When you’re visiting the Edinburgh Fringe it should almost be a point of principal that you take in at least one show that is a piece of new writing. Just because you’re online rather than in situ there’s no reason not to apply similar behaviour, hence I headed for a piece called Lost In Love by Nathan Kean and Megan Bowie. It’s a monologue show – and haven’t there been plenty of those over the last 18 months? – which tells one woman’s story about her relationships with an old partner and a possible new one, with her ex best friend and her flatmate but mostly about her relationship with herself. Emily “confesses” to an unseen figure who might be the police, a psychiatrist or (though probably not) a priest; it is, however, definitely us. She has something to say but prevaricates with all sorts of diversions which while interesting and slowly build a picture of the character mean that it takes rather too long to get to the heart of the piece.
Rachel Pryde plays a gallery of characters neatly differentiating them vocally and physically such that we experience them through the lens of the protagonist. What comes across is that she really doesn’t seem to like anyone very much except her ex David and, as we discover, that was not the most sensible of choices. Principally though she is Emily – outwardly tough and cynical but underneath just as vulnerable as the rest of us. I’m afraid this play is inevitably going to be compared to Fleabag as it seems to be heading in the same direction (perhaps that’s why I thought of the priest) with its apparently unrestrained central character and all its talk of drunken nights out, sexual encounters and generally reprehensible behaviour being used to mask a rather darker set of circumstances. If this is meant to shock then the effect has been somewhat diluted by Phoebe Waller Bridge getting there first. The staging of the piece is also very similar – one actor, one chair and there are even what seem like specific borrowings – Fleabag had “bus rodent” while Lost In Love has “constipated face”. However, the advice is to stick with it as in the last fifteen minutes or so the writing really takes off and heads things in a new direction which makes the play so much more interesting. However, with so many monologue pieces currently vying for attention there really isn’t anything different enough about this to make it stand out.
From a monologue to a duologue with a piece called Jigsaw. This turns out to be a perfect title as the show is certainly a puzzle and the disparate and irregular shaped pieces of it are gradually brought together to form a complete picture. Like the previous piece it is about connection but through digital channels rather than physical ones. Two men Paul and Simon (and yes there is “a cat” called Garfunkel) have had a friendship, become estranged and are tying to reconnect over the internet; this is not straightforward. One has just lost his father and the other has a growth on his brain and, as they are men, neither really wants to talk about it. Instead, they discuss Marvel comic book films/characters, try and deconstruct the laws of thermodynamics, play with fruit, set each other daft quizzes and engage in hoho banter. Typical is this exchange: “He was shot!”….”What like out of a cannon?”….”No, out of the blue”. Boom boom! In between the various conversations the two characters go into reveries which are highly poetic in tone and accompanied by some splendidly realised and mesmerising animations from Hello Pocket.
Two of production company Small Creature’s four founders James Cuningham and Iain Robinson play Paul and Simon in an engaging fashion. With a comedy double act sensibility, they talk about everything and nothing as they try to join the dots on their lives sometimes trying to hammer into place two ill fitting pieces and then having to start again. The other two founders Sylvaine Strike and Karen Logan direct the various elements. What emerges is a carefully crafted artwork with both theatrical and filmic components which makes for an engaging experience. Just don’t expect much by way of a plotline; it’s all in the playful dialogue and interaction between the mundane video conferencing and the stunning visuals.
Today’s bonus Scenes For Survival piece: Courier Culture by Kevin P. Gilday. A sharp five minutes with a fast food delivery biker (Jatinder Singh Randhawa) on the pandemic deserted streets of Glasgow as he races to keep his ratings up and justify his newly acquired status as a key worker. Interesting character study.
Lost In Love and Jigsaw are available via the Edinburgh Fringe Festival click here
Scenes For Survival pieces are available from the NTS website – click here; a number are also available on BBC iPlayer – click here
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