Edinburgh Fringe 2011
This has at its heart a fascinating concept – actors aware of being in a play about an affair during which they decide they will embark on an affair too. Played with pace and great performances from the actors it attempts to deconstruct the process of theatre a la Pirandello – and give us an insight into the mix between an actor’s reality and performance. In amongst this we are treated to a treatise on alcoholism that is both scarily accurate and insightful. Not so much 100 ways to leave your alcoholic partner but more 100 ways to keep yourself sane whilst trying to live with him.
The text was an interesting eclectic mix between the story of the actors and the relationship between their characters. Both had a string story to tell and the actors managed to perform this with sizzle and zest. The staging and design – a mess of paper and props along with a live theatre technician interacting onstage – was great. Set the whole thing in a context and gave the performance springboard from which to launch – like the tiger!
It set high values and managed to achieve them with some to spare. I have to say that the play was probably ten minutes too long as the resolution of the actors admitting to their crushes disappointed. I would have stopped after the elderly section. It was a great ending and the resolution of other strands would not have mattered if we had finished there. It is a fight between the writer’s craft and the director’s vision. Text versus performance. As the writer and the director for this – Amy Tofte – are one and the same so an internal dialogue offstage may be needed to resolve the onstage dilemma.
I would enjoy seeing this redone and in a second production. It captivated my attention and that of the audience whilst asking very fundamental issues of theatre in a way that was engaging, rich, deep and most of all fun. It understood the need for complexity – it was not enough to be clever about the actors knowing they are in a play – the “is he/is he not gay?” storyline and the alcoholic theme – were handled very well. The context gives the actors more to play with and we get more in return.
It is fair to say that in a day of seeing plays that were classic texts or revivals of well known plays you worry that new writing will stand up alongside them. This does so very well. The Fringe should be an explosion of new emerging writers and Amy Tofte can take her place amongst them with this piece.
On a couple of occasions the actors did end up over talking each other and there were either some very clever interplay or some slips. It came across as slips as the text was fluid and loose rather than prescriptive.
I saw sufficient flaws – text too long, some interaction issues – that I could not give a 5 star review but with further experience I could see Amy Tofte returning with a triumph in the future. In the meantime I would ay it a visit. You won’t be disappointed.