An Evening With David Sedaris

While undoubtedly a good show by anyone's standards - apart from someone who doesn't like American men with high, nasal voices reading comic but ultimately touching stories, presumably - An Evening With David Sedaris is a strange fit with the Fringe. As a man behind a lectern, it's more static than usual. As a literary event rather than a strictly comic one, it's lower on laughs than its Comedy section fellows. At an hour and a half, it's simply unexpectedly long for an Edinburgh show; as wonderful a raconteur as Sedaris may be, in a month this packed, do you want to spend a whole evening with anyone? The question here, therefore, is not one of competence or interest, but of whether or not Sedaris deserves your time in this context. Broadly speaking, the answer is yes. He is, for the most part, a confident reader, who leans towards natural, conversational hesitation over literary declamation. His stories blend lyrical verve with paper-cut-sharp observations that draw you up suddenly, as the sentence length changes and the register twists and shifts. It's all rather like following a car around a hairpin bend.His topics are engaging, too, moving from a Swiftian satire of Republican obsessions to a dry observational skit on the foibles of Americans wearing obscenely branded clothing in the course of international air travel. Those who take half an hour to order a coffee in Starbucks don't fare much better either. His skill is in transcending the petulance of situations such as these into what, by strange sleight of hand, seems to become an excoriating social commentary.What's unavoidable, though, is the fact Sedaris is reading from a wad of pages in a folder in the midst of the ludicrous vibrancy of the Edinburgh Fringe. Commanding as he does both a devoted audience and a stunningly malleable gift for language, he must surely be witty enough to improvise more often than he does, to extend his between-story banter, even to simply tell stories as fluently as he reads them, without the crutch of the text. A segment at the end where he takes questions from the audience is, of course, noticeably freer, and shows what could have been a more rewarding, interactive encounter with one of America's foremost humourists. His instantaneously well-crafted insights illustrate why people want to hear Sedaris read in the first place; but given the relative stasis of the rest of the set, this won't be a suitable Fringe pick for everyone.

Reviews by Richard O'Brien

The Blurb

With sardonic wit and incisive social critiques Sedaris has become one of America’s pre-eminent humour writers. The skill with which he slices through cultural euphemisms and political correctness prove he is a master of satire.