Myra DuBois – the quadruple threat star of film, television and stage – is dead. Thank god. The world just wasn’t ready for this talent, incapable of holding itself to the high calibre Myra would expect. And so, we gather in the presence of friends, fans and total strangers to pay our respects as DuBois conducts her own funeral. Who else could do her justice?
At any Fringe show you will hear one sentence above all else: ‘Fill from the front please‘. That’s the danger zone, especially for a drag act, but Dubois’ AdMyras scramble in for their masochistic fix. With dignity, cruelty, an ounce of contempt and a restraining order, Myra can handle her crowd.
Dubois’ control, timing, and snap judgements as to who will play along are exquisite. This is someone who knows their craft, understands precisely what they can and cannot pull off, and when to dial the level up a few notches. Returning to the Fringe, she may be inside a shipping container, but this is easily her most well-constructed show to date. Song, dance, wit and a few dark moments come together. It seems there is nothing this woman cannot do, except die gracefully, or hit every note…
Diana was the people’s Princess; well, Myra is the people’s Queen. Dubois, a triumphant example of British Drag, balances the old-school grit of the artform while injecting it with rejuvenated venom.
Westworld, but closer to reality, La Belle Époqueplaces the addictive nature of nostalgia at the forefront of its narrative. Posing that this re-enactment of the past has its benefits, but it’s drug-like properties are far from a healthy escape, that the past is pleasurable but has capabilities of crippling the future. When disillusioned artist Victor crosses the path of screenwriter Antoine’s invitation to take part in his ‘time travel’ show, in which wealthy individuals embark on nostalgic trips, Victor uses this as a means to travel back to the 70s’, where he met the love of his life.
And really, the love of his life could arguably be the time-period itself with how Nicolas Bolduc’s cinematography frames the nicotine-stained air permeating Victor’s memories. Theatrical in illusion, there is a tremendous sense of the performance ability on show throughout La Belle Époque. As his God-complex reigns supreme, director and screenwriter turned cupid Guillaume Canet’s character of Antoine offers a dissection of the behind-the-scenes skeleton to movies, theatre and media. Earpieces and set designs, sudden changes to the script and orgy direction – it’s a tough gig.
Canet’s ambition, to re-ignite the creative furnace of Victor’s talent, seems to tie itself into his failed marriage with the Cheshire grinning cheat, Marianne. Fanny Ardant achieves a rarity within romantic comedies. A redemptive arc, from callous, understandable frustrations, to an empathetic character without reversing everything which made Marianne interesting. It comes as no shock, that the love of his life has always been Marianne, and the young woman Victor meets in the café, Margot (Doria Tillier), with whom he falls in love, is a refreshingly engaging performance, echoing Brigitte Bardot or Anna Karina. And who would deny a revisit to the sound score of the best days they had?
In a world in which you could dine with Marie Antoinette, get royally leathered with Ernest Hemmingway, or chat it out with the Third Reich (for whatever reason) the beauty of Nicolas Bedos’ script comes from the sincerity of Victor’s request to not live the life of another, or to piggyback stories, but merely replay his own. Daniel Auteuil’s transformation from beleaguered, pathetic punching bag of a man who resigns himself away from social media and digital dominance into rejuvenation, though reliant on the past, is as humorous as it is charming. His chemistry with all other performers, from lead to side, is exceptional, suggesting a genuine sense of believability as he delves deeper into Antoine’s French cafes and weed dens.
A cautionary word, Bedos’ film is for the sweetest of teeth. Straying from outright happy endings, there are heapings of sepia-tinted sentiment. Keeping La Belle Époque somewhat grounded, Bedosstringently maintains its plot device, refusing to deviate from the narrative mechanics, where so many other romantic-comedies would fall back into a traditional third act structure. The resolution sticks within the boundaries Bedos’ has set-up, a finale which certainly offers a distinct difference from the opposites the genre would habitually fall upon.
La Belle Époque is perhaps the closest a French romantic-comedic farce will achieve recognition from a Hollywood audience. In certainty, the most recent with pangs of Richard Curtis. It’s this dedication to its plot-devices and characters make Bedos’ film a rousing success of comedic gold, with just enough drama to drive forward our leads. You may leave with toothache, but sometimes an indulgence in sucrose serves to remind us to unburden ourselves of pessimistic attitudes, gander at the past, but continue to move forward with our lives.
For just one night only, the lyrical prowess of Tommy Tiernan’s topsy-turvy language could be found reminding the inhabitants of Edinburgh the power located in the basement of Gilded Balloon’s Rose Theatre; a tremendously lively venue which is often cast aside outside of Fringe time. Irish through and through, Tiernan’s Paddy Crazy Horse is a stand-out routine where brief snippets could be removed from context, slapped into soundbites and you would have a seller there and then.
Before asking, yes, Tiernan is Gerry from the sensational creation which is Lisa McGee’sDerry Girls. Thing is, Tiernan is a veteran of the comedy circuit, he’s a basement dweller. Not one to be found in the gilded halls or arenas, preferably in the dank, dingy confines of club undergrounds, a candle-lit illumination the only helpful presence to identify the man. Without a warm-up or blowhard introduction, Tiernan walks onto the stage, says his hellos and casually strolls into his routine which builds momentum until it is a force of insult, wit and grim commentary which cannot, and will not, halt.
If you’re easily offended, or quick to judge, in the kindest way possible – don’t bother showing up. Never a stranger to controversy, indeed it seems to follow Tiernan from the homeland, around the UK and then the states and back. Tiernan’s set pieces reinforce his Irish heritage, where family and national humour sits as a focus. There’s a tremendous amount of ‘angry logic’, a passion-driven delivery of intense aggression which thrusts humour into the room, smashing itself into listeners. It’s that exceedingly wonderful variety of stand-up where the audience laughs, then feels a pang of guilt, a delicious sound to hear from a room who refuse to admit they found something ‘offensive’ comical.
Conversational in construct, Tiernan’s routine isn’t reliant on significant subject matters, and is more a general chit-chat, even if it seems to be with himself. Without relying on audience interaction, his comedic roots lie in observational humour with a stem of identity and satirical jingoism. While this shouldn’t cause an issue with many audience members, there will be the occasional one who finds it odd to identify with Tiernan’s humour. His reliance on the occasional gag which has fine delivery, but dated subject matters such as men vs women, still hits the mark, but bruises the funny bone less than one would hope.
One for an accent or two, Tiernan doesn’t so much aim at any particular target, rather his shots spread themselves far and wide. In terms of performance, no doubt a testament to his acting ability, they hit. He’s a superb storyteller, hanging the room even when taking elongated pauses. Whether it be exaggeration or physical, the punchlines can hit hard, particularly the ones we didn’t expect, those sneak remarks which seem to have fallen by the wayside, only to circle and strike us in the back of the head.
Tiernan is a breed of comedian who refrains from plunging into the foray plenty of new generations of stand-up venture into. His act isn’t designed to entice media presence, drum up deliberate scandal or downward punches. Tiernan is who you are coming to see, and who you will receive, no character or false pretense. His set isn’t dressed up with obvious targets or cheap, easy-to-reach gags. It’s an evening of shooting the shit, living life, take shots at himself, his family and anyone while appreciating stand-up for its roots in the bars and clubs.