John-Luke Roberts returns to the Fringe after a sell-out run at last year’s festival. Surreal, unpredictable and acutely self-aware, Terrible Wonderful Adaptations is an entertaining hour of originality brought to vivacious life by its class central star.
The show’s structure involves taking a work of literature and inviting guest acts to come up with four-minute skits interpreting sections of that work. The work on the night reviewed was Susan Sontag’s Against Interpretation collection of essays on arts, culture and philosophy. It is a bold move of Roberts to choose a text where a level of previous knowledge is required to understand the in-jokes, but as he saunters onto the stage, moustachioed and sporting a long black wig, opening with his mock-American accent, even the un-initiated reviewer cannot help but fall for it all.
The show proceeds with a range of guest stars interpreting various tracts from Sontag’s work, with mixed results. There were moments where it appeared the acts might not have had as much time to prepare as they might have had and others where their idea of what would happen in their four minutes differed from what actually played out on the night. However, the show is guided through its more bizarre moments by Roberts’ quick quips, which largely land with absolute precision, thus maintaining pace and humour throughout.
The standout guest act is drag queen Crystal Rasmussen, who enters the stage with glamourous diva style, clutching what transpires to be a bag containing a rather large tent. Upon recruiting a member of the audience to be her microphone stand as she meanders around the stage and wings, she begins constructing said tent while striking impressive high notes. Having found another audience member to (almost) finish constructing the tent, she exits the stage, leaving the canvas-and-pole remains of her performance strewn across the floor. It is an entertaining way to end the show that is fitting of the surreal, cabaret nature of Roberts’ show format.
This format is a great way to give acts with other shows in the Fringe an outlet, and overall the show is a great laugh that remembers not to take itself too seriously. Roberts himself is a stellar act, one of those where everything they say is funny. He manages to get the audience in the palm of his hand to the point where merely slight facial expressions delivered with expert timing are enough to put the room in stitches. The whole surreal affair is summed up when the on-stage guitarist tells us he does not have a degree and thus has no idea what’s going on. It is the kind of show that makes those who are aware of the source content squeal with knowing recognition, and those who are unfamiliar with it chortle at the general oddness of it all.
John-Luke Roberts: Terrible Wonderful Adaptations is at Assembly George Square Studios – One (Venue 17)
9th, 16th and 23rd August, 23:30
Tickets available here