fringe round-up: Poems to Read to Your Parents

Dominic Cavendish
Monday 12 August 1996 23:02

It was when the woman in the multi-coloured waistcoat started dancing to Neil Diamond's "Mr Bojangles", strummed with severe melancholy by a grey-haired man in white shorts, that the flashbacks started. Pebble Mill at One, mid-Seventies. That childhood incomprehension, barely articulated at the time, at so much desultory and unfulfilled adult behaviour. John Dowie (tracksuit bottoms, Larry Grayson specs "as skinny as a man can be") had prepared the way for this tot-recall with a series of short poems that sounded funny on the outside, but were, more often than not, sombre reflections on mortality (lines on dead cats and ageing men). "If you can't depress them when they're six, then what's the point of being in Edinburgh?" he inquired, to much parental approval.

The sullen-looking tinies were greatly cheered by Dowie's reappearance as the highly successful 1994 Dalmatian creation Dogman, whose antics were confined to the safe haven of a school canteen. But Dowie knows they won't thank him for it in later life; this is the 1990s, and the sooner the under-sixes learn about the cruel world that awaits them, the better.

n Pleasance (venue 33). To 19 Aug

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