My Kind of Michael (Summerhall Edinburgh)

Posted: August 8, 2018 in Theatre

Writer: Nick Cassenbaum


Nick Cassenbaum charmed the 2016 Edinburgh Festival with Bubble Schmeisis his love letter to a traditional Jewish bath house in the East End of London, not too far from the Bermondsey birthplace of Michael Barrymore, the subject of this new hour-long show.

Cassenbaum’s blend of affection, sentimentality and humorous storytelling are as distinctive as before and just as irresistible. His memory for trivial detail enriches his stories and, when this extends to remembering the names of audience members, his shows become intimate group conversations. This show is as much a tribute to his late Nana Sylvie as to the TV star whose rise and fall has been reported to excess in the tabloid press. It was Nana Sylvie who gave 6-year-old Nick a VHS compilation of Barrymore clips as a Christmas gift and it was she who mentored the promising young entertainer of the family, encouraging him to tell risqué jokes to a group of aunts.

The show understands that childhood heroes remain heroes forever. Eric Morecambe topped an audience poll at this performance, but, for Cassenbaum, the presenter of ITV shows such as Strike It Lucky and My Kind of People has no competition. Using audience participation extensively, Barrymore’s career is charted largely through his appearance on This Is Your Life and we get the picture of a man who was as much a showman in his private life as in public, a purveyor of anarchy, mayhem and chaos in both.

Revelations about Barrymore’s sexuality did not seems to dent his popularity with the British public, but the tragedy which occurred at his home in 2001 triggered what Cassenbaum describes as “homophobia in the media” and toppled him from his pinnacle.

 The entertainer, whose catchphrase was “awight” (ie “all right”) is alive and, according to reports, well following addiction problems. Apparently, he has not yet seen this tribute, which is a pity, as it is very likely that he would find it his kind of show.

Performance date: 6 August 2018

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub:

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