By Carmel Shortall
In his one man show, Roman Around: A Guided Tour of the Eternal City, Canadian Ryan Millar draws on his experience as a tour guide in Rome to educate and entertain his audience in equal measure. Ryan has brought the show to the Camden Fringe after a successful week in Edinburgh.
At the start of the show, the audience are greeted as members of a tour group and are quickly chivvied along to the next exhibit but then Ryan puts aside his ‘guide’ persona to look back on his time in Rome and tell us about his experiences rather than Rome’s. This snapping back and forwards between Ryan the tour guide and Ryan the performer works well. On one hand, we learn about the origins of Rome in the fall of Troy, get a refreshing re-telling of the story of Romulus and Remus and find out that the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel might never have been painted if Michelangelo had not been so keen to wind up the Pope’s favourite architect. On the other hand, we also learn that unlicensed tour guides run the risk of being arrested in Rome, plus how to annoy a licensed (i.e. Italian) tour guide and what Roman litter bins have in common with Russell Crowe’s character in the film, Gladiator.
Ryan Millar is an engaging story teller and guide, and his obvious enthusiasm for his subject makes Roman Around a painless and entertaining way to learn something of Rome’s history in a very short time.
The show is running for two nights only at the Camden Fringe but you can catch the final performance at the Camden Head, Camden High Street, tomorrow, Sunday 22nd August at 5.45pm.
After Saturday’s performance I had a chat with Ryan to ask him about his experience of performing for the first time in Edinburgh, how Roman Around has developed, and his plans for the show and the future in general.
Ryan’s passion for Rome and its history did not abate when he left Italy and the show grew as a response to his desire to carry on informing and entertaining – without the occupational hazard of being arrested from time to time.
After a hectic week’s “crash course” in Edinburgh, he was finding the “more localised” feel of the Camden Fringe calming. The full three week experience in Edinburgh would have been too much, he felt.
Ryan found his first experience of performing at the Edinburgh Fringe both “amazing” and “overwhelming” and he feels that the show has now become slicker, evolving to allow him to engage more with the audience. When Roman Around’s current run is over he would like to “take it apart, clean and polish it and put it back together again” perhaps collaborating with someone else in the process.
Thereafter, a tour of small theatres around the country could be a possibility and Ryan would love to tour with the show in his native Canada. He has a background in improvisation and aside from plans for Roman Around, he is likely to be pursuing work in this area in the near future and he would also like to try stand-up.
And this time next year, he could be bringing a new, improved Roman Around back to Edinburgh and Camden.