Edinburgh Fringe 2015
An immersive experience that has you reaching for that life jacket under your seat, only to find it’s not there! Cheap-skate airlines are now compromising passenger safety now, it appears.
Buckle Up is an immersive piece set on a Boeing 737 going nowhere fast – they can’t find the pilot and anyway, he’s likely to be still hung over from the night before.
Welcoming audience members with those sweet as saccharine smiles that pass for sincerity and service aboard almost any airline these days, the actors bundle “passengers” into their seats with as much care and consideration as you would find on almost any budget airline across the world. And this being a cheap-skate airline, the seats (crammed in 5 each side of the aisle) are small and uncomfortable and, yes, there’s a fat bloke sat next to me with wobbly bits spilling over onto my lap, making note-taking all but impossible.
Budge-It Air’s staff exude incompetence and incivility in a manner that reminded me of The High Life, a one-time 1990’s series featuring a kitsch Scottish airline, Air Scotia, written by and starring that comic couple, Forbes Mason and Alan Cummings – cabin attendants more focused on who slept with whom last night and a cabin supervisor more akin to Hitler in tights.
So far, so good. But, despite some admirable acting from cabin crew Katie Arnstein, Meg McCarthy and the engaging Andrew Hollingworth, the piece struggles to get airborne. There’s a string of all-too predictable pokes at airline industry habits that don’t really provide the lift the wings need to get us off the ground.
But the interjection of the objectionable (in this case a passenger, played by co-writer Tim Gutteridge) finally supplies the oomph required for lift-off and, in a hectic and quite absurd final twenty minutes, the audience is (almost literally) immersed in a satirical, absurd and surreal drama with an amusing, if possibly predictable denouement. Madness it may be, but what is madness but a different way of thinking?
You can’t fault the energy and commitment of the cast who certainly succeed in involving the audience with their 360 degree approach to staging the piece. It resulted in a few cricked necks as people kept spinning round to keep up with the unfolding drama but, once we were flying, there was no danger of the thing stalling. Tighter writing at the front end and more direct audience immersion has the potential to make this a really compelling piece. Still worth a look, it’s a cheapie airline after all.