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Edinburgh Fringe 2023


PigPen Productions

Genre: Absurd Theatre, New Writing

Venue: Zoo Southside


Low Down

At the side of a road an unnamed man sits atop a box. Bursting into life he has been looking for a verse in his bible, and his outburst draws us to that search. After a few minutes or so of fruitless searching, in his book, another man arrives pulling an empty coffin. Their musings and discussions, whilst there is a far off volume of steady gunfire, meanders over their conversation until both leave, both alive, but only one walking.


It’s been a long time since I have seen a performance that was this good. As someone who is no lover of Beckett, this was partly in homage to his most famous of works but also completely at odds with it. It initially left me conflicted. What solved that inner turmoil were the performances of both actors. Young and acting well beyond their years, they portrayed a knowledge that was clear and beautiful in the context of some ugly truths.

And I may never fight over an apple again.

The script has little by way of a narrative. It is centrally working round a relationship which has so much going for it. What it has in abundance is a couple of really well defined and developed characters. Both actors have created people who are as odd as each other and as sane as the circumstances in which they find themselves. They have a coffin between them. That it ends up as the central piece between them by the end is pretty remarkable, given how that ends up part of their final relationship.

To describe the script as it meanders through pleasantries and charm, threat and discord, is difficult because it has such depth of hidden meaning within the context of its own absurdity. It bristles with great work and makes itself a very significant platform.

Taken with a deft hand upon direction, this has an exceptional understanding of itself. The highs and lows, peaks and troughs are beautifully touched upon. We have the speeding up and volume of looking for the difference between two words, followed by their synonyms and antonyms and eventually the landing place for the apple core which flew in the melee. Each is layered within the whole, giving this a context without a place upon which it needs to rest. It’s sublime.

Perhaps the best example of how direction was well considered was our introduction to the two characters. Our first, enthusiastically looking for a verse in the bible starts us with some solo work that speaks to the oddness of his existence. Then a door crashes open and in comes someone else dragging a coffin. But our first character has managed to create a dominant force but with sufficient gaps onstage that an equally forceful characterisation has the space to inhabit it. Neither are similar and yet they share similarities. It is their physicality of uniqueness that is being celebrated.

But the key to the whole thing are the two performances. The idea of character begins upon the page but the skill on display takes that to an entirely different level. I sat back at one point and just wanted this to keep going. The middle east, the pandemic hangover, war in Ukraine, was there no subject matter I could not throw at this pair and expect some form of coherence? And yet they were still an incoherent mess – absurd, I know.

Perhaps the best example of such sublime absurd irony was when our first character stood shouting “Do not stand idly by” as unseen by him, his acquaintance with the coffin was choking on the floor beside him.

Technically, aside from the coffin, there was little by way of much technically and that allowed us to focus on the characters and their drama. Aside from a few noises seemingly from a far distant front somewhere, this was just settled as a piece of theatrical genius.

I came to this after a long day and sat to watch something that would at least wile away my time until it was time to go home. It woke me up straight away and from then reminded me that our engagement with theatre should always be full on. The commitment onstage woke me back up to that and the feeling I had when I left – of having seen something of genuine genius stayed with me and still has.

And so, two tramps at the side of the stage, waiting. Reminiscent? Perhaps, but to compare, in my view is unfair. I don’t think the Irish would come out favourably – but I know I would be alone in that view.