tue 22/06/2021

Arthur Smith, Brighton Fringe review - touching memoir of his dad | reviews, news & interviews

Arthur Smith, Brighton Fringe review - touching memoir of his dad

Arthur Smith, Brighton Fringe review - touching memoir of his dad

Strong start to the festival

Arthur Smith pays tribute to his father, who lived through extraordinary timesSteve Ullathorne

“A real live audience,” said Arthur Smith delightedly as he kicked off the Brighton Fringe with Syd, his touching and funny tribute to his late father, “an ordinary man who lived in extraordinary times” – his life included a stint in Dad's Army (the Home Guard) and as a prisoner of war in Colditz Castle, and for decades he was a bobby on the beat in south London.

Smith was glad to be in The Warren, as were the audience, in a pop-up space that he described as “a yellow metal Globe”, made from brightly painted shipping containers and metal railings, with the occasional, fitting, accompaniment of sirens from passing police cars. Smith has been performing this show on and off since 2018 (with a lengthy lay-off last year, of course) and it was good to revisit it, as he has added several sharp gags at the expense of Brexit voters (rare in these parts) and Old Etonians, particularly those in government.

The main thrust of the show remains with Smith reading from the memoirs he fortuitously asked his father to write in his last years (he died in 2004), while filling in his own life history with anecdotes, songs and stories – and some cracking dad jokes. Syd's memoirs relate that much of his time as a constable was taken up with dealing with drunks, but trying not to arrest them if doing so would mean missing a football match to appear in court.

The strongest part of the show is where Smith cleverly contrasts his father’s youth – spent in uniform as he went from teenage soldier with Dad’s Army to regular soldier, being captured at El Alamein – with his own, as a callow student in Paris learning first-hand the meaning of ménage à trois and failing to be the political firebrand he fancied himself as when he lost his glasses during a demonstration.

Smith senior was clearly not a man for making grand statements. When his son took him to stay at Colditz Castle some decades after he was an unwilling guest during the war, his reaction on seeing it again was “There it is”. Syd had to survive on rats during the war, and the answer to his son's obvious question was: “Oh you know, tastes like dog.”

Great support is given by pianist and singer Kirsty Newton. It was lovely to see the Brighton Fringe off to a strong start.

 

Syd's memoirs relate that much of his time as a constable was taken up with dealing with drunks

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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