Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Richard Fry returns with a new show withc faces desperate realities and explores extraordinary solutions. Beautifully balanced piece fuelled by inspired writing and a delicately balanced and nuanced performance,
Richard Fry returns to The Gilded Balloon with a well-crafted, intense, beautifully acted piece of theatre which brings to light the desperate reality of the suicide rate among young gay adults in the U.K. and explores subsequent possibilities for solutions. Fuelled by inspired writing and a delicately balanced and nuanced performance, Fry inhabits his characters with an understated power that packs an emotional punch with a subtlety and precision born of a rare gift for storytelling.
There is poignancy in the questions Fry asks through his performance: Can one man’s redemption change the world? What power is there in doing good? What responsibility do we have to do so? Fry’s work challenges us to think, to look into places we may not have contemplated before, and to revel in the potential resilience of the human spirit and its power to inspire.
What makes this piece stand out against other one-man shows for me is its originality, its heart, and, more succinctly, Fry’s performance. Fry gives us a story that is filled with hope and one man’s ability to turn his life around despite fear and debilitating self-loathing. I found myself buying into the fantasy that this world, where people begin to globally eradicate hate and fear one good deed at a time, was completely possible. There are actors who have the ability to put their audience at ease the moment they take the stage; Fry has such an ability. There are no bells and whistles; just a warmth and emotive honesty that takes us on an emotionally charged journey through despair, bitter regret, redemption, and sharp, whip-smart humour.
Fry changes characters with a fluid and subtle dexterity that never spills over into caricature. With almost no lighting changes and no set except for a single chair, Fry manages to create layers of texture and characters brought alive by nothing more than his abilities as a performer. He possesses the quiet confidence and skill of a seasoned professional that allows him to switch seamlessly from hospital nurse to grieving father in a heartbeat. It is this subtle precision that drives the piece and takes it from conventional to compelling.
The writing is largely in rhyming couplets, a construct that one might think could wear thin after a short time, but in Fry’s expert hands this structure acts as a flexible, fresh, and supple spine on which the narrative of the piece hangs. Fry finds a music and rhythm in the language that dives, rolls, and pulsates with texture and colour, marking him as not only a consummate actor but a truly talented writer.
The Ballad of the Unbeatable Hearts is at once confronting, moving, heartbreakingly honest, and poignant; I was laughing one moment and moved to tears the next. Fry is not only a first rate raconteur but a performer of grace and clarity who has the audience in the palm of his hand from the very beginning.