Theatre review: The Professor, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

The New York writer Brian Parks is one of the great absurdists of Fringe theatre, with an Edinburgh track record stretching back more than 20 years, to his great and bewildering Americana Absurdum double-bill of 1997.

The Professor, Assembly Rooms (Venue 20)

The Professor, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh * * * *

He excels himself, though, with this year’s monodrama The Professor, in which his supremely talented partner in crime, the actor David Calvitto, plays an old-school academic giving his final lecture, before he reveals to us the reason why this will be his last.

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This is, though, no tedious tale of “political correctness gone mad”, of racist attitudes or inappropriate relationships with students; for this Professor’s problem is that he is completely bonkers, and absolutely convinced - among other things - that certain small species of animal can read books. His lecture ranges wildly over every art-form and its qualities; he does not like dance, but loves literature, theatre, classical music and the visual arts with a mighty fervour, and is never happier than when rushing through the streets of some European capital towards some famous museum containing legendary works of art.

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The climax of his narrative takes place in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, when he devises an ingeniously revolting method of clearing the room so that he can have some time alone with the masterpiece; and if the whole piece is something of metaphor for the gradual decline of western high culture into self-absorbed, eccentric madness, every nuance of it is brilliantly captured by Calvitto, in what must be one of the most entertaining and skilful solo performances on the Fringe.

Until 25 August

Joyce McMillan