BATH COMEDY FESTIVAL PATRON RALPH OSWICK TAKES A LAST LOOK AT THIS YEAR’S EVENT
What better way to end this year’s highly successful Comedy Festival than with a performance of Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen at Bath Cricket Club? And with our esteemed critic otherwise engaged it falls to me to review the show!
And what a show! We all love Arthur’s somewhat shambolic style of humour, his gravelly voice and elastic features. As a co-patron of the festival he’s led us on many a merry jape, from the Widcombe Easter Egg Hunt, to last year’s more complex animated guided walk around Alexandra Park which involved a bevy of local performers in increasingly daft situations. In addition, our Arf has twice guested on the famous Wine Arts Trail big red bus as celeb clippie.
But it seems we absolutely adore this more focussed personification. Backed by the incomparable (and highly glamorous) Smithereens he took us on a roller coaster journey through comical tales about his dad, tear-inducing accounts of his mother’s gradual descent into dementia, hilarious childhood reminiscences and a string of jokes ancient and modern. All held together by superb renditions of Leonard Cohen’s best and most spectacularly miserable songs.
This could so easily have been simply a spoof on the master songsmith’s lugubrious oeuvre, which would be perfectly acceptable as a cabaret turn. But in this case the songs gained a new relevance, becoming a commentary on Arthur’s life story as it was laid before us.
This show has been around for a bit in various versions, gaining great reviews at Edinburgh Fringe. It has been broadcast on BBC 4 (which necessitated an explanation for listeners by Arthur of its purely visual and very rude ending). I’m really glad this newly extended and even more miserable version was brought to Bath and it gives me great pleasure to confer five stars upon its bare bottom (there, that’s a spoiler for the ending). If I had six to give, I would.
As his distinguishedness the Mayor of Bradford on Avon was heard to comment on leaving ‘Effing brilliant! Better than anything the Theatre Royal ever put on. And in an effing cricket club!’
I’m sure he’d be happy for you to quote him on that, Arthur!