REVIEWS FROM EDINBURGH 2017
One-4-Review, 14 August 2017
Although this show is listed under comedy / stand up in the Fringe brochure and I suppose Brandon did stand up for quite a lot of the time and yes it was funny at times also I feel it would be better characterised as spoken word.
In essence this is Michael Brandon, probably best known in the UK anyway for his 80’s role as Dempsey in the TV series Dempsey and Makepeace, it is a brief run through of his life and the number of off- ramps he took away from the main highway of his life and career.
Born and bred in New York, Brandon talks of his early life in a blue collar household, blagging his way into American Academy of Dramatic Arts along with some other house hold names, manages to wangle a great agent and Broadway and Hollywood beckon. He makes films with Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Kim Novak, Jacqueline Bissett and a whole host of others during his lengthy career.
The direction of Guy Masterson is evident throughout the piece, there are stills and clips played on a large screen behind him augment the interesting life he has lead, both professionally and personaly and it is certainly a nice way to spend an early evening hour. (Geoff - One-4-Review 14/08/17)
British Theatre Guide, 5th August 2017
Opening on a stage with a projected video reel playing highlights from his career, Michael Brandon's autobiographical stand-up set winds the audience from his days as a vinyl loving teenager, to a jobbing actor, and finally to international movie and television success.
While many of his peers, some who are referenced at length throughout, have gone on to a form of superstardom, most British punters are likely to know him best as the star of the short-lived '80s UK cop drama, Dempsey and Makepeace. However, as he goes to lengths to point out, Brandon's career has been long and varied, branching out from his days in the theatre as an understudy, to his first breakout roles, but ultimately the show is largely about the women in his life.
It's a well constructed performance, and I say that with the full knowledge that this is technically classified as comedy and stand-up in the Fringe programming. However, despite eliciting many laughs and chuckles throughout his interesting life story, this never feels like stand-up; it's a pleasant hour of amusement, indeed, there's almost more material than the timescale afforded allows crammed in here. It just never feels entirely as organic as good comedy should, nor as natural as a performed piece ought to. But it's early days. That said, it was an eye-opening and intriguing summation of a grand career I was only passingly familiar with, and provided a fair few grins and chuckles. (Graham Strachan - British Theatre Guide - 05/08/17)
Daily Telegraph, 22 August 2017
Not everyone can remember Michael Brandon's roles in Jerry Springer: The Opera or as Dempsey in ITV cop-show Dempsey and Makepeace, but don’t let that put you off attending his confessional one-man-show. This is actually a far more gossipy, self-deprecating and insightful hour than one might expect – not only because Brandon’s career has seen him work alongside some Hollywood legends (Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Kim Novak among them, the latter a serious flame) but also because his success as an actor was against the odds. So deprived was his start in Queens, NYC – with tough parents to boot – that up to the age of nine he had no idea what a school locker was, let alone the concept of having your own school books. His is a rattling, often romance-steeped yarn, and his story of a drama-school audition nightmare is probably one of the funniest in the business. If you didn’t know or much care for this Anglophile American (who married his Makepeace, Glynis Barber, in 1989) at the start, by the end of his charm offensive you sure will.(Dominic Cavendish - Daily Telegraph - 22/08/17)
FRANK CARSON - A REBEL WITHOUT A PAUSE
REVIEWS FROM EDINBURGH 2017
British Theatre Guide, 10 August 2017
Half a decade after his death, the Irish comedian Frank Carson is best remembered for his catchphrases, "that's a cracker!" and "it's the way I tell 'em!" than anything else, yet as A Rebel Without a Pause plainly shows, there was far more to the man than a few phrases or even a near endless stream of chucklesome old jokes.
Dan Gordon's portrayal of Carson is note perfect, quipping the sometimes awkwardly dated jokes that pepper the performance with the requisite amount of innocent cheek and amiable charm. And were the show simply to cover the jokes and the comedy, then Gordon would cope admirably, no doubt.
However, this is a far deeper and cleverer construction, as each gag either leads from or toward a different subject, occasionally undercutting a shocking or tragic moment with needed levity, or to hammer home a point.
Carson's life was not easy and, as we follow him from the difficulties of living in abject poverty as a Catholic boy in '30s Belfast, routinely beaten by his father and grandfather, then on through his posting to Jerusalem in The Parachute Regiment, it's clear that religious divisions and a mistrust of the British government were clearly influential on his life, even if he never spoke out in that regard.
It's a touchingly humanising portrayal of a figure that exists in the eyes of many as little more than a funny man from a harsher and less progressive time, showing the man who lived beneath the catchphrases, and the true spirit of his soul (Graham Strachan - British Theatre Guide, 10/08/17)
The Stage, 30 August 2017
The popular image of Frank Carson is that of a larger than life Belfast comedian with a distinctive brogue, a pair of identifying catch-phrases and a seemingly endless list of quick-fire gags.
