The Performing Arts are doomed. They are dying. Only Garry Starr can save them from their inevitable extinction, or so he tells us. By performing every single genre of theatre within an hour, he will inspire us to get out and see more, thus single-handedly saving live performance itself. And do you know? He might just have pulled it off.
The actor with an overdeveloped sense of self-importance is hardly a new conceit, but Damien Warren-Smith plays Garry Starr with so much enthusiasm that we like him wholeheartedly, and want him to succeed. He has that most vital quality for a performer who interacts so much with an audience – charm – and he uses it to get many members of the audience up on stage, delighting in the orchestrated chaos of slapstick.
It’s a whistlestop tour through every corner of the performing arts, tackling Shakespeare at high speed, pausing for Pinter, and proceeding on to eye-popping ballet. We learn that almost anything can sound like tragedy, and that Garry knows Noh. There’s even time for a breath-taking change of tone and a little tinge of pathos, before a spectacular finale. Phew.
Warren-Smith trained with legendary clown trainer Philippe Gaulier, and he brings those skills to every genre he tackles. His clowning and general physicality is tremendous, but there is a keen intelligence in how he satirizes each of the categories he takes on; he lampoons those august bodies that sit as cornerstones of our culture (such as the RSC, where Garry appears to have held an array of positions and acquired a ruff). There's real joy in his ability to bring together so many forms, both high-brow and mass-market, with knowing nods to classic European theatre and Disney films alike.
This is what I love about Fringe theatre. Warren-Smith is taking chances, having fun, wearing his learning lightly, pushing boundaries, and doing it all with such gusto that we are swept up in the sheer fun of it.
This is a performer who can get away with things that many others couldn’t. Afterwards you might be thinking “Wow, did he really…?” – but he did, and we giggled all the way through it. He even managed a smooch with your reviewer at one point (but I’m not kissing and telling, for that would be a spoiler). It may not be quite for everyone – perhaps only bring the more broadminded of your grannies – but if you're up for a full-frontal assault on your comedy senses, then go on, you’ll love it.