Julian Hall is kept busy by The Independent – which these days is about as popular as the Russians, who own it. He is probably better housed at The Stage, though, where he has a good length of chain and is allowed to discuss the Fringe once a week as he sees fit.
He begins with a theme – performances in tiny rooms or places that feel like dungeons, for example. In one he used the spat between the Big Four and the Stand over ‘commercialisation’ as the jumping-off point to discuss the nine or ten things he’d seen that week.
He does this rather well, as indeed he always has, and demonstrates how free the reviewer’s job can be when it’s not confined by stars. He reviews with good humour and a lightness of touch, adding some comments that suggest he’s been breathing in a bit too much greasepaint over at Thesp Manor: Chastity Butterworth “could have done with a heavier directorial hand”, while Jamie Demitriou should have put his show in the theatre section. Which may be the nicest way to be told the worst news a hopeful comedian can hear: “Did you like my show?” “I think it should be in the theatre section”.
Sometimes he says too little about each act to be of much use to either the performer or the public, but while running through his week’s list he makes some good tangential observations. In a review of Darts Wives he comments that comedic plays hardly ever get reviewed by anyone anymore – falling, presumably between the two disciplines. It’s nice if you can learn something while you’re looking at the names being fed through the grinder.
Lord knows why he agreed to write for Fest for 2014. Let’s just hope he brings some light and truth with him.