The festival blurb and a recent video on Facebook indicate that Alex Chilton had quite ambitious plans for Alderstead Heath. Ultimately, he ditched all the technological elements of the show that proved too unfeasible and was left with a low key storytelling show. Just a bloke, sitting on a stool, with a microphone, telling us tales from his life.
Using the family caravan of his childhood as a launching point, he mused on memory, homesickness, identity and relationships. The regular car trips from the back seat, falling in love and making it work long distance, moving to the other side of the world and even a complicated relationship with a cat were analysed with the skill of an anthropologist. He included descriptions of things that occupied his young attention and cleverly applied adult logic to find some humour in them. While occasionally getting a little too bogged down in detail, his painting of vivid pictures with words alone enthralled the audience.
This show was very gentle in how it presented itself. For the most part he gave the performance a slightly whimsical air that had all smiling rather than in fits of hysterical laughter. He did manage to include a number of amusing observations and remarks that tickled the fancy with their relatability but they were a little thin on the ground. His observations about life were fascinating but for a comedy show I would have expected more actual jokes within the stories.
Also disappointing was the abrupt way in which he ended it. He suddenly became aware of the time, excused it as being a work in progress and bid us farewell. There was no wrap up or grand message/revelation to speak of. We were cast into the night from this warm envelope of words. While it lasted, this was a nice and cosy way to start a night at the Fringe Festival.
Alderstead Heath is on at The Courthouse Hotel – The Dock until September 24