It seems like everyone who's ever had a childhood is performing a solo show about it, and that goes double for performers at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where one can find solo shows about anorexia, agoraphobia, every possible syndrome and catastrophe. There are, according to the genre-sorter on the Edinburgh Fringe website, 53 shows that are labeled as solo performances. But there is only one Bill Bowers. It was my privilege to see Bowers in New York at 59E59 Theater's East to Edinburgh Festival, performing his solo show with words and mime, It Goes Without Saying, as a preview before his arrival in Edinburgh. I predict it will be a highlight of the Festival.
It Goes Without Saying starts out as the sort of solo show many rightly dread: a series of "true stories" that one hopes will at least be amusing, but one fears may be just "things that happened to somebody I don't give a shit about." There is an easel, with the words "True Stories" on it, an easel that will be flipped, page by page, by the performer. And for the first fifteen minutes of amusing material about this performer's particular hook, becoming a mime, it seems there will be nothing new.
Patience gets rewarded. The journey of this young gay boy from the Big Sky country of one of the USA's most under populated western states (Montana) becomes something much, much more than a series of "amusing things that happened." That's because the performer is Bill Bowers, who may be the most talented American mime of his generation, and when he uses those skills, he creates moments etched with a diamond-cutter's precision, and the artist's bold claim to deep truths. These moments are likely to remain with you long after the lights come up.
The most powerful moments, for me, came in the middle section, where Bill draws the audience into the death of his lover, during the worst of the Aids plague, when nothing was to be done but to take your loved one home, and "give him anything he wants" for the few days he has left. Here is where the performer's heart and was laid bare in movements as perfect as brush strokes on canvas. The most revelatory movement; the last kiss. I will never again think of a kiss the way I did before seeing this touching and true work of art.
There are many lighter moments, and amusing true stories, but those can be found in any number of places at Edinburgh Fringe. The description of the show in the Fringe book does not do this work justice, as it seems to describe a simple fun night of witty stories about being a mime. That's true enough, but it wouldn't be enough for me to recommend it. I will say it again: there is only one Bill Bowers. Get your tickets now. Bowers is performing August 1-25 at the Hill Street Solo Theatre Festival, part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.