Apart from George Bush Snr, who famously lamented, "We need a nation closer to the Waltons than the Simpsons," it seems that the whole world is a Bart fan. There is thus a guaranteed audience for the voice of Bart, Nancy Cartwright, appearing in what, on the surface, is by far the most attractive of the "Me shows" that proliferate at this year's Fringe festival.
The opening of this show is a welcome reminder of the genius of America's most celebrated dysfunctional family. What follows is a quick journey through Cartwright's life and career as well as a sketching of The Simpsons' progress since it began on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987 when Bart looked like he would be even more at home hanging with Beavis and Butthead and Homer sounded like James Stewart.
Cartwright never allows you to become bored but that means some issues are skirted over faster than American closing credits on television. You never really get a feel what it is like recording the show. Yes, it's nice to know that Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer), Harry Shearer (the voice of Montgomery Burns and Principal Skinner) and the gang are great to work with, but where are the anecdotes? Yes, the best thing about The Simpsons is its brilliant ability to tackle difficult issues, often encapsulating them in a line, but then at least remind us of this, don't just nod to it.
There is a wholesome quality to this show at odds with The Simpsons phenomenon; while the television series works on different levels, this show is straight down the line. Bart Simpson is an irreverent, mischievous little boy. Nancy Cartwright is an enthusiastic, rather saccharine, woman (but with a little girl trapped inside). Of course she knows her character inside out and when Bart's voice comes from within (and there is a touch of The Exorcist about this skill) she knows exactly what he would say in a given situation. However, what Bart would make of Nancy dancing round the stage to M C Hammer was wisely left unsaid. The similarity between the television show and Cartwright's stage show is that they are both accessible and broken up into digestible chunks. Cartwright has a lot of ground to cover, and she handles certain elements very well.
Without wishing to be cynical, it seemed that the story of how a celebrity helped a terminally ill child to die happy might not be far away, but when it came it was moving, dignified and genuinely felt. You cannot help but be impressed with the devotion The Simpsons engenders. Within this show there was a brief quiz where Simpsons geeks were asked the most obscure questions before one delighted winner literally skipped off with some merchandise. That kind of fan will love the show whatever but neither they nor anyone else will leave feeling much the wiser about Bart and his iconic family.Reuse content