Edinburgh Fringe 2015
A modern farce with confusion and misunderstandings aplenty as Alex tries to declare his love for Sarah, his parents try to find out if he is gay and his friend Tim just wants to cause chaos. With a fancy dress party thrown in for good measure.
Alex wants to tell Sarah he loves her. So, when his parents give him permission to have an unsupervised Halloween party he hopes that alcohol and fancy dress will ease the path of true love. However, it seems that his parents might not be quite as out of the way as he thought. Alex’s mother wants to know if he’s gay, Alex’s father wants to hide the whisky and Alex’s pre-university friend, Tim, wants to create mayhem. And a facny dress party provides the opportunity for everyone to be someone else and keep an eye on… someone else.
This entertaining new piece from young writer Rory Makenzie is almost farce as confusions and misunderstanding build to a climax and the six actors chase each other around, across and through the stage – no mean feat given the limited backstage space of the Vault.
Angus Russell as Alex gives us a nicely gauche young lover – who could conceivably be gay, only he isn’t. Tom Giles as Tim demonstrates skilful comic timing as he manipulates everyone and Fay Morrice (Rachel) and Ben Glaister (Bruce) achieve creditable performances as Alex’s parents given that the cast are all undergraduates. Alex’s patient and slightly lovelorn girlfriend Sarah (Cara Mahoney) is warm and engaging and her friend Anna (Isabelle Arnson) thoroughly spiky.
The story highlights the complex area of sexuality not only for the young but for their parents, trying to be supportive without intruding. Glaister’s confusion as a father is particularly funny.
The writing is pacey and witty with lots of clever word play worked into the dialogue in very natural ways. The characters are nicely drawn although without any great depth. I wasn’t entirely clear about the choice of title or the Teddy Bear’s Picnic as the theme – it suggests that the Bear (Tim) is central to the story and he is, in that he triggers the misunderstandings and then fans the flames much as Puck does in Midsummer Night’s Dream. But, unlike Puck he seems to have no particular reason for creating the mayhem. Makenzie sets up some nice hints that he might be jealous; wanting to cling on to a childhood friendship, or having his own complex feelings for Alex, but nothing ever comes of that. There is scope for this play to be not only very funny but also to be much darker – threads of confusing sexuality, 21st century parenting and the nature of childhood friendships that change as each go different ways.
The set struggles a little for space on the tiny stage at the Vault, not helped by the numerous blackouts for scene changes. Blackouts slow everything down, especially in a play of only an hour. In contrast, there are a number of places where the action simply moves between characters by a change in lighting and those not in the action freeze or leave – it works, it keeps the story going in a way that plunging the stage into darkness doesn’t. It is the cast rather than stage crew who are doing the change so I felt that turning the bed or wardrobe could have been done under the final lines of a scene as the action moves into the next one.
Overall, this is laugh out loud piece from a young writer that I am sure we will hear much more from.