Skip to content


Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Brighton 2012 arrow Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues
Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues
Published on Wednesday, 09 May 2012

5 stars

The Jive Monkey Theatre & Bar (venue website)
8-11 May, 8:00pm-9:00pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Suitable for age 18+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.
 2-for-1 tickets for Friends of the Fringe members.

Ten years in the making, Sam Devereaux’ self-penned one-man play is funny, tragic, and deeply affecting.  We snoop on private moments in a rock’n’roll superstar’s Las Vegas dressing room, while he prepares for another headline act in front of an adoring crowd.  But fame hasn’t proved what he’d hoped for.  As he pops the pills he needs to get his tired body through one more show, we learn that what he really wants – something truly special – is to sit on the porch, and play blues on his harmonica.

Devereaux’ monologue is a masterpiece, both as a playwiright and an actor.  In a skilfully-written script, the singer’s solitary rambling never seems contrived, and his bittersweet back-story emerges as naturally as if we’d seen the other characters appear in the room.  He’s driven by his father, his daughter, the demands of his fans; he says he still loves his estranged wife, and I, for one, believe him.  Devereaux’ timing is perfect, his emotions feel true, and he beautifully reflects the contradictions of a pleasant man reduced to truculence by those around him.

And then there’s the music.  If you don’t like Elvis-style rock’n’roll, at least a little bit, you might want to steer clear of this show – because there are plenty of tunes and moves to enjoy.  I admit I was underwhelmed by the first halting numbers, and wondered whether Devereaux was, in fact, up to the task of mimicking a performance to a stadium crowd.  But I was proved triumphantly wrong: he has got what it takes, and any bad notes are entirely intentional.

If the curtain had fallen at the end of the first act – as the star, pulling himself together one last time, decides that the show must go on – this would still have been a first-class play.  There are always a few niggles, of course.  Devereaux’ occasional bursts of anger weren’t entirely convincing, and, while I’d never criticise an actor for keeping himself in shape, he just doesn’t appear as run-dwn and dissolute as his role demands.  There were some uncomfortable silences, too, as he posed for the adulation of an imaginary crowd; perhaps this is one play which justifies some canned applause.

But it's the second act which left me sweating and breathless, wrung out by the human tragedy of what I'd just seen.  With a broken, defiant monologue and some devastatingly meaningful songs, Devereaux takes his loveable character – and flies him straight into the ground.  The tension he creates is all the more remarkable, because there's no doubt about the ending; we were told exactly what will happen in the first few seconds of the play. We know he will falter, and we know he will die.

For those fifteen or twenty endless minutes, I wasn't in Brighton; wasn't in an audience of six people, in a function room above a bar.  Instead, I was in a crowded stadium, watching with fascinated horror as my childhood hero imploded on stage.  Nothing existed except that merciless spotlight – and the echoing voice of the man I'd come to care for, as he single-handedly destroyed his life and his career.  The music died in Las Vegas, in 1979.  And I saw it happen; I was there.

<< Spirit Sideshow   A Streetcar Named Desire >>


These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.