#12 Umbrella Man

Spoken Word ( Theatre, Music ) Mezzanine, Scottish Poetry Library

A beguiling spoken word hour with storytelling, poetry, and some musical colour. From Teuchter Company, delivered by Colin Bramwell.

Umbrella Man is the story of a young Scotsman growing up and seeing the world some. Bramwell presents himself as a humble Edinburgh man, a regular at the poetry library in fact, in time honoured storytelling fashion. But we are not in the library at all, no. We are in a nondescript tavern on the other side of the world, quietly listening, as the man with the umbrella shares his sorrowful history.

A rare cold start, with an awkward yet warm spell of audience interaction to boot. Something is a little off-kilter about this guy. His quiet, creepy manner, keen eyes and relaxed pace evoke an uneasy feeling of listening to fiction without pretence. There must be something true about the story, or else Bramwell is onto some next level stuff here. He reminds me of an uncharacteristically dead serious Wil Wheaton.

Bramwell watches over you as closely as you watch him.

With some difficulty, the narrator invites us to consider his life's story. We, the audience, are the cornered kind ear, a fellow countryman from back home Edinburgh, Scotland. A chance encounter in a back alley bar somewhere in Cambodia. He has a smoke to offer, and banter in a friendly note, all freely given with a melancholy in his voice, but a simple optimism in his spirit.

There's a sharp sadness in the story, which the Umbrella Man himself reluctantly yet determinedly shares. Here is a man battling his demons, lost love, mistakes made. Still early years into his new life, already tethered to a past.

There's a woman, of course. The one who most likely prompted the travels to the far end of the world. A gamble proves tragic, but yields a compelling story. There's a vulnerability here, a true difficulty to express, but a valiant attempt at it. Musical interludes and ambient soundtracks worked nicely.

Some of the theatrics is wooden, and pacing is all over the place, but the story and its telling have truly magical power. Maybe two thirds of the way in, I found myself fully immersed and gripped by the story. Bramwell managed to win the audience interaction he craved, even if it were a little forced and awkward.

A little more production, and this could be phenomenal. A little sharper telling, getting on with it. Oh Umbrella Man, won't you make it a little easier to digest and understand?