The details that you probably weren’t aware can be discovered in Frank Carson: Rebel Without a Pause, Dan Gordon’s autobiographical homage to the comedian, which is filled with surprising facts.
The rags to riches story is fairly familiar but Carson’s time in the parachute regiment and facing down Menachem Begin in Palestine may come as a revelation or perhaps even more so, his intimacy with a famous royal.
Framed by a conversation with his long dead brother, who was killed at a young age in the Second World War, Gordon’s play slips lightly between Carson’s 1985 appearance on This Is Your Life and a stream of jokes that serve as a reminder of how funny he was.
As a performer, Gordon is uncanny as Carson, capturing the ticks, tricks and a genuine sense of the man behind the lovable Belfast clown. It is however the sensitivity and care for his fellow man that Gordon underlines in his script, evidenced by the Papal Knighthood Carson received in 1987 for services to charity. (Paul Vale - The Stage - 30/08/17)
The Scotsman, 30 August 2017
Spike Milligan once quipped: “What’s the difference between Frank Carson and the M1? You can turn off the M1.”
Milligan was referring to the late Irish comedian’s reputation for always being “on”, even in real life. He was an enigma. Interviews with him revealed nothing about the man behind the incessant barrage of gags. He could be exhausting. But he was also very funny, a consummate gag-man. The real Frank Carson, though, what was he like?
This surprisingly tender one-man show, written by and starring Dan Gordon, suggests that Carson used comedy to escape from the pain and horror he’d endured.
He grew up poor in sectarian Belfast, raised by a tough, unloving father. His beloved brother was killed in WWII. While serving as a paratrooper in Palestine, Carson searched for body parts in bombed buildings. He shot and killed an armed terrorist, an incident which haunted him. He witnessed The Troubles first-hand.
Unsurprisingly, these experiences forged a deep distrust of politics and – it’s implied – prejudice. Carson was an old-school comic who didn’t, as far as I’m aware, tell racist gags (his fondness for the “thick Irish” stereotype always felt playful, there was never any malice).
He did, however, support Ukip in later life, an inconvenient fact that Gordon neglects to cover. I’m always suspicious of “tears of a clown” narratives, but Gordon sketches a sensitive, convincing and clearly affectionate portrait of Carson. How does he know all this about such a deeply private man? He’s spent three years sifting through family archives. This is a labour of love. Gordon’s performance is tremendous. He captures Carson’s jovial machine gun stage persona with impressive accuracy – the show is full of gags – while subtly softening his delivery during the offstage confessionals. (Paul WHitelaw - The Scotsman - 21/08/17)
FringeReview - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, 23 August 2017
The queue at the Assembly Rooms up at George Street stretched all the way down three flights of stairs, around the courtyard before doubling back on itself and heading out down the street. I would never have imagined that so many people would have wanted to attend a tribute show to the late Frank Carson, that doyen of stand ups who graced so many pubs, clubs, variety halls, concert halls and, latterly, the little square box in the corner of the living room.
Turns out that this was actually the queue to listen to the other motor-mouth playing here at the same time, one Alex Salmond. But, having finally tracked down the much smaller group heading up to hear Dan Gordon’s affectionate and, at times, quite poignant portrayal of Carson’s life and career, I’m not sure whether I didn’t get to see the better show – and I’ll wager it was certainly a more amusing one.
Frank Carson’s most memorable catch-phrases were “it’s the way I tell ‘em” and “that’s a cracker” and Gordon’s life-like impersonation had an abundance of his alter-ego’s puns, jokes and shaggy-dog stories, all of which remain amusing today, even though tastes in humour have moved on. Carson never descended into the homophobic or racist areas that others of his ilk exploited. He much preferred clever word play, which is perhaps why we remember him and have largely forgotten those with a lesser work ethic than he had.
But like a lot of comedians, he was an enigma – you wonder just how much he used humour as a veneer to cover the scars picked up by this Catholic boy growing up in the depressed, divided, bigoted Belfast of the 1930’s, a part of a dysfunctional family not short on tragedy and, occasionally, tyranny.
That Carson made such a success of his life was largely down to hard work and determination, the former leading him, at one point, to record over forty TV appearances in just one year in the 1970’s and the latter creating the opportunity to achieve this level of fame in the first place – it was his pestering of Hughie Green, holder of the keys to fame through his TV show Opportunity Knocks, that got him the attention of theatre bookers in the first place.
It’s the classic rags-to-riches story, told with great reverence and no little enthusiasm. Gordon’s portrayal captures the quintessential joy with which Carson delivered his material and he’s no mug either when it comes to taking off a number of the other key entertainment figures that interacted with Carson throughout his career.
The jokes and gags keep rolling out and we’re all wondering just when this is going to end, or whether it ever will. But end it does, the story of a genuinely warm, funny man that has been well-researched and scripted by Gordon and then told with real empathy by this very talented performer. It is, indeed, a cracker and it must be the way he told ‘em.(Tim Wilcock - FringeReview - 21/08/17)