In a new hour-long monologue, Burn, Alan Cumming examines the life and work of Robert Burns. The biographical material is taken from Burns’ letters and the poems are read in snippets. You won’t learn much except that Burns was a poor farmer who later worked as an IRS. To represent his many adventures with women, a few high-heeled shoes hang from ropes above the stage, but this seems oddly cheap considering huge amounts of money have been lavished on graphic images projected onto a large screen. in back. Flashing lights and waves of music add to the feeling of distraction.
Cumming’s performance is centered around dancing, which feels like a fresh start for him. His comedic presence, dexterous wit, and mischievous, teasing face are world-class giveaways, but this show underplays his strengths. He moves in slow ball routines that are hard to decipher.
And then there is poetry. Burns’ best-known verses are played on a soundtrack that intertwines with intrusive musical compositions. Not a great result. The show resembles a four-way race between a poet, an actor, a videographer and a sound engineer. The poet finishes last and the actor comes in a poor third. And the show assumes Burns is of little interest to viewers, who need trippy illuminations and heart-pounding videos to keep watching.
This is a simple black box show that only needs a performer and text. Any addition subtracts. All magnification diminishes. And for some reason, Cumming is dressed in a black lycra t-shirt and matching shorts. He looks like a undertaker on a bicycle who follows the Tour de France and discreetly gets rid of all the competitors who die of an overdose.
No scrub is billed as a comedic monologue, but it feels like a documentary about NHS corruption. The speaker, Dr. Michael Akadiri, is a young doctor with limited interests: his income, his African heritage and his fear of anal rape. He speaks with a British accent but he doesn’t like colonialism and he keeps insisting: “I am Nigerian”. He became a doctor on the orders of his mother, also an NHS worker, but he does not mention curing the sick at all. He says he hates dealing with sick passengers on planes because he can’t send them bills.
During the lockdown, he says, NHS staff went to supermarkets in medical gear in the hope of tricking gullible citizens into buying food from them. He hated the Thursday night “Clap for our carers” because it didn’t increase his salary. The strangest detail is ‘an £82 payment’ given to NHS workers each time a corpse is sent to the crematorium. ‘Ash cash’ it’s called. Is this a joke? Or are we really bribing health workers to kill us? It seems likely.
Dr. Stefania Licari, in a solo performance, Medical, describes the NHS as his personal matching service. She first mated with a gynecologist but she was jealous of the women who stripped naked for him on his daily rounds. “I’m mono-vaginal,” she said as she tossed it. Then she met a frugal dermatologist who moisturized her skin with margarine. Finally she fell for a plasma delivery man because she found his deep voice sexy.
Dr. Licari is blessed with huge reserves of warmth and charm, and her show is a joy to experience. But taxpayers watching these doctors will discover a disturbing truth. The NHS serves staff. This is the priority. Patient care is something that happens accidentally, once in a while, while workers are busy taking care of themselves.
Love, loss and Chianti is the story of a middle-aged romance that uses some of the most affected and pretentious language you will ever encounter. The hero is a poet with a terminally ill wife who remembers their vacation in Crete. He compares the monastery bells to “a jam session of pots and pans” and he calls a wildflower hunt “the search for flowers.”
After a few minutes, you realize that this labored language is a deliberate effect that takes you away from ordinary speech and into the realm of song. It’s inventive, lyrical and oddly rewarding to hear in a theater where naturalism is the norm. It can be funny too. A cheap pizza is “a wheel of dough covered in gloop, burnt on the edge.”
Robert Bathurst captures the tragic loneliness of a widower who finds himself “speechless under the avalanche”. After his wife’s funeral, he visits a beloved Soho restaurant that has changed beyond recognition. Her lunch date is an old girlfriend whose idiot husband has become a best-selling novelist. Will the grieving poet succeed in seducing her? Or will he drink too much Chianti and go home on his own? To capture the full flavor of this fascinating verbal banquet, you have to see it twice.