Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Alan’s play has been dissed. David’s doesn’t feel appreciated by actors or critics. Sara can’t get past the casting couch. With an air of effortless superiority and utter disdain for those outside their small circle, three ageing artistes lament the lack of respect in which their profession is held.
The opening bars of Handel’s ‘Zadok The Priest’ symbolically usher Alan, an actor turned writer, onto the stage, bare but for a single chair bathed in a pool of light. David, Alan’s writer chum, pours himself on to greet his chum, which they do with an orgy of matiness.
And so the lamenting begins. Turns out Alan’s debut play has received less than glowing tributes from those in the fourth estate and Alan is hacked off, pacing around the stage giving vent to his feelings. David can but sympathise. As a writer he knows what it’s like to have his words played with, by actors and critics alike. The balletic Sara, Alan’s muse, flits daintily in to add her tuppence worth to the general debate about whether writers need actors or vice versa and how the prols simply don’t understand those whose mission in life it is to bring the printed word to life, in addition to berating those who she regards as denying her rightful place in the spotlight – casting directors.
And so we tumble through Steven Berkoff’s new play, with him in the lead supported by the admirable Jay Benedict and Andree Bernard. Written part in iambic pentameter and part prose, there are Shakespearesque characters, soliloquies and even plots littered like fallen leaves throughout.
As you might expect, the text is rich and delivered with relish in a style redolent of commedia dell’arte, luvvie stereotypes that anyone with any experience in the performing arts would instantly recognize. And with not a physical prop in sight, the actors can give free rein to their talent as mime artists. This being a show about the theatre, there is plenty of opportunity for simulated drinking, smoking, eating and even sex although, given the age of the male lead that bit was over rather quickly.
This was an amusing hour, well-acted, nicely paced and with enough humour to keep us interested. But the focus of the lamenting was rather too predictable, too introspective, suggesting perhaps that Berkoff’s view of the theatre and its power to influence, change, educate and shock might be getting a little dated. The dedicated Fringe-goer who has time to take in plenty of what Edinburgh has to offer over these three weeks will, no doubt, enjoy this and on that basis I commend it to you. Those of you looking for a little more meat and meaning to your drama might be better advised to look elsewhere.