Tuesday, March 5

Baxter vs The Bookies – Gilded Balloon Teviot (Wee Room)

Our hero William Baxter justifies the chequered life of an inveterate gambler by bemoaning the fact he left school at fifteen with no qualifications, but proudly pointing out he’d made an ashtray in woodwork. This is just the first of many bon mots and one-liners in a one-man play adapted from Roy Granville’s book. One could be forgiven for thinking the role had been written especially for Andy Linden, an actor instantly recognizable (Harry Potter, Count Arthur Strong, to name just two from a long, long line of film and TV credits) his lugubrious face and earthy London tone enabling masterful storytelling.

The play was split into five ‘episodes’ each with a twist at the end, Andy playing other parts beyond Baxter; Jeff Armstrong (a bookie so morose that ‘if he ran a funeral parlour people would stop dying’), Wilfred the Postman (an idiot savant with a back problem and a ready supply of prescription drugs bringing on hallucinations regarding the outcome of certain races in part two), Beverley Stokes (‘a woman with a voice like Lee Marvin and footballer’s eyes; one home and one away’) in part three, Landlady Mrs Wilbow and her nephew who, in parts four and five, sets up Super Tips in direct competition with Baxter’s Sure Fire Tipping agency. Whereas Super Tips avails itself of every modern analytical mechanism possible in the pursuit of choosing winners, Baxter prefers to work on contacts, insider knowledge and instinct, above all, a love of the racing world. Who wins?

Technically this is simple, one spotlight and Andy (in a cramped venue with a noisy air-conditioner thankfully dealt with by the sound engineer ten minutes in) but his performance is so strong the suspense generated towards the climax of each section is mesmeric. The complexity of the character is richly conveyed, there’s humour too and the hour passed in an instant… but will stay in the memory a lot longer.

Running until August 28th (12.40pm) at The Gilded Ballon Teviot (Wee Room)

Tickets https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/baxter-vs-the-bookies

Reviewer: Roger Jacobs

Reviewed: 14th August 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★