Edinburgh Fringe 2011
One morning you’re eating breakfast and another house falls on top of your home. It gets even stranger when you discover this is the Holy House – where Mary conceived Jesus – which has a history of flitting from place to place. Although it’s not left Italy since the 12th Century, Sam thinks it’s arrived because he needs a miracle. In this compelling but ultimately flawed play, Sam has to deal with mad dentists, troubled teens, drug addicts and his grandfather’s exploding wheelchair as his life goes from bad to worse.
Writer and director, Mark Thomson (Artistic Director of the Royal Lyceum Theatre) has one of the most extraordinary ideas for a play – the Holy House of Loreto which supposedly has flitted all around the Mediterranean. The central character, Sam, like many people in modern Britain, thinks only a miracle will save him. He’s 24, fat, living at home with his parents and has not even the hope of a job. He spends his days watching TV and playing computer games. The show starts with a coup de theatre where a wall drops onto the set, crushes his father and traps his mother on the other side.
Sam is played by Grant O’ Rourke and has just the right combination of vulnerability and belligerence. He really hooks us into the drama and we hope the arrival of the Holy House is going to bring some joy into his empty life. Meanwhile, Liam Brennan and Molly Innes play his mother and father and all the other characters he meets in the next twenty-four hours while he tries to make sense of the destruction of his home. Molly Innes is particularly convincing playing everything from a kid who thinks Sam is pedo looking at her non existent tits to a harassed businesswoman.
Unfortunately, after a great set-up, the play loses pace as Sam switches on his TV and we get a long, long interview with an expert on the Holy House – it really does exist – and instead of rescuing his parents (his father’s legs are trapped under the wall and his mother is frightened of the dark) Sam goes off to search for the meaning behind this miracle.
What follows is a series of mixed encounters with residents in his home town, they range from the amusing to the twisted but none of them really lives up to the drama of the first ten minutes. Instead of being an active character, Gary wanders from place to place and events happen to him, none of which really change him. He starts out rather self-obsessed and selfish and ends the same way.
Although this has ambitions to be a ‘state of the nation’ play – and it captures well how religion, politics, money and love and can’t save us – it doesn’t really provide any fresh insights. Wondrous Flitting promised mystery, faith and transformation but gave us a rather ordinary play that never really takes off.