Reviews

PERFORMANCE

‘Still ticking!’ first performed at the Ludlow Fringe 2022

**** In January 2021 Nigel Osner nearly died when a routine operation went seriously wrong, leading to open heart surgery and a damaged lung. After four days in an induced coma, he had to learn to walk again. A stalwart performer both in London and Edinburgh, he is back with another new show, and some of his favourite crowd-pleasing cabaret vignettes.

At the beginning of the show Osner sings about his agent telling him not to talk about sex, but it crept in anyhow: Whether it was in the song about the man who was trying to keep his youthful appearance by having a lot of work done to his face, the vampire who has lost his appetite, the woman who only had herself to please, or the owl who only liked the November moon. There is a rock star sensuality to much of Osner performance, himself mostly wearing a leather jacket and looking, singing, and dancing the part.

Osner is undoubtedly a very talented performer. He tells a good yarn and gives excellent characterisations: these must surely be real people he’s met in his former life as a practising barrister or during his employment at the Ministry of Justice, or his career as a performer. As for the owl, he must have studied the creature minutely, he’s so inside its body. Furthermore, Osner has beautiful tones to his voice, and sings powerfully (albeit without much vocal range, it is gorgeous to hear). ---

Osner’s show is pure entertainment and yet perhaps we do learn a little, not least that older people are more confident and are bolder. Osner is the perfect example of this. Heather Jeffery  London Pub Theatres Magazine, reviewing the Camden Fringe performance

**** In personality, Osner presents as the snake-hipped love child of Noel Coward and Eileen Atkins, an ageing provocateur with sweetness and sleaze. His vocals are powerful and his acting skills excellent, whether bringing a helpful owl to life, with all the mannerisms and movements, or a vamp in the style of a Mae West or Dietrich, or an elderly, exhausted vampire with false fangs.

Osner is a performer who quickly connects with an audience ---Still Ticking! soon finds its way into your heart. Louise Penn  North West End UK

*** ½ The show is, like its creator, quixotic, surprising, and packed with personality. It is a paean to growing old disgracefully by a performer who brings to mind a better maintained version of Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones. --- This is the work of an erudite and educated writer with a sophisticated understanding of the cultural reference points he draws on. --- The best monologue, a reference to Osner’s own near brush with death when a routine operation went seriously wrong, is delivered by a vampish angel of death [who] has come to collect the soul of a hospital patient who is just not quite ready to go yet, and who has a guardian angel onside as protection. --- Catch it if you can. John Cutler  The Reviews Hub

‘Too young to stay in – too old to go out!’, first performed at the Brighton Fringe 2018

**** ‘The show starts with the title song where a man faces the dilemmas and dreads of going out on a Saturday night. Trying to keep youthful has entailed facial surgery which has not helped his feet. He laments the lack of seats at the disco where he finds the amplified music too loud.

Slipping into the character of Gerald he tells of ‘A Perfectly Perfect Evening’ where he and his online date experience a catalogue of disasters – wickedly funny. Appearing in the next monologue as old but rich man the audience eavesdrop as he explains to a friend his relationship with a young man he takes on as a gardener. It is only after a cataract operation that he realises that the ‘Yearning In His Eyes’ is, in fact, a look of contempt. A song about using a gym proves that it can be bad for one’s health.

Switching genders Osner becomes a rather prissy spinster who employs a companion to go with her on a European cruise. The relationship deteriorates with tragic consequences. The holiday theme continues when an elderly man ‘In a Grand Hotel in Devon’ boasts of his good health and of the contempt for the other guests always complaining of their aches and illnesses. Needless to say he gets his comeuppance.

Returning to female personas he firstly delivers a song a la Dietrich of a fading movie star doing an endless tour as she still needs the money. This cynical number has her saying that her fans give her flowers whilst she gives them kitsch. ‘An Older Woman’ describes her affair with a young boy and how he betrayed her.

Osner’s characterisations are well drawn and excellently performed. The writing is clever with plenty of wit and humour even in the darker elements of his stories. --- The songs are strong in the lyrics – ’ Barrie Jerram,  Musical Theatre Review

**** The show starts with a wonderful song that takes the show title and expands it to, as it happens, a very real description of my own life. What followed was a series of monologues, from various characters, all telling a story from their lives. Each was told either in poetry or song and each explored a different facet of the social life of a mature person. Nigel is an excellent writer and, in each of the short scenes, he manages to bring real life to the character and the situation they find themselves in. Not only is the writing really good, but Nigel also gives them all a real personality. Terry Eastham,  London Theatre 1

Nigel Osner is a beautiful and gentle performer that took hold of the tragedy of navigating love and connection in later years of life and played the strings of comedy. There is a vulnerability to each of the characters we meet in which Osner delivers the poetic text through monologue and song with some unassuming reflections in between. Osner is a lyricist, writer, actor and performer with finesse and charm.

