Fringe Music and Cabaret

Carol Grimes with Dorian Ford: The Singer’s Tale

Assembly Rooms


Lennon: Through a Glass Onion

Assembly Hall


Sinatra: 100 Years

Assembly Rooms


Rob Adams

Carol Grimes needs longer than a Fringe slot to tell her life story. Heavens, she needs more words than a Fringe review has to accommodate the names she’s gone under, being as she candidly puts it “a bastard” London war baby who was put up for adoption, brought up in Lowestoft, wound up sleeping in Hastings’ caves, busked in Soho, joined a band, married, divorced, married again, and tied the pension authorities in knots trying to decipher who she really was.

To those whose lives Grimes’s singing has touched, she’s one of the UK’s great underappreciated talents and at seventy-one, she hasn’t lost the power to enthral with a blues or a jazz standard or with the song that ended this lunchtime gem so aptly, her friend, the late Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where the Time Goes.

The Singer’s Tale is by turns charming, funny and a little sad without looking for pity. Grimes is a trouper, a survivor and with Dorian Ford’s splendid piano accompaniment and occasional added harmonica, she variously defies and takes encouragement from a sizable cast of alliteratively named alter egos – Betty Bluesbelter, Procrastinating Patsy et al – to follow her dreams and get through some nightmares. The triumphs are underplayed – she’s happy being a non-celebrity – the laughs are genuine, and the voice really should have become better known. Run ends today [Monday].

Lennon: Through a Glass Onion examines a life that’s almost universally known and by placing John Lennon’s death at the beginning and close of the song cycle it raises the subject of how a nobody like Lennon’s murderer, Mark Chapman, can become famous through ending in seconds a talent that’s affected millions if not billions of people.

John R. Waters makes a good Lennon: clad all in black in the Rock ‘n’ Roll album cover look, he has the dry Scouse accent, sarcastic tone and feet apart stance, even when not playing guitar, and in Stewart D’Arrietta’s piano work, he has strong settings for those songs that require quiet empathy and those that want a little rocking up alike.

The show covers a lot of ground as Waters gets into Lennon’s mind, even after Chapman’s intervention, talking about Bob Dylan’s influence, Yoko Ono’s possible mother substitute status, the infamous lost weekend, and the isolation fame can bring. More to be admired than loved, in the end, but worth checking out whether you’re a Lennon fan or not. Runs until August 28.

Todd Gordon’s Sinatra fandom began when he was at primary school and his knowledge of Old Blue Eyes would serve him well as a Mastermind specialist subject. So there’s more than just Gordon’s well-observed take on Sinatra’s singing in Sinatra: 100 Years.

The stories behind the songs, and the songwriters, and very able accompaniment from Gordon’s musical director, pianist David Patrick, and bassist Andrew Robb, help to make this a genial, entertaining hour.

Loyal though Gordon is, however, he’s not above letting Patrick shine new light on sacred cows, such as the McCoy Tyner-esque setting Patrick introduces to All or Nothing At All. Frankophiles may or may not like to know that My Way is slipped into the “Detestable Medley” with Something Stupid and Strangers in the Night rather than given big licks, a move as admirable as Gordon’s handling of a rogue ringtone – an interruption Sinatra himself probably never had to face. Runs until August 30.