Brighton Fringe 2010
Three vignettes told by characters modelled on real-life figures from Brighton’s history
The show opened with an old gramophone recording of ‘Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside’ and showed images of Brighton’s past projected onto a large screen. Following a brief introduction, the first of three 15 -minute monologues began with a blind busker telling the tale of an episode in his life. This was followed by a short slideshow of ‘Blind Harry’ – the character’s real-life counterpart.
The second act featured the story of a Victorian mistress who was incarcerated for crimes which were revealed throughout the course of the monologue, again followed by slides, this time showing newspaper and court reports of her real-life case.
The third part tells the story of an African bookie working at Brighton racecourse in the 1930’s and 40’s, again ending with images of the character the piece was based on.
The set was suitably sparse allowing the focus to remain on the actors, and the well paced large –screen slide show brought the images evocatively to life. There was a minor technical hiccup with the projector during the second act, but the performer dealt with it in a professional manner and the flow of the piece was not interrupted.
The plays were all written by Ella Hickson and displayed a variety of styles from pathos and high drama to comedy, which enabled the show to build as the first tale was gentle, the second harrowing and the third bitter-sweet. The third was by far the most accomplished piece of the three in terms of writing.
The quality of acting varied, improving as the play progressed. The first actor seemed a little young or inexperienced for his role but nevertheless did a fair job. The second performed in a style evocative of Victorian melodrama as befitted the piece and built up tension, skilfully drawing us into her tale.
The third act provided comedy with a twist. The quality of acting was excellent, with the actor creating warmth and empathy with real style and showmanship as befitted the character he was playing, and he also brought an easy physicality to his role. This character was very entertaining and watchable, and clearly left the audience wanting more with his memorable catch phrase ‘I gotta horse!’
In all three acts the mention of Brighton locations added to the sense of time and place, allowing those in the audience who knew Brighton to mentally conjure up the scenes that were described.
This was an enjoyable show that offered a nostalgic and fascinating insight into Brighton’s past and its larger than life characters.