**** (out of 5)
There’s a wristwatch onstage, but it’s only correct twice a day (it’s stopped). But time plays a crucial element both in Alice Fraser’s new show, as well as your potential enjoyment of it.
Ostensibly a show about writing a show, “Chronos” recounts a train ride Fraser took from London to Glasgow as she prepared to preview her latest show, only to find herself staring at a blank page just hours before showtime. So she’d write it on the train! Brilliant idea, right?! She’d observe her fellow first-class passengers and mine their behaviors for content.
It’s a bit of a conceit unto itself, a repeat for fans who’ve watched Fraser’s previous hour, Savage (available on Amazon Prime Video), in which she conceded to the audience that she had nothing planned initially for that show, either. Then her excuse was mourning her dying mother. Her mother’s death still casts a shadow here, as Fraser acknowledges that she watches YouTube videos at 1.5x speed not only because it’s more efficient, but also because she feels an urgency to not waste time, to try to make something of her potential to make up for her mom’s inability to take her own talents as far as hoped.
Again with the time.
I’ve noted above that this is a four-star show, but only three-and-a-half-stars if you’re watching it in this current Edinburgh venue. That’s because Fraser is forced up against a boisterous show that started 15 minutes before hers (Grace Campbell’s “A Show About Men”) whose noise bleeds through the wall behind the back row of Fraser’s audience. On the night I attended, an audience member for Fraser also brought a baby into the room, who competed for attention. Although said baby helped more than hindered the overall flow. Because in the end, Fraser reveals she could tell us many truths (and further demonstrates that in a song pondering the various definitions of love). The ones she chooses to share in the beginning and the ones she shares at the close of the hour aren’t mutually exclusive, although they may answer some of her earlier life questions.
But back to the beginning, or before that even: Fraser’s already onstage when her audience loads in, bantering with them. It helps warm both sides up. And perhaps reduces the interruptions from next door.
Fraser also is willing to joke about the practicalities, both logistically and financially, of her job during the pandemic. From Zoom shows to satirical podcasts (she’s on the mic for several; among them, “The Gargle” (an offshoot of “The Bugle”), and her “Tea With Alice” which she migrated to Patreon). She also dropped a line that I absolutely love: “How do I write jokes? Urgently. As if I were diffusing a bomb.” Timing!
Alice Fraser: Chronos runs through Aug. 29, 2022, at Gilded Balloon Teviot (Sportsmans).