I saw three plays today. As I left the last one at around 10pm, I realised that they had all been performed in exactly the same space*, a black box studio with a capacity of 50 people or so. They contended with the same noisy intrusions from the outside world, had the same limited time to get in and out of the space and all had a run time of under an hour. Outside of these parameters, these shows were completely different in terms of content, emotion and success. Today was the perfect day at the Fringe.
*In reality not quite, but the difference between theatre 2 and theatre 3 in Surgeon's Hall is minimal.
Part 1 - Face 2 Face
The first of these shows was called Face to Face, a play that was very keen to warn me about the dangerous of becoming dependent on technology. And it did warn me. Often. Without a huge amount of subtlety. Someone sang a song about it.
The audience was guided through this near future world by a technophobic man, who falls in love with a woman that craves real human connection. The premise was not new, but considering the amount of friends that play with their phones during time we spend together, it was still very relevant.
There was a weirdness to the opening few scenes which I rather enjoyed. The interactions between the technophobic protagonist, an android coffee shop worker and an off-kilter supervisor smacked of something awkward and unseen, a truth that we were not party to yet but would reveal itself later.The opening exchanges between the two love interests even reminded me of Winston and Julia's relationship from 1984. And there were some genuinely funny moments delivered craftily by the actors.
But then the writers seemed to run out of steam.
There were times when the plot veered towards exploring other social topics like an unwelcoming Brexit Britain, invasion of privacy or the loss of jobs due to AI. But these threads did not lead anywhere. The characters lost their early quirks and became something much more tired. There was even the odd, cringe inducing stereotype thrown in for good measure.
Considering the short time they have to get in and out of the space, the set was practical and the changes slick. However, living up to this vision of a shiny, tech-heavy world was always going to be difficult to achieve. And as the play went on, I believed it less and less.
I do think this is a show with potential. I hope the company uses these performances as a springboard to develop it further and give it the time and love it needs to improve. And ultimately, the Fringe is the exactly the sort of place that shows come to do that.
Just before I reveal my rating I should point out the one thing that frustrated me most. The ending was extremely abrupt, to the point that the actors had to walk out on stage for their curtain call before anyone clapped. There is nothing more frustrating than to leave a show without a satisfying