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Edinburgh Fringe 2013

The Break-Up of Cause and Effect

Piece of Tish Work (USA)

Genre: Drama

Venue: C Nova


Low Down

Cause and Effect have been inseparable for several millennia, but Cause wants out.  He wants to join the circus; he is tired of being the one who has to make all the effort, while his eternal partner gets all the fun.  However, it isn’t proving that easy to get out of the Law of Causality – especially when his long time partner, Effect, doesn’t want him to leave…


The Breakup of Cause and Effect is written by Larry Jay Tish and performed by Tish and Rob DiNinno. The pair have worked together extensively in sketch comedy and improvisation and are clearly very comfortable together on stage. The play aims to explore ‘the nature of fate, karma, destiny, coincidence, synchronicity and personal responsibility’ – which could be a big ask in fifty minutes and potentially rather heavy going.

But…this is a witty clever piece full to the brim with wonderful puns, plays on words and sharp wit – as well as some very neat and perfectly digestible nuggets of classical philosophy.

Underlying the, admittedly limited, plot (Cause wants to leave, Cause tries to leave, Effect stops him, several times, Cause does leave, the universe falls apart, they get back together)  is an introduction to the Law of Causality – the relation between an event (the cause) and a second event (the effect), where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first (Wikipedia!). However, Cause (Rob DiNinni) has had quite enough of being the first event, the one that doesn’t get any of the fun as he sees it. Although he does take a perverse delight in eating things that will give Effect (Larry Jay Tish) indigestion, so it isn’t all bad.

As Cause argues his case for leaving, drawing on the philosopher Hume (that we only observe related events and then assume one causes the other), Effect wheels out Aristotle and Kant to persuade his long time mate that they really are inseparable and together form one of the unbreakable laws of the universe. These elements are intertwined in a way that never feels like exposition and part of the skill of the two actors is that in these brief lectures we still feel that they are trying to convince each other – we are merely onlookers.

Eventually Cause does manage to take off and we see something of the impact of breaking the law of causality – the chaos that would result. This was perhaps the one part of the play that I would have like to have seen extended a little. The law of causality is something that we take for granted and I felt that Tish’s absurdist approach could have made more of the potential impacts. It felt as though the script rushed a little at this point having done such a superb job of exploring the nature of the law of causality.

It probably isn’t a plot spoiler to say that they do eventually make up – if they didn’t we might not have the rest of the Fringe. And where would we be then!

The pace never flags with the two actors totally at ease with each other and their material. Their experience of improv was demonstrated as they drew a latecomer into the story to argue about and illustrate their respective views. And at fifty minutes it is that perfect Fringe length, where you haven’t once wondered whether you will still be in in time for the next show you are going to and you come to the end still wanting more.

Overall a tightly written, very funny and thought provoking piece performed with tremendous panache.  Well worth seeing. It might even have you Googling ‘Aristotle on causality’…