FringeGuru.com / Review / Writing: Journalism

Alistair McGowan and Charlotte Page: Cocktails with Coward (****)

Assembly @ George Street (venue details)
6 – 31 Aug (not 17), 4:40pm (5:40pm)

Alistair McGowan is famous for his impersonations; he has made himself an impressive (boom-boom) career with them. For a man not particularly known for his acting or singing ability, this was a surprisingly polished performance, helped along ably by Charlotte Page. The collection of songs and poems by Coward is a delightful concoction, making this a classy and fun evening – and well worth catching, if just to see McGowan in a different light.

The collection of Coward pieces McGowan and Page have selected is a lovely little insight into the man’s thoughts, ideas and witticisms. The songs are wonderfully clever in construction and musicality, as are the poems; and the duets are like elegant games of badminton, the verbal command is passed back and forth with exceptional verve. The topics covered range from love to death to war, and are a collection of delightful bon mots. The pieces could not be better chosen, their interchange and cycle from one to the next effortless and fitting. This, combined with two excellent performances (three if including the piano player) and a simple yet effectively variable set (two chairs and two suitcases) makes for a pleasant evening’s entertainment.

McGowan is particularly enjoyable to watch, managing to capture Coward and his various characters quickly and ably. Even without the most confident of singing voices, he holds his own very well, and bounces through the songs and poetry with enthusiasm. He obviously cannot resist an impression or two, and they also go down a charm in context. Page also performs well, although her singing voice can be a tad too operatic and reverberating, meaning some of the precious wit is incomprehensible. This is a minor flaw, but unbalances the evening a little with Page overshadowing yet underperforming McGowan.

If you are a fan of Coward’s work in any way, this evening is a great experience, and the performances are excellent. A little more balance between the performers would only make this performance better: but as it is, it’s still a delight.

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