AT THE THEATRE
Edinburgh Fringe 2018: Valerie @ Summerhall
This innovative production, created by New Zealand’s Last Tapes Theatre Company, mixes live music, theatre, spoken word and even a small home movie snippet. The titular Valerie is the real-life grandmother of musician and theatre director Robin Kelly. They are both members of a family tree which has been blighted (including themselves) by a history of mental health issues.
The story is told from both of their perspectives. In flashback, Valerie (played by Cherie Moore) talks us through a life which, at first glance, seems blessed with success: she gets married to the wealthy man of her dreams (named Graham), they run a successful restaurant in Melbourne, they have their brief brush with fame (an encounter with Hollywood Golden Era star Ava Gardener) and they have children together. Eventually, however, it all comes tumbling down. Robin Kelly (playing himself) cites scientific theory as he strives to explore his family’s fraught psychological history via a number of spoken word pieces.
These sections are linked by a series of cabaret pop songs performed live by Moore (vocals), Kelly (keyboards) and Tom Broome (drums). In fact, as you walk in, you might be fooled into thinking that you’ve gone into a live music gig by mistake as they play three songs before we actually get to the first spoken word piece. However, the music is definitely the highlight here thanks to Moore’s spectacular and impassioned vocals. The songs add a strong emotional pull to the complex puzzle of a story. Indeed, the narrative itself isn’t always the easiest to follow - but, nonetheless, does come together in a memorable manner at the end. The whole production is technically very slick, with some particularly effective use made of stage lighting.
It’s a compelling and intelligent piece of work, all the more remarkable because of how openly Kelly faces the issues which have been passed down through his family tree.
Watch a video:
Tickets are available from the following link: