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Folken Britain: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Alex Mason

In one of the queerest openings to a show, Susan Harrison creeps up a wall and onto the stage, before launching into the eerie falsetto voice of her first character, an enthusiastic if desperate tour guide.

Harrison invokes her whole body and mannerisms to suit each character, which pays dividends in her portrayal of Tony Blair and allows grade-A transitions between scenes. Despite great vocal work overall, a couple of the characters sound almost identical and the four-mouthed East London dog feels misplaced in an otherwise sublime repertoire.

It's low key but well executed, and Harrison is a performer with depth and range; able to read the audience with the precision of an old hand. Unfortunately, the venue itself acts as a barrier to some of the comedy, with neither a microphone, nor a  sense of intimacy.

The stand-out character is Ann, describing her life with boyfriend Alan - the other half of their folk duo. She occasionally answers the phone to Alan, with the resulting half of the phone conversation painting a convincingly depressing picture of life together.

There are some great lines, with Harrison sparingly breaking her mild-mannered demeanour with a burst of crass humour to surprise and delight. Harrison's skill as a performer outweighs the set, with the dog character taking up too big a chunk and a lazy Cambridge graduate toff feeling stale. But there are some great folk songs, including some brief audience participation and an obligatory ukulele.

It's a fine performance; but with too few characters, and too much focus on the weaker of the bunch spoiling the whole. Harrison is a fantastic character comedian and at her best can deliver solid goal; however, some of the set was far from her best.

Review date: 27 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Alex Mason
Reviewed at: Le Monde

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