Edinburgh Festival Fringe cabaret review: We Can Make You Happy, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Ben Walters
Ah, happiness. A simple truth available to all who want it, or the last frontier of cynical consumerism? House of Blakewell (aka Harry Blake and Alice Keedwell) determine to crack it once and for all in this clever, funny and ultimately touching show.
At the start, Alice is all smiles, welcoming us into her world of flowers, flamingos and feelgood quotations; meanwhile, Harry stands at his keyboard with a face like a tombstone.
Should we embrace her “rainbow tits” or join him in envying the splendid isolation of the noble gases? Over the course of the hour, they pursue a synthesis between mindless buoyancy and self-defeating gloom, drawing on Facebook, philosophy and free sweets along the way.
Effervescent singer and deadpan accompanist is a classic cabaret set-up – see also Kiki & Herb, Frisky & Mannish, Bourgeois & Maurice, Die Roten Punkte – and House of Blakewell wear it well.
The duo’s friendship is evident as they rub along rather than grating on one another, despite their different outlooks, and it’s underpinned by fine comic timing and serious musical chops.
Their original songs are witty and tight, in a musical-theatre mode, exploiting a range of instruments including recorder, saxophone, oboe and ukulele as well as Keedwell’s clean, affecting voice. There’s a strong, satisfying narrative arc to the show too. And We Can Make You Happy even delivers on the promise of its title, in a small way, through thoughtful audience engagement.
With Alice’s warmth as a baseline for comfortable interaction, the duo cleverly engineer a series of activities to foster little connections between them and us, and within the crowd as a whole. It all serves to gently reaffirm the basic lesson of this sweet, level-headed show – happy can be hard to find, but sometimes together is more important anyway.
Assembly George Square Gardens, until 31 August, 4:40pm / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 15 August 2015
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