Basic Mountain, Venue 106, Hill Street, Edinburgh
Phantom Owl Productions have given themselves a tough act to follow here. We’ve already awarded five star reviews to both Filthy Talk For Troubled Times and Fault Lines. What are the chances they can pull it off a third time? Well, when the production in question is Gruesome Playground Injuries by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph, the chances, it turns out, are very good indeed. This is a fabulous play that covers thirty years in the lives of its two protagonists.
Doug (Brad Fleischer) is a hapless, accident-prone kind of guy. He first runs into the already troubled Kayleen (Jules Willcox) when they are both eight years old and he has just ridden his bicycle off the school roof and cut his face open. We are then reintroduced to them through a series of non-sequential encounters that zip back and forth in time as Doug continues to carry a torch for Kayleen, who is too preoccupied with her own troubles to realise that he has fallen in love with her from the moment he first set eyes on her.
A word too about Larissa Kokernot’s direction of the piece – it calls for quite a few changes of scene and costume and I loved the way that these were all carried out by the two actors in full view of the audience, whilst exchanging tender looks and touches with each other, making it as much a part of the drama as the acting itself. This is a delightful Brechtian conceit that works beautifully. Fleischer and Wilcox make a captivating duo, never faltering as they switch their ages from kids to adults with total conviction and there are several moments here where tears will fill the eyes of all but the most stolid members of the audience.
I’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again; this is the best collection of plays we’ve seen at the Fringe this year – and trust me, we’ve seen quite a few. Seek them out and watch them while you still have the chance.