EDINBURGH 2017 - BWW Review: JOE'S NYC BAR, Assembly George Square Studios
Joe's NYC Bar is a show that really understands the Celtic concept of "craic" - the great pleasure of good company and good conversation. Bringing a touch of Brooklyn to Edinburgh this August, the production is an immersive and often improvisational experience set in the eponymous New York watering hole and featuring its staff and patrons, as well as audience members who are very much encouraged to get involved.
An underground carpark in George Square has been converted into a grungy, dimly lit club, with a real bar to take advantage of through the hour and a half running time, which passes quickly thanks to the engrossing nature of the show. Each performance features a musical guest, and on this occasion we kicked off with a singalong of "Anything Goes" that served to get the audience warmed up.
While a spot of Cole Porter was delightful, it seemed a little at odds with the décor, which modelled itself after the notorious CBGBs: punk posters and graffiti on every surface. Coupled with our "bark worse than bite" host Gabe, there was a sense that the bar was unsure whether to be raucous or really quite mild and civilised.
In between musical numbers, the performers discuss various topics, inviting the audience to join in, and developing the conversation with their input, with the story of the bar's characters progressing along the way. Between the music and the chat, the show creates a warm environment that encourages participation. I must confess I was left wondering whether some of the bar patrons were a planned part of the show or simply very enthusiastic audience members.
The story of this particular evening did veer a little much into the personal lives of the characters, which gave me a very Scottish feeling of "This shouldn't be discussed in public!", though admittedly it didn't stop others sticking their oar in - and the fact it gave me pause suggested how easy it was to slip into the realism of the performance.
It's a show that offers a really interesting experience, though will likely be best enjoyed in company and with a willingness to be a part of the show, even if it's just to belt along to Madonna hits with some complete strangers. For those brave enough to step past the fourth wall, Joe's NYC Bar is certainly the sort of show you will tell your friends about, and is a great place to make your "local" this August.
Joe's NYC Bar runs at Assembly George Square Studios until August 28 (not 14) at 6pm and 8:30pm