Is anyone else finding these last couple of weeks, this final build-up to Edinburgh, a little difficult? I feel on the verge of leaping out of my skin, of casting aside day-jobs and commitments, or arriving in Edinburgh weeks in advance, meeting people, organising meetings, getting everything up and running… Maybe I should just move?
But no, duty calls, theatre to most amateurs is still a hobby that does not pay the bills, or at least, not quite. So, I resign myself to pacing my flat, spending hours on the phone, and generally preparing myself for the biggest arts festival in the world by letting everyone know I’m coming, and what I’m doing. This is a situation where being brash helps you stand out, and we’re all going to need all of the help we can get! Competition is fierce this year, and with that in mind, here’s a show on at a very different time from mine. Today, my preview is a reprint of a recent review for this Edinburgh transfer, but I assure you, it is well worth a read (and a ticket):
Survival of the Thinnest
Aug 6-30, 13:30, £8/£6, Caves 1 @ Just the Tonic
This is not your traditional one-man show. It is not a collection of inspired gimmicks, nor the benign simplicity of a man, a microphone and a bare stage, but a strangely theatrical monologue; a story of coincidence, happenstance and outlandish experiences, clearly rooted in truth, making this peculiar little gem of a piece remarkably watchable and entertaining. However, there are some basic flaws with the concept: you’re never quite sure what you’re watching. It either needs more creation, more creative story-telling, or to be stripped bare of its theatricality and played much more genuinely. Nonetheless, the all-important character of Fredrik Lloyd shines through this morass of method, and he and his story are what make this nugget of a piece worth the entrance fee.
Fredrik’s story is a strange one. I do not want to spoil this plot, this life that has been led out of the ordinary, suffice it to say that it is a story worth being told and worth hearing, if just for the reminder that life can be strange and beautiful in equal measure. The story isn’t exactly gripping: there is not much of an arc, nor a climax, but the facts and thoughts thrown up beat against accepted certitudes, challenging perceptions of life and living through one man’s experience. The story is well told: Lloyd’s poetry is in the short-form, and his cadence and directness are inspiringly simple, yet effective. His coining and turn of phrase are so decidedly un-British, his mannerisms so Other to his audience, at times unabashedly so.
However, this is often marred and forgotten by theatrical inexactitude. It is clear from the offset – this man is not an actor. He is playing himself, and as such knows his story better than any other. This closeness can be the piece’s biggest boon; more often than not, it’s its biggest flaw. Lloyd is so engrossed in his own life, in his own story, that it often feels like we are looking in, that the audience is the voyeur to a man’s private ramblings… We are not led to feel overly welcome. This is a piece screaming for a fresh set of hands, an outsider’s perspective. It either needs to be made more theatrical, the simple yet elaborate set made into a tapestry of this man’s life, or calmed down into a much more relaxed telling of the tale. The current frequent and distracting lighting changes, odd dives into calisthenics over red lights and popular music and projections do not gel, or fit into the story being told. In the same fashion, the story is not structured enough, and it feels at least one step away from a crafted masterpiece.
Fitting with the ‘cage-fighting’ theme, this piece is raw, in more ways than one. This rawness is, at times, intensely exciting, and at others a huge distraction. I still give it a thumbs-up, as it is on the cusp of being something truly special; be one of the first to see something that, with a bit of tweaking, could be a masterpiece.