The Communards’ hit, Don’t Leave Me This Way, is playing as we take our seats in the Pleasance Cabaret Bar, a reminder – if any is needed – that this bespectacled vicar was half of the gay pop duo who produced the biggest selling hit single of 1986.
Reverend Richard Coles: #SimpleCountryParson, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh * * * *
The journey from there to here provides the subject matter for Rev Coles first one person (one parson – geddit?) Fringe show.
Stand-up comedy it isn’t – the humour is gently anecdotal, and the dog-collar-wearing Reverend’s delivery feels tailored to the more affable kind of sermon. Much of the show’s humour comes from the incongruity of his story. But, as stories go, it’s quite a good one.
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Growing up in Kettering, he founded the atheists club among his school’s choristers, discovered drama at college and, at 18, received criminal injury compensation from a cycling accident which gave him funds to head for London. It was the early 1980s: Thatcher was going head to head with Ken Livingstone and the gay scene was thriving. Jimmy Somerville started a band called Bronski Beat and the rest is (pop) history.
But then there’s another story: the coming of Aids, which claimed a quarter of Coles’ friends, and set him on a journey back to the church, culminating in ordination. And here, while the anecdotes keep flowing, the tone changes. He might be Britain’s most showbiz vicar, combining his parish duties with presenting Radio Four’s Saturday Live, but he takes his vicaring seriously. It is, he says, without a shred of irony, the best job in the world.
Rev Coles is polished but sincere, self-deprecating enough to avoid (mostly) charges of pomposity. You won’t be rolling in the aisles, but the comedy equivalent of afternoon tea will leave you pleasantly entertained.
Until 25 August