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Tell Me the Truth About Love (Edinburgh Fringe)

This show at the Underbelly comprises cabaret songs by WH Auden, Benjamin Britten, Conor Mitchell and Mark Ravenhill

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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The title is that of a song by W H Auden and Benjamin Britten, and it closes an otherwise disappointing, short song cycle devised by director Mark Ravenhill and composer Conor Mitchell and performed with singular scruffiness by Jamie McDermott.

McDermott sings well enough, but he lacks stage charm, and he's forgotten to polish his shoes or crease his trousers. He mostly adopts the semi-ingratiating persona of a trilby-hatted cynical love victim, and he even resorts to treading on his own jacket (by mistake, I think).

Responding to the Britten/Auden example, Ravenhill and Mitchell have written their own sad sack songs which are strident without being astringent, and alienating without being instructively so. The piano writing is brilliant, though, and brilliantly played by Peter Foggitt.

The experiment of matching Mitchell with Auden on several numbers improves things slightly, but there's none of the easy liquidity of musical line that is so refreshing in the final number, and the penultimate one, too, Funeral Blues, whose text is the "stop all the clocks" item from Four Weddings and a Funeral.

The production is casually presented on a bare stage surrounded in black drapes and has none of the precision or plangency Ravenhill and Mitchell supplied on Ten Plagues, their terrific song cycle with Mark Almond a few years ago. There's something here, but not nearly enough.

Tell Me the Truth About Love continues at Underbelly, Bristo Square until 26 August (not 5, 12, 19)