Edinburgh Fringe 2023
‘My name is Amanda. I have a nice life. Close to perfect. I have a great job. A house in a safe neighbourhood. A loving family. A dog. Westie. Furry little fellow. But in two hours, none of that will matter anymore. Because I’m going to call them. And when they’re done, there will be nothing left of any of it.’
This is the first play by Jonas Müller. Apparently.
It’s based on a true story. Apparently
Tim Honnef’s work is deceptively naturalistic. If you have yet to encounter it then I suggest you stop reading now, buy a ticket and go and see it. Arriving into his extraordinarily layered and complex world of story with no knowledge of what is to come is the sort of experience we all come to the Fringe in search of.
We arrive to the evocative strains of Ma Plus Belle Histoire d’Amour and Du Bout Des Lévres by 1960s French singer/songwriter Barbara setting the scene for a tale that takes place in Brussels.
Studio 5 at Assembly is not the most theatrical of spaces in which to create a rundown housing estate in Brussels Midi, being a small lecture theatre but does benefit from built in raked seating meaning everyone in the audience has a clear view of the stage.
Amanda be Beer (Alex Lacey) is sitting on the stage, a script in her hand with a small table sporting a landline, a glass of wine and a mobile phone.
Some elements are familiar from other work by Honnef – the mobile to operate the music from the stage, the starting point of something to be read. In this the apparently first script by Jonas Muller.
Amanda quickly tires of Muller’s attempt to tell her story through a script he has not let her see till the first performance and announces she will tell us the truth, tell us what really happened.
Lacey is completely at ease in the space, moving between reminiscence, direct address and reading Muller’s terrible script pacing each element perfectly. She promises us the true story, the whole story.
Only being Honnef we can’t ever be sure that that is actually what she is doing, there are hints aplenty but we never quite arrive at the definitive what happened. With each twist and turn she draws us further in and then slips sideways into a different thread. Which is absorbing, intriguing and deeply frustrating in equal parts.
We want to know what happened but at the same time I found the only getting hints was interesting, provocative – had this concerned real events it would have brought home how often the perpetrator (of whatever it was) gets more attention than the victims or those affected by the events. In this story we focus on the world for Amanda, the impact and fall out of whatever it was that her father did. The way the media, neighbours, former friends have behaved towards her. Her mixed and ambivalent feelings towards both her father (the apparent perpetrator) and Jonas Muller (another perpetrator in the sense that he has taken her story to use to his own ends).
It is mesmerising, you could have heard the proverbial pin drop throughout the hour’s performance (except when we were laughing which was fairly often).
At the end we are left wondering exactly who was lying, and about what, but somehow it doesn’t seem to matter because we have been told what really happened. Apparently.
The combination of Honnef’s exquisitely layered script, weaving its way through a story we can never quite grasp delivered by a consummate actor is rather like a delicious leisurely meal, each mouthful to be savoured.