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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Sunday, September 05, 2010

Alan Cumming: I Bought A Blue Car Today, theatre review

Published in Scotland on Sunday

Alan Cumming: I Bought A Blue Car Today
Assembly Hall, Edinburgh

BY MY reckoning, the last time an actor was applauded for mentioning that he'd starred in The Bacchae was around 405BC. But Alan Cumming is playing to the home crowd and, tonight, we're ready to cheer his performance in a Euripides tragedy like it was a number one single.

We'll cheer louder still when the Aberfeldy boy tells us "there's no place like home," even as he recounts tales from the glamorous streets of New York and the celeb-filled restaurants of LA.

On the way in, I overhear a woman singing the theme tune to The High Life. On the way out, the audience goes home delighted to have heard an old Victor and Barry number. Yes, this man has acted with the Spice Girls and Nicole Kidman, but the Edinburgh audience revels in a kind of celebrity that, like his singing voice, has a distinctively Scottish edge.

It means he can sing a number such as American, a heavily satirical sideswipe at US patriotism, without seeming hypocritical. He took out US citizenship, he tells us, in order to vote for Barack Obama (it was in the immigration test that he had to write the phrase "I Bought A Blue Car Today") and he makes frequent barbed remarks about US politics, not least California's decision to reverse the law making same-sex marriages legal.

So accepting are we of Cumming that we roar our approval that his recent OBE was not only for acting but also for gay rights campaigning. We like it, too, when he cracks jokes about Princess Anne's unusual concern for his employment prospects, and we like it even more when he makes light of Moira Salmond's problems with the net curtains in Bute House.

And, of course, we love the heart of this 90-minute late-night show which lies in his idiosyncratic selection of show tunes, ballads and witty originals.

With a classy setting from pianist Lance Horne and cellist Anna Morrison, he teases one moment, seduces the next and, after a meta-theatrical deconstruction of the ritual of the encore, plays into our hands with a reprise of Victor and Barry's Edinburgh Festival Song, 22-year-old gags about Russell Harty and all.
© Mark Fisher 2010

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