Almost V for victory in Utton's complex character study
With a Fringe career spanning 25 years, the cliche of 'actor as chameleon' is unarguably applicable to Pip Utton. This year, he's rotating four of his most famous one-man shows – Adolf, Churchill, Bacon and Playing Maggie – in this greatest hits hour.
Utton doesn't offer lazy caricatures of the famous people he portrays; rather, he finds an in to their psychological make-up. He's not interested in easy parodies. To that end, his Winston Churchill, here embodied in statue form, gets down off his London plinth and addresses his audience, whom he regards as 'literally beneath me'. Both bumptious and beleaguered, he wears his battle scars with pride, yet flashes back to playing soldiers with his little brother, and talks of trying to win his mother's affection.
As ever, Utton is superb, bringing warmth, wit and humanity to an often maligned man. He is flawed- polishing off whisky and eyeing up women half his age. His xenophobia is not overlooked either; yet, neither is the tenderness for his wife Clementine, whom he clearly adored.
But the problem is that the material suffers from being well-worn. Everyone knows Churchill's epoch defining speeches, and they are repeated here again almost verbatim. More originality in the script would not go amiss. Still, Utton at his least successful is still head and shoulders above many at their best. A major talent.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug, 12.25pm, £8.50–£11 (£7.50–£10)