The great thing about producing a show with a legendary band/singer/actor in the title is that you have a potential ready-made fan base. Half a Person: My Life As Told By The Smiths should, theoretically speaking at least, draw in Smiths and Morrissey obsessives. Somewhere Under the Rainbow: The Liza Minnelli Story should do likewise for followers of the Queen of Broadway, and Oliver Reed: Wild Thing should appeal to those who appreciate the exploits of the boozy scoundrel.
The downside is, of course, that if you dislike a group or person and their name is in the title of a show then that show is unlikely to feature on your list of things to see at the Fringe. When I interviewed Joe Murray, star of Half a Person, I asked him if he thought it was necessary for audience members to be Smiths fans: ‘I think knowledge of, or love for, The Smiths certainly helps, but I don’t think it’s a necessity. I think it’s a fairly charming and touching story in its own right. I’ve had people dragged along to it that hate Morrissey, but have really enjoyed the show.’
To a certain extent, I disagree with Joe. I adored the show, certainly not just because I’m a Smiths fan, but if I actively disliked their music then I wouldn’t have gone along with the story the way I did. The songs would have interrupted my enjoyment of the otherwise excellent plot and stellar acting. The Smiths are viewed by their detractors as miserable, and Morrissey’s evangelical vegetarianism and provocative political statements infuriate many. The chances of one of these people going to see Half a Person are about as slim as Morrissey’s waistline circa-1985.
But sometimes it does pay to take a risk. Morrissey-haters might flinch at the thought of Half a Person, but who knows? Seeing the show might just change their opinion of his music. In fact, disliking his music might not actually get in the way of the haters’ enjoyment of the play. Personally speaking, it’s often my own ignorance that stops me giving shows a chance.
Throughout this month I’ve been sent to review shows I wouldn’t have gone a mile near if I hadn’t been told to, and I have absolutely loved many of them (a puppet show about Hiroshima, anyone?). So next year, when I’m no longer reviewing and am back to being a Fringe punter, I’m going to try my best to see shows I’d normally avoid.
That’s another thing that writing for Fringebiscuit has taught me: be more open-minded, take a few chances. The clue isn’t always in the title.