King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
It’s been 40 years since Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer first appeared together at Soho’s Comedy Store. They were fresh out of University then, with a hunger for success and, as they both readily admit, considerably more hair. Ahead of them lay the triumphs of The Comic Strip and The Young Ones. In this latest incarnation, the duo appear, appropriately enough, as a couple of not-so-young actors, sharing a trailer on the Icelandic set of low budget sci-fi movie, Vulcan 7. It’s clear from the outset that the two of them have a few scores to settle before the shoot can begin.
Edmondson plays Gary Savage, a once successful star of stage and screen, who, after several disastrous marriages and a life devoted to total debauchery, is now reduced to accepting a walk-on role as a ‘Thermadorian,’ a lobster-like creature with just a single word of dialogue to deliver. Planer is Hugh Delavois, who, while he might not have achieved the dizzy heights of stardom, has nevertheless worked steadily over the years and managed to appear in all seven of the Vulcan movies. He has accordingly been given a ‘luxury’ trailer to stay in, while Savage is expected to share a humble ‘three-way’ with other minor stars, something which doesn’t sit well with him at all.
The hapless runner assigned to look after (i.e referee) the duo is Leela (Lois Chimimba), who clearly has her work cut out for her, and that’s before the local volcano decides to erupt, stranding Hugh’s trailer on the edge of a crevasse and plunging the cast and crew into a life or death situation. And then Gary discovers a crate of wine…
Written by Edmondson and Planer (and perhaps inspired by the former’s recent appearance in the latest Star Wars movie) Vulcan 7 is consistently entertaining and, while the laughs may not be of the runaway variety, there’s wry humour here and some knowing winks at the current state of the film industry. The two comedians are given plenty of opportunity to extend their acting chops beyond the usual limitations, and Chimimba proves to be an adept foil for them. Those who have long thought of Edmondson as a one-trick-pony will be pleasantly surprised by his efforts here. His failing actor persona manages to be both funny and vulnerable, even (especially) when slagging off Daniel Day Lewis.
There’s also a brilliant gimmick in Simon Higlett’s ingenious set which increasingly angles the trailer into an ever-steeper diagonal aspect, a conceit that quite literally ramps up the tension every twenty minutes or so and eventually leads to one of the trickiest curtain calls I’ve ever witnessed.
I had a lot of fun with this and chances are, you will too.