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Edinburgh Fringe 2022


Haywire Theatre

Genre: New Writing

Venue: Greenside @ Infirmary Street


Low Down

Haywire Theatre takes us on a journey through the history of one tree, with only our ears to guide us. Poetic storytelling and bold staging guide us through the mundane and the magical in a daring Fringe debut.


Haywire Theatre is a company with ambition and imagination in spades. Nyctophilia, penned by associate artist Isaac Sayward, is their Fringe debut and sets out their stall with great clarity. This is a piece that is not afraid to take risks and ask a lot of its audience, and it is all the better for it.

As we enter the space, we are greeted by Lob, an earthy spirit plucking half-heartedly on a banjolele and chatting with the audience. Wry and extremely likable, Catrin Mai Edwards’s Lob introduces us to the world of the play, a charming and necessary start to the piece, because this is not your average theatre-going experience. Pinned to the geographical location of one tree, Nyctophilia takes us back through history, covering the varied experiences that happen in its shade. The twist? All of this happens in complete darkness.

Although this may sound like an intimidating prospect the company have clearly thought about audience safety and have taken measures to make sure we are comfortable. There is a safe word to use in emergencies and upon arrival each audience member was provided with a small torch that they could use to exit the space if they wanted to. I very much appreciated this commitment to placing the people in the audience first, a practice that is not common. Personally I found it very much enhanced the experience, as I was able to relax more knowing that I wasn’t trapped.

The stories cover everything from the birth to death, from tentative first kisses to tearful farewells, occult rituals and squabbles among the fair folk. Sayward’s versatile writing captures the mundane and the magical and the way that these can begin to meld in the darkness. Edwards is joined by Theo Bimson and Cameron Lythgoe, who form a tight trio who, with direction from Olivia Clarke and Lisa Jayne, navigate a challenging text with aplomb. The whole piece is underscored by a detailed soundscape, providing subtle atmosphere when needed and becoming more imposing as we journey deeper into the folkloric past.

Although Nyctophilia is designed to be experienced in the dark, the play is at its most thrilling when a little bit of light is allowed on stage. The first story we hear in particular, which features two slightly drunk friends searching for a lost mobile phone, was particularly attention grabbing, as the phone torch being used on stage gave us half-lit glimpses of the actors. I would loved to have had a few more moments like this, as the tiny shafts of light really emphasised what we were not able to see, lending an air of mystery to even the more everyday tales.

Nyctophilia is not a perfect piece, but it certainly is a thrilling experiment. If this is the work that Haywire Theatre are creating now, I cannot wait to see what they are able to achieve as they continue to push boundaries.