Thursday, 7 April 2011

American Poodle / Big in japan or Three Steves and A Bob / Story of A Rabbit - Edinburgh Fringe 2007

American Poodle
Assembly Rooms
3 stars
Blame the Welsh. According to Guy Masterson, writer and performer of Poodle, the first of a double bill investigating the roots of Britain and America’s increasingly suspect ‘special relationship,’ it is, anyway. As Masterson moves through history, from pre-Columbus bad navigation to the Declaration Of Independence, from Dubyas Washington to Bush Jnr, the sheer cack-handed stupidity of how we got here is served up via a series of amusingly pop-eyed observations.

Meanwhile, from the other side of the pond comes Splayfoot, Brian Parks’ scatalogically manic monologue performed by the ever brilliant David Calvitto as a businessman in thrall of a London seen through an alien’s eyes and still stuck in the historical mud. As he discovers England, “Where capitalism was invented before America perfected it” as he puts it, Calvitto becomes a living pop-up history book of clich├ęd presumption concerning us quaint l’il Brits.

It’s clever if somewhat throwaway stuff, though worth it for its underlying tone of anti flag-waving, which makes a mockery of the differences between apple pie and stiff-upper-lipped sensibilities. And if you’re wondering who’s dumber, you’re probably the type who’d try to buy London Bridge.

Big In Japan Or Three Steves And A Bob
4 stars
It’s the people you lose who make you who you are. Bob Karper makes this explicitly clear in what looks like the most simple, honest and beautiful piece of musical story-telling theatre in town. With only lo-fi slides, home video footage of his high school reunion and old school electric keyboards to back him up, Karper calmly relates a tale of how him and his two high school buddies gradually drifted apart as he left small town America to teach in Japan. On his return, the once inseparable geek-boy fraternity have each opened themselves up to different experiences and can no longer relate. Somewhere in their too is footage of a live art piece in which Karper and his ex girlfiend read out their letters to each other written over the previous seven years. Then there’s the third Steve, who Karper met at a show, and who told him his own story about how lives change, friends fall out, and even though they drift apart, still possess a sliver of the old bonds that bound them as they’re somehow reconciled.

If all this sounds like some self-indulgent, me-generation confessional or else a paean to Friends Reunited, think again. Because, in this follow-up to the equally lovely That’s Me On The Left In the Parker, which played Edinburgh a few years back, Karper seems to be gradually unravelling a living memoir in which he quietly records not just the colour of memory, but the sounds and places too. Unlike some other, more demonstrative auto-biographical shows, Karper isn’t presenting himself as perfect. Instead, as the music and images counterpoint his all American narrative, an understated meat and two veg Zen wisdom shines through. Those of a certain age will relate to this story immediately, and no-one should miss it. It might even make you want to make a call to someone you’ve not seen in years.

Story Of A Rabbit
4 stars
At first glance, Hugh Hughes’ home-made, hand-knitted true story is too goofy for words. Look behind the effortless matyness of his personal greeting to each and every audience member and his oh-so-casual introduction, and there’s a million little real life profundities buried in every line.

Drawn from Hughes’ own personal back pages rummaged through following the death of his father, this follow-up to Hughes’ previous show, Falling, is an off-kilter litany of tea and sympathy which sheds light on a life in reverse in a gently self-mocking affirmation of hope and humanity. Accompanied by his mate Aled on piano, guitar and noises off, and utilising an abundance of hand-made props and film footage, it’s a thoroughly charming little affair which never stops commenting on its set-up’s own artifice before dipping in and out of time zones and moods. A restless bundle of enthusiasm, Hughes has created a quantum leap of a show, in which tiny everyday epiphanies are made as significant as life, the universe and everything that flows from it.

The Herald, August 2007

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