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Only in Brighton...
Published on Monday, 14 May 2012

3 stars

MEET: Outside Al Duomo
4-7, 10-13, 17-20, 24-27 May, 7:00pm-8:20pm
Reviewed by Darren Taffinder

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 Warning: Contains strong language.
 2-for-1 tickets for Friends of the Fringe members.

Brighton!  You either love it or hate it, and sometimes I do a little of both at the same time.  At its best, it’s a place where anything goes, and we’ll accept you with the minimum of fuss.  On the other hand, its relentless right-on-ness can make you run screaming to the Daily Mail.  It’s a place where you spend Friday and Saturday nights navigating around stag dos or, worse, hen parties.  There’s nowhere else quite like it. 

Starting at Al Duomo near the Pavilion and ending on the beach at sunset, Only in Brighton is an informative 80-minute romp through Brighton’s nine greatest hits – including the 1974 Eurovision at the Dome, the location of the first Body Shop and an exposed wall.  The main theme of the walk is that Brighton is a place where people come to reinvent themselves, whether you’re George IV trying to escape your wife or, in the case of 1920’s former farm girl Lillias Arkell-Smith, swapping dresses for trousers to become a man.  This brings us back to that wall.  During the regency period Brighton doubled in size every five years, and most of it was thrown up using a mish-mash of stone, bits of brick and flint exclusive to the area known as Bungaroosh.  But then they were rendered over to look beautiful; so even our buildings are pretending.

On the whole, I really enjoyed it.  Tour guide Ric Morris was engaging, and very well informed.  One of the problems with walking tours is balancing the walking with the talking, and here I thought there was just the right amount of each.  He also struck the right balance between being informative for locals and also entertaining for visitors; our tour was made up mostly of Brightonians, but I think it would be an equally great end to a daytrip.

But I was expecting something slightly quirkier – this is Brighton, after all, a city that in the 1860’s had a one-legged swimming instructor named ‘Captain’ Camp.  Also, there were a few wrong notes.  While talking about Brighton & Hove’s gay heritage, Morris spent time advertising his alternatice Piers and Queers tour, an overly intrusive plug which felt out of place.  He also made references throughout to YouTube videos and information on websites, which didn’t add anything, and in some ways distracted from his talk.  A brief comment at the end on an easy way to find these references – maybe his Facebook page or a blog post – would have worked better.

Similarly, I loved French radio station FIP, but it felt dated to spend five minutes talking about it after it has been off the air since 2007 (thanks, OfCom).  My biggest problem, though, was that at times I wanted more specifics.  For example, at one point Morris referenced how 18th-century doctors believed being dunked in the sea had health benefits, but missed the opportunity to mention Doctor Richard Russell, the main proponent of the technique and one of the fathers of modern-day Brighton.  The tour was at its best when he was talking about the personalities that make Brighton, and I wish he’d put more focus on this.

Overall though, a good, informative walk.  And with a few adjustments, it could be a great, informative walk.

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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.