EFR - Reviews of An Evening With Patti DuPont

An Evening With Patti DuPont

Sun 3rd – Sun 24th August 2014

reviews

Matthew Lavender

at 02:08 on 17th Aug 2014

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An Evening with Patti DuPont is an evening full of energy and enthusiasm on the part of the show’s creator and sole star Anna Emerson, but one that leaves you somewhat bewildered by the end of it.

The show raises questions before you even arrive at the intimate venue due to the fact that the real Patti DuPont – a former American film actress – died in 1973. What you are greeted with is Emerson pretending to be DuPont’s unappreciated, socially-awkward daughter, Linda, who is filling in to host ‘An Evening With’ her mother because she is in fact in hospital and cannot thus attend.

The concept of the show, aside from the fact that the subject (DuPont) will be, as an actress, a relative unknown to many audiences at the Fringe, is imaginative, and the early stages promise a great deal, with the frenetic energy that Emerson emits throughout evident from the very beginning.

She also manages, to impressive effect, to remain perfectly in character for the duration of the piece, and is adept at portraying Linda as stressed, nervous and uncomfortable.

However, the absurdity of the content of the ‘Evening With’ event – a fictional life story of Patti which is so exaggerated and complex that it becomes rather ridiculous – which is meant to provide comic relief, instead serves to make the show quite bizarre. Many of the jokes lack the connection to reality which so often characterises great humour; this is comedy which goes too far in trying to be funny and falls over a cliff on the other side.

Another irritating feature which reduces the enjoyment of the production is the fact that, towards the end, a semblance of repetition creeps in. The character of Linda exhibiting the same traits that were initially amusing but have now lost their effect because of excessive exposure to them. The frequent phone calls received by Linda from her ultra-critical, bed-ridden mother – who is watching the show via a supposed video link – are another example of a joke that is funny to begin with but is over-used and becomes tedious.

For someone who enjoys the mildly bizarre and does not easily tire of humour that repeatedly relies upon the awkwardness and nervousness of the character in question, and offers little else besides, this is a show that will appeal. However, if this is not the case, then bemusement may be all that you will take away from this piece.

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Fergus Morgan

at 02:29 on 17th Aug 2014

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Titled misleadingly, An Evening With Patti DuPont is in fact an evening with the fabricated daughter of a (mostly) fictional, highly controversial, and entirely ridiculous 20th Century film star. The audience having being informed that the ‘legendary’ Patti DuPont is regrettably unavailable due to an unfortunate surgical accident, Anna Emerson breathlessly takes to the stage as Linda DuPont, Patti’s adopted daughter, to rescue the evening. An enjoyable parody of celebrity self-marketing, the show is presented as an intimate lecture on the life and work of a Hollywood actress, the comedy stemming from substitute presenter Linda’s endearing personality and complete ineptitude with regards to the task in hand.

Stumbling to the stage in an ill-fitting jacket and bright-red helmet, Linda hastily apologises and begins an awkward commentary on her mother’s career – an absorbingly absurd saga of passionate love affairs and amusingly bizarre film-titles – throughout which their dysfunctional relationship becomes apparent. Increasingly hostile phone calls from her mother punctuate the evening, and although this device is at first enjoyable for its novelty, it soon becomes tiresome, as do the feeble attempts at audience interaction.

When immediately wrong-footing the audience in this manner, there is a particularly fine line between subtlety and exaggeration, which Emerson at times walks as deftly as a tight-rope walker, but at times slips from with regrettable awkwardness. When charting the life of her mother, with the assistance of a brilliantly designed slideshow, she commendably balances Linda’s shy, inherently reserved (but morally obligated) personality with the enthusiasm necessary to render the story entertaining. Once this story-telling is over, however, and the structure provided by it is lost, her performance veers towards exaggeration, resulting in uncomfortable moments of audience silence during the more exuberant moments.

The show’s true strength lies in the empathy Emerson manages to evoke for Linda. With a combination of believable timidity and entirely relatable frustration (mainly towards the absent Patti), she competently draws the audience in; thus if the laughs die hard, emotional content can still be found in sympathising with the show’s pitiable host.

It could not be said that An Evening With Patti DuPont is a relaxing and enjoyable experience – Emerson’s ultimate inability to consistently balance believability and exaggeration ensure that the audience is always on edge – but it is for the most part emotionally engaging, with a thoroughly laudable character portrayal at its heart.

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