Paul Harry Allen’s Retro Delights – Edinburgh Review

Finnegan’s Wake. 15:45

We all love wandering around musty old charity shops looking for bargains, but for Paul Harry Allen this innocent pastime has become both an obsession and something of a full time occupation.

The performer’s home is crammed from floor to ceiling with the kind of ugly, unstylish junk one could only possibly consider buying for two reasons: You’re either teetering on the brink of some kind of breakdown, or you’re frantically assembling material for an Edinburgh show. In the case of Paul Harry Allen you get the impression that both of these criteria probably apply.

A small backroom in a tackily themed Irish pub in Edinburgh seems to be the perfect location for this very funny show about the cult of kitsch. Chipped porcelain dogs with ravaged faces, fierce looking plastic cats that double as toothbrush holders, maybe a crossed eyed ceramic seal that you can also use as a bottle opener.

Paul painstaking catalogues and photographs each and every one of his strange collection, and rarely fails to produce a roar of laughter when he shares pictures of his particular favourites with the audience. It’s such a simple idea for a one man show, but it’s invariably the simple ideas that are the best. I wish I’d thought of it.

Funniest of all is the section that focusses on Paul’s collection of vinyl records. Drab, middle-aged men in beige cardigans pose self-consciously on album covers while we’re treated to snippets of music from the days when all you had to do to get signed by a major record label was  play a cover version of a pop song on a Bontempi keyboard from Woolworths.

The climax of the show is a singalong version of the Match of the Day theme, which Paul somehow persuades the entire audience to join in with. It’s stuff like this that the Edinburgh Fringe was invented for. 5 stars.