Edinburgh Fringe 2016: ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change’

Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts’ entertaining musical revue about the trials and tribulations of love, marriage and everything else that follows richly deserves more attention than it receives outside of the musical theatre cognoscenti. Written in the late 90s, the comedy still resonates and the songs still hold firm.

Written in the late 90s, the comedy still resonates and the sparsely-scored songs still hold firm. ‘Shouldn’t I Be Less In Love With You?‘ is an efficient and pleasing life-affirming song. ‘I Will Be Loved Tonight‘ might echo ‘Somewhere That’s Green‘ from Little Shop of Horrors, but it Roberts’ sweet music manages to be just that little bit more satisfying. As for ‘Hey There, Single Guy/Gal‘ is a the kind of two-hander any armchair musical theatre wannabee would love to be a part of.

Not only that – brace yourself for the controversial point – I reckon it’s a more successful creation than it’s musical Godparent, Stephen Sondheim’s Company.

Such a strong view (which is bound to anger the Gods of musical theatre) has its roots in the Edinburgh Fringe production I saw this week.

This was my introduction to the show. From beginning to end, it was a hugely entertaining affair. Many heartfelt laughs and applause in response to immeasurable talent and energy made the whole thing a bit of a revelation.

Comedy’s no good if it’s not delivered with the appropriate timing. Musical theatre also has a tendency to amplify poor singing technique. Neither was found in UCLU’s Musical Theatre Society production. Quite the opposite.

There are future stars in the UCLU’s cast. They just need to keep their nerve, harness their talent, and make sure above all else that their passion doesn’t get crushed by anyone or anything.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016: Melanie Gall sings Piaf and Brel

Melanie Gall has made a profit at the Fringe this year. She did the same last year with the song she brought to Fringe 2015. That in itself was enough to make my eyes pop out. Everyone needs a little something up their sleeves to hook the unsuspecting in when they’re talking about their show.

This year Canadian soprano is back at the Fringe with an homage to the music of Jacque Brel and the songs that made Edith Piaf a star.

Such has been the popularity of Melanie Gall’s show at the Fringe this year that when I chanced my arm for a last-minute ticket the only seat available was at the back next to the technician.

I was glad of it. Melanie’s passion for her musical hero and heroine is evident. She peppers her set with an account of how she was inspired by the music she sings, as well as the highs, lows and bits in between of Piaf’s and Brel’s lives.

Considering I knew nothing of Jacque Brel earlier today (something I admitted to in the podcast in which I met her) Gall proves something cynical media-types often dismiss: honesty, enthusiasm and passion are a good foundation for advocacy of a particular genre. I wish I’d come to Edinburgh before now; I may well have found the kindred spirits I’d been searching for online.

Throughout the programme Melanie exuded an endearing sense of excitement, beaming with pride. She is an utterly charming performer. I would definitely like to see her build on her act, incorporate a live instrumentation from say a battered old upright piano and a double bass, and have the audience sat at round tables. For this music she wants to be a late night billing. It’s a late night, end of the day, kind of programme.

That isn’t a back-handed compliment. Quite the opposite, in fact. After only a few days at the Fringe I’ve concluded that the best way one can show engagement is to show you want more.

On that basis, I’m going to punch a little higher. She doesn’t need the audience participation for Non, je ne regrette rien – she has the tools at her disposal to deliver the song herself, something I’d much prefer. If you go and she encourages you to sing, just to refuse and insist you want to hear her dulcet tones. Piaf’s signature song may be a daunting prospect, but I imagine that facing the fear (if there is any) and nailing it must promise the most tantalising of fixes.

A touching rendition of Brel’s La chanson des vieux amants followed soon after, taking me to a place I wasn’t expecting emotionally. This is evidently the song which means the most to her.

Melanie loves this repertoire and that makes being in her company an absolute joy. Keep an eye on her. I reckon she’ll back .