Osner took great care to embody each character through movement and delicate gesture which lured us in to each of their stories. Occasional lighting changes and music additions were subtle and added to the emotive moments to increase meaning. This flowed with the nature of the work and performer, not over bearing but gentle, tragic and comedic, standing slightly on its own as an investigative vulnerable piece of cabaret storytelling. The impact on the audience was a wonder to watch as people guilty laughed and expelled sighs of association to our ageing crisis and the ultimate changes in companionship, love and connection. This is a beautiful piece of solo work of an excellent quality. Lisa Douglas, Fringe Review

‘Death is inescapably waiting in the wings, no matter how much these characters might deny it. Osner plays both male and female characters, though it would be a mistake to call this drag. He evokes a person with an item or two of clothing - a cravat, or a pearl necklace...an understated but effective theatrical convention. -------Witty, bitchy, achingly sad and, finally, strangely uplifting, Osner’s personal charm carries the show and I was left feeling that I’d spent an hour in safe hands.’ Sebastian Beaumont, Broadway Baby

**** ‘witty and erudite --- also pathos --- a very well-rounded show that is thoughtful and reflective but never self-pitying --- perfectly captures the subject matter it’s dealing with.’ Andy Moseley, Daily Business

**** ‘gentle but dark humour in what awaits in the shadows of advancing years' Tom King, Southside Advertiser

‘Nigel Osner (who also wrote the material) is an engaging character who had the audience on his side from the start. ---- all good fun with sharp observations of how ageing changes us.’ Brian Kirman, Buxton Fringe reviewer

‘We saw your awesome show at the Buxton Fringe today! Enthralled from beginning to end….finely drawn characterisations, command of voice in lyrics and speech.’ Viv and Paul Drake, audience members at Buxton

 

‘Angel to vampire!’, first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe 2016

“An hour of late evening musical storytelling is in the hands of the hugely talented Nigel Osner, who offers us an evening of storytelling that is all too human but unafraid to don angels’ wings or take us into the heart of the London Vampires’ Meetup group.

Angel to Vampire is a solo cabaret in silver goth shadow and the self-generated light of the performer’s accessible charisma. This is a gentle autobiography, strong and powerful for that very gentleness. Though the venue feels too traditional for this cabaret format, Nigel Osner succeeds in welcoming us into his world, his story, told through original songs (accompanied by a recorded original piano score), poems, vignettes and a story that spans his life, invoked through some often painfully funny character acting. We forget the room and find ourselves in a cabaret performance space, all down to his personal skills.

There’s pain and sadness in the narrative, but also plenty of self-insight and comedic moments. This is the journey of a civil servant towards realising his truer ambition. Along the way we meet characters who wouldn’t look out of place in one of Michael Moorcock’s ‘London’ novels. Osner sings with guts and panache, drawing upon Blues, Dietrich and post-war styles. Blues meets Noel Coward through clever, often cutting lyrics and his poetry ranges from the comedic wit of Coward to conversational poetic storytelling. We laughed, even as we were gently prodded with another wry observation on life.

No microphones are a big boon in this intimate show. Osner sings from acoustic, natural authenticity. A love of costume, of dressing up and applying the lippy is all part of a story of ultimate self-acceptance, a self-acceptance that accompanies our stepping towards and through middle age. Can we find peace with ourselves? Perhaps only through a journey of painful self-discovery.

The performer holds attention throughout. A personal favourite song was “Don’t Label Me”, but. in truth, all the songs were finely crafted and heartfully delivered. The man can sing! This is an evening of solo cabaret variety, mature and engaging. It’s excellent work. A multi-skilled performer, Nigel Osner brings down the fourth-wall without creating forced or clunky interaction. This is an invitation to gather around, to witness, listen, empathise and enjoy. This is his life, it is also a life, which is an offer to connect it with our own life. Ultimately , do not collude with yourself; follow what you really want, to give yourself permission to like yourself and wear whatever costumes enliven and lift you.

There’s an infectious sentimentality running like a gossamer thread through the show realised through the portfolio of well realised characters. The soft light of the cabaret, the eerie light of uncertainty and feeling lost, and ultimately the brighter light that puts us in the centre of things, in which we are both the star under the spotlight and the applauding, approving audience.

The far too-small audience loved every minute of this generous hour, and I’m more than happy to rate this unique show as a Hidden Gem. It’s a crime that every seat isn’t filled. Go and delight in Angel to Vampire!” Paul Levy Fringe Review

“‘tremendously talented and very entertaining. – Osner’s songs are well-turned, amusing and evocative. -- a pleasure to see a performer of such distinctive ability flex his wings – and occasionally bare a fang.’’ Ben Walters Scotsman

**** “A show of angelic bite, Angel to Vampire! taps into a still pumping vein of light entertainment, injecting in some marvellous modern wit.” Grumpy Gay Critic (second London preview)

Southside Advertiser Fringe Favourite “This show is one of those little gems” Tom King Southside Advertiser

