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Edinburgh Fringe 2018

A Joke

Universal Arts and Scene Change Productions

Genre: Comedic, Comedy, Contemporary, Drama, Fringe Theatre, Physical Comedy, Slapstick Comedy, Theatre

Venue: Assembly Ballroom


Low Down

Sylvester McCoy (Dr Who, Hobbit), Robert Picardo (Star Trek Voyager, Stargate Atlantis) and John Bett (Shallow Grave, Tess) star in Dan Freeman’s play exploring our attitudes to humour and life. An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman find themselves in a void and must work out who and where they are. Are they constituents of a story, or is the joke on them? They approach the world respectively with fear, optimism and acceptance and gradually begin to solve the mystery of their own existence and ours.


The audience is greeted with grandeur as we enter the Assembly Rooms Ballroom, chandeliers hang from the ceiling complementing the flaxen set beautifully. The audience is immediately feeling ethereal as they contemplate the Sartre-esque possibilities of the piece to come.

The whole premise of the show is that it is, in fact, a joke. And Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman find themselves in a white world with no idea how they arrived, who they are, what they are there for or how long they are going to be stuck there for.

Solid performances from the masters in their art, it was a privilege to witness such great actors, Sylvester McCoy, Robert Picardo and John Bett effortlessly guide us through their tale of wow. Moving a chair and suddenly we’re on a bus, moving a table and we’re in a bar, on a plane, on a cliff edge….the list goes on. The physical theatre elements were masterful as whole worlds were created with a simple glance or gesture. The audience were transported without question from scene to scene laughing all the while as they try to figure out their purpose in this uncertain world. There are laughs and big laughs and moments of stillness and sadness. They are plagued with their purpose as we all our in our own lives and this emotes through their efforts to ‘out joke’ each other. There are moments of clarity where they are certain there is another place and a certain purpose but where that ends surely no one can ever really know.

Sadly the joke landed a little flat at points as the writing relied slightly too much on the punchline rather than the narrative and the sense of the piece relied too heavily on the gravitas of the actors rather than the story they were trying to tell. But still we are with them from joke to joke, scenario to scenario, the comic timing is there, the hilarity is there and the overall premise is there.

When we leave we understand what we are meant to understand and I wont give you any spoilers. You will leave satisfied there is no doubt about that but some may feel sad about what could have been a truly astounding show. These three men together on stage are well worth seeing this year in Edinburgh. Recommended.