Review – Simon Callow in Tuesdays at Tescos, Assembly Hall

What an embarrassing title.

I’m embarrassed by it, and I’m not even Simon Callow, so I can only imagine how much he must cringe when he sees it in the fringe guide. You can imagine the meeting with his producers, his great booming voice asking “But isn’t star billing in titles a little bit 90s? Won’t it make me, and you and everybody concerned look ridiculous?” They presumably told him that if David Leddy can get away with it, when nobody’s ever heard of him outside of Scotland, then it’s all fair game.

In case you’ve missed Simon Callow then he’s most famous for appearing in films such as Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love and Gerard Butler in The Phantom of The Opera.

So what do we make of Simon Callow in Tuesdays at Tescos?  Well, Simon Callow in Tuesdays at Tescos is a monologue about Pauline (Simon Callow), a transvestite who cares for her elderly father on Tuesdays by, amongst other things, taking him shopping in Tescos. The text of Simon Callow at Tuesdays at Tescos is best described as interesting, although it’s far from compelling. The character of Pauline (Simon Callow) is sympathetic and engaging, but the text feels like a character poured out on stage rather than a performance. As for plot – anything actually happening – you can pretty much forget it until the last few minutes, and this “twist” when it comes feels forced and unnatural in the context.

There’s also a LOT of repetition, which is a annoying at the best of times but fairly unforgivable in Edinburgh where the format in my mind has always been about short and crisp plays, even if not everyone agrees.

The stage is largely bare except for a huge glowing neon oblique ring which encircles the entire stage (and presumably further inhibits the room’s already difficult sight lines for parts of the audience) and a dress hung in glass case. The dress I get – Pauline (Simon Callow) is a transvestite, you see – but I’ve no idea of the symbolism of the huge glowing ring. Maybe the whole play is set on Saturn and I just missed that bit of the text.

The musings of Pauline (Simon Callow) are accompanied by the occasional tappings, clankings, potterings and strummings of an on-stage musician who appears to be composing a piece of music. No idea why or what this means.

Simon Callow. Simon Callow. Simon Callow. Simon Callow. Simon Callow.

Simon Callow’s performance in Simon Callow in Tuesdays at Tescos is clearly accomplished, but it never truly engages and left me largely unmoved. Pauline (Simon Callow) is potentially an interesting enough character to sustain an entire play but the text of Simon Callow in Tuesdays at Tescos and Simon Callow’s performance in Simon Callow at Tuesday at Tescos do not do enough to engage or take the audience anywhere.

★★