Goodbye Charles

Aug 26 2019 | By More

★★☆☆☆    Extreme comic chaos

Laughing Horse @City Cafe (Venue 85): Mon 19– Sun 25 Aug 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

Goodbye Charles, Eight Minute Dirge’s Fringe debut, is an episodic comedy performed with a surfeit of enthusiasm. Lacking in focus, it nevertheless has charm and potential.

Gabriel Davis’s comedy, with a woman encountering a series of bizarre characters in her attempts to locate her errant husband, has made the journey from the USA but cannot really be said to have survived intact.

The cast of Goodbye Charles. Pic: Eight Minute Dirge

References have been changed to Edinburgh locations, but the situations and plots are so clearly still American that it does not seem worthwhile making such alterations. Hampered by a tiny acting space which is obviously a karaoke booth – and not a big one at that – there is a chaotic feel to the production that is never quite resolved.

While there are some performers here whose mother tongue is clearly not English, that does not impact on the production negatively – indeed, it adds interest. What does create a problem is the decision to adopt some unnecessary accents, with one performer in particular coming out with a series of voices that render large sections of dialogue completely unintelligible.

A desire to convey the piece’s comic elements leads to some frantic stretching after laughs, with overplaying and mugging that might work at a greater distance but which, in such close proximity, is merely awkward.

The temptation, whether consciously or unconsciously done, to have someone connected with the production attempting to lead the laughter is a common one in such situations, but must either be resisted or committed to entirely. When in it is more of a half-hearted snort, done slightly too early to be a genuine reaction, it has the effect of killing everyone else’s possible mirth rather than encouraging it.


And yet, while there are clearly things here that are far from successful, it is by no means a disaster. The above criticisms come from over-exuberance rather than any creative dishonesty or any lack of effort.

A scene from Goodbye Charles. Pic: Eight Minute Dirge

The desire to achieve big comic performances is a natural one, and there is no shortage of energy. It just needs to be attuned to the space. It is often said at the Fringe you can reach out and touch the performers, but here they will bump into you frequently in a space that is genuinely less than half the size of an average front room. The decision to use tiny, child-size chairs seems like a wacky design choice until you realise that full-size chairs just wouldn’t fit.

There are also some more successful performances. Director Helen Daly holds things together as central character Jill, while Wendy Lap gives a man who thinks he is turning into a leprechaun (yes, really) a successful combination of drive and rootedness.

That Vanashree Thapliyal’s Barb is the most successful characterisation – with it being the most understated – shows that it would have been much better to turn down the intensity several notches and let the comedy of the piece speak for itself instead of laying it on with a trowel.

For a company making their debut, Eight Minute Dirge have shown considerable bravery and energy. There just needs to be more fitting of the performance to the venue, and a little more considered approach, in future.

Running time 1 hour 5 minutes (no interval)
Laughing Horse @ City Cafe, 19 BlairSt, EH1 1QR (Venue 85)
Monday 19 – Sunday 25August 2019
Daily at 2.25 pm
Tickets and details:
Facebook: @EightMinuteDirge
Twitter: @charles_goodbye


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