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Rich Hall's Campfire Stories- Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Despite the best efforts of the traffic noise leaking into the Wildman Room, Rich Hall transports us deep into the Montana woods for this evocative hour of dryly witty storytelling, as languid as its isolated setting demands.

He plays a gruff, weather-beaten outdoorsman seeking quiet solitude in fly-fishing; an isolation that’s rudely interrupted by amateur camper Mike Wilmot, who blunders on to the same patch of river and instantly makes a nuisance of himself. Over the ensuing days, they trade reluctant banter and tall tales, as a prickly friendship evolves.

The ponderous and thoughtful script romaticises the experience, especially in the angler’s obsession with the humble fly, the intricate, personal link between man and fish, the perfection of which comes to symbolise an urge more primal and rewarding than any modern trappings. The wonderfully craggy Tim Williams plays the owner of the backwoods fishing supply store, who knows his flies but alienates casual customers – at least until Wilmot teaches him the importance of advertising.

Hall’s appealing script flips deftly between philosophising, compelling fictional anecdotes, deadpan jokes and bouts of otherworldly surrealism, as Wilmot appears to have picked up a giant, voracious, nymph on the internet. The writing is both intelligent and knowing – using a word like ‘lenticular’, then self-conciously drawing attention to the fact such fancy vocabulary is in play.

The show is loose enough to let old pals Hall and Wilmot improvise between each other, but strong enough to rebuild the mood broken by such banter within a couple of lines. A fly-fishing metaphor can also be applied to the comedy; the lazy lunchtime pace allowing the patient Hall to lure in the audience slowly, then suddenly he’ll hook them with a great one-liner and hurl them out of their complacency.

Anyone who enjoys Hall’s American-set short stories will enjoy the similar atmosphere he sets here. One yarn is familiar from his recent book Magnificent Bastards; but this is a more consistent mood than any anthology can create.

Review date: 24 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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