ARTHUR SMITH SINGS LEONARD COHEN
Pleasance, Edinburgh
August, 2000

And he does. From "Suzanne" to "First We Take Manhattan" with the occasional side trip into "Perfect Day" and "Cumbaya" Balham's rumpled prince of ridiculous banter does exactly that. Of course, the banter still takes up the lion's share of this afternoon hour, ranging from George Steiner's views on American network TV scheduling to how expensive it is to hire a duck to appear on stage.

Although Smith admits, "I did this show just 'cause I liked the title," the Cohen material is substantial. He goes so far as to recite the melancholic Montreal bard's spoken introduction to the live version of "Chelsea Hotel," about sharing an elevator with Janis Joplin. But when Smith talks about Cohen as a touchstone for the boredom of most of everyday life (and even guitarist Ronnie Golden affects to nod off during one number), you know that his deadpan style is going to differ more than a little from that of his ostensible hero.

He has a largely serviceable voice, especially for songs of this kind, but at bottom, there's a reason why Arthur's name comes before Lenny's in the title. One of the Fringe's most solid bets continues to find ways to keep himself, and us, amused.

Written for the Financial Times Web site, ft.com

Copyright Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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