Review: Janis Joplin Full Tilt by Regular Music

Great interpretations of Janis Joplin's music are let down by a sparse book

★★★
theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Janis Joplin Full Tilt
Published 14 Aug 2018

Janis Joplin was one of the most successful woman musicians of her era and a musical revolutionary. She is on the Top 100 Greatest Singers of All Time list and one of America's best selling musicians. Her death at age 27 abruptly ended a brief career, but her legacy and music lives on. This show is less of a musical and more of a tribute act, with excellent renditions of Joplin's songs let down by a sparse book.

Rather than a plot, Peter Arnott's book has fragmented monologues in between the songs. These have a largely autobiographical focus demonstrating Joplin's fragile mental health and troubled childhood. There are also anecdotes about her attitudes towards drugs, alcohol, music and American culture. There's a nice amount of fragility but the lack of story or narrative context, barring a late-appearing look at the circumstances around her death, means this is much less of a theatre piece. It's basically a gig.

Angie Darcy is a generally convincing Janis, though her voice is sometimes a bit too poppy for the musician known for her raspy, bluesy vocals. There's a lot of power in her voice though, and she has a vivacious energy that openly dialogues with the audience and her backing band. This emphasises the tragedy of her death all the more.

Though there's a pronounced lack of a book or story that justifies this show's classification in the "Theatre" section of the Fringe's programme, Darcy's performance makes this a great evening for fans of her music.