Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bedford Festival Fringe

21 July 2011

We're not going to the Edinburgh Festivals this year: we generally go every other year, but as August approaches and withdrawal symptoms start to appear it's been a pleasant surprise to discover the opportunity to see several Edinburgh Fringe-bound shows a little closer to home. This was our first visit to the Bedford Festival Fringe and our first visit to The Place Theatre in Bedford where we saw two 'bedfringe' shows. Simon Munnery is a veteran of many Edinburgh Fringes and I am familiar with his work from numerous glowing reviews but I had never seen him perform. Many years ago he was better known as 'Alan Parker Urban Warrior' and, later, as 'The League Against Tedium'. For this year's Edinburgh Fringe he is working on "a one man musical about the R101 airship disaster of 1930" but, when we saw him in Bedford, this was still very much a work in progress. A couple of songs from the planned musical made up a tiny proportion of his set, which also included monologues, musical jokes and comic observations. It was all a bit rambling and unplanned but Munnery carried it off with charm: he is clearly a very experienced and confident performer. His comedy mixes the absurd with the logically pedantic. He is a very clever comedian and whatever shape his show ends up taking in Edinburgh it will undoubtedly be well worth the price of admission. 'Spitfire Solo' was a very different kind of show. This one-man drama, excellently performed by Nicholas Collett (and devised by Nicholas Collett with Gavin Robertson) tells the story of the Battle of Britain through the reminiscences of a RAF fighter pilot in a retirement home. Playing both the elderly veteran and his younger self (as well as a host of other characters) Collett gives a wonderful evocation of what it was like to be a Spitfire pilot - and re-enacts the entire Battle of Britain using only a couple of sauce bottles and a few slices of bread! 'Spitfire Solo' is a poignant and moving play, lightened by some gentle humour - an excellent fringe show.

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