Edinburgh Festival Fringe cabaret review: Puddles Pity Party, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Ben Walters
You might have seen Puddles on YouTube: he’s the “sad clown with the golden voice” who went viral with a disarmingly sonorous cover version of Lorde’s hit Royals. If you aren’t familiar, he’s a dolorous, outsized Pierrot type who sings but doesn’t speak, his white face striped with red and a frayed gold tin-can crown perched on his bald head. Puddles Pity Party is his Fringe debut, and it’s an utter treat, clearly demonstrating that his talents extend beyond that remarkable voice.
The show is a tremendous vocal showcase. Puddles has a room-filling Rat Pack croon with undertones of yearning and frustration that befit his antsy stage presence. All suppressed nervous energy, he’s awkward but never hostile, forever scratching, sniffing and worrying at his pompoms. The set list emphasises loneliness and abjection, ranging from Lorde (natch) and Sia to Tom Jones and Abba, all delivered with sincerity even as he scans the crowd for happy couples to resent. There’s also strong use of cleverly edited video material throughout, from archive footage of lame parties and public information films to beautiful vintage animation and a nutso tribute to Kevin Costner. (There’s also rather too much material showing Puddles himself.)
But for a sad occasion, boy, is it fun. The show begins with Puddles blankly shaking each audience member’s hand on the way in, while shovelling gum into his mouth at a rate of knots. It’s the first of many bits of direct engagement: barely five minutes goes by without someone being dragged on stage to help get this party started. Geared around specific tasks, this participatory gambit is occasionally gimmicky and inevitably hit-and-miss, but plainly generous of spirit, and when it works it absolutely soars.
Overall, the show doesn’t add up to more than the sum of its parts – but when the parts are this much fun, who’s complaining?
Assembly George Square Gardens (Venue 3) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 11 August 2015
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