Brighton Fringe 2009
Over the course of an hour Pippa Evans introduces herself as four different characters that have been brought together under the guise of Frank and Julie’s cabaret show (sponsored by Norton Meats). Unfortunately though Frank is dead. For the first time Julie must find her own feet on the boards, much to our amusement.
The audience enter to the sound system playing ‘The Music Man’ singing about his ‘pi-a-no.’ Jolly, welcoming characters offer everyone a bingo card, and a wax crayon – it’s the early nineties.
Once everyone’s settled Pippa begins her multi-character skills with a two-way conversation that we can only hear (though a gap in the curtain did break the illusion somewhat).
Julie enters and begins the cabaret show proper with her song ‘Julie.’ It is a well written, amusing number sung and performed expertly. Pippa seems very at home in this role, and the effects come through in Julie’s ability to connect with the audience – so much so I found myself shouting out ‘I love Julie’ after only a few minutes. Julie reveals the premise of the evening: that her husband Frank has died and that where there once was a double act now she must go solo. This is ingeniously illustrated with a duet that Julie sings on her own, a highlight of the show.
The second personality, Angelia, is less believable; it is hard to fathom basic personality qualities (age, emotions). However her role as ‘theatre audience surveyor’ reveals some acute observations of a theatregoing public that would just have benefited from a more subtle delivery.
In transitory moments between acts ‘Barry’ fills in on his piano. Barry, we are told could not be afforded for the preview, but will be there in Edinburgh – though I don’t know whether he is needed. The conversations Pippa as Julie had to have with him when he ‘forgot to fill’ provided much entertainment as the poor soundperson got the hint. Pippa took this in her stride, all whilst off stage changing wigs and costumes.
Another filler is the Norton Meat Bingo. Throughout the evening we get to play three times with an automated Bingo machine and voice. Initially this is amusing and fun, with some very clever script work on behalf of the Bingo Machine, however by the third time there’s a need for development.
An endearing male character then enters from the side and places himself within the audience. There is a beautiful, understated quality to this character, who one could easily meet on the streets of Brighton. This is a refreshingly grounded performance that fits well amongst the other more off-the-wall personalities. Initially the idea of ‘an actor in the audience’ could be intimidating, but Pippa manages to fit him in suitably, and the audience relax.
The final act enters, late, drunk, stoned but very funny. She is a stereotype of the ‘not quite made it rock chick’- guitar in tow. There are again some witty lyrics to the songs, ‘Ellen from Rugby’ sang to McCartney’s classic was hilarious, and a personal favourite was ‘Vegetarian’ – very apt to a Brighton showing, and spot on with its observations. She was definitely worth waiting for.
The end to the evening seems somewhat rushed and underprepared. After the successful comic, frenzy that has been created a quick ‘Send in the clowns’ was somewhat flippant and anticlimactic. I felt this could have been overcome with more commitment to the material. It was as if we were being shown that Pippa hadn’t finished this part yet.
Overall this is a humorous evening with great scripts and a strong performer. With the weaker parts ironed out it will be a great treat for the Edinburgh audience this year.