“an interesting and insightful show” Ailish George Broadway Baby

“When he is in his element, delivering some deliciously barbed lyrics and lines from his stories, Osner’s face literally lights up and it’s a genuine joy to see him revel in being onstage. --- Osner’s steely determination to entertain is writ large across his face from the first line he delivers to the last note he sings. As an audience member, you cannot ask for anything more from an actor than that.” Musical Theatre Review (St James Studio show October 2016)

“Each [song or monologue] is a fully formed character vignette which introduces us to the person and their story complete with costume, accent and physical presence. ----- Nigel's show is well honed from his years as a Cabaret artist and his sweet and funny characters will stay with you afterwards like old friends.” Alex Watts,  Buxton Fringe 2017 reviewer


Other performance reviews

Revamped! encompasses a wide range of songs and character-based monologues including a generous helping of Osner’s original material, with music for several of the songs written by pianist Tom Wakeley. In the first half, Osner regales the audience with a repertory of accents ranging from southern-state American to Australian to French to upper-class English, underscored by Wakeley’s lush accompaniments. One highlight is a splendidly acted spoken-voice performance of ‘I Went to a Marvellous Party’ (Noel Coward). The monologues that intersperse the musical numbers include ‘The Tale of Reverend James’, a poem subsequently used as the basis of a 2008 film, in which Osner expertly animated many different characters simultaneously. --- Osner pledges more of a ‘theatrical’ turn for the second half, which he delivers through a sequence of in-costume personae – One after another, he adeptly assumes the guise of a well-to-do gentleman named ‘Gerald’, a Dracula-style eastern European vampire, and an ageing sequinned diva who rather amusingly struggles to sit atop the piano --- Osner and Wakeley duet with gusto in ‘Bosom Buddies’ (Mame) and ‘It’s Never Too Late to Fall in Love’ (The Boy Friend), the latter featuring Wakeley comically performing the girl’s part in falsetto. They also keep the audience engaged throughout the show with some hilarious double act exchanges in between songs, a strong mutual respect evidently underpinning the surface-level banter. Sometimes serious, sometimes humorous, but always hugely entertaining, Osner is an idiosyncratic and versatile performer and Wakeley his perfect pianistic partner --- an unquestionably excellent evening. Christopher Wiley MUSICAL THEATRE Review

'a show of flamboyant inspiration and intelligence. --- Osner's pieces are original, imaginative, and heavily character-driven. --- Osner excels at throwing emotion and thought behind each characterisation, along with astute observation and deep feeling --- a charming and entertaining show filled with warmth and performed with cheeky panache.' James Waygood sosogay

"very original material..... left me amused and in a good mood" Lisa Martland the Stage

"Simply another triumph --- Your delivery and presence ensured that the evening had a particular quality and style and you can tell from the audience reaction just how well 'Don't label me' and 'A perfectly pleasant evening' were received. Superb." Tom Shields, Master of Revels, Inner Temple

"Nigel's spontaneous performances of original and sometimes topical lyrics have added to the fun and gaiety of my salons" Carole Stone

THEATRE

'A rather English murder' Questors Theatre

‘The characters are well drawn and well portrayed. ---- Nigel Osner provides a very nice [performance] as the poet out of touch with the more down to earth aspects of 50s society.’ Andy Moseley Remote Goat

'Cover her face' (The Duchess of Malfi) Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club

‘Also impossible to forget is Nigel Osner’s pitch-perfect gag as Julian’s suggestively impotent husband and general well-wisher Castruccio, reborn in this play as an East End drag queen, whose friendliness and bright extravagancy provides an impressive closing speech to cut through the barbaric tragedy of the pin-striped fools.’ Alex Finch The Upcoming

‘In a strong ensemble cast ----- veteran cabaret performer Nigel Osner as a black-stockinged chorus soaked in gin.’ Gay Times

Nigel Osner, as Castruccio, has the last word and she governs the stage with an aloofness and a ‘what else could you expect?’ attitude. Tony Fenwick

'Wrapped in the sun' the Gatehouse Upstairs:

"Nigel Osner does sterling work as her first student - having misunderstood the flyer, he arrives dressed as Zeus and ready to pose as a life-model - and is utterly hilarious." Broadway Baby

FILM

‘Just One More Bite’

The vampire in question is the insanely camp creation of actor Nigel Osner, who leads camera and viewer through his castle, talking of his daily life and occasionally bursting into song. James Gallagher MI Shorts review

‘Just One More Night’

'Pat Garrett's Just One More Night delivers a well crafted performance from Nigel Osner as an aging entertainer, reflecting on a life less than glamorous, but one convincing enough to appear that way to his public. Osner also subtly scripted this performer's life, so it's doubly hard to separate art from life. Which imitates the other? Hard to tell, in this very enigmatic film performance. But that's the point isn't it?' James MacGregor netribution

‘this very different one-hander is performed superbly by local actor, Nigel Osner. A poignant tribute to faded celebrity, it tells the story of an almost-forgotten screen star ending a long career by performing wherever she can get a booking.' Final Cut