Antonio Forcione and Sarah Jane Morris
First collab from Fringe favourites is simple, striking and pitch perfect
Here in Edinburgh for less than a week to showcase their first collaboration together, Antonio Forcione and Sarah Jane Morris are significant Fringe draws in their own right; Forcione, for his solo classical guitar shows, in which he demonstrates an earthy but hugely virtuosic ability as a player and high-end one-man-band, playing the part of his own rhythm section with taps to the body of the guitar; and Morris, with Brechtian political brass band ensemble the Happy End during the 1980s. She may be more familiar to many as the co-vocalist on the Communards' 1986 hit 'Don't Leave Me This Way'.
Together, their partnership is extremely high-quality, although there's a feeling that Forcione is reigning in his usual extravagance to (correctly, I'd say) allow Morris' deep, smoky voice to take to the fore. The arrangement is simple, just Forcione standing with his guitar and Morris in an eye-catching red ballgown alongside. 'Comfortzone', the lead track of their forthcoming album Compared to What, is dusky and bittersweet, with Morris' voice reminding of Tracy Chapman, expressing regret at a journey taken; with the wrong partner or seeking safety from harm, it's unclear.
The refugee crisis is a theme which is explored throughout a middle section involving an unaccompanied poem from Morris ('not in my name' to the bombing of Syria, she concludes) and a new song which imagines a journey by sea to supposed safety. Both performers are understated but pitch perfect in the tone required for such a subject, cutting loose more on a bunch of covers; the Police's 'Message in a Bottle', Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition' and Bob Dylan's 'Blowin' in the Wind', all given a jazz-flavoured new treatment. The first show felt somewhat slight at 50 minutes, but there was a definite air of quality outstripping quantity throughout.
Assembly George Square Studios, until 29 Aug, 6.30pm, £15 (£14).