The Return of Savonarola

Westgarth Productions

theSpace on the Mile

From 01 August 2014 to 22 August 2014

Rating: ***

Review by Graeme Strachan

Having stunned the Fringe with his touching and heartbreaking performance in An Evening with Dementia, Trevor T Smith has brought his considerable talent to bear upon a new one-man performance.

Stumbling onstage in a drunken, slurring state then settling into a chair unconscious, we know this is going to be an interesting show. It's then that the clear and unsettlingly calm voice of Girolamo Savonarola begins to stir from the man, between his snores.

Then, slowly, the body is roused and puppeted until he is cavorting around the stage, face taut with sincerity and fervour, as he tells the life story of the Renaissance era Dominican friar and prophet.

It's a spectacle that seems over almost as it has begun, as the entire show runs less than an hour. It also begins with a humour that doesn't quite last, and seems strangely at odds with the rest of the performance. While the acting of Smith is always a pleasure to watch, the content feels slight, and the over-long opening, while accomplished, doesn't fit with a show of this brevity.

Moreover, the inclusion of several rants on global warming and governmental power feel crowbarred in. It could be because we never get a sense of who Savonarola really is; he laments his life, marvels at his occasional fortune and tosses in a comment about having raped as a young man, but it begins to feel off-hand and perfunctory.

As the end comes and the spirit departs the body, it feels like some of the potential for this idea has evaporated as well.