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Michael Pope is Gay for Pay - Free
Published on Saturday, 11 August 2012
4

4 stars

Laughing Horse @ The Phoenix (venue website)
Comedy
2-4, 6-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-26 Aug, 10:45pm-11:45pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.
 Recommended for age 18+ only. Venue may not permit under-18's - check with venue before booking.

Proper Edinburgh Fringe, for me, is when you go into an unpromising looking pub, unsure if you are even in the right place, stumble through some doors and find yourself in an audience whose numbers can be recorded with a single digit.  And if the Fringe is working its proper magic you see a show that is either so wonderful or so awful you can’t understand why no one seems to know about it. Michael Pope is Gay for Pay turned out to be wonderful enough for me to feel that Fringe fairy dust was falling on me.

This show is a story, a true one, about Pope’s late twenties – when he, a struggling film maker, discovered he had an amazing talent for phone sex. So while he spent his nights sleeping rough in pursuit of a dream, he spent his days making other people’s fantasies a little more real. He acts out some of his calls with a demonstration of that skill, showing just how he used to work his magic. And of course that’s very funny, as other people’s predilections often are.

The whole show, in fact, turns out to be about fantasy and reality. What does it mean for something to be real? It’s an interesting question and it is, sadly, not really explored as far as it could be. And Pope’s own feelings about his job aren’t really explored either. Which is a shame, as for all we hear about how he felt about his film career, we hear very little about how his day job made him feel except in relation to helping him achieve his dream.

Some of the story seems confused too. Pope stays destitute even when he appears to be all but running the phone-sex operation; after a while I began to wonder if this job was paying him anything at all. And again, he loses the job in a blunt fashion that seems incongruous for someone who had his vaunted talents.

But it is still a fascinating story, about a New York that once was – and a sad one, about the men who’s lives Pope touched, men who often had spoken to no one but Pope’s telephone alter ego about their real feelings. For them the encounters were all too real, and Pope’s show commemorates them very well.

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

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