Smiler (4 stars)

This article is from 2010


Heartfelt story of friendship over disability

Richard Fry is already on stage when the audience enters: he’s sitting in a chair, hugging a pillow and smiling as he listens to Nena’s ‘99 Red Balloons’. Indeed, he smiles continuously throughout the show: as he speaks of meeting Smiler, a disabled friend; as he shares stories of them getting drunk and high together; as he talks about the traumatic experiences each of them have encountered in their lives. It’s a deeply affecting smile: it signifies a man who has seen that you can either crumble under the weight of life’s difficulties, or smile bravely and carry on regardless. It’s this smile that brings tears to the eyes of many audience members at the end of the show.

There is one small but significant flaw with Smiler: the whole show is told in rhyming couplets, which creates a slight distance from the story being told. This is a minor grumble, though: Fry’s performance is at once uplifting and heartbreaking, and what could easily have been a show of tired worthiness never comes close.

Gilded Balloon Teviot, 622 6552, until 30 Aug, 12.15pm, £9–£10 (£8–£9).


  • 4 stars

'I'd do anything for you, Smiler.' He looked me in the eye. I never thought he'd ask me to help him die. Amnesty Award nominee Richard Fry ('Bully', 'Killing Me Softly') returns to the Gilded Balloon with a brilliant new play about friendship, disability, drink-driving and Right Said Fred. Ages: 12+