Fringe Review – Man and Boy (rating: 4/5)
So what makes a successful financial journalist up sticks from the City of London and decamp to Edinburgh for the month of August? Could it be the creation of one of Europe’s largest fund management powerhouses? RBS delivering its first profits for a number of years? Hitting the age of 50? Well, only one of those three.
Robert Cole’s lifelong – yes that long – passion for poetry is being aired to Fringe audiences through his show which explores his experiences as a boy and an adult.
Added poignancy comes courtesy of his 14-year-old son, Maurice, accompanying him on stage. Cole is one of seven children and a father of four himself. He gets family.
Known to many in Edinburgh’s financial set as a leading figure on the business desk of The Times, he appears on stage notably lacking pin-striped attire. You sense that he revels in being away from the claustrophobia of London.
Cole booms out his verse with genuine passion and spirit. It penetrates. Think Churchillian presence and a humble waiting for his – albeit sparse – audience to fully engage. The analogy is apt as the show starts with Maurice blasting out a note perfect ‘Last Post’ on the trumpet before falling back into position behind an electric piano stage left. Cole’s Great Uncle Jack, John Wesley Davies of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, has now made a celebrated, heartfelt and sombre debut at the Edinburgh Fringe.
The show is split into three parts – ‘Family, Form and Fate’ – and like the fly buzzing around the room, you feel the constant thematic presence. The prose is reflective, observational, powerful and bursting with heart. Cole’s poetry, read from his recently published London Poems, is inspired by Philip Larkin, Oscar Wilde, Christina Rossetti and TS Eliot, he tells us. Alas, no Burns or McDiarmid for the Scots in the audience, but father and son command this Scots stage.
Cole gives a nod to his career background and his presence in the UK’s second financial centre with Breaking Point, a witty sonnet about a takeover bid that mentions ROCs, WACCs and EBITDA (all clever accounting measures covering companies, capital, earnings, taxes and profits). If only all takeovers in the financial sector could be delivered so imaginatively and flawlessly.
The show, which flashes through 50 minutes (for those charging by the hour), is hugely profited by Cole’s son Maurice, one of the youngest performers at this year’s Fringe. He is no stranger to top level performance, already having TV acting credits to his name in Dr Who, Peter Pan and the critically acclaimed feature film Foster, starring Richard E Grant and Hayley Mills.
Cole senior speaks glowingly of PDM (proud dad moment) as Maurice sings beautifully two songs of his poetry, finishing with the stunning The Nightingale and the Rose. If the poetry was not so damned cool as these two make it then it would move even the most hardened of Scots to tears.
Cole finished with Going To Bed, another vivid reflection of his tightknit and loving South East London family and home. Nor should you retire from this year’s Fringe without experiencing this performance.
Man and Boy is at Venue 260 the space@jurys (Jurys Inn, Jeffrey Street) until August 26 from 6pm. Entry is £6 (£4)