If you’re one of the many people who visit the Fringe from far flung parts of the world (hello Londoners daring to go past the M25) it’s easy to forget amongst all the clamour and glamour of international artists that Edinburgh is a thriving city that’s home all year round for many folk. Louise Rodgers (with a D!) uses the story of her dad’s life in what would have been his centenary year, to celebrate the extraordinary lives of the ordinary people who live here.
Every anecdote is interesting or funny, or both.
Her father, Tommy Rodgers, was born in 1919; pre-Fringe, pre-NHS even. A time when the best advice for a poor lad who cut open his leg swimming in the polluted waters of the Union Canal was simply to wee on it. Luckily, he made a full recovery and went on to fight in World War II, receive a (misspelt) award at the House of Lords and entertain baby Louise with rude rhymes (much to her mother’s horror). Rodgers’ storytelling makes for fascinating listening. She has an amiable presence and is very funny throughout – it’s easy to imagine that if you met her for a quick pint down the pub you would soon be ordering in a few more rounds in order to continue the conversation. Her vivid descriptions remind you that these were real people with real lives, something that’s easy to forget when wading through archives and grainy black and white photos. Watching her transports you back to those different times, when doctors would smoke during your appointment and parents took out penny policies on their children. As she recounts these entertaining tales, you might notice that she peppers in views on social justice. Never lecturing, she simply presents these stories as quiet evidence as to how hard working class people have had to fight for even basic rights.
After warmly ushering her audience in, it was then quite a surprise to see Rodgers’ confident delivery evaporate as she faltered over her opening lines. It’s a credit to Rodgers’ charm that the audience buys into her regardless. She was capable of getting everyone to sing along to songs she had just learnt and even managed to encourage audience members to open up and share a story about their own fathers. Every anecdote is interesting or funny, or both. Although always a delight to listen to the performance is unstructured and rambling. It begins with a set up that describes how Rodgers sadly lost touch with her father in later years, however, this separation was not referred back to until an audience member asked about it outright. Rodgers answered him frankly, but it was a missed opportunity to further explore this more personal side of their relationship and the real motivations behind celebrating this centenary. You can’t condense a man’s life into 45 minutes, of course, but it would have been interesting to hear more about his later years and how he reacted to a world that was rapidly changing around him.
This isn’t a show that relies on flashy lighting, a clever script or big star names to impress. Go in simply expecting to enjoy a relaxed conversation with a new friend and you’ll be sure to leave with a spring in your step.