The audience enters the cavernous space of the Big Belly to find a lanky man draped across an elaborate armchair, lit by a flickering candle and surrounded by an array of mysterious drapery-covered objects. Welcome to the lair of Helmsman Pete. He wants to tell you a story.
Helmsman Pete, aka Pete Reid, is a cabaret storyteller. In a year when cabaret is the talk of the Fringe, Reid still manages to do something unique. He spins a framing story of a boy in a well, biding his time and filling his days by writing stories on scraps of discarded cardboard which are randomly distributed by a motley assortment of bees and birds. And it is from these postcards that Helmsman Pete spins his yarns.
Reid has the voice, the charisma and theatricality for telling tales. But his stories might more accurately be regarded as fragments, brief glimpses of people on the edge – of the world, of sanity, of emotion.
Reid inhabits each character, tweaking his clothing, voice and facial expressions to suit. Leaping about the stage, teetering on a wooden pallet or cowering on the floor, Helmsman Pete is determined to drag his audience to the same extremes as his characters.
The highlight of the show is unquestionably the music. Reid is gifted with a rich, sonorous voice, and the songs are haunting and melancholy. It is easy to believe the singer has been to the ends of the world and back. It is no surprise to learn Reid performs with a band in his native Australia, and a welcome treat that their CD is available for purchase from the box office as the songs in the show may well serve to whet the appetite for more.
With elements of comedy, theatre, storytelling, cabaret, live music and puppetry, this is a wee gem of a show for anyone wanting something a bit different.
4-28 Aug (not 16) 1715 (1815) @ Underbelly