By Carmel Shortall
In The Fantastic Reality of Frederick Goodge, Gerry Howell gives a likeable and nervously energetic performance as Frederick Goodge, a man who is losing his grip on reality to the extent that he stops writing a novel because it is too real but then becomes a character in a play he has written.
This weaving of fantasy and reality and the bleeding of one into the other is not only central to the plot but to the style and presentation of the show: at any moment Frederick or Gerry is likely to cast aside the conventions of performance and address the audience directly to draw our attention to a plot device.
The cosy and intimate atmosphere of the Etcetera Theatre suits Howell’s style of performance as he chats (seemingly) aimlessly and good-naturedly with the audience. Nobody in the front two rows had heard of Peter Sarstedt’s wonderfully cheesy song “Where do you go to (my Lovely)?”. But that didn’t deter him from singing it.
Apparently random events occur to Frederick but they are thematically, if loosely, linked. He is destined to become a private detective when he is asked what he does and can’t think of anything else to say. He becomes obsessed with a beautiful woman he meets in a swimming pool. He meets another woman, has lunch in Nando’s with her and ends up at a Jazz festival in Antibes. But it is when he opens up a Detective/Employment Agency on his return and his first customer is the woman from the swimming pool that his life starts to unravel in earnest.
Rambling and excitable, quoting TS Eliot and muttering surreal asides about Barn Owls, Gerry Howell inhabits the role of Frederick Goodge and invests him with charm and pathos as well as humour. There is still plenty of time to catch Gerry Howell at the Camden Fringe and I recommend that you do so.
The Fantastic Reality of Frederick Goodge continues its run at the Etcetera Theatre at 9pm until Wed11th August.