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Fringe Theatre: Review

Simon Callow in Juvenalia

Simon Callow in Juvenalia

Assembly Hall

Keith Bruce

Look at him there, that Simon Callow with his coiffed hair and his mid-afternoon dinner suit. There he perches like some bastard cross between Dave Allen and Christopher Hitchins on a bar stool in the middle of the stage, occasionally sipping from a tumbler that probably doesn't really contain whisky.

Who does he think he is, this erudite stage director, movie actor, and writer of authoritative multi-volume biographies, so self-confident and relaxed in his own minority sexuality?

He regularly swans up to Edinburgh at Festivaltime, outwardly calm but with his little legs doubtless flailing away frantically beneath the surface, and takes over one of the largest venues the Fringe has to offer and packs it out, regardless of the weather, with some clever-clogs one-man show-offery about the great men of letters.

This year — and get this! — it is not even someone who wrote in the Queen's English, the English of Dickens and Shakespeare, but a classical satirist from Ancient Rome whose acerbic put-downs, rampant misogyny and explicit homophobia were original voiced in Latin.

Callow at least acknowledges in the programme the enormous debt he owes to the translator Peter Green, whose Penguin Classics translation of Juvenal's Satires inspired the original version of this show in 1976. But from now until August 25 (but not today or the previous two Mondays) the glory is all his, as he proves that the stand-up comedy of AD100 still sounds as fresh as the most controversial lines of a comedy TV news-show panellist.

For over an hour of motor-mouthed insult and character assassination, he skewers your attention, the unmissable little thespian that he is.

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