There is one moment of One Man Show when Nigel Barrett mouths off about the horrific attraction of the self-obsessed actor. His face is covered in a bandage with only his wide eyes showing, whilst a projected and grotesque set of lips and teeth move with disturbing urgency and a rumbling voice proclaims how charmingly terrible he is.
It strikes a chord with this performer-heavy audience but it’s also a sharply funny theatrical moment that anyone can relish. When at their best this is what Barrett and his Shunt and Edinburgh collaborator Louise Mari do best, creating work that pleases theatre types and the general public alike. But it’s a fine line to tread. If only all of One Man Show could be as entertaining and daring as this satirical monologue.
A deconstruction of the idea of performance itself, and in particular the monologue-led form of its title, this is a surprisingly safe exploration for the wild twosome of Barrett and Mari. Words flash up and Barrett obligingly does the corresponding Garrick-like party piece facial expression. ‘Anger.’ Grrrr. ‘Fear.’ Whimper. ‘Happiness.’ Grin. He gets naked on stage, literally striping away the layers of performance, revelling in its exposing nature.
Fast-paced projections of dirty iconic men flash up behind him and we are given a stunning sunset and even some treats for the interval. Barrett handles his tricky audience with the blasé skill of a pro and gives us lots of rope to hang ourselves with as we rustle sweets and cough, albeit on cue.
But for all its bangs and whistles where is the new ground being covered here? It’s all a bit neat and pat and the questions it asks feel familiar. For a genuinely piercing exploration on the form and function of performance, the role of a performer and their audience, there are more dangerous and ultimately interesting places to go looking this Fringe.