Soar­ing high Mu­si­cal life story straight from the Eagle’s mouth

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS - Richard PARRY gloslive­[email protected]­

TRUE story – when I was in my mid-teens, a cou­ple of years be­fore the Cal­gary Olympics, I got friendly with the man­ager of the bar where I did my un­der­age drink­ing.

Suddenly there he was in the lo­cal pa­per, an­nounc­ing his in­ten­tion to be­come the British ski jump­ing cham­pion.

In the ar­ti­cle he said some­thing like: the British record holder is a bloke called Ed­die Ed­wards, but it’s not a long jump and I reckon I can beat it.

You’ve never heard of him and, in truth, even I’ve for­got­ten his sur­name.

Not only did Ed­die Ed­wards (Michael to his mum) be­come fa­mous as the cheery Chel­tenham plas­terer in big glasses and a baggy ski suit who some­how blagged his way onto the Olympic ski jump slopes, he was a very im­pres­sive ath­lete.

And now he’s a mu­si­cal star - of sorts – in Fly Ed­die Fly, a mu­si­cal of his life at the Ev­ery­man.

That view of him as an em­bar­rass­ment, as a fail­ure, as a berk with a big chin is ref­er­enced in the play, which fea­tures a mix­ture of stage school kids, com­mu­nity the­atre vet­er­ans and a few pros.

His early strug­gles, when he wanted to be a down­hill racer, fea­ture large – the lack of money, the lack of sup­port, the bla­tant class prej­u­dice.

There’s story to be told about the darker parts of Ed­die’s life.

What it’s like to be dis­missed and then mocked be­cause you’re a plas­terer’s son.

What it’s like to be feted, but as a fig­ure of fun, then be ripped off and bankrupted.

What’s it’s like to dream big, get there, but not be quite good enough to have peo­ple give you credit.

It’s not avoided in Fly Ed­die Fly, but the piece as a whole is played for laughs and is much more up­beat – how could it not with the frankly ir­re­press­ible Ed­die in the cast?

He plays a sort of nar­ra­tor fig­ure with Nik How­den as ‘other Ed­die’ do­ing the ac­tual act­ing and singing as the hero. And he is per­fectly cast.

There’s a lot to ad­mire in the play writ­ten by Mi­randa Walker, with mu­sic by Michael Childs, adapted from a three-handed play Mi­randa wrote a few years back for the the­atre’s stu­dio.

Direc­tor Paul Mil­ton likes to have fun with the form – Ed­die in­ter­rupts, and does some di­rec­tion with the fourth wall not so much as bro­ken as de­mol­ished, and the full range of the­atri­cal sus­pend-your-dis­be­lief de­vices are em­ployed.

The ski­ing is presented well, ski jumps from a huge plat­form are fun and there’s a beau­ti­fully-handled dive rep­re­sent­ing Ed­die’s ap­pear­ance on Splash! a few years back.

It could, frankly, do with a trim. The last 20 min­utes of the first act dragged a lit­tle – show­ing too many episodes, at too great a length, of the whirl­wind Ed­die found him­self in af­ter his ap­pear­ance on the hills at Cal­gary in 1988.

Ei­ther a quicker whirl­wind of ap­pear­ances or just one or two to rep­re­sent the whole would have kept me, and some sit­ting around me, a lit­tle less restive.

But it’s a lot of fun – the songs are fine, the best be­ing the quite af­fect­ing num­ber For­ever in the Stars sung by Becks Grant Jones as Ed­die’s mother Janette.

The dance se­quences are en­thu­si­as­tic and bouncy, and there’s some de­cent gags.

And there’s Ed­die. Who doesn’t love Ed­die?

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Ed­die Ed­wards at the Ev­ery­man

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