REVIEW: Normal Heights

May 13, 2014

Normal Heights

Jim Walker

The show is a very simple premise, but presented in such a subtle and sophisticated way that it slides by in a short burst of genius. From the breathtakingly bold opening which almost made me cry to the soft fade out of an ending this short, punchy and joy filled piece of musical theatre really surprised me and I left in a thoughtful and uplifted mood.

Based on the journals of Edward Walker, a gay man forcibly outed in 1950s San Diego, this one-man show explores in a hilarious & moving musical fashion the wonder of difference and sexuality & the cost of silence and how (as St Harvey of the Milk might have said) hope can never be silent as long as there’s a good tune to hum.

It’s also the best new thing I have seen so far in the Fringe, so BOOK NOW!


Written by Jim Walker who worked on the songs with Gary Grundei this is fresh honest and clever theatre. The songs are very crafty and witty, with some delightful complex rhymes and subtle timed jokes. I was seriously impressed with the quality of the songs, and they made me laugh out loud and more importantly I, and the rest of the audience, left singing them. That’s the mark of a good musical for me; when you can recall, hum and sing the songs after you’ve left.

Walker and the Grundei Team (one director, one song writer)  have managed to capture the personality of Uncle Edwards quixotic, eclectic and wonderfully teasey personality in these songs while setting them against a dry, unforgiving background of a mean hearted hetro normative America that doesn’t wish to acknowledge their vibrant inclusive melodies that O! Sing of the body electric and that the pursuit of happiness is indeed a universal right.

See the Normal Heights website here:

Walker brings Uncle Edward and his ‘friend’ and lover of 25 long and wonderful years to brilliant, vivacious life on stage and also tenderly gives us the heartbreakingly sad moment of death too. I caught my breath at this point and when I read later that all of Edwards’s dialogue came from his own dairies before being worked into this show I understood why they felt so starkly honest. Only someone who lives so fully in the light can embrace the darkness of death with such simplicity. I was reminded of Harvey Feinstein in ‘Torch Song Trilogy’ at more than one point and that’s no cheap flattery.

website nroaml 3

Although this play is about invisibility, silence, repression, bigotry and hate what we actually get is a solid inspirational hour of one man and his love and the way he managed to preserve the dignity of his relationship in the face of a bitter prejudice from county and family.

Walker changes tone and voice to bring to life each of the various characters portrayed and he does this convincingly and never confuses us. The use of some simple props and suggestions of correspondence gives this play the ability to show the inner voice of Uncle Edward as the story develops and shunts the narrative along its freewheeling chronological tracks.  We get to feel different flowerings and allowings of masculinity and tenderness too, contrasted and held up to our all seeing audience gaze, but little judgment is shown in this piece, at its heart is the unconditional embrace of acceptance.

Adam Walker who provided the musical accompaniment throughout the show was also very warm and engaging and there’s some real chemistry between these pair when they are on stage.

Walker should be congratulated for this piece of work; it’s charming and seriously touching while never ever dipping into mawkishness or melancholy. Even in his saddest moments Uncle Edward shines with hope, and when going full pelt into the shining light of living life fully (he) is a force of nature.  I had my own version of Uncle Edward, snatched far too swiftly in the early brutal scything away of the Wondrous Ones by HIV and for an hour on Saturday night at the Duke Box theatre I was transported again into the magical world of hopeful high camp, serious fun and the triumph of loves recovery in the face of the grey suffocating demands of conformity.

Thank you Uncle Edward, for reminding us of the importance of being frivolous and well done Walker and The Grundei’s for this touching, funny and life affirming hour of delightful musical theatre.

Recommended, book now!

For more info or to book tickets see the fringe website here:

Plays until May 19

12-13 May 20:00   17-19 May 19:00

The Latest Bar, Manchester St, Brighton

Then up to the Leicester Square Theatre May 25-28.  More info here: