Friday, 8 April 2011

Rash / The Psychic Detective - Edinburgh Fringe 2007

Jenni Wolfson’s favourite song is I Don’t Like Mondays by The Boomtown Rats. A worrying sign for any would-be human rights activist, as even Sir Bob Geldof’s fund-raising zeal can’t forgive such over-blown stinkers. Using the song as a framing device for her real-life monologue charting her three years as a UN volunteer in Rwanda, then, doesn’t do her cause any favours. Once there, however, the gun at her head is all too real, as she lives on her nerves, bolstered by a love affair and a steely compassion in the face of extreme conflict.

It would be wrong to undermine Wolfson’s very real experiences of life in the frontline, as well as her heartfelt account of it. It would be unfair too to dismiss it as yet one more middle class hero’s rites of passage as they rebel against their parents while attempting to change the world. One thing that is certain, though, is that, however much Wolfson tries to lift her stilted performance of her own words, its no piece of drama. Wolfson would have been better advised to either draft in an actress or else read it straight from the page, where its place as a memoir in search of a publisher could have been made plain.

The Psychic Detective
3 stars
In the back of a truck, a living movie is taking place. It’s generic, noir type stuff, the usual, about a down-at-heel gumshoe chasing after some dame he lost somewhere. Throw in some tough guy hoods, a couple of angels and some bad dream psychodrama, and you’ve got a pot-boiling, page-turning perfect piece of pulp fiction. Or have you, because Benchtours double-bluff of a multi-media vignette is a little tease of a show that hasn’t quite found its hook, let alone its killer punch, as yet.

Taking its cue from Dennis Potter’s equally opaque post-modern TV homage, The Singing Detective, private dick Bett’s dark voyage inside his own head is awash with gorgeously realised video trickery that never really takes us out of the blind avenues and alleyways we’re initially led down.

The idea, one presumes, is that Benchtours can tour each episode from town to town, with a cliff-hanger at each close before the credits roll leaving audiences breathless with anticipation for next week’s exciting episode. Which sounds great in theory, but a fringe audience wanting some substance to such bite-size chunks might well feel suckered by such an ambitious approach which never quite delivers on such tantalising promise.

The Herald, August 2007


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