HALF A PERSON: MY LIFE AS TOLD BY THE SMITHS
Half a Person: My life as told by The Smiths –Zoo Southside 7.50pm.
The Morrissey quiff is big on the Fringe this year, set in motion by the great man himself with a performance at the Usher Hall last week and another play ‘Unhappy Birthday’, which I am seeing tomorrow, also focussing on the iconic frontman for a legendary band. This highly impressive production by Cross Cut Theatre- and the rain was more than falling down on this humdrum town as I made my way to the theatre- is a one man show which is an excellent and absorbing drama which even pulled on my emotionally resilient heartstrings with a performance which ranged from humorous and caustic right through to angst and despair effortlessly. Just like The Smiths then.
The drama revolves around William a drifter who floats around filling his days with loathing, self obsessing and infatuation with the unattainable, all the while relating these various things to classic Smiths tracks. When he does eventually succeed in pulling the object of his desires- Salome- the conflicting emotions he feels when he tries to relate this new relationship to the complicated one he has with his gay best friend-and fellow Smiths enthusiast- Rick, tear away at his already confused state of mind.
The story which William then tells as his relationship flounders and Rick falls prey to a terminal illness is one shot through with humour but as Rick’s illness takes hold things adopt a more serious and eventually tragic note. These scenes are played with a pathos which had more than one audience member choking back the tears-including me- and it is a performance of understated and effortless intensity which cannot fail to coax a reaction out of even the most stoic of hearts.
It isn’t very often that I see a live stage performance which is so heart rending and sincere. To add to this the breaking up of narrative by allowing the protagonist to burst into Smiths songs appropriate to the tale being told manages to do so without feeling contrived, ridiculous or-like musicals which despite the inclusion of impromptu song this is not- incongruous.
Ah, the music! Having a great backlog of tracks to choose from the production chooses some of the best. Thus ‘Cemetery Gates’, ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’, ‘There is a Light that Never Goes Out’ and ‘This Charming Man’ are just several of many peppered throughout the show and whilst the performer has more than Morrissey’s three notes at his disposal he gives convincing renditions and a more than capable interpretation of the Mozzer’s twisted and agonised dance moves.
This is an extremely simple production which utilises its strengths to great effect. The central performance is assured and accomplished, perfectly capturing every nuance of the emotional torment of the protagonist. It is not a prerequisite to be a Smiths afficianado-obviously it helps- to enjoy this show either as the production is strong enough, on its own terms, to win over those previously impervious to the charms of Morrissey, Marr and co. It took me on an emotional journey during its hour long duration and was consistently outstanding. William, it was really quite something!