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Edinburgh Fringe 2010

The Six-Sided Man

Nicholas Collett and Gavin Robertson

Genre: Physical Theatre

Venue: The Zoo


Low Down

Choice, freewill and fate battle it out in this gripping two-man physical theatre piece, inspired by Luke Rhinehart’s ‘The Dice Man’


Book-ended by the fable of a captive lion that discovers true freedom, we are presented with the story of ‘The Six-sided Man’. The ‘once upon a time’ opening, along with the darkened room and the actors warily circling each other gives a sense that we are watching some kind of fairytale for adults – a morality tale of the darkest kind.

Nicholas Collett plays the Psychiatrist admirably, losing faith in his job and his life until he invents the rules of the die and gradually starts living by them.  But it is when he introduces ‘the rules’ to others that the story really begins to turn sinister and Collett plays the character’s gradual moral disintegration with subtlety and naturalism, so much so that his actions start to feel terrifyingly reasonable.

Delicate moments of comedy (the inkblot scene) combine with heart-stopping tension, flashes of mental pain and underplayed frustration. As the Psychiatrist explains the development of his theories to the audience he becomes increasingly watched by a mysterious ‘other’ in one of the three doorways that represent choices he can make.

The use of physical theatre in this is just astounding, both in its specifics and its simplicity – here, Gavin Robertson really comes into his own delighting the audience with the skill of a gifted mime, deftly opening imaginary windows, cleaning imaginary machinery and living out imaginary conquests; through this it becomes difficult to distinguish between reality and fantasy as the edges begin to blur for the characters. Similarly, Robertson’s role seems firstly that of a specific patient but gradually the edges get smudged and by the end of the performance it’s hard to tell whether this is the Patient himself or a kind of ‘Everyman’ – a representation of the six-sided man’s inflexible disciples.

This is a gripping piece of physical theatre, full of dark menace, creating a sense of inevitability which, rather than turning us off, holds the audience in its grasp to the very end.