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Edinburgh Fringe 2003 PREVIEW

Sol Bernstein - The Angina Monologues
Broadway Theatre


Dave Clements

Sol Bernstein, with 'Almost Alive', treated us (all seven of us) to a night of gags, interspersed with a card-trick, singing, musicianship, and a couple of impersonations. It was a treat indeed to witness this showbiz legend - we all shook his hand - in his aged prime. A Jewish comic with an impressive aptitude for Holocaust humour, Bernstein has been described as the 'first and last' of the song 'n' dance men. And, to top it all off, he has a catchphrase.

'Why don't you wear a tie?' Bernstein implored his young audience, again and again. These words of wisdom no doubt came from the 60 years he spent in the business, working with the greats, from Bruce Forsyth to Adolf Hitler (they shared an agent). He recently came out of retirement, having spent the last 25 years playing old people's homes. The audience turnover meant never having to revise the material, those with Alzheimer's were impressed with his memory regardless, and if the punters didn't die, he did.

I wanted to learn more of this great man but my arduous web search came to nothing. The name-dropping, however, assured me of his stature. He told us of his time in Duke Ellington's band, his conversations with Picasso. His friend's school of cubism inspired 'triangulism' - Bernstein's triangle solos were legendary.

He was topical too. On Iraq, with the wars on drugs, crime and poverty, he asked, how did Blair ever find time to wage another? And leaving Blunkett to 'oversee' things in his crusading absence, well that was just asking for trouble. He may be Home Secretary but he'd be better off weaving baskets or tuning pianos, insisted Bernstein. (He thanked me for laughing at this one.)

'You look a lot like my wife', he said to a cringing member of the audience, 'just before she died'. Comic timing is all and political correctness a bore, I thought to myself. Bernstein left the stage at one point to change his colostomy bag. What he dubbed his 'angina monologues' were similarly refreshing.

 


Sol Bernstein is appearing at the Gilded Balloon Teviot Edinburgh from 1 August.


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