It’s been a few weeks now since Mrs Chrisparkle and I had our first ever foray into the Great Artistic Thing that is the Edinburgh Fringe, and we’re already planning next year’s jaunt. In the meantime, there were a few plays we saw that we really enjoyed and that I thought merited a little more consideration than the brief mini-reactions that I only had time for during the Festival. So here goes with the first.
First Class by name, first class by nature. James Beagon’s exquisitely crafted little play held me spellbound from the start. Three lives intricately woven over the decades, set against the same backdrop of a train trip to Manchester Piccadilly. Each character reflected the attitudes and problems of their own respective era, and the three performers – Erin Elkin, Joe Walsh and Maddie Haynes – inhabited their roles so completely and conjured up other passengers and the train setting so successfully that I never for a moment noticed that it was just three people perched on three small chairs on a tiny stage.
The minimalist environment really helped the whole experience to work on your imagination. It’s only fifty minutes long but that time flew by. There’s one scene where you think Lydia is going to commit a terrible atrocity, and, I kid you not, my heart was absolutely in my mouth fearing that she was going to do it. When she didn’t, I felt a sense of massive relief. There’s another riveting and sadly hilarious sequence where tennis “almost-star” Rachel is cornered by an insensitive “fan” on the train who unwittingly gives her a good verbal kicking in a scene worthy of Ayckbourn at his best. The text does not shy away from giving us three different insights into mental instability, providing each cast member with a great opportunity to explore how each character deals with intense pressure in a world full of difficult people.
There’s something of a plot twist at the end, which Mrs C predicted but I didn’t, and when that twist became apparent, everything fitted together so perfectly that I could feel my face positively beaming. This won the best new writing award for the 2014 Buxton Fringe, and quite rightly too. I hope it’s not the last we see of this moving, funny, scary one-act play, and I trust producers Aulos Productions and Relief Theatre will be giving us more riveting drama in the near future.
And if you weren’t lucky enough to see the production – you can here!