FringeReview Scotland 2019
Kevin is dead. Having wondered how he might fall off this mortal soil, he is mortified to discover that a freak accident would take his life from him and send him to his death. There he finds that rather than entering the Kingdom of Heaven after receiving the aplomb he deserves for his life’s masterpiece he is going to suffer from being unable to begin, complete and perform it; except he then does and takes us through Kevin’s view of how to get past the circles of Dante’s inferno which, because of cut backs are now down to four. Helped by someone he believes is his Guardian Angel his life, his love and his poetry are given to us with a side show, from the voice and the video of purgatory that turns out to be Edinburgh.
The strongest part of this was the spoken word and poetry given to us by Gilday. As a poet with something to say he has managed to find his voice and give us his perspective with clarity, creativity and vigour. There were times when this would have been more than enough to keep me in the venue beyond the allotted time. Gilday is an engaging and a presence with listening to and is a poet of passion.
The problem for me was the delivery of the conceit; the structure of the death and how it is handled. If anyone proved that playing yourself onstage is a tough gig, Kevin P Gilday managed it. Where there was skill in the poetry there was a lack of contrasting emotions in the playing and working with the disembodied voice of Lazarus. At times it veered to the emotionally monotone and despite beginning with the bewildered and confused look at the beginning, gaining momentum when a Glaswegian realises purgatory is being stuck in THAT other city with screams and horror, the emotional growth in between was largely absent; it needed to have more performance and an emotional map to follow with more than the gesture of holding your head in your hands at each daft wee turn.
Even the idea that purgatory was Edinburgh was a cheap laugh – and it got plenty – but with the skill on display of the poetry, it was unworthy.
The direction therefore has to take some of the blame and yet between that and to presence of Gilday who’s yoga sequence introduced us to a number of set pieces that had promise – we all knew what the likely score was going to be in the poetry slam but at least 1 of the crowd giving him a 1 would have been more interesting.
The set was good, the video sequences were similarly well done and I did like the piece in the pub as well as some of the background material, though the number of past photographs could be increased to stop us seeing the same ones over and over for an hour plus.
Gilday is a gift to a director, a stage presence that can put you in the palm of his hand, the idea has great merit and the set pieces are just a little short of being the match to the poetry. It was great to sit and watch and I hope that should it return with some stronger direction, then it can triumph and push the inferno burning into our hearts to see more; just now it’s ignited and needs fed.