Seated around me in Edinburgh’s Pilgrim bar was a crowd of about twenty people. All were drinking and chatting, music was playing – it was a fun and lively vibe. To oblige such a situation, the next act would need to be, well, fun and lively. Luckily we had the storyteller Paul Cree, with his show The C/D Borderline, whose energetic combination of stand-up and spoken word could only improve the mood. It was lively, funny, and occasionally had moments of tenderness.
Throughout the performance, pre-recorded voices were played through speakers to represent different characters. And it was very much a character-driven show; we met a variety of people – perhaps from Cree’s past, perhaps not, I don’t know how autobiographical the stories were. The performance opened with a recording; it was a teacher talking to a class of students taking a foundation course. I remember these courses very well. No matter how hard you work, you can’t get above a C grade. Cree was sitting back in his chair in a school uniform, barely listening like a lazy student. It was a fantastically ambiguous place to start – has he given up on academia, or has academia given up on him? From there, we heard snippets from his adolescence. Cree changed his outfit and mannerisms as he grew older – the stories were in chronological order – and he did it well.
It was a performance of conversations; and not just through the pre-recordings mentioned above. Cree often played two or three characters. Well, add one more if we’re to include the overall narrative voice. He spoke about his childhood openly, and was often candid about the mistakes he made and how naïve he once was. “Yeah, yeah, sick yeah?” said his old self, trying to join in with a conversation about cars, but not knowing what anyone was talking about. Despite this, he often seemed to be the most mature of his friends, exasperated by their reckless driving especially – think of a streetwise Mark Corrigan saying “I felt like I was in a poor imitation of Hollyoaks!” after describing the conflicts and drama that unfolded around him.
Journeying through ones adolescence seems to be a popular theme at this year’s Fringe for the spoken word performers, with Dominic Berry’s set at Silk being of a similar vein. It isn’t always successful when a performer talks about something so close to them – quite often the audience doesn’t care. But, like Berry, Cree pulled it off with style and energy; and by covering universal topics we could all relate to, he made us care as well as laugh. It was a great way to spend the afternoon – and he’s on till Saturday at 16:15 at the Pilgrim bar, so go check him out.