Janis Joplin: Full Tilt (4 stars)

This article is from 2014

Janis Joplin: Full Tilt

Cora Bissett, Peter Arnott and Angela Darcy bring the music icon to life at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Following its success at Oran Mor's A Play, a Pie and a Pint season last year, Janis Joplin: Full Tilt arrives at the Fringe as one of this year's most anticipated shows – and it lives up to the hype.

It’s staged in the style of a gig, with the audience arranged cabaret-style by the stage. Angela Darcy plays the iconic 1960s musician who died aged 27 of a heroin overdose, making her a legendary figure of the so-called 27 Club (other ‘members’ include Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse).

Darcy is fantastic: she doesn't so much portray Joplin as channel her cosmic energy. Accompanied by the 'groovy' Full Tilt Boogie Band, they belt out soulful Joplin hits like 'Piece of My Heart', 'Kozmic Blues' and 'Summertime', along with a handful of lesser-known numbers too. Each song is interspersed with theatrical vignettes about Joplin's life. We hear about her troubled childhood in Texas, where she was regarded as a ‘freak’; her failed attempts to go ‘straight’; her move to San Francisco, where her vocal talents were spotted; her drug and alcohol-fuelled rock’n’roll lifestyle, and her crippling loneliness.

Despite the slightly grating profusion of 'man's and 'y'know's in her speech, Darcy is mesmerising in the role. The band are great too, knowing just when to fade into the background and then bring the room back to life again. By the time Darcy starts a mournful a cappella rendition of the anti-consumerist anthem 'Mercedes Benz', the atmosphere in the room is electric.

Written by Peter Arnott and directed by Cora Bissett – the director of Roadkill and Glasgow Girls, and one of Scotland's most musically gifted theatremakers – it's an emotional powerhouse of a show. All it's missing is some standing room for the audience members who are itching to get up and dance.

Assembly Roxy, 623 3030, until 25 Aug (not 12, 19), 8.50pm, £12–£13.50.

Janis Joplin: Full Tilt

  • 4 stars

A celebration of Janis Joplin. Written by Peter Arnott and directed by Cora Bissett.