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Charmian Hughes: The Ten Charmandments

Friday, 19 August, 2011

Short and sweet

Edinburgh – The Banshee Labyrinth – 6-27 August 2011– 1840 (1hr/40mins)

Charmian Hughes

Charmian Hughes is trying to establish a cult. It’s not an extreme movement in the manner of David Koresh but she’s out to persuade people to follow her version of the Biblical commandments, which are basically some common sense and linguistic variants.

Walking on the small stage in a bright red dress she asks the audience what they think of her prophet robes. She has a mumsy delivery which is  perhaps not surprising as she’s a middle aged mother of  teenagers. This itself may lead the fairly young audience to humour her to an extent. Her so-called papyrus scrolls are concealed behind a cloth with brightly coloured quasi-Egyptian images on it.

Her first Charmandment is: Thou Shalt Only Worship One Dog. Wordplay between God and dog isn’t particularly advanced or impressive but this is a fairly gentle show. Even Simon Cowell escapes being referred to as some form of Satan when his face is used to illustrate an instruction not to worship Pop Idol. That’s not to say that Charmian Hughes doesn’t hand out criticism to anything – furniture empire IKEA is depicted as a vulture and part of a DIY and home improvement culture containing what’s described as the ladder of despair and paintbrush of despondence. It’s part of a Charmandment to reclaim leisure time.

The longest routine relating to a Charmandment accompanies ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill People’s Dreams’ – an appropriate message for Edinburgh where thousands of performers live in hope for a month. Re-enacting the story of 12th century lovers Abelard and Heloise, Charmian Hughes makes use of puppet pandas, as well as her accordion playing skills.

It’s not a guns blazing, showcasing of talent type of show so the limited knowledge of French comes across as charming and again reinforces the accessibility of Charmian Hughes’ performance.

Ending the show, which is twenty minutes shorter than the advertised running time, Charmian Hughes opts for a dance, which she claims has been passed through from Cleopatra and Beyonce. Donning a red cap it’s again an opportunity for the crowd to humour Charmian Hughes rather than for her to make them laugh. The moves vaguely resemble those which accompanied The Bangles song “Walk Like an Egyptian” eons ago, but it still has the air of watching your mum dance at a friend’s wedding.

Charmian Hughes is an easy performer to watch and relax into as it’s not going to be hard hitting, thought provoking or exhaustingly belly-laugh filled stuff. There also appears to be a sense of wisdom in the reduced running time of the show. If you don’t have an hour’s worth of material there is no point in padding out what you have, so the 40 minute piece is just the right length.

Writer/performer Charmian Hughes

© Chandrika Chevli 2011

Reviewed on Tuesday 16th August 2011, The Banshee Labyrinth

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