Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Four of life’s more irritating personality types are forced to go where many others fear to tread – the public speaking engagement.
Eirlys Bellin’s Unaccustomed As I Am sees a quartet of irritating characters thrust into the limelight of public speaking. Each is a pupil of the equally grating Hailey Spelling, regional sales manager turned speaking coach. As it turns out, each of Hailey’s well signposted pearls of wisdom is a sure pointer on how not to do things as we meet a Welsh mother intent on introducing alcohol and drugs to her eight year old’s birthday party, a bridesmaid who wrecks a wedding with some inebriated extemporising, a misfit from Fulham forced to live in Hackney and a Mexican called upon to deliver the eulogy at the funeral of the old man for whom she cleaned.
The concept is akin to many other shows on parade this year – one person works their way through a number of characters with a loose theme to connect them – and in this sense Eirlys Bellin is up there with the best of them. There is a distinct difference to each of her persona and not just in the shoes that she dons as a means of providing some costume guidance as to the character before us. Body shape and voice are important differentiators as are the mannerisms she deployed. Accents hit the spot as well, especially the Mexican cleaner who kept slipping into Spanish when confused.
The idea for the show is decent enough. But it’s the script that ultimately rather lets her down. The jokes are a bit thin on the ground, too well signalled and past their sell-by date in many cases. She also has to rely a lot on her audience and with only a few souls clustered together at the front of the theatre, this was always going to be a bit of a challenge for her. And her characters also tend to outstay their welcome, leaving the whole show feeling flat by the end.
But Bellin is a talented performer, no doubt about that. What she needs is a tighter script with less hackneyed punch lines, more novelty in terms of characters and a plot that keeps the audience more involved. But to her credit she kept going, putting a tremendous amount of energy into material that hardly deserved it.