Comedy review: Alistair McGowan and Charlotte Page
ALISTAIR MCGOWAN & CHARLOTTE PAGE: COCKTAILS WITH COWARD ASSEMBLY @ GEORGE STREET (VENUE 3) ALISTAIR MCGOWAN: THE ONE AND MANY ASSEMBLY @ ASSEMBLY HALL (VENUE 35)
HE IS, it has to be admitted, a bit of a star. Onstage he has – in both shows – an amazing, commanding presence and polish. And neither show is just "him off the telly" stringing together a few old routines in Fringe rip-off-and-run shows. His afternoon performance is a delightful trot through some Noel Coward pieces – songs, poems, short stories and scenes from plays. It is a perfect little Fringe miniature, simply but creatively directed.
Not once does McGowan go for the cheap laugh. He doesn't overplay the accent, and he takes big risks with material that is frequently serious, sad and introspective. He does a little "warm-up" at the start, involving a recitation of Don't Put Your Daughter on the Stage, Mrs Worthington in the voices of Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Graham Norton – but this serves merely to show, he points out, the continuing relevance of Coward's work today.
The show will delight Coward aficionados with its choice of less well-trodden paths through the playwright's canon, while still entertaining those who wouldn't know their Private Lives from Privates on Parade. The famous balcony scene from the former is beautifully done here. As, to be fair, is everything. Were I a producer I would be making a move on the play and having lunch with McGowan's agent. His partner here, Charlotte Page, is no Gertrude Lawrence and I am not a fan of her singing, but she made a lovely Amanda and was delightful on the psychiatrist's couch.
With his evening show, again McGowan gives his audience an hour of clever, classy comedy. Where he could simply have strung together a show of "Look, who is this coming down the street? Why it's Tony Blair!"-type cameos, he has written a multi-layered hour of great stand-up, where the impressions are like extras on a cake that is delicious anyway. His Eddie Izzard is funnier than Izzard himself; his Simon Cowell impression a memory to treasure and his Michael Caine moment – just when you might think there are no more Michael Caine jokes – is a work of comic genius.
This is a brilliantly written show, most of which would stand as terrific observational comedy even without the impressions. His opening riff on Fringe Virgins and the Tattoo is just great stand-up, and it is a joy to hear McGowan's own voice and watch his own performing style. Impressively, as a famous campaigner for the environment and recycling, McGowan even recycles a short poem – recited by Noel Coward in the afternoon show, John Hegley gets the laughs in the evening.
He is so assured, that its a genuine treat to see him live. His only flaw is culinary. And I am a pedant. Sweetbreads, Al, are not testicles, they are the thymus gland, situated in the neck. That aside, McGowan is, in the title of one of Sir Noel's finest works, Star Quality.
…Cocktails with Coward until 31 August, tomorrow 4:40pm; …The One and Many until 31 August, tomorrow 7:20pm.
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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