Rainer Hersch’s Victor Borge – November 2007

8/10

By: Rainer Hersch

Venue: Mill Studio

Date: Thursday 15th November 2007

I had a weird sense of dissociation early on during this performance. I knew we were watching Rainer Hersch giving us his impression of Victor Borge, but my reactions were as if the original was standing there. I felt all the warmth and affection I’d stored up from childhood, seeing him on TV and knowing the routines. It was a good start, and it got even better.

After an opening section giving us some of Borge’s classic patter – e.g. the joke about the piano being made in China, and an ordinary keyboard having the keys going from left to right (we filled in the rest ourselves) – Rainer told us about his own background (not Jewish, not gay, hair not permed, as he said to his partner Lionel, the hairdresser from Tel Aviv), and explained how he hadn’t heard of Victor Borge while he was growing up. Once he started doing stand up and brought music into it, a process that took a number of years, he found his reviews kept comparing him to some chap called Victor Borge, and in a search for a publicist so successful that he could get his own client’s name into another performer’s reviews, he finally came across a CD of Borge’s work and the rest is history, as they say. He didn’t actually say what his reaction to hearing Borge’s work was, but I assume it was positive, as it eventually led him to research Borge’s life, and even to meet him briefly, backstage, in Denmark – he showed us the picture.

From here he took us on a trip through Borge’s life story, annotated with various snippets of his comedy routines, and including some very moving events, such as Borge’s trip back into Nazi-occupied Denmark to see his dying mother for the last time. He managed the emotional changes very well, and I was crying more often from laughter than from sadness. Hersch’s own talents as a comedian and musician were very clear. He also managed the accent and mannerisms very well, and was ably supported by a good technical crew, who brought in the music and changed the lights perfectly. At the end, he encouraged us to beg for more, then gave us one of his own routines about what they’re actually singing at the opera – definitely called for one of those discrete little pads! This evening lifted our spirits, and reminded us of a great entertainer, as well as making us aware of a new talent.

© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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