Arthur Smith: SYD

By Ron Bingham

Arthur Smith is telling the story of Syd, his father, who was a policeman after the second world war, where he had served at El Alamein and spent some time in Colditz Castle prisoner-of-war camp. He tells the story in anecdotes from his life, reworked old music-hall songs (accompanied by Kirsty on the piano who also assists on some of the stories), and notes from a book of old memories that Arthur persuaded his father to write before be died.

The show begins with images of old adverts from magazines of the 40s and a music hall medley that the entire audience joined in with. Arthur starts the show by gives us some stories of his childhood and a potted history of his parents’ early experiences before he was born and growing up with the greatest dad in the world.

Sadly, we only got to see two thirds of this beautifully poignant eulogy, before the fire alarm sounded and the entire Pleasance Courtyard complex was evacuated. The last section was a juxtaposition of Arthur’s father going into battle and being captured at El Alamein, while at the same age, Arthur was teaching French in Paris, joining in the protests of the time and having some jolly hijinks. What we saw of the show to that point was excellent and I can thoroughly recommend it.

SYD is on at Pleasance Courtyard until August 17

Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Volume Too)

By Ron Bingham

Arthur Smith is a fabulous deadpan comedian who, you may recall from TV appearances on QI and as the MC in the Backwards episode of Red Dwarf. He performed Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Volume One) quite a while ago (I first heard it on BBC Radio in about 2007 but according to Arthur’s website it was first performed in 2000). The first show is well worth hunting down if you like Leonard Cohen or comedy.

This show features Arthur telling some tales about Mr Cohen, talking about himself with a few stories about his mum, reading some poetry and singing some of Len’s songs with the help of his fabulous backing group (Kirsty Newton on keyboards and backing vocals, Carrie Marx on BV and various extra instruments and Allie Something on BV). Arthur is a master of self deprecating humour and the only person who really cops a serve during the show is one Leonary Nimoy, but that is a fair if you’ve ever read any of his poetry.

The entire show is a journey, with all of the little stories and songs helping develop the narrative of the tale and the point at which the surprise occurs is excellently timed (I can’t say what the surprise is but the entire audience were in fits of laughter). The room was full to bursting (on a Tuesday) and it will sell out. I advise fighting for a ticket as this is one of the shows that must not be missed. Sure, it’ll probably get recorded for the BBC but believe me when I say that will not come close to capturing the hilarity of the live show.

Oh yes, Arthur sings Leonard Cohen’s songs every bit as well as Leonard does (you can interpret that as you like).
PS Make Arthur a bit happier by buying his autobiography, My Name Is Daphne Fairfax. It’s excellent.

Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Volume Too) is having a short run and finishes on August 18th.

It’s playing at The Pleasance Courtyard at 2.30pm

Book via the website