When Alice (Cooper) met (Prince) Harry

Thu 2nd – Sun 26th August 2012

reviews

Sara Pridgeon

at 08:57 on 9th Aug 2012

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'When Alice (Cooper) Met (Prince) Harry' is the type of show that has the potential to be an absolute train wreck, if not in the hands of the right performer. Despite the glowing reviews listed on the posters, I was slightly nervous as I took my seat in the small staff room that was moonlighting as our theatre – there is nothing worse, I thought, than a badly performed one person show, especially in such an intimate space. As soon as Alice Mary Cooper’s clown entered the room, though, I knew that we were in for a good show. With a very white, almost tense smile stretched tightly over her face, dressed in a homemade outfit completed with tulle and patches of pink and white fabric (“the colour of marshmallows”), and a silver foil rescue sheet wrapped around her like a scarf, the clown captured our attention and our hearts as she turned the ordinary into the extraordinary, as she invited us to tilt our perception of the world for the next fifty-five minutes.

Alice Cooper was meant to give a free talk on the history of theatre. We get the clown instead, as Alice has been hit by a bus. She’ll be fine, we’re told – although the clown thinks we need more assurances, which come in the form of “fragile” packing tape wrapped around the exterior of the audience, and of Twinning’s camomile tea, as it is (or so declares the packaging) a “moment of calm”. The show continues in this vein, as the clown tries – with the help of the audience – to use Alice’s notes to give the presentation. She’s constantly sidetracked, using sections of the notes and of theatre history as jumping off points to share her desperate, passionate love for Prince Harry, and, among other things, to sing an inspired version of Edith Piaf’s “Non, Je ne Regrette Rien” – although the lyrics are for the most part substituted for “baguette” and “croissant”.

The show is eclectic, a highly charged performance of physical theatre and clowning that draws the audience in and both demands and garners our participation. Although I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, what most impressed me was the range of emotions that Cooper displayed through the clown. It would have been easy, and still enjoyable for the audience, to play the clown as just a clown, but nothing more. Cooper went further and brought a level of tenderness to her character that was touching, and made the audience both accept and care about her as someone worth more than just a laugh. 'When Alice (Cooper) met (Prince) Harry' is a fantastic show, one that is well worth watching. The clown is funny and sweet, quirky and absolutely charming. Cooper is a gifted performer – this show is not to be missed.

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Claire Dalling

at 09:40 on 9th Aug 2012

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“It’s not a good idea to unsettle your audience before the show.”

The lady sitting in front of me clearly did not appreciate the unconventional start, and, for the first five minutes of ‘When Alice (Cooper) met (Prince) Harry’, I was as unsettled as she. The fifty minutes that followed, however, were strangely mesmerising, and a delightful example of the talent waiting to be uncovered from the treasure trove that is PBH’s Free Fringe.

Other than some vague indications that it was a one-woman comedy by Australian Alice Mary Cooper and contained ‘occasional coarse language and some mild adult themes’, my pre-show Google search had provided very little information about the production. But that wasn’t quite what greeted us when we arrived in the tiny, tiny staff room of the Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters. I really don’t want to give the secrets of the show away, but, despite her initial upset, even my fellow audience member in front enjoyed herself.

The reason for the dramatic change in opinion is, of course, Cooper herself, who quickly proved herself to be both capable and likeable. As soon as she started to speak, I trusted that whatever was coming would be both fun and funny. And it was. Armed with only her charm, handbag and a very willing volunteer, Cooper produces fifty minutes of riotous nonsense that required nothing from the audience but the suspension of their disbelief. It is the fine line between autobiography and fantasy that makes one-person theatre so interesting, and I left not really sure where that line lay, but not really caring either.

My one criticism of the production – which is as small as the room in which it was held – is that some of the funny moments become minutes, and begin to lose their zing. It may have taken a while for my laughter to be inspired by comedy instead of nerves, but when the real laughter did come it was plentiful, and it was disappointing to sense the audience occasionally losing interest. But these were merely small diversions on this random journey of a piece, and certainly not enough to encourage me to jump out.

‘When Alice (Cooper) Met (Prince) Harry’ defied all my expectations and made me both laugh out loud and cover my eyes in horror. Cooper effortlessly converted a very skeptical audience, proving herself to be witty and intelligent in the process. This is what the Fringe is all about.

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