the SpaceUK Triplex, Hill Place, Edinburgh

Well, it’s been a long time coming, but live theatre is back, and – here at Bouquets & Brickbats – we feel as though all our Christmases have come at once (and, by Christmas, we mean the usual, fun-filled occasion, not the travesty of last year’s non-festive damp squib). And what better way to start than with Edinburgh-based Red Rabbit Theatre’s Corpsing, a new comedy-drama by Callum Ferguson and Lewis Lauder?

It tells the tale of Elliot (Dillon MacDonald), a recent graduate of Imperial College, London, armed with a degree in business studies and a newly-inherited funeral parlour. Elliot only ever met his grandfather once, so he’s not exactly overcome with emotion to learn that the old man is dead; instead, he’s keen to grasp the opportunity to run his own company, and put his theoretical knowledge into practice. Unfortunately for Elliot, his grandfather’s assistant, Charlie (Lewis Gemmell), soon lets slip that things haven’t always been done exactly by the book… and a trawl through a pile of unopened letters reveals another surprise: an auditor is arriving. Tomorrow.

What ensues is a playful three-hander, with dead bodies and misunderstandings a-plenty. The auditor, Fiona (Anya Burrows), is disarmingly friendly, but her inane chatter and frequent giggles mask a steely nature. How will Elliot and Charlie keep their business afloat?

There is a lot to like about this play. It’s laugh-out-loud funny in places, and the three actors work well together; despite being heightened for comic effect, their characters are all believable as well as distinctive. Gemmell clearly revels in the role of funnyman, but MacDonald and Burrows make great stooges; this is clearly a real team piece.

Okay, so I do have a few quibbles. The script sags a little at times: the conversation between Elliot and Charlie about the pros and cons of euthanasia, while interesting, outstays its welcome, and there’s perhaps too much exposition in the final scene. And it has to be said, there are a few plot-holes – why does Charlie need to wrap corpses in bin-bags, for example, and drag them to the premises? Aren’t there coffins and hearses here? There’s also more stage traffic than there needs to be: the set changes are unnecessarily complicated (why waste time swapping two very similar tables, when one would work just fine?), and I find myself irked by the empty file that’s supposedly ‘full of documents’ and the plastic water bottle labelled ‘champagne.’ Of course, I don’t expect expensive props in a Fringe piece, but these do feel a bit school-play, which is a shame, when the piece is – in general – rather good.

If you’re looking for a fun, light-hearted and engaging way to spend an hour – in a room with real people watching a real performance in real time – then you could do a lot worse than this.

3.4 stars

Susan Singfield

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