Welcome to the Purgatorium, where the still very-much-alive Richard Carpenter is kicking his vertiginously-platformed heels in a side room of a hell that is partly of his own making, and partly thrust upon him by circumstance.
For Richard is doomed to being ‘the brother of’ iconically voiced, multi-award-winning singer-songwriter and celebrity anorexic superstar Karen, who tragically died at the age of 32 and became an immortal pop legend, forever. What is as dead as a dodo is his solo career post-Carpenters, as he’s reduced to cutting the ribbon on yet another Karen Carpenter shopping mall, hosting late-night shopping channels, ringing his elusive agent, and doing magazine interviews in which most questions are about… yup, her.
As one half of Edinburgh Festival favourites Frisky & Mannish, performer Matthew Floyd Jones is insanely talented as a multi-instrumentalist and singer in his own right, particularly well-versed in musical parody, and has a back catalogue of work as long as your arm that encompasses theatre, comedy, cabaret, film, TV and radio – even though he only looks about 12.
Helpfully, in a bad blonde nylon wig and 70s garb, he’s also a dead ringer for the young Richard Carpenter, and plays him with a speedy, round-eyed edginess that swings nicely from self-pity to paranoia. “Some of the songs may not sound exactly like they used to,” he tells us feyly, “because legally I can only sing six of the original words in a row before I have to change them.” And change them he does, of course, into hilariously deformed lyrics set to nearly the original tune, sung in a pitch-perfect voice.
This show is well-written and slickly performed, intelligent, sophisticated and never obvious. It’s also very funny and has the audience howling with laughter, due in no small part to Floyd Jones’ comedy timing, authenticity as a comedy performer and love of bad taste: he’s completely at home on stage and very good at being bad.
Richard Carpenter’s Close To You was at the Wardrobe Theatre on Friday, July 28 and Saturday, July 29. To see what’s coming up at the Wardrobe, visit thewardrobetheatre.com/whats-on
Read more: Noisy Holiday, Wardrobe Theatre