Review: Dorothy Paul: Retiring from Retirement, Festival Theatre

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RETIRING is for wimps. Dorothy Paul hasn’t. Maybe she should have, but she can still sell tickets at the Festival Theatre.

The show is a celebration of the unseemly side of Scottish life, and the characters are fantastic.

Paul focuses on how foul everyone is – hairy primary-school teachers, gossipy co-workers and rude tram conductresses. Somehow she’s always affectionate, even when she’s impersonating a drunk ned shoving chips in his face.

Paul – unexpectedly – breaks up the stand up cabaret-style. Songs include one from Cabaret itself, which was poorly chosen for her voice, and a much more flattering Marlene Dietrich number.

Accompaniment is provided by pianist John Crawford, whose first solo set was largely talked over by the audience, who didn’t seem to realise he was part of the act.

Paul’s daughter sings a bit too, and she’s not terrible. In duet together, they’re like two thirds of comedy trio Fascinating Aida. Sadly they also come with two thirds of the laughs, and none of the musical invention.

The words “great for her age” hover on the horizon, but Dorothy Paul hasn’t lost all her marbles just yet. She has dropped a few though, and her set is littered with lots of little bad decisions and a few mistakes. A costume change takes too long, she sings a song that’s too high for her, she forgets a line, mixes up one character with another, lets anecdotes lose their shape like stretched jumpers, and uses the same joke – “you remember it too, do you?” – three or four times too often.

These problems are forgivable in some situations. Eighteen pounds a ticket is not one of them. That’s the sort of joke Paul likes to make, by the way.

Retiring from Retirement is like a Two Ronnies Christmas special. It’s a nice trip down memory lane if you already know the jokes. Otherwise you’re only going to watch it because there’s nothing else on.

Tours Scotland until mid April.