Michelle Shocked, the Godmother of Americana, challenges the audience to choose between truth and reality in this Fringe show marking 30 years since the release of her infamous Mercury Trilogy albums.
With just her powerful voice and a guitar, and set in an intimate cabaret setting of the Boards, the upstairs bar at The Edinburgh Playhouse, in Truth vs Reality, Shocked performs her three albums, Short Sharp Shocked, Captain Swing and Arkansas Traveler in rotation.
Shocked explores her controversial career through a mix of spoken word and song, telling her tale of how she got here from being arrested for peaceful protest, ridiculed for dissecting the censored history of blackface and blacklisted for antagonising virtual-media zombies, with the consequences meaning she has not being able to work for the last four years.
Those of a certain generation will be familiar with the music of Grammy nominated singer/songwriter and activist, Shocked, where her tales still ring true today, in a world where capitalism, discrimination and fake news still prevail.
This is one angry lady and it doesn’t help that she’s jet-lagged too! The show requires polishing and Shocked knows this, with some sequences and linking of songs not flowing seamlessly; yet it’s a show that has huge potential to tell a story and social history, through the beauty of her lyrics and song.
Her attempts to engage us in singing along with a couple of her iconic songs, including “Memories of East Texas” fall on deaf ears leaving her having to carry the can. She’s not happy about that, but she gives a passionate rendition to the song, with an ending none of us could ever hope to achieve.
The fault lies not in the fact that the audience isn’t engaged but that their voices won’t do justice to her lyrics or be able to hold the melody in such an intimate setting. I’m not convinced either that everyone knows the words.
It’s a shame, as the technique when it works, which it did last year when she performed in a similar intimate setting, it engages the audience and brings them into her army of followers and potential fellow campaigners who can help her fight her cause.
The audience may not agree with her politics but there’s no denying that this is one lady whose faith and the need to stand up for what she believes in will always be big drivers for her.
If you’re a fan of Michelle Shocked, join in her cause and if you have a favourite album, make sure you choose the right date to see the show. Alternatively go on all three days and see whether it answers the question she poses to the audience, “Truth vs Reality, you choose; one or the other, but you can’t have both!”
I’m not sure I have the answer yet and whilst you may not buy into all her arguments, it’s a show that leaves you pondering and debating what is right and wrong, weaving political debate with masterful songwriting and delivery.