Edinburgh Fringe 2021
When Will is pestered by his friend Billy to see his gig, his encounter with the glamourous Candy proves to be more than he bargained for.
Will is in a bit of a bind. His mate Billy has asked him to go to his gig – and he’s run out of excuses. (We’ve all been there). He won’t let him off the hook so it’s time to embrace the moment – and meet Candy.
We glimpse into an empty dressing room, where there’s a discarded costume and a wig – and a microphone – which allows Will (Michael Waller) to begin his story. Moving the action to a sleazy bar setting where a blues piano plays softly in the background, Will debates whether such a thing as “love at first sight” really exists and whether there might have been more to Romeo in that famous tragedy, that he’s not just a lovestruck fool. In his own words “I’m not just a pretty face – I know stuff”.
Sitting in the club with his mates, Will watches Candy takes to the stage and is hit by a lightning bolt. It clearly rocks his foundations that everything he’s taken for granted, every taught normality, every social convention is being tested and questioned. The question of morality doesn’t arise – this is about asking honest questions about identifying and interaction – and how that plays out in this northern bar. When Will sees Candy for the first time he says “it’s like coming home” and “this is a woman – not someone in cheap lippy” – and in that moment he is disarmed and disarming.
Billy emerges and leaves Candy in the dressing room with a breezy “thanks for coming, did you enjoy the show?”, but that’s not the end of the new relationship. Will now starts to obsess over his fantasy, even to the point of erotic dreams – with surprising conclusions. But just like the itch you want to scratch, Will can’t stay away.
Another visit to see Candy sees Will declare his hand – he’s “in love with the female part that’s hidden away”, but this is clearly more about spiritual than physical passion.
This encounter results in a different, not so pleasant conclusion where Billy draws a firm line between the stage persona and real life – and Will responds to the rejection with “Every part of me throws up – except my heart”
Our latter day Romeo’s rose tinted glasses are stamped underfoot. Distraught, he rushes for the comfort of hearth and home, where his grandmother “Toadface” is watching yet another rom-com – “Love Actually”. When Will hears that famous line – “At Christmas you always tell the truth”, his reply is a simple “Do you?”. Will gets a text from Billy – but he’s all torn up and can’t respond – and now he doesn’t see that crowd anymore. “I love Candy – and if that means never seeing Billy again then so be it” is a shrugged acceptance.
He dreams of Candy one more time, but this time the spell is broken – and Candy is gone – like a curl of cigarette smoke in that dingy bar.
There’s a lot packed into this piece, raising intelligent questions about the eternal confusion about who we are, who we aspire to be and how others see us.
Michael Waller as Will displays a nice vulnerability, as well as some frustration and nicely contained anger. He’s clearly out of his depth with a challenge like Candy and we get a glimpse of a fairly normal heterosexual man having his world shaken up. His Candy is controlled and centred.
Tim Fraser’s script clips along nicely and each of the beats of the story are nicely observed and well-textured. With more than a nod to the recollections of Ray Davies’ hit “Lola” – “Well, I’m not the world’s most passionate guy
But when I looked in her eyes, well I almost fell for my Lola”, this 20 minute playlet is like a long format teaser trailer. I look forward to seeing the themes develop in the promised hour long version.