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2016: Scenes from the End

Scenes from the End – a one-woman meditation on the experience of grief and loss – treats an audience to a thought-provoking series of vignettes coloured by provocative soundscapes, live vocals and projections. It’s an escape into a meta-world of thoughts, feelings, and the ways we sometimes risk communicating them unmediated.

Inspired by real life events and the emotions they triggered soprano Héloïse Werner’s show is an engaging one. Instinct might say any performance should be played to a capacity audience. Smaller audiences however, like the one I watched the show in the company of, makes for a far more immediate experience.

Werner’s well-supported voice – as demonstrated in the opening lament – is powerful, it’s quality sweet and clear. A later section entitled Utterances went further to illustrate her remarkable vocal range.

Impressive too was her agility, switching from a fragmented spoken to sung language. What seemed inaccessible lexicon at the beginning of the show, quickly became preferred – an uncluttered language made for a highly sought-after sense of clarity.

Do Not Speak To Me – a masterclass in pent up emotion spilling over into uncontrolled outbursts – was a compelling watch. This was by far the most successful of the scenes in the 45 minute show. The audience was included via a series of potent questions which inevitably led to the whole work lingering long after the applause died down.

The work doesn’t haunt. Héloïse Werner offers an illustration of her own emotional response to one of life’s taboos and as she does so, she leaves the rest of us feeling a little bit more ready for the inevitable.

 

Edinburgh Fringe 2016: One Day Moko

If there’s one thing obvious to even an Edinburgh Fringe novice, it’s the effort put in – usually by the performers themselves – when tickets aren’t selling.

There’s an eagerness on those people’s faces. It sometimes comes across as heart-breaking desperation.

When One Day Moko performer Tim Carlsen was out looking for punters one rather grumpy potential ticket buyer responded, “I haven’t decided what I’d like to see next.  I’d like to do that alone. Back off.”

It reads worse than it actually sounded at the time, believe me. There were laughs – nervous ones from both parties – intended to navigate an awkward moment. Neither could quite believe what had just been in said.

In fairness to me, I hadn’t got quite got into the Fringe vibe by that point.

Carlsen’s work paid off. Just before we parted – me a little dazed by my dismissiveness – he managed to get the time of the performance in. Two minutes later I’d bought myself a ticket.

It wasn’t guilt that motivated me, more the desire to see something at a particular time and not too far away from where I was standing. The interaction was critical and it resulted in a real discovery.

One Day Moko is an hour-long piece of one-man theatre about street-bound Moko who just wants to sing you a song – he’s always asking for requests. Moko’s life is as you would expect: hard. But, the man has a hard of gold, one cocooned in a Jim Carey-esque exterior.

Moko wants you to like him, but he wants to like you more. He pulls us in with the telling of his story, his interactions with the audience triggering an unexpected reaction. People respond with compassion, perhaps even love. Their better side is being given a chance to shine. Those more circumspect look on wondering why it is we can’t be a little more like those in the front row.

Carlsen loves to sing, possesses a remarkably versatile voice). He captures the hearts of the audience with manic energy and a sweet damaged heart. When he has you there doing his bidding, he’ll tell you the heart-breaking stories of his friends.

The performance sees resourcefulness, a bottomless reserve of energy, and an infectious combination of hope and love. We don’t get redemption, nor solutions. Instead, Carlsen’s performance triggers a personal silent pledge that you’ll stop ignoring the bloke with the dog outside your train station the next time you’re there.

Mainstream media fail performers like Carlsen by not bringing their work to a wider audience. A good performance is one you want to tell others about the moment you realise you’ve been swept away; One Day Moko was just that.

The process of persuading people to come and experience a piece of innovative theatre isn’t that much different from begging for money. Carlsen’s performance, like a good many others at the Fringe, began before the advertised start time.  Had we not have had that awkward exchange there’s a strong chance I wouldn’t have gone to see it. Serendipity delivered like it always does.