Pleasance, Edinburgh
August, 2000

It must have seemed a wonderful idea to producers Green & Lenagan to revive Roy Smiles' play not actually a comedy, although there are plenty of laughs for the Edinburgh Fringe. Where could it be more appropriate to peek behind the scenes at a comedy club and see the tentative newcomer, the careerist star, the potential to rise on an utterly fake persona, the embittered nearly man, the shark of a club promoter, and above all the squalor?

Then you realise: this is Edinburgh in August. You can't actually take two steps without falling over the reality. In the Pleasance courtyard, the pubs on Cowgate and myriad other locations you can get the real thing for free. What you pay to do is avoid it for an hour or two. Carrying coals to Newcastle is a gross understatement.

Roy Marsden's direction, too, is on the large side for the Pleasance Above space, lending an air of fakiness which the play can ill afford in this environment. The snatches of the acts themselves, heard over a speaker in the dressing room where the action takes place, sound palpably artificial. (Re-record them at the notorious bear garden of Late'n'Live, perhaps?) In another time and place, there would be little wrong with the production; it's just a badly misconceived notion to have brought it here.

Written for the Financial Times Web site,

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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