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.
Rounding off the shows today was a piece in complete contrast to the first two. I had moved from a difficult play with good intentions, to a titan of silly comedy and finished with a one hander which formed part of the Fringe's series on death and bereavement, Canoe.
Canoe is the brainchild of Martin Roberts, in collaboration with director, Struan Leslie. As was evidenced by the programme, it had been through a number of different guises, chopped and changed to arrive at the final show today. This originally caused me to be wary of what I might see. In my experience plays as personal as this obviously was, have a tendency to become overworked and overwritten. I was so happy to be proved wrong.
The basic plot concerned a male couple helping each other through the death of their children in a canoe accident. It deals with issues of social stigma, social media, family and, of course, loss.
The plot was delivered in poetic verse as much as prose, one character in particular, a writer, using his books to express his grief. The language could only be described as beautiful, often lulling you into feeling safe before the the actor would burst out into the next scene, exploding with anger or sadness.
Like Cream Tea and Incest, show number two, there was no faulting the actor's commitment to the role. In other hands you could image the characters being played melodramatically, but Roberts kept a grip on reality and transitioned smoothly between his different guises. He was a vocal chameleon, and filled the stage with his presence.
Despite there being plenty of noise coming from the outside, I could not hear it as I had before. I felt very cocooned inside the theatre as he spoke, his voice commanding and soothing at the same time.
The play was not heavy, not in the way I was expecting; it made me think more than it made me cry. It is a brilliant piece of acting and I believe that everyone who goes will get something different from it.
As such, I rate it as a New Caledonian Crow. It is intelligent, beautiful and will remain in my mind for a while to come .