Robert isn’t well. He’s not sleeping much, and when he does sleep he grinds his teeth. Stress, the doctor calls it. His wife thinks he might be having an affair. But as Robert explains to the audience, the truth is much more sinister.
Twenty or so years ago Rob got his first job as an assistant to an ageing TV star. Johnnie Fancy was in the twilight of his career, having been ubiquitous on television and in the news in the 70s and 80s. His smooth professional charm was legendary, but Robert soon found out that he was a different character in person. Now in the present day, Johnnie Fancy is long dead but Robert is haunted by the memory of his former employer.
Bluebeard’s Ghost is an intense monologue about power, guilt and reputation. It’s quite dark and there aren’t many funny moments, so I’m not certain why it’s listed in the ‘comedy’ subgenre. The script is well-paced and well-developed, and Robert paints a vivid, chilling picture of Johnnie Fancy – who exists as a second character, alive only in Robert’s tarnished memories of him.
John Patrick Higgins’ script is very believable, and an obvious commentary on one or more real-life former stars of the small screen. It’s thought-provoking, and Robert’s blustering long-windedness is as frustrating as anyone in real-life denial. The play makes some painful yet very accurate and important points about public and private reaction to scandal and trauma.
The show is largely well-performed and Christian Talbot manages to fill the room with his presence. He conveys the nervous, confessional manner of Robert well (though on the day I attended he did make several small mistakes with lines). The costume and set, meanwhile, perfectly illustrate Robert’s character and the way that he’s dealing with both the past and the present.
The set is simple and evocative, but as is to be expected at the Fringe, it isn’t particularly stable. The treatment of it is a bit too ambitious: one particular prop is rendered unbelievable, and at one point I was worried everything might fall over.
Still, Robert's story draws us in, and we begin to understand why the phone keeps ringing, and why he can’t sleep or stop gnashing his teeth at night. It’s a sorry tale of the past with powerful complications in the present, and Talbot captivates his audience throughout.