Sunday 21 August 2011

The ordinary given a sprinkling of glitter

The Caroline Carter Show, Zoo Aviary, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Caroline Carter falls between the two stools on which she and Barney, the guitarist she’s recently found in a nearby pub, perch. It’s never quite clear whether we’re watching character comedy or musical whimsy, because Carter’s material is simply too good for her.

On the one hand Flick Ferdinando has created a cheery fantasist, absolutely at out of kilter with reality. Carter talks dreamily about her smalltown superstar status, having ‘stormed Canvey Island’ and torn up Teddington with her Country & Western music. Though it never becomes full-blown idiocy and Carter is thoroughly likeable, we’re invited to laugh at her naive disillusionment.

Yet, her knowing songs crackle with genuine charm and warmth. Her schtick is spinning miniature epics, heart-tugging ballads out of utter banality. So we get a sexy, upbeat-yet-bluesy number about mohawk Joe from the Highways Cleansing Depot and a chirpy litany of drunken sexual bungles in ‘I wasn’t thinking, I was drinking’. They’re wry spins on the flotsam and jetsam of England’s pubs and service stations: the ordinary given a sprinkling of glitter.

The trouble is the two things work against one another. Either we appreciate the songs or we ridicule the songstress. Better taken as slight musical musings with a hefty dollop of whimsy, The Caroline Carter Show is more showcase than show, never really adding up to a satisfying whole. She’s exactly the sort of act who would slot perfectly into a line-up, but an hour of one-note musical comedy is fifty minutes too much, no matter how welcoming, likeable and generous a host she makes.


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