Bessie Smith, the ‘Empress oi the Blues', and Billie Holiday, the supreme pure jazz singer, have a large helping ol personal mislortune in common, but could scarcely have been more stylistically different. Smith’s raucous, hard-driving blues style was poles apart irom Holiday’s light, rhythmic approach and jazz-saturated phrasing. Both women have become the subjects ol much myth-making, and misconceptions- malicious and otherwise- abound about them. Smith was indeed a Iargerthan liie character with an unrestrained tongue, but she did not die, as legend has it, because she was reiused admission to a white-only hospital in the South. Similarly, the iacts oi Holiday’s lite came iiltered through her sell-serving autobiography, Lady Sings The Blues, However, the mystique which has grown up around these two great artists continues to excite the attention oi
playwrights and periormers alike and the ilow oi shows devoted to one or other continues unabated on the Fringe this year. Smith is the subject oi Devil’s Gonna Get You -The Magic oi Miss Bessie Smith, Empress ol the Blues (just in case you thought it might be another Bessie Smith) irom Bessie and the Boys, while Holiday gets the treatment in Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar and Grill, a re-enactment oi a notorious concert late in her lite, which stars Cab Calloway’s daughter, Chris.
What remains to be seen, however, is whether any oi the periormers can get close to replicating anything at the greatness oi the originals. A tall order, indeed. (Kenny Mathieson)
Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar and Grill (Fringe) Chris Calloway, George Square Theatre (Venue 37) 650 2001, 17 Aug-5 Sept (not 23, 2840), midnight, £7 (£5).
Devil‘s Gonna Get You (Fringe) Bessie and the Boys, Chaplaincy Centre (Venue 23) 650 8201, 17-22 Aug, 10.45pm, £4 (£3).
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ll the comedian’s art is to hold up a mlrrorto human nature and point up the lolly that’s rellected, then Bruce Morton is on to a winner with his latest routine ‘Sin’. It it’s not, he’s snookered, because he’s just spent the last year-and-a-halt devising seven hall-hour scripts, each one ruminating in genial iashion on a different Deadly Sin. This material will eventually iorm the basis oi a Channel 4 series; lor now, Morton is tackling two samples of nelarious conduct per show.
It sounds like a dream ticket. As tar as audience identilication goes, you can't get much more tamiliarthan the well of
human transgression and as tar as potential material goes, there’s only the whole oi historylrom Eden onwards to draw on. Still, it’s not as simple as all that.
‘Some are them are a struggle, some oi them are dead easy,’ reveals Morton. ‘Lust is just halt an hour of penis jokes-l did that one iirsi, got that out the road. But l’d defy anyone to come up with ball an hour oi the goods on Gluttony. I don’t think it’s a very iruittul area; I was just writing loads of stuli about puking and iarting and it was just this rancid tilteen pages oi horrible sleazy toilet humour.’
So alter eighteen months’ consideration, which in his opinion is the deadliest ol the seven sins?
‘Lust, 'cos it’s there all the time. I don’t mean I walk about on horn all the time. I mean in magazines, in iilms, in television. The back at lager cans, there's pictures oi women there in skimpy dresses with blue eyeshadow called Amanda and Denise and Tracey-Anne and why they’re on the back oi a lager can l’ve no idea. I thought that stuii had died out. So Lust is probablythe most insidious one. And Pride. 0h, they’re all horrible and we’re guilty at all of them to some extent. Except tor Cliil Richard.’ (Fiona Shepherd)
Sin (Fringe) Bruce Morton, Riile Lodge (Venue 101) 557 1785, 17 Aug—5 Sept, 10.45pm, £5 (£3.50).
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THREE MEN AND A BABY GRAND
Finding a sophisticated Australian is about as easy as finding a cool can of XXXX in a Scottish beer tent. But in 1992 you may be able to find three of them, all on the same stage. Drew Forsythe. Jonathan Biggins and Phil Scott came together two years ago. Biggins and Forsythe had been successful classical actors. while Scott had composed music for numerous films and stage shows. Their cabaret show was never going to be in the D.A.A.S. mode. In fact. it may even be termed ‘sophisticated‘.
