This being the Fringe, it would be fair to assume that a man claiming to be a submariner has made up a comedy character. But rest assured this is the real-life story of Eric, an ex-salty seadog complete with woolly roll-neck jumper. One moment it will have you laughing uproariously, and the next on the edge of your seat. Along the way there’s stories of Maltese donkeys, swimming with sharks, and what can go wrong escaping from a submarine at 603 feet under the water (quite a lot it turns out).
The performance opens bathed in red light, a submarine simulation which is pretty effective in the intimate setting of Just the Tonic’s Wee Room. After establishing which film is the only acceptable submarine film, Eric takes the audience back to the beginning – a photo of himself as a sixteen-year old recruit to the Royal Navy. Using lots of photos, from here he meanders through why he developed a shark phobia – understandable in the context – and how his comrades dealt with this by putting videos of Jaws on, amongst many other hijinks of course.
We hear in particular about his friend Dick, aka Rodger the Dodger, who’s the absent star of the show. Dick’s final dramatic escapade forms a nerve-racking finale to the performance, which literally made me gasp out loud and truly shows off Eric’s skills at storytelling.
Even though the Fringe catalogue says otherwise, it’s important that Eric’s Tales of the Sea shouldn’t bet seen as stand-up; this clearly isn’t the aim. Instead it’s totally engaging storytelling, that has some hilarious tales interspersed with very moving moments. You’ll also get a crash course in the more technical aspects of life under the sea… but don’t worry, this delivered in an interesting way.
Throughout Eric comes across as being both incredibly funny but also a little suspicious of attention, a characteristic which also sets him apart from comedians. This may well be why this gem of a show isn’t more widely talked about, despite multiple previous successful Edinburgh runs. Eric’s Tales of the Sea is quirky and original, and its creator deserves more attention. And what a cracking yarn he tells.