the sense of it being more intimate. It has to be said though, that the venue does not feel, forgivingly for this show, like one likely to shut any time soon.
Overall, can you argue with a standing ovation? I can. I thought this is a brilliant idea that could do with a little work; and we are talking a little. The concept, the message of communities working together, of a couple with secrets that don’t involve affairs or major revelations and a performer who can carry it off and carry a tune are very firm foundations. With a stronger hand at the director’s chair perhaps this could find further legs and get beyond the place it finds itself in now; given the crowd approval there would certainly be a massive appetite for it.