Kitty Walsh isn’t your normal Fringe performer – she’s an art historian rather than a comedian, and she’s here to make jokes about Dürer, rather than Donald Trump. She’s got an MA from UCL and a gallery selling folk art in London, so she’s more than qualified to talk about her subject. Yet she manages to keep things suitable for all levels of knowledge in this bright, amusing Fringe show about the man she terms “the greatest painter EVER”.
It’s an interesting concept which lends itself to a show that doesn’t really fit into one genre; more informal than a lecture, but too factual to really satisfy a laugh-seeking crowd. Still, it’s enjoyable and informative, with Walsh giving us an introduction to Dürer’s background and contemporaries, and then talking us through some of his best works. There are several slightly self-deprecating digs at art history, but Walsh demonstrates how it can – and should – be accessible and fun. She’s excellent with her material, clearly passionate about her subject and keeps calm when disaster happens on stage (a volunteer demonstrating a type of printing technique ends up adding some blood to her picture). Aside from this mishap, the interactive aspect of the show is a really nice touch, and Walsh makes the audience feel thoroughly welcome.
A look at Dürer’s self-portraits ends up in a very funny digression on dick pics that leaves the audience giggling, and Walsh’s entertaining commentary on his life is great. At times she tries too hard to cram in millennial references. It’s as if she’s used to struggling to engage teenagers. But her audience here is mostly older, and can see parallels without the signposting. Because of time constraints, the show obviously cannot cover much of the huge volume of work Dürer produced, but even so the time passes extremely quickly. A little more time on some of the paintings would have been welcome, but Walsh can hardly be accused of being stingy – on the contrary, she brings in facsimiles and a print produced by Dürer’s workshop for everyone to pore over.
It’s an ideal lunchtime show for anyone interested in art or keen to learn more about one of the most under-appreciated geniuses of western art history, and of course for already established fans like Walsh herself.