Various venues, Edinburgh
August, 2008
**** / **

It has long been a truism that virtually everywhere which can be turned into an Edinburgh Fringe venue, is. Maverick theatrical experience-monger Chris Goode has in the past taken this to glorious extremes by “touring” intimate shows to, well, your place. He is not directly involved in the wonderful Paperweight, but in both personnel and ethos it is very much a product of what one might call the Ecole Chris Goode. The same tiny space in the Assembly Rooms which was last year converted into a facsimile hotel room for the midget gem Scarborough is this time turned into a nondescript office; twenty or so audience members at a time perch on stools or storage boxes whilst Tom Frankland and Sebastien Lawson work through a day in the unspecified, catch-all “Resources” department of a large company.

With little dialogue, they wring comedy, poignancy and even a kind of transcendence out of this ordinary set-up. The hyper-banal rubs up against the gratuitous and surreal (and I do not use that latter term as a lazy critical staple). Much is unexplained and left for us to infer; a number of jokes and insights are placed like “Easter eggs” in a computer program: an extra delight if you spot them, but no loss if you don’t. They even begin to deconstruct aspects of their own staging, but without becoming at all smug. They are sharing experiences – fictitious, but no less true for that – with us, and making a small thing of transient beauty.

Meanwhile, the Pleasance venue complex is presenting an office show in the genuine environment, a room in the Edinburgh Training Centre. The Meeting is precisely that: a corporate meeting at which the audience take seats around the conference table along with the three ex-Cambridge Footlights performers. This is explicitly a comedy show, and it suffers for it: the Paperweight team get away with much weirder stuff by underplaying it, whereas The Meeting contains a lot of self-conscious wackiness which never sufficiently sells itself to us. Not enough attention is paid to detail (why do the two main participants’ attitudes towards each other change so often, with no basis other than to facilitate the next routine?) and too few gags have palpable pay-offs. A nifty setting is not enough.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

Return to index of reviews for the year 2008

Return to master reviews index

Return to main theatre page

Return to Shutters homepage