Pip Utton has long established himself as a Fringe veteran with his invariably well-received character shows. A maestro of the solo performance, it’s just him and his fourth wall moments. This year, Utton tackles a subject matter close to his heart – Alzheimer’s – in And Before I Forget I Love You, I Love You. His character creation not only inspires laughs, but also tears at the crushing reality of the situation, respecting not just those who suffer directly but the friends and family too.
Commitment to a performance is Utton’s forte. Before you even reach your seat, it is evident that he has already embodied the character. The subtleness is almost too good as many audience members greet him thinking he’s a kind-hearted performer just interacting, when in reality we have walked into a wake, thrust directly into the performance before the lights are down.
It is the wake of fictional wife Chrissie. We hear the eulogy from her husband, see him tremble as he decides to use his own words. It’s raw, almost intrusive – that’s how personal this performance feels. It isn’t so much theatre as an in-depth investigation of the character’s mindset. The research involved is evident, and the outbursts of anger feel like natural responses.
As the narrative strides forward, a new element is added to further our understanding. Utton’s character himself is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Here, the dread is felt. It all becomes tangible, too real, as Utton’s interactions with the audience become aggressive, not shying away from the subject matter.
There is no dilution of the gravity of the situation, merely respect. And Before I Forget I Love You, I Love You lies close to Utton’s heart. That dedication to communicating the impact is notable. Over 25 years of Fringe perfomance, Pip Utton has learnt how to inform as well as entertain, with no sign of stalling.