HOW TO WIN AGAINST HISTORY – Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh.
You’re not always certain when a fringe show starts that you are going to enjoy it. Especially when it’s in a venue that is a glorified metal container. Crammed into the teeny Box venue at Assembly George Square for a three-hander musical about a forgotten Victorian cross-dressing Marquis I certainly had my doubts. I needn’t have worried. “How To Win Against History” is a glittery triumph, brimming with so much heart and imagination it almost bursts out of its cramped venue. Writer and performer Seiriol Davies has concocted a rather brilliant, hour long musical which tells the fascinating tale of the torrid and extravagant life of Henry Cyril Paget – the 5th Marquis of Anglesey – who was most definitely one of a kind. A Victorian gay transvestite, he flitted away his family’s vast fortune on ridiculous gifts, outfits and theatrics, before dying a lonely death in Monte Carlo.
Not much is known of Paget’s life due to his embarrassed family quickly destroying any trace of him. Davies has taken this fascinating yet completely unknown character and brought him dazzling to life. Paget was a theatrical character (he even turned the family chapel into a Theatre) so it makes sense for him to be singing at all times. This is quite annoying at first but as the show develops and reaches it’s heartbreaking finale we realise that this was a man who sung his way through life, oblivious to what society expected of him, he lived exactly the way he wanted. It’s a powerful message and Davies (along with his talented co-stars Matthew Blake and Dylan Townley) delivers it with aplomb. The delightful musical score, contains some of the cleverest and wittiest lyrics you’ll hear at the fringe, and the whole thing is staged with elegant and imaginative pace by director Alex Swift. This is a show that one yearns to be expanded and produced elsewhere and Davies is most certainly an exciting new voice in musical theatre.
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By Rory Maxwell
19th-21st, and 23rd-28th August 2016
Assembly George Square Theatre (Venue 8), Edinburgh, EH8 9LH.