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Fag Ends and Families (tour - Ipswich, Sir John Mills Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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One-man shows come in many guises. This new one is devised and performed by Simon Egerton to combine elements from his semi-autobiographical essays Fag Ends (yes, the pun is deliberate) with his song collection Now We Are Older. It last for just over an hour and is heading for Edinburgh via Ipswich and London.

Other than the protagonist, we encounter two important people in his life. The first is his chain-smoking grandmother, whose sequence of masculine visitors has affected – not to say, infected – her son’s life. Paul himself has had a dual sort of existence, as we learn at the end of the sequence of stories and songs. His wife had never really recovered from the death of her favourite son, who is not the one who guides us through this complex history.

Egerton at first appears in formal evening dress, shoeless – though the bright red socks hint at something beyond the conventional. During the course of the performance, this attire is removed to reveal the vulnerability suggested by simple pyjamas. It’s much the same with the songs; a somewhat repetitive succession of harmonies dissolves into something deeper as the background to the stories unfolds.

Director Lawrence Evans has obviously been concerned to keep a tight control on both the material and the performance. There’s nothing self-indulgent about this show, which is unusual when you think of some in the genre currently circulating around the fringe festival circuit. It needs a bit of the sort of tweaking which only the reactions of a live audience can suggest, but its first airing bodes well for its future.


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