‘The format and the style of performance is like a sophisticated revue but there‘s a certain amount of low-brow stuff in it as well.‘ says Scott. ‘At times it‘s like Benny Hill meets Flanders and Swann.‘
We could put the mention of Hill down to a slight aberration: the inﬂuence of the great Australian. downmarket heritage. After all. the show includes parodies of opera tenors (singing a Madonna medley. admittedly) and a routine revolving around three French brass players (Okay, so they‘ve left their instruments on the plane. but it‘s still classical). Doubts are creeping in now. You are sophisticated Australians aren‘t you?
’There‘s no Paul Hogan “Ello. ‘ow are you.“ type
' dick jokes in the show.‘ Anothersophistieated
ofthing. We avoid that like the plague because we don‘t find it very funny really.‘ Phew. that‘sa relief. it looks like we have found the antipodean equivalent of Kit and the Widow after all. ‘But there is a certain amount of. let‘s face it.
Australian mirage vanishes in the mist. (Philip Parr)
I 3 Men And A Baby Grand (Fringe). Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428. 14 Aug—5 Sept (not 18.25.1).1()pm. £6.5()/£7.5() (LS/£6).
V THEATRE \
‘You have to be on your toes or you‘ll miss something,‘ says Annie G. whose pen and pen-name are the force behind G-Force. At 9.8 metres per second, per second (the acceleration. I‘m told, exerted by gravity). you‘d expect nothing else. This scientific snippet is the tongue-in-cheek key to the first of four pieces that comprise Annie‘s show. which comes to Edinburgh from New York after two off-Broadway runs.
‘The basic premise of gravity is about how objects in motion stay in a ﬁxed range of motion and it takes an incredible amount ofenergy to get away from that. In the same way. you can keep going in a bad relationship and it takes a lot ofenergy to break away from it.‘
Equally wry are the other three segmentsof the show, the last of which, Something Rotten in Denmark. is ‘a mad-paced romp making fun ofthe theatrical world. and of myself. The endingis. . . well. I callit the silliest thing I‘ve ever done. The actors have to be in excellent physical condition because we really have them do it all. You have to see it to ‘
believe it.‘ (Andrew
I G-Force (Fringe) Playful ' Theatre Company.
Randolph Studio (Venue
55) 225 5366. 17 Aug—5
Sept, 10pm.£4 (£3).
sex AFTER SUPPER
Those who prefer their X-rated pleasures tempered with a veneer of respectability will be intrigued by Erotica Poetica‘s Sex After Supper — a selective presentation of Renaissance and Restoration erotic literature delivered with a whiff oftheatricality. It may be illicit — but it‘s also art.
’lt‘s quite surprisingthat all the four-letter words are present in that poetry.‘ remarks Stephen Oxley. the man responsible for devising this iniquity. who also performs the show with TV actress Sandra Clark. ‘Early on. people are dancing round the subject so you get all that “love‘s channels“ stuff and comparing willies with ships and things. By the time you get to Charles ll‘s time. they‘ve dropped all that and they’re calling a spade a spadef
Shakespeare‘s and Marvell‘s lyrical passages raise the tone. but such is the candid and graphic nature of some ofthe literature (’Panegyrick Upon Cundums‘. and ’One Writing Against His Prick‘ — what can they be saying?) that it takes more than a trip to the local library to unearth exemplary material. One particular rarity, the faintly repugnant play Sodom. is so salacious that it has yet to be performed. ‘We had to search quite a bit.‘ says Oxley. ‘scraping the barrel of English literature really.‘ (Fiona Shepherd)
I Sex Alter Supper (Fringe) Erotica Poetica. Hill Street Theatre (Venue 41) 225 7194.16 Aug—2 Sept. 10.05pm.
48 The List 14 — 2() August 1992