I’m so convinced by Christopher Bliss that I believe him when he says he’s real – and that it’s his alter-alter-ego, Rob Carter, who’s appearing in a show. A twenty-three-hour-a-day epic immersive character drama. The twenty-fourth hour is where the true Bliss comes out to shine, with sixty minutes of offbeat comedy storytelling brilliance on an intimate stage beneath the Tron.
Christopher Bliss is the best novelist in his village. He writes quite a lot of novels, “two to three a day,” he claims. Bright-eyed and eager, this is his first time in Edinburgh; indeed his first time in a city. So he’s pretty excited.
The show revolves around Bliss presenting a couple of selections from his vast oeuvre: a “really spooky story”, featuring a murder and a robbery, and a spy film he’s been working on (the adventures of Henry Wigglesworth, secret agent). Being a mere great novelist on a tiny stage underground in Edinburgh, Bliss can’t quite stretch to big-budget effects, so has to get creative – cleverly utilising bits of the audience in lieu.
Rob Carter is just great as Bliss, thoroughly convincing and oddly cuddly. His tongue-in-cheek stories are genuinely engaging, told with brilliant comic timing and clarity, the plots themselves being pretty ordinary but brought to life by their exposition. The descriptions of ordinary things, for example wet things such as water, are quietly inspired.
The jokes are unpredictable in placement and never trite, the laughs being born as much of surprise as of the curveballs hitting the funnybone. And the incorporation of the surroundings – the lights, the audience’s eyelids and hands – is surprisingly effective, lifting this from being just a comedy show to an absorbing shared experience.
I’d have loved to have heard some more of Christopher Bliss’s gwipping novels, and I do think some bits of the lengthy spy film could be chopped in favour of squeezing in a couple of extra, shorter stories. On the whole though, Rob Carter is Christopher Bliss is a fabulous piece of character storytelling. This is a fresh, original show, and one of the gems of this year’s Fringe.