Life in a Marital Institution (4 stars)

This article is from 2007


Affairs of the heart

There can be few more engaging acts on this year’s Fringe than James Braly. There’s a winning, self effacing smile, mixed with the occasional giggle throughout his performance, and despite the, at times, emotionally harrowing subject matter, Braly contrives to induce a certain lightness of heart in his audience that might surprise.

In this piece, he mixes the account of 23 years of marriage with the tale of his adored sister’s death from cancer, a lifelong and quietly loving fight with a pathologically adversarial family and encounters with a psychiatrist in his youth. But there’s more – an affair, of sorts, with a glamorous French woman, a brief account of an early girlfriend, a more extended account of the birth of his second child as well as a dinner party from hell with a group of appalling alternative lifestyle types. But I’m just scratching the surface.

Throughout, what both intrigues and amuses is his assurance with pacing, nuance and delivery. As Braly paints pictures with language, we can’t help but see in quite vivid detail the eccentricities of a wife who insisted on such matters as placenta-freezing and breastfeeding boys aged six. We can also feel, with vigorous authenticity, his grief as he deals with a dying sister, a conceivably avaricious boyfriend demanding a deathbed wedding and a family that thrives on what he calls tantric conflict. But through all this we rarely veer far from amusement, so the moments that really hit home do so with power. This is a highly recommended show about grown-up experience, and the strategies we use to displace it.

Assembly Rooms, 623 3030, until 27 Aug (not 13), 2pm, £11–£12 (£10–£11).

Life in a Marital Institution

  • 4 stars

James Braly presents his acclaimed, heartwarming monologue about married life. 'Part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007'.