Note: This review is from the 2018 Fringe

Former EastEnders, Celebrity Big Brother and West End star John Partridge makes his debut at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe with his self-written semi-autobiographical musical theatre show Stripped.

Using film, original music and choreography, poetry and song to share his story, this show is one of full frontal honesty. From Royal Ballet student at the age of nine to West End fame starring in the original cast of Cats and Starlight Express; from the deaths of his father and, last year, his mother from Alzheimer’s, to love and marriage; from his hedonistic party life to finding sobriety and being clean for over 300 days, there’s a rawness and vulnerability behind his confident mask.

Partridge has a knack of playing the audience with aplomb, drawing individuals into his gaze and his life story as he pours himself a cup of tea from a silver teapot. “If it’s good enough for Streisand, it’s good enough for me.”

He strikes an impressive pose with his muscular physique and commands the stage beautifully and gracefully, with his dance and musical theatre background still evident. His love of MGM movies, a common bond he shared with his father, is displayed in the impressive tap routine, which would have given Fred Astaire a run for his money, and sends shivers down the spine.

Partridge can hold a note too and plays this out through the soundtrack of his life from Bowie, Kate Bush, Boy George, Rufus Wainwright and Elkie Brooks. His rendition of Lilac Wine – “I drink much more than I ought to drink” – is particularly poignant.

He is flawlessly supported on vocals by Emma Lindars, who also acts as occasional background characters in the transitions between songs, which Partridge enforces with anecdotes and the use of family photos, making his story very personal and intimate.

The final film, a confusing sci-fi like montage with a bald-headed Partridge floating in space punctuated with numbers, concludes on 300, with Partridge revealing to the audience that he is now 300 days sober. That’s been the easy bit, it’s the other 17,155 days that nearly killed him.

A show of honesty, emotion and beauty, Stripped has been Partridge’s attempt at shedding his mask. With his soon to be aired Celebrity Masterchef experience, let’s hope that he is on to happier and better times and winning at life. If the brownies he’s baked the audience are anything to go by (a new-found hobby to occupy himself now his drinking days are over), I predict good things. You get the feeling the whole audience is rooting for him.