Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Holly meets her foster brother Peter after a period of incarceration for a crime that is not quite as innocent – or guilty – as it appeared in court. The brother, a fairly controlling character, is exposed through careful conversation whilst his foster sister demonstrates a keen attempt at rebellion whilst still a bit of a submissive at heart.
We meet Sarah/Holly talking back to a disembodied voice which we assume may be her mother or at least someone in authority. It appears that she is about to be let go from somewhere and her nervousness is what attracts us to the story. Behind her and onstage is a man, who we discover is her foster brother, and is busy getting the Earl Grey ready for their reunion. After her instructions, Sarah leaves for a very awkward afternoon in the company of Peter and his questions, assumptions and manipulations.
This is a very simple piece of theatre, simply told with the simplest of sets. It means that we are left with the words and the interactions between our two characters to assess; there is literally nowhere onstage for either of them to hide.
And herein are some of my issues. The text suffers from taking some of the safe options – we have a middle class foster family with a troubled foster child. We have the man being the dominant and the woman seemingly unable to escape; we have the restart that was never enough for a reboot.
We also have a relationship between the two actors that lacks enough intensity to take you to the edge of your seat. This should crackle and it only fizzles.
It is however a piece of theatre with some heart. There is a decent amount of work which has been thrown at this to get it into a decent shape. The lack of sparkle in the script is accompanied by a direction that gets it right most of the time but also makes daft wee errors at others – if you are going from one place to another, leave the stage completely using the tabs as an exit and then an entrance – don’t just walk half way off and then turn to re-enter!
Whilst I may have had some reservations over the script what it does do well is handle the revelations. They are drip fed through and quite cleverly balanced. Both actors show great confidence and professionalism, refusing to let either one down when working off each other. The set does give us enough within it that it supports the tale without being part of the issues and technically there was unobtrusive lighting and sound that left us with the overall positivity of a play well made.
Drama sometimes, I think, struggles at the Fringe as comedy can be the one most people flock to “discover”. Anyone bringing a straight play should be given a pat on the back for just turning up; what happens once they get on a run is often as interesting as the run itself. I enjoyed it sufficiently not to notice it fell far short of its advertised time. This has a very good premise, a half decent script and some good actors. It just needed some of the nuts and bolts a little bit more tightened to make the machinery shine.