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Umbrella Man review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘a beautifully-crafted shaggy dog story’

Colin Bramwell in Umbrella Man at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Todd Richter
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“Are you Scottish, min?” asks the self-proclaimed “local joker” before us on the stage, in a warm and friendly Highland Scots accent. This being Edinburgh in August, he has to ask the same thing of a few audience member before telling one to lie and say “yes”.

He knew them the minute he saw them, he lies; after all, it’s not often you see a fellow Scot out here in Cambodia, where this man – Douglas ‘Doug’ MacArthur, no relation to the General – works as a tour guide.

The person he alights on is named Matt, and from that point on we are all referred to as Matt, communal recipients of this most eccentric and beautifully-crafted shaggy dog story. Lone performer Colin Bramwell, an Edinburgh-based spoken word artist, creates a work of stunning stylistic diversity that includes storytelling, theatre, stand-up and gig performance.

Doug tells us of his travels from the Black Isle to Edinburgh, and then the world. He tenderly recounts his first love, whom he met in unexpectedly violent circumstances. He tells us about his prodigious consumption of hash and his earnest belief in conspiracy theories. He does this with the aid of an atlas-printed (almost) flat umbrella.

There are songs too; songs about Subway sandwiches sung in the style of Dean Martin; the rain-soaked streets of Edinburgh scheme Niddrie are fused with Steve Winwood’s Higher Love. Amid the noise  of the fringe, this complex character study stands out. This is one of the most strikingly memorable solo shows of the festival.

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A beautifully crafted solo storytelling show about romance and conspiracy theories