City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

All the Fun of the Fair, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review

By Gordon Clayton - Posted on 05 October 2011

ATFOTF in Edinburgh
Show Details
Alan Darlow in association with Jon Conway
Nikolai Foster(Director), Olly Ashmore (Musical Supervisor)
David Essex(Levi), Louise English (Rosa), Rob Compton (Jack), David Burrows (Harvey), Tanya Robb (Alice), Tim Newman (Jonny), Susan Hallam-Smith (Mary), Barry Bloxham (Druid)
Running time: 

David Essex may be the main attraction but ‘All the fun of the Fair ‘has a lot more going for it! While all the music except the opening ‘A Winter’s Tale’ (Tim Rice and Mike Batt) is written by the man himself, this production has a proper story and the songs have been re-worked and rearranged to suit the cast member singing them.

The fact that David Essex is not performing many of his well-known hits may disappoint fans who booked expecting him to deliver his back catalogue. Essex is no stranger to musicals, but some of the audience seemed to be, as they gave him tentative applause on his initial appearance on-stage in character as Levi, the owner of the fun fair.

Both David Essex and the writer of the book, Jon Conway has a great deal of knowledge of travelling show people and many people will remember David Essex as the likeable charmer in the film ‘That’ll be the Day’.

Now in his sixties, the baton of the cheeky chappie around the fair and inevitably the girls is passed to Rob Compton who plays Levi’s son Jack. Rob handles the part really well with a voice that captures some of the nuances of the ‘old man’s voice’. Having said that there is nothing wrong with the original, with Essex's first lines of ‘A Winter’s Tale’ you are reminded what a quality sound he has produced and continues to produce.

The story is of Levi the widowed owner of a fun fair going through hard times and his son desperate to make changes and move on from his mother’s early and untimely death on the ‘Wall of Death’. Throw in a fortune teller with designs on Levi, her daughter Mary who is in love with his son, plus the attraction of a local girl, the daughter of a local ‘businessman’ no stranger to violence, and you have the ingredients of a good plot including comedy, pathos and tragedy.

Louise English, with a long list of credits, excels as the fortune teller as does David Burrows as the local girl’s father aided and abetted by the menacing ‘Druid’ (Barry Bloxham).

It is no surprise that Tim Newman had a nomination as ‘Best Supporting Actor’ for his role as ‘Jonny’ from the ‘What’s on stage Theatregoers Choice Awards’ as he makes a big contribution to every scene he is in especially the ending and fully deserved the extra applause he received.

His father and ‘son’ moment with Levi is one for the Dads who were in the minority of the audience of predominantly female Essex fans. The son’s love interests, Mary and Alice (the local girl) played by Susan Hallam-Smith and Tanya Robb respectively, both shine with Alice and Jack’s song ("If I Could") and choreographed love scene a highlight.

The sets and lighting are all first class and the close of the first act and ‘Silver Dream Machine’ are both triumphs that remind you that this is a West End show. The only disappointment was the absence of an orchestra to give it that special experience that a big musical brings.

Runs to Saturday 8th October, 7.30pm (Matinees Wed. & Sat. 2-30pm)