Tuesday, October 3

Better Days – Just The Tonic at La Belle Angele

A small tired-looking man pushes a brightly coloured piano down the street. A giant with the mean-eyed look of a pro linebacker dressed all in white with enormous fluffy angle wings negotiates his way carefully past a bus stop. It’s raining. Fish and chip from a posh van costs £15 and a small cup of watery cider £8. Yes folks its Fringe time again in Edinburgh.

And kicking it off (for me) is this hedonistic fever dream lyric poem of the early nineties. This is Dylan Thomas, meets Trainspotting set in The Hacienda.

Where ‘Better Days’ is actually set is a subterranean nightclub in the depths of Edinburgh’s Cowgate, at the slightly odd showtime of 13:30. It’s an interesting venue, maze-like and vast. Note to self to come back at 01.30!

Ben Tagoe’s poetic story introduces us to Danny, its 1990. Aged 19. His priorities are ‘Football, fighting, lasses and music – in that order’. But things are about to change – this one-man show takes us on a chemically assisted house music journey, combining poetic storytelling with the best music from the time.

As the blurb says, ‘If you were there, you’ll enjoy a nostalgic celebration of a scene that so many people still hold dear, but with plenty of twists and turns along the way. If you weren’t, you’ll get a visceral sense of how it felt to come of age in the best era ever!’

Did I get that? Well to some extent I did. With a large video screen and pumping music from the time we are confronted by the violet football terraces, ‘the crack of fist on bone’ and the ‘threat of beautiful violence’ before being taken on the high road to the drug-induced euphoric dance floors of the early nineties.

Yorkshire actor George Martin is a natural and missed not one beat during his hour long monologue of highs, lows, and everything in between. Martin’s physical presence dominates the small stage and gives truth to the poetic story he recounts of the violence the pills and the euphoria (and lows) they brought – the red, blue and green lighting carefully used throughout creates a very nice electric effect on his sheen covered skin.

There is no doubting the quality of the writing or acting here which is committed and fearless. The piece does feel that it staggers around at times, perhaps intentionally, looking for a purpose and an ending that never really comes; the weekend highs and the Monday and Tuesday lows, in a never ending cycle. But perhaps that’s the real message of the play – don’t expect a nice happy ending, or even any ending.

Start time 13:30 daily (running time 1hr) till 26th August (except 14th), https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/better-days

Reviewer: Greg Holstead

Reviewed: 4th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.