Garry Starr Performs Everything @ Underbelly Cowgate
Garry Starr's tour of theatre is a tour-de-force
The best revenge is living your life well. And Damien Warren-Smith's character creation Garry Starr is a proper actor with a grudge against the Royal Shakespeare Company. Without his talents, he presumes, theatre won't survive. And he's performing each genre to show everyone what they're missing.
It's little wonder there's been increasing buzz around Performs Everything. Smith puts in a tour-de-force as Starr and powers through much of what theatre has to offer. Especially impressive is his pacing: it never feels like he's in a rush even when he's hurtling through. Scenes poking fun at worthy European theatre stand out as much as the more energetic performances he gives burlesque and ballet. It's part of the show's charm that everyone will have a different favourite: Chekhov's Three Sisters stripped back to a couple of cries was ours.
As a clowning show, and one that relies on quite a bit of audience involvement, it's remarkably warm and unthreatening. You can discern how much Smith cares about making his recruits comfortable, even if as Garry Starr he berates their performances. It's a tricky balance, but its one of many elements that makes this hour a winning one.
The character does seem a little pieced together though, both in the big picture and the detail. The whole Royal Shakespeare conceit and idea to rescue theatre seems just a set-up, rather than helping us get to know who this Garry Starr is. As a result it seems dispensable, like Smith could have just done all the genres as himself. In the finer points, the malapropisms seem bolted to the character and don't really justify enough laughs for inclusion. That said, these are quibbles and while the show was always enjoyable and entertaining, it's to Smith's credit that having any quibbles at all puts our opinion in the minority. It would be disingenuous not to mention Smith is on the verge of getting a standing ovation today and seems to be taking the recognition he's receiving in his stride.
Garry Starr Performs Almost Everything, Underbelly Cowgate (Iron Belly), until 26 Aug, 8.10pm, £10